Public debates : a matter to be dealt with by theologians
The quarrels of the sixteenth century gained momentum during the seventeenth century. They concerned the Church and religious service. They took the form of public debates between mainly Jesuit Catholic theologians and Protestant pastors.
Both parties tried to convince the audience of the legitimacy of their position, founding their arguments on Biblical texts and on Church tradition. There were also written quarrels that resulted in the publication of printed documents. Those highbrow feuds had a limited impact on the rate of conversions.
Their aim was to fight Protestantism with preaching and the catechisation of the population. From 1617 special mission days were organised by Capuchin clerics in overwhelmingly Reformed areas, namely in Poitou, the Cevennes, Languedoc and Dauphiné in order to convert the “heretics” as well as to protect the Catholic believers.
Each day ended with confessions and communions. These actions were fairly successful in the West generating thousands of conversions but did not obtain overall significant results.
The “Organisations for the spread of the Faith” made up of clerics and pious lay people endeavoured to get personal conversions : by “bringing those who had gone astray from faith back on the right path leading to the truth.”
The first organisation was created in Paris in 1632. From 1640, other organisations were created under the supervision of the diocesan bishops.
These organisations provided financial support to those who abjured and who were rejected by their former community. They accommodated the most destitute in providing houses for newly converted Catholics. The royal power contributed to the financing of these organisations.
- CARBONNIER-BURKARD Marianne et CABANEL Patrick, Une histoire des protestants en France, Desclée de Brouwer, Paris, 1998
Protestantism under the rule of the Edict of Nantes
The Edict of Nantes, granting the French Protestants freedom lasted nearly a century. But it was gradually torn apart first when political and military privileges were removed, then when their places of worship and religious freedoms started to be challenged.
The enforcement of the Edict of Nantes until 1610
After the Edict of Nantes, France enjoyed a period of peace. Henry IV overviewed the implementation of the Edict which protected the Protestants but curbed their expansion.
The last religious wars (1621-1629)
Under Louis XIII, in the wake of the Béarn case, the Protestants rebelled against the king. After their defeat, they lost their political assemblies and their strongholds and as a result fully depended on the king’s good will.
A seeming lull (1630-1660)
After the Alès peace treaty, Richelieu tried to get the Protestants back into the Catholic Church. Under the rule of Mazarin, because of the necessities of France’s foreign policy and thanks to their loyalty during “la Fronde” events, the Protestants enjoyed a period of peace.
The Reformed Church and the king (1630-1660)
Why was the Protestant reaction to the oppressive methods used by Louis XIV so timid ? The explanation can be mostly found in their idolatrous submission to the king.
Protestant "places of safety"
The “places of safety”, strongholds in the hands of governors and granted to the Reformed, met religious and military requirements.
The Catholic reforming movements in 17th century France
The 17th century saw the rise of various movements attempting to reform the Catholic Church from within while avoiding any break-away. Such movements aimed partly at countering the influence in France of the Protestant reformation.
From Louis XIII to the death of Mazarin (1610-1661)
Following the Béarn affair (1620), the Protestants, under the leadership of Henri de Rohan, revolted against Louis XIII. After their defeat, they lose their political assemblies and their places of safety: they no longer depend on the king’s goodwill.
After the peace of Alès, Richelieu tried to reintegrate the Protestants into the Catholic Church. Under Mazarin’s ministry, foreign policy imperatives and Protestant loyalty during the Fronde brought them a lull.