From to , in less than three years, the chambre ardente , a committee of the Parliament of Paris , condemned more than persons to retract their beliefs , to imprisonment , or to death at the stake. Notwithstanding this, the Calvinists , in , were able to organize themselves into Churches on the plan of that at Geneva ; and, in order to bind these Churches more closely together, they held a synod in Paris in There were in France at that time seventy-two Reformed Churches; two years later, in , the number had increased to The methods, too, of the Calvinist propaganda had changed.
The earlier Calvinists , like the Lutherans , had been artists and workingmen, but in the course of time , in the South and in the West, a number of princes and noblemen joined their ranks. Among these were two princes of the blood, descendants of St. Another name of note is that of Admiral de Coligny, nephew of that duke of Montmorency who was the Premier Baron of Christendom.
Thus it came to pass that in France Calvinism was not longer a religious force, but had become a political and military cabal; and the French kings in opposing it were but defending their own rights. Such was the beginning of the Wars of Religion. They had for their starting-point the conspiracy of Amboise by which the Protestant leaders aimed at seizing the person of Francis II, in order to remove him from the influence of Francis of Guise. During the reigns of Francis II, Charles IX, and Henry III, a powerful influence was exercised by the queen-mother, who made use of the conflicts between the opposing religious factions to establish more securely the power of her sons.
In , Catharine de' Medici arranged for the Poissy discussion to try and bring about an understanding between the two creeds, but during the Wars of religion she ever maintained an equivocal attitude between both parties, favouring now the one and now the other, until the time came when, fearing that Charles IX would shake himself free of her influence, she took a large share of responsibility in the odious massacre of St. There were eight of these wars in the space of thirty years. The first was started by a massacre of Calvinists at Vassy by the troopers of Guise 1 March, , and straightway both parties appealed for foreign aid.
Thus from the beginning were foreshadowed the lines which the Wars of religion would follow. They opened up France to the interference of such foreign princes as Elizabeth and Philip II, and to the plunder of foreign soldiers, such as those of the Duke of Alba and the German troopers Reiter called in by the Protestants. One after another, these wars ended in weak provisional treaties which did not last.
Under the banners of the Reformation party or those of the League organized by the House of Guise to defend Catholicism , political opinions ranged themselves, and during these thirty years of civil disorder monarchical centralization was often in trouble of overthrow. Had the Guise party prevailed, the trend of policy adopted by the French monarchy towards Catholicism after the Concordat of Francis I would have been assuredly less Gallican.
That concordat had placed the Church of France and its episcopate in the hands of the king. The old episcopal Gallicanism which held that the authority of the pope was not above that of the Church assembled in council and the royal Gallicanism which held that the king had no superior on the earth, not even the pope , were now allied against the papal monarchy strengthened by the Council of Trent. The consequence of all this was that the French kings refused to allow the decisions of that council to be published in France, and this refusal has never been withdrawn.
At the end of the sixteenth century it seemed for an instant as though the home party of France was to shake off the yoke of Gallican opinions. Feudalism had been broken; the people were eager for liberty; the Catholics , disheartened by the corruption of the Valois court, contemplated elevating to the throne, in succession to Henry II, who was childless, a member of the powerful House of Guise. In fact, the League had asked the Holy See to grant the wish of the people, and give France a Guise as king. Henry of Navarre , the heir presumptive to the throne, was a Protestant ; Sixtus V had given him the choice of remaining a Protestant , and never reigning in France, or of abjuring his heresy , receiving absolution from the pope himself, and, together with it, the throne of France.
But there was third solution possible, and the French episcopate foresaw it, namely that the abjuration should be made not to the pope but to the French bishops. Gallican susceptibilities would thus be satisfied, dogmatic orthodoxy would be maintained on the French throne, and moreover it would do away with the danger to which the unity of France was exposed by the proneness of a certain number of Leaguers to encourage the intervention of Spanish armies and the ambitions of the Spanish king, Philip II, who cherished the idea of setting his own daughter in the throne of France.
The abjuration of Henry IV made to the French bishops 25 July, was a victory of Catholicism over Protestantism , but none the less it was the victory of episcopal Gallicanism over the spirit of the League. Canonically, the absolution given by the bishops to Henry IV was unavailing, since the pope alone could lawfully give it; but politically that absolution was bound to have a decisive effect.
Two French prelates went to Rome to crave absolution for Henry. The accession of the Bourbon royal family was a defeat for Protestantism , but at the same time half a victory for Gallicanism. Ever since the year the dealing of the Bourbons with Protestantism were regulated by the Edict of Nantes.
Under favour of the political causes of the Edict Protestants rapidly became an imperium in imperio , and in , at La Rochelle , they formed an alliance with England to defend, against the government of Louis XIII , the privileges of which Cardinal Richelieu , the king's minister, wished to deprive them.
