Posted: March 23rd, 2023

Religious Importance of Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre


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On 24 August 1572, the infamous St. Bartholomew’s Massacre occurred in France. The fateful day marked the initiation of one of the most perplexing and horrifying holocausts in the world’s chronological account and record of events. The splendid reformation that had begun in Germany in the year 1517 continued to spread like fire in dry grass in France. In fact, many France dwellers received the reformation with joy and delight. During this time, there was a great alteration in the France people’s way of life; learning and industry had begun to flourish. In addition, the spread of the “truth” was so rapid that more than a third of the French population had embraced the New Reformed Christian Faith within no time. A word had passed that Christians who had reformed intended to plant colonies in their new world, which was an abomination and a high degree of atrocity to the Spanish Inquisition and King Phillip. It was believed that the French population that had acquired the new Protestant faith was colonizing the world, more so France. Indeed, this phobia would cause the three masterminds who were behind the massacre that shed the blood of innocent people.

Upon hearing the intents of the French Protestants to colonize the new world, Pope Alexander warned them against the idea. Indeed, this was as early as 1562, ten years before the initiation of the Bartholomew’s Day massacre. The French Protestants had even tried to institute a colony in the region known as South Carolina and had been endorsed by Queen Elizabeth the first, owing to the fact that she was a co-religionist and bore the title “Queen of France.” Nevertheless, Vatican began to smell a rat since France had been viewed as Vatican’s eldest daughter because she was Vatican’s main source of money and power. Moreover, King Pepin had given the Papal States to the Pope more than ten centuries earlier. In fact, this meant that more than a half of the real estate in the entire nation were in possession of the clergy.

In the meantime, the King of France and his court had spent a better part of their time partying, drinking and celebrating. The spiritual adviser of the court had ruled in their favor. He had urged the French Catholics to massacre the upcoming faction of Protestants to revenge for their many iniquities and depravities. Therefore, to catch the Protestants with their pants down, individuals were offered with tokens of friendship, ecumenical good will, and peace. One thing that individuals should understand is that the massacre of Saint Bartholomew’s Day was a culmination of three series of events. One of these three aspects is the Peace Declaration of Saint-German-en-Laye, which ended the third religious based warfare in the year 1570. The second aspect was due to the interreligious marriage between Margaret of Valois and Henry 111 of Navarre. The final feature was the ineffective assassination of Admiral de Coligny, an attempt that had taken place on 22 August 1572.

Following the advice of a Jesuit priest to exterminate the Protestants and without giving them a caution, the activities that would otherwise be referred to as the devilish activities were initiated. Beginning from Paris, all through Orleans and other provinces were wailing and gnashing of teeth among the Protestants (Benedict, 207). The Roman Catholic clergy and the French soldiers fell upon the unarmed and unprepared Protestants. In a matter of hours, blood was flowing all through the entire country like the way water flows in the river Jordan. Protestant children, men, and the women fell dead in heaps before the bloodthirsty troops and the Catholic mobs. In less than a week, more than a hundred thousand individuals had been massacred. The rivers, dams, and springs of France were filled with human bodies to the extent that individuals did not consume fish or water from these sources for many years to come. Indeed, the activities and occurrences of the massacre were as endless as the list of individuals who had lost their lives, let alone the property that was destroyed. According to the people of France, to be a Huguenot meant to have everything that money could buy, to acquire an enviable social status within society, and to possess avaricious heirs, which can explain the basis of the massacre. Upon informing the king about the magnitude of destruction and loss of life that the killings had caused, he issued a declaration informing people of France to terminate the killings. However, the massacre was prolonged for more days, causing more damage to property and an increase in the number of deaths.

