The St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre A Brief History with Documents

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2008-09-02
  • Publisher: Bedford/St. Martin's

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A riveting account of the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre, its origins, and its aftermath, this volume by Barbara B. Diefendorf introduces students to the most notorious episode in France's sixteenth century civil and religious wars and an event of lasting historical importance. The murder of thousands of French Protestants by Catholics in August 1572 influenced not only the subsequent course of France's civil wars and state building, but also patterns of international alliance and long-standing cultural values across Europe. The book begins with an introduction that explores the political and religious context for the massacre and traces the course of the massacre and its aftermath. The featured documents offer a rich array of sources on the conflict including royal edicts, popular songs, polemics, eyewitness accounts, memoirs, paintings, and engravings to enable students to explore the massacre, the nature of church-state relations, the moral responsibility of secular and religious authorities, and the origins and consequences of religious persecution and intolerance in this period. Useful pedagogic aids include headnotes and gloss notes to the documents, a list of major figures, a chronology of key events, questions for consideration, a selected bibliography, and an index.

Author Biography

Barbara B. Diefendorf (Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley) is professor of history at Boston University. Her book From Penitence to Charity: Pious Women and the Catholic Reformation in Paris (2004) won the American Historical Association’s J. Russell Major Prize for the best book in French History. She is also the author of Beneath the Cross: Catholics and Huguenots in Sixteenth-Century Paris (1991), which was awarded the New England Historical Association and National Huguenot Association Book Prizes, and Paris City Councillors: The Politics of Patrimony (1983). She has held fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Camargo Foundation.

Table of Contents



A Note about the Texts and Translations

List of Illustrations

List of Major Figures


Introduction: Saint Bartholomew’s Day and the Problem of Religious Violence

Religious Faith in an Insecure World

The Origins and Spread of the Protestant Reformation

Religious War and the Intensification of Religious Hatreds

The Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in Paris and the Provinces

Repercussions of the Massacre in France and Abroad

Memories of the Massacre


The Documents

1. Religious Divisions in Sixteenth-Century France

Opposing Views of the True Faith

1. Simon du Rosier, Antithesis of Jesus Christ and the Pope, 1561

2. Artus Desiré, Description of the City of God Besieged by the Wretched Heretics, 1550

The Affair of the Rue Saint Jacques

3. Claude Haton, A Catholic View of Clandestine Protestant Services

4. The Reformed Church of Paris, Report to the Swiss Delegation Concerning the Affair of the Rue Saint Jacques, 1557

Persecution and Conversion

5. The Parlement of Paris, Conviction of Marguerite Le Riche for Heresy, August 19, 1559

6. Jean Perrissin and Jacques Tortorel, Anne du Bourg, Counselor in the Parlement of Paris, Burned on the Place de Grève, December 21, 1559

7. Charlotte d’Arbaleste, The Conversion of Jean de Pas, Lord of Feuquères

Growing Religious Tensions

8. Jean Perrissin and Jacques Tortorel, The Massacre at Cahors in Quercy, November 19, 1561

9. Claude de Sainctes, Discourse on the Sacking of Catholic Churches by the Heretics, 1562

10. Anonymous, The True Story of the Insurrection, Uprising, and Sedition Directed by the Priests of Saint Médard Against the Faithful, 1562

2. Religious War and the Intensification of Religious Hatreds (1562-1570)

11. Song on the Massacre of Vassy, 1562

12. François Grin, A Catholic View of the Surprise of Meaux, 1567

13. Claude Haton, The Execution in Effigy of Gaspard de Coligny, 1569

14. Jean de la Fosse, Reactions in Paris to the Peace of Saint Germain, 1570-1571

3. The Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in Paris and the Provinces

The Attempt to Kill Admiral Coligny

15. François Hotman, A True and Plain Report of the Furious Outrages of France, 1573

16. Giovanni Michiel, Report to the Venetian Senate on the Wounding of the Admiral, 1572

The Killing Widens

17. Claude Haton, The Catholic Response to a Huguenot Plot, 1572

18. Report by the Merchants’ Provost on the 23 August 1572

19. François Dubois, Painting of the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in Paris

Victims and Survivors

20. Simon Goulart, Memoirs of the State of France under Charles IX, 1578

21. Charlotte d’Arbaleste, Escape from the Massacre. 1572

The Role of the King

22. The Wake-Up Call for the French and their Neighbors, 1574

23. Charles IX, King of France, Declaration on the Reasons for the Admiral’s Death, August 28, 1572

The Killing Spreads to the Provinces

24. Johann-Wilhelm von Botzheim, The Massacre in Orléans, 1573

25. Anonymous, The Massacre at Troyes, 1572

26. The Consuls of Limoges, Extract from City Registers, 1572

4. Repercussions of the Massacre in France and Abroad


27. Nicolas Pithou, Huguenot Conversions in the Wake of the Massacre

28. Hugues Sureau du Rosier, Confession of his Descent into Popery, 1574

29. Joachim Opser, Letter to the Abbot of Saint Gall on Events in Paris, 1572

30. The Venetian Senate, Letter to the Venetian Ambassadors in France, 1572

31. Anonymous, A German Print of the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre

Political Responses

32. Protestant Resistance Theory: The Wake-Up Call for the French and their Neighbors, 1574

33. Richard Verstegan, Horrible Cruelties of the Huguenots in France, 1587

34. Henry IV, King of France and Navarre, The Edict of Nantes, 1598

35. Henry IV, King of France and Navarre, Speech to the Magistrates of Parlement, 1599

5. Memories of the Massacre

36. Michel de Montaigne, Apology for Raymond Sebond, 1588

37. Voltaire, The Philosophical Dictionary on "Fanaticism," 1764

38. Coordinating Committee for the Charter for Living Together, Message to His Holiness Pope John Paul II, 1997

39. Pope John Paul II, Address to World Youth Day Celebrants, 1997


Chronology of Major Events

Questions for Consideration

Selected Bibliography


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