Both Cardinal Richelieu , and his successor, Cardinal Mazarin , scrupulously observed this guarantee, but under Louis XIV a new policy was inaugurated. For twenty-five years the king forbade the Protestants everything that the edict of Nantes did not expressly guarantee them, and then, foolishly imagining that Protestantism was on the wane, and that there remained in France only a few hundred obstinate heretics , he revoked the Edict of Nantes and began an oppressive policy against Protestants , which provoked the rising of the Camisards in , and which lasted with alternations of severity and kindness until , when Louis XVI was obliged to give Protestants their civil rights once more.
The very manner in which Louis XIV , who imagined himself the religious head of his kingdom, set about the Revocation, was only an application of the religious maxims of Gallicanism. Hence the persecution of Protestants and of Jansenists. But at the same time he would never allow a papal Bull to be published in France until his Parliament decided whether it interfered with the "liberties" of the French Church or the authority of the king.
In consequence of this a crisis arose between the Holy See and Louis XIV which led to thirty-five sees being left vacant in The domestic policy of the seventeenth-century Bourbons, aided by Scully, Richelieu , Mazarin , and Louvois, completed the centralization of the kingly power. Abroad, the fundamental maxim of their policy was to keep up the struggle against the House of Austria.
In the struggle Richelieu and Mazarin had the support of the Lutheran prince of Germany and of Protestant countries such as the Sweden of Gustavus Adolphus. Louis XIV , on the contrary, who for many years was arbiter of the destinies of Europe , was actuated by purely religious motives in some of his wars. Thus the war against Holland , and that against the League of Augsburg , and his intervention in the affairs of England were in some respects the result of religious policy and of a desire to uphold Catholicism in Europe.
The seventeenth century in France was par excellence a century of Catholic awakening.
A number of bishops set about reforming their diocese according to the rules laid down by the Council of Trent , though its decrees did not run officially in France. The example of Italy bore fruit all over the country. Cardinal de la Rochefoucauld, Bishop of Claremont and afterwards of Senlis, had made the acquaintance of St. Charles Borromeo. Francis Taurugi, a companion of St. Philip Neri , was archbishop of Avignon. Vincent de Paul , in founding the Priests of the Mission, and M. It was the period, too, when France began to build up her colonial empire, when Samuel de Champlain was founding prosperous settlements in Acadia and Canada.
In China , the French Jesuits , by their scientific labours, gained a real influence at court and converted at least one Chinese prince. Lastly, from the beginning of this same seventeenth century, under the protection of Gontaut-Biron, Marquis de Salignac, Ambassador of France, dates the establishment of the Jesuits at Smyrna , in the Archipelago, in Syria , and at Cairo.
A pious Parisian lady, Madame Ricouard, gave a sum of money for the erection of a bishopric at Babylon, and its first bishop was a French Carmelite , Jean Duval. Vincent De Paul sent the Lazarists into the galleys and prisons of Barbary, and among the islands of Madagascar , Bourbon, Mauritius, and the Mascarenes, to take possession of them in the name of France. It was the activities of the French missionaries that paved the way for the visit of the Siamese envoys to the court of Louis XIV.
Religiously speaking, the alliance of parliamentary Gallicanism and Jansenism weakened the idea of religion in an atmosphere already threatened by philosophers , and although the monarchy continued to keep the style and title of "Most Christian", unbelief and libertinage were harboured, and at times defended, at the court of Louis XV , in the salons, and among the aristocracy.
This century is filled with that struggle between France and England which may be called the second Hundred Years War, during which England had for an ally Frederick II , King of Prussia , a country which was then rapidly rising in importance. The command of the sea was at stake.
In spite of men like Dupliex, Lally-Tollendal, and Montcalm, France lightly abandoned its colonies by successive treaties, the most important of which was the Treaty of Paris The acquisition of Lorraine , and the purchase of Corsica from the Genoese were poor compensations for these losses; and when, under Louis XVI, the French navy once more raised its head, it helped in the revolt of the English colonies in America, and thus seconded the emancipation of the United States The movement of thought of which Montesquieu, Voltaire, Rousseau, and Diderot, each in his own fashion, had been protagonists, an impatience provoked by the abuses incident to a too centralized monarchy, and the yearning for equality which was deeply agitating the French people, all prepared the explosion of the French Revolution , That upheaval has been too long regarded as a break in the history of France.
It is easier to cut off a king's head than to change the mental constitution of a people. Voulland, addressing the Assembly on the seemliness of having one dominant religion, declared that the Catholic religion was founded on too pure a moral basis not to be given the first place.
It was by virtue of the suppression of feudal privileges, and in accordance with the ideas professed by the lawyers of the old regime where church property was in question that the Constituent Assembly abolished tithes and confiscated the possessions of the Church , replacing them by an annuity grant from the treasury. The "Civil Constitution of the Clergy" was a more serious interference with the life of French Catholicism , and it was drawn up at the instigation of Jansenist lawyers.
Without referring to the pope , it set up a new division into diocese, gave the voters, no matter who they might be, a right to nominate parish priests and bishops , ordered metropolitans to take charge of the canonical institution of their suffragans, and forbade the bishops to seek a Bull of confirmation in office from Rome.