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The Bartholomew’s Day Massacre had a wide range of impact not only to the Protestants but also to the other France populations. While numerous numbers of Protestants were imprisoned and sold as slaves, some individuals got an excellent opportunity to run away from the menace. The massacre continued for many impending days, which was a factor that ruined not only the economy of France but also the correlations amid the dwellers of the land, more so the religious factions. The repercussions were endless wars, drought and famine, poverty, and the outbreak of a wide range of diseases, to name but a few consequences (Goyau 1). Others included the French Revolution, the Reign of Terror, the fall of the Roman Catholic monarchy, and atheism. As the saying goes, a thing known by two individuals is no longer a secret; the massacre’s word soon reached Vatican (Holt 152). One would think that in a holy land, such atrocities would be condemned and never to show their phases and occurrences on the planet earth. However, this was not the case. The Vatican received the news of the Bartholomew’s Day massacre with jubilations and celebrations; bells rung and mortars were roared, and an exceptional dedicatory medal was struck to bring honor to the occasion. Following orders from the Pope, a painted mural of the massacre was made, lest the people of France forget the wonderful occasion. Worth noting is that, to date, the painting still hangs in the Vatican.

Political Causal Factors of the Bartholomew’s Day Massacre

To understand the religious importance of Bartholomew’s Day massacre, it is imperative to highlight the royal administrative mechanisms that exacerbated the tension during this time and era. This period’s political mechanisms were used to play courtly games that compromised the rulings in their favor. In addition, no religious reformation was motivated from other areas owing to the fact that French kings would not embrace it. Nevertheless, not all efforts aimed at repressing the Protestant movements in France succeeded; therefore, French wars were formed based on religion.

In addition, despite the religious differences, both Catholics and Protestants had their distinct versions of an orderly society, which was a factor that made each religious group to be a threat to the other. Indeed, it was as much a clash of religions as it was a clash of cultures. Not only did the Protestants feel that they were right, but Catholics also believed they had the correct definition of right and wrong. The spread of Protestantism in the land was viewed as a threat that endangered to jeopardize the wellbeing and the way of life of the French hegemonic group, which was the Catholic religious faction.

Religious Importance of St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre

The Bartholomew’s Day Massacre greatly impacted both the Protestants and Catholics living in France and other parts of the globe. From the Protestant point of view, this massacre inspired a particular fear that individuals feared to be called Protestants. In fact, children born after the massacre were not given names from the Old Testament, lest they are associated with the Protestant factions. The Huguenot communities lacked the confidence and esteem to spread their way of life to various parts of the world, more so France, a factor that had caused its rapid expansion over the past ten years in France. Moreover, the Protestant community that survived the massacre were transformed and re-baptized to Catholicism due to fear of being victimized. In fact, they also believed that God was against them since he had allowed the Catholic religious faction to be successful in their attacks. They asked themselves the question, including why their God, Jehovah El Gibbor, the Almighty God, had helped them conquer various wars apart from the battle against their religious rivals. To Huguenots, the Bartholomew’s Day Massacre meant that not only had the people turned on them but also their God. Even in cities that did not experience the negative side of the Holocaust, individuals, including influential Protestant leaders, converted back to Catholicism.

Another religious importance of the Bartholomew’s Day attack was that it initiated a lasting peace amongst religious factions. The Huguenots, who had survived the massacre, publicized the extermination to gain international support. The horror and shock at the extent of the murders caused individuals, including those of the Catholic religion, to oppose the restitution of religious wars to create a lasting peace. As such, this triumphed upon the endorsement of the Edict of Nantes in the year 1598. Therefore, St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre instigated the last radical period of warfare attributable to religion. At the same time, the massacre devastated the Huguenots faithful and enduringly undermined the Protestant religious movement in French cities.


The St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre was characterized by the killings directed towards the Huguenots, who were the Calvinist Protestants in France, during the epoch of the French religious wars. Thousands of Protestant believers had been killed for their religious beliefs. The Catholics and Protestants experienced a wide range of difficulties in their attempts to coexist peacefully. While Protestants believed they were on the right, Catholics on the other hand believed that Protestants were a threat to their political system and way of life.


Works Cited

Benedict, Philip. “The Saint Bartholomew’s Massacres in the Provinces.” Historical Journal, vol. 21, 1978, pp. 205-225.  

Goyau, Georges. “Saint Bartholomew’s Day.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912 Print. Available at

Holt, Mack P. “Putting Religion Back into the Wars of Religion,” French Historical Studies vol. 18, no.2, 1993, pp. 524-551.

Holt, Mack P. The French Wars of Religion, 1562–1629. Cambridge Publishers, 1995.                                         


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