He aimed at a policy of reconciliation
He was the son of a doctor and studied law at the university of Padua, where he came under the influence of humanism and became professor of civil law. When he returned to France, he became President of treasury in Paris in 1554. Catherine de Médicis named him chancellor in 1560 – his task was to conduct a policy of reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants. He tried to curb the repression of the Protestants after the failure of their conspiracy at Amboise, and refused to sign Condé’s death sentence.
The failure of the Poissy colloquium
He was a supporter of a national council and promoted of the Poissy colloquium (1561). This failed because both parties were uncompromising in their attitudes : the Protestants were represented by Théodore de Bèze and the Catholics by the cardinal of Lorraine.
Nonetheless, the wars of religion began in 1562. Catherine de Médicis held Michel de l’Hospital responsible for the fact that his policy of moderation had failed : he resigned from his post as chancellor in 1568.
A writer and patron of the arts
As a writer, Michel de l’Hospital was well-known for his Epistles – he also protected the Pleiade poets and drew up ordinances for the reform of the law and the administration of the country.
- AMPHOUX Michel, Michel de l’Hospital et la liberté de conscience au XVIe siècle, Fischbacher, Paris, 1900
- BUISSON Albert, Michel de l’Hospital, Hachette, Paris, 1950
- CROUZET Denis, Michel de l’Hospital, Champ Vallon, Seyssel, 1998
Théodore de Bèze (1519-1605)
Theodore Beza was one of the most prominent figures in the Reform movement. He supported Calvin and succeeded him as moderator, i.e. president, of the Company of pastors in Geneva. He relentlessly defended the Calvinist doctrine, the discipline of the Church and its synodal-Presbyterian organisation. He left noteworthy historic and literary writings. The only aim of his actions was to strengthen the Reform movement assaulted by Roman Catholicism and rivaled by German Lutheranism.
The Colloquium of Poissy (1561)
In order to avoid a civil war between Catholics and Protestants, Catherine de Medici brought together theologians from both factions. However, the attempt failed.
The eight wars of religion (1562-1598)
In the 16th Century, France was to know a religious split : the great majority of the country remained faithful to Catholicism, whilst an important majority joined the Reformation. Coexistence of the two confessions throughout the Kingdom showed itself to be inapplicable. War could no longer be avoided and civil tolerance had failed.
Eight wars of religion were to succeed each other throughout 36 years, with periodic interruptions of fragile peace. The wars will cease with the Edict of Nantes (30th of April 1598), an edict that established a limited civil tolerance. The confessional duality established throughout France in 1598 was to wear away little by little until the revocation of the edict in 1685.
Literature in the 16th century
The powerful renewing social and spiritual movement presented by the Reformation could not fail to mark contemporary literature: prestigious names testified of this. A wide range of genres were influenced by it.
Erasmus was one of the main figures of 16th century Humanism ; he was cultured, tolerant and ahead of his time because he was European in outlook. He prepared the first critical edition of the New Testament in Greek, which appeared in 1516.
The "Cenacle of Meaux" (1521-1525)
The “Cenacle of Meaux” was founded in 1521 by Lefèvre d’Etaples ; its function was to encourage reflexion on the Scriptures and to spread new ideas – notably, it advocated the preaching of the Scriptures in the parishes.
Renaissance and Humanism in Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries
At the end of the Hundred Years’ War in 1453, Europe was peaceful for a while as there were less disease epidemics and less conflicts. The population grew, cities developed and trade increased. Large banks financed noteworthy initiatives, such as maritime expeditions leading to Great Discoveries. In those good times, later called the Renaissance, the humanist movement evolved.
Abraham Duquesne (1610-1688)