Today in Church History

August 23

Huguenots, St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre

On the night of August 23, 1572, thousands of French Calvinists (Huguenots) were massacred in Paris and other French cites in the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre.

In the preceding decades, Calvinism had spread rapidly in France despite fierce persecution. The French Wars of Religion had begun in 1562 and continued until 1594. The mass killing, ordered by Catherine de Medici, queen mother of France, and carried out by Roman Catholic nobles, was the most violent episode of the warfare. Estimates of the victims ranged from 5,000 to 10,000. Included among them was Huguenot leader Gaspard de Coligney, who had arranged for a short-lived peace agreement between Calvinists and Catholics in France in 1570.

The massacre prompted further development within Reformed thought of the principle of civil disobedience and rebellion against tyrannical civil authorities. In the years that followed, French Calvinists would continue to experience persecution and would not attain full religious toleration until the French Revolution under Napoleon.

- John Muether

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