Friday, August 24, 2007

St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre


It challenges the modern notion of "God has a wonderful plan for your life",
at least - so far as the supposed necessity of earthly fulfillment is concerned. Today we recall one of the bloodiest events in church history, yielding the death of as many as 100,000 Christians at the hands of those who sought the extermination of Christianity. It's an event that ecumenical emergents and ECT advocates would prefer to put aside. Still we remember.

The Seine as it rolled through Paris seemed but a river of blood; and the corpses which it was bearing to the ocean were so numerous that the bridges had difficulty in giving them passage, and were in some danger of becoming choked and turning back the stream, and drowning Paris in the blood of its own shedding. Such was the gigantic horror on which the sun of that Sunday morning, the 24th of August, 1572--St. Bartholomew's Day--looked down.

We have seen how Charles IX stood shuddering for some moments on the brink of his great crime, and that, had it not been for the stronger will and more daring wickedness of his mother, he might after all have turned back. But when the massacre had commenced, and he had tasted of blood, Charles shuddered no longer he became as ravenous for slaughter as the lowest of the mob. He and his mother, when it was day, went out on the palace balcony to feast their eyes upon the scene. Some Huguenots were seen struggling in the river, in their efforts to swim across, the boats having been removed. Seizing anarquebus, the king fired on them. "Kill, kill!" he shouted; and making a page sit beside him and load his piece, he continued the horrible pastime of murdering his subjects, who were attempting to escape across the Seine, or were seeking refuge at the pitiless gates of his palace.

The same night, while the massacres were in progress, Charles sent for the King of Navarre and the Prince de Conde. Receiving them in great anger, he commanded them with oaths to renounce the Protestant faith, threatening them with death as the alternative of refusal. They demurred: whereupon the king gave them three days to make their choice. His physician, Ambrose Pare, a Protestant, he kept all night in his cabinet, so selfishly careful was he of his own miserable life at the very moment that he was murdering in thousands the flower of his subjects. Pare he also attempted to terrify by oaths and threats into embracing Romanism, telling him that the time was now come when every man in France must become
Roman Catholic.

So apparent was it that the leading motive of Charles IX in these great crimes was the dominancy of the Roman faith and the entire extinction of Protestantism.

For seven days the massacres were continued in Paris, and the first three especially with unabating fury. Nor were they confined within the walls of the city. In pursuance of orders sent from the court, they were extended to all provinces and cities where Protestants were found. Even villages and chateaux became scenes of carnage. For two months these butcheries were continued throughout the kingdom. Every day during that fearful time the poniard reaped a fresh harvest of victims, and the rivers bore to the sea a new and ghastly burden of corpses. In Rouen above 6,000 perished; at Toulouse some hundreds were hewn to pieces with axes; at Orleans the Papists themselves confessed that they had destroyed 12,000; some said 18,000; and at Lyons not a Protestant escaped. After the gates were closed they fell upon them without mercy; 150 of them were shut up in the archbishop's house, and were cut to pieces in the space of one hour and a half.

Some Roman Catholic, more humane than the rest, when he saw the heaps of corpses, exclaimed, "They surely were not men, but devils in the shape of men, who had done this." ... The better to perpetuate the memory of the massacre, Pope Gregory caused a medal to be commemorated.

-- From The History of Protestantism, by Wylie.

Read more in Foxe's Book of Martyrs

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