The Legislative Assembly 1 October, September, , while it prepared the way for the republic which both the great parties the Mountain and the Girondists equally wished, only aggravated the religious difficulty. On 19 November, , it decreed that those priests who had not accepted the "Civil Constitution" would be required with a week to swear allegiance to the nation, to the law , and to the king, under pain of having their allowances stopped and of being held as suspects. The king refused to approve this, and 26 August, it declared that all refractory priests show leave France under pain of ten years' imprisonment or transportation to Guiana.
The Convention 21 September, October, which proclaimed the republic and caused Louis XVI to be executed 21 January, , followed a very tortuous policy toward religion. As early as 13 November, , Cambon, in the name of the Financial Committee, announced to the Convention that he would speedily submit a scheme of general reform including a suppression of the appropriation for religious worship, which, he asserted, cost the republic ",, livres annually".
The Jacobins opposed this scheme as premature, and Robespierre declared it derogatory to public morality. A decree dated 18 March, , punished with death all compromised priests.
source site It no longer aimed at refractory priests only, but any ecclesiastic accused of disloyalty incivisme by any six citizens became liable to transportation. In the eyes of the revolution , there were no longer good priests and bad priests; for the sans-culottes every priest was suspect.
The constitutional bishop , Gobrel, abdicated in November, , together with his vicars-general. At the feast of Liberty which took place in Notre-Dame on 10 November an altar was set up to the Goddess of Reason, and the church of Our Lady became the temple of that goddess. Some days after this a deputation attired in priestly vestments, in mockery of Catholic worship, paraded before the Convention. The Commune of Paris , on 24 November, , with Chaumette as its spokesman, demanded the closing of all churches. But the Committee of Public Safety was in favour of temporizing, to avoid frightening the populace and scandalizing Europe.
On 21 November, , Robespierre, speaking from the Jacobin tribune of the Convention, protested against the violence of the dechristianizing party, and in December the Committee of Public Safety induced the Convention to pass a decree ensuring freedom of worship, and forbidding the closing of Catholic churches. Everywhere throughout the provinces civil war was breaking out between the peasants, who clung to their religion and faith , and the fanatics of the Revolution , who, in the name of patriotism threatened, as they said, by the priests , were overturning the altars.
According to the locality in which they happened to be, the propagandists either encouraged or hindered this violence against religion; but even in the every bitterest days of the terror, there was never a moment when Catholic worship was suppressed throughout France. Liberty of conscience was suppressed, but atheism was also a crime. But after the 9th of Thermidor, Cambon proposed once more the principle of separation between Church and State , and it was decided that henceforth the Republic would not pay the expenses of any form of worship 18 September, Nevertheless the people in the provinces were anxious that the clergy should resume their functions, and "constitutional" priests , less in danger than the others, rebuilt the altars here and there throughout the country.
In February, , Boissy-d'Anglas carried a measure of religious liberty, and the very next day Mass was said in all the chapels of Paris. On Easter Sunday , , in the same city which, a few months before, had applauded the worship of Reason, almost every shop closed its doors. In May, , the Convention restored the churches for worship, on condition that the pastors should submit to the laws of the State; in September, , less than a month before its dissolution, it regulated liberty of worship by a police law, and enacted severe penalties against priests liable to transportation or imprisonment who should venture back on French soil.
A certain number of "papist" priests took the oath , and the "papist" religion was thus established here and there, though it continued to be disturbed by the incessant arbitrary acts of interference on the part of the administrative staff of the Directory, who by individual warrants deported priests charged with inciting to disturbance.
In this way, French and Belgian , priests were driven into exile.
In Paris , fifteen churches were given over to this cult. All these were restored by the Concordat of Napoleon Bonaparte , who became Consul for ten years on 4 November, The Concordat assured to French Catholicism , in spite of the interpolation of the articles organiques , a hundred years of peace. The conduct of Napoleon I , when he became emperor 18 May, towards Pius VII was most offensive to the papacy ; but even during those years when Napoleon was ill-treating Pius VII and keeping him a prisoner , Catholicism in France was reviving and expanding day by day.
Numerous religious congregations came to life again or grew up rapidly, often under the guidance of simple priests or humble women. Joseph of Cluny. In the Wars of the Revolution , which began 20 April, , the French missionary qualities which, under the old regime, had been employed in the service of the Christian ideal were consecrated to "the Rights of Man" and to emancipating the people from "the tyrants"; but in the Napoleonic Wars which followed, these very peoples, fired with the principles of liberty which had come to them from France, expressed their newly developed national consciousness in a struggle against French armies.
In this way the propaganda of the Revolution had in the end a disastrous reaction on the very country where its ideals originated. Although there is little official data on religiously motivated violence, intolerance against Muslims seems to be on the rise in France. It acts as a centralizing body for the collection of data, and tries to raise public awareness in order to organize a coherent and efficient counter-strategy.