The origins of the Camisards war
After the Edict of Nantes had been revoked in 1865, Protestant churches were destroyed and reformed worship forbidden. But lay people, preachers and, a little later, prophets replaced the exiled pastors. Faced with pitiless repression in the Languedoc region, the prophets – up till now of a pacifist tendency – began to advocate uprising.
The Cevennes area after the Revocation
Submitted to the Dragonnades, the Protestants, who were a majority in the Cévennes area, massively abjured. After the Revocation the remaining Protestant churches were destroyed and the pastors left France. But most of the so-called new converts tried to keep compulsory catholic worship to a minimum.
A period of underground activity had thus started. Those who had managed not to abjure secretly met with the others in small groups, in isolated places for the forbidden service of worship. The services were led by “lay preachers” who preached and sometimes celebrated the Holy Communion. The most famous of them were François Vivent and Claude Brousson.
Nicolas Lamoignon de Basville, the king’s administrator in Languedoc from 1685 to 1718, tracked down the secret meetings. Preachers were killed, worshippers jailed or sentenced to the galleys or massacred.
The first uprising planned in the Cevennes
At François Vivent’s prompting, worshippers at assemblies would bear arms for their defence in case of attack by the king’s dragoons. Basville accused preachers of rebelling against the king and, as a result, intensified repression.
François Vivent then contacted the Protestant princes at war with Louis XIV during the war of the Augsburg league (1689-1697). He asked for their support in forcing Louis XIV to restore the Edict of Nantes.
He had great hopes in William of Orange who had recently become the King of England (1688-1689). The latter made several plans to land in the Bas-Languedoc region, while François Vivent was leading of the uprising in the Cévennes region.
But these plans were never put into practice, and no account was taken of French Protestants by the Protestant countries at the Ryswick peace in 1697.
One after the other the preachers were killed, Vivent in 1692, Brousson in 1698. In 1699 Roman, the last preacher, was made prisoner but he managed to escape to Switzerland. Preaching then took a new aspect, that of prophetic inspiration. The prophetic movement appeared in the Dauphiné and Vivarais regions before spreading to the Cévennes in 1700.
“Repent, do not go to mass, forsake idolatry” (« Repentez-vous, n’allez plus à la messe, renoncez à l’idolâtrie »)… such were the basic watch-words of the prophets who heralded the on-coming destruction of the Beast in the Book of Revelations, i.e. the Roman catholic Church. The prophetic preaching was uttered with a trembling and tearful voice by women, children, humble craftsmen, peasants.
Important city dwellers would not take sides, and feared this highly confused charismatic outburst. So did the pastors of the Refuge movement, except for Jurieu.
Meanwhile Basville kept on imprisoning people.
Progress in the tour
- JOUTARD Philippe, Les camisards, Gallimard, collection Folio Histoire, Paris, 1994
- MAZEL Abraham, MARION Élie et BONBONNOUX Jacques, Mémoires sur la Guerre des Camisards, Presses du Languedoc, Montpellier, 2001
- MISSON Maximilien, Le théâtre sacré des Cévennes, Presses du Languedoc, Montpellier, 1996
- VIDAL Daniel, Le malheur et son prophète, Payot, Paris, 1983
The Cévennes warThe « Cévennes war » was the name given in the 18th century to the guerrilla warfare that devastated the Cévennes in the early years of the century and tried...
The secret meetingsLong before the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, freedom of worship for Protestants was already being questioned. Following the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, three quarters...
Sentenced to the galleysRoughly 550 galley-rowers spent up to thirty years of their life in galleys for refusing to renounce their faith.
Prophetic MovementIn the years following the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, a Prophetic Movement, quite alien to the Reformed tradition, stirred up Protestant peasants from the South of France and...
The progress of the war 1702-1704The war lasted only two years but mobilized two field marshals and 25,000 soldiers. The country was put to fire and sword with violence on both sides.
The "Dragonnades" (1681-1685)A “Dragonnade” was the forced lodging of dragoons, the king’s soldiers, in Huguenot homes. The latter were looted and mistreated until they renounced their faith.
The period of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1661-1700)The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV in 1685 led to the suppression of the Reformed Church in France and forced Protestants into exile or hiding. As...
The event that triggered off the warThe event that triggered off the war of the Camisard was the assassination of Father du Chayla at Pont-de-Monvert on 24 July, 1702.
Élie Marion (1678-1713)Élie Marion was one of the few leaders and prophets who had completed university studies. Exiled to London, he founded the group “the Children of God” or “French Prophets”, and...
Abraham Mazel (1677-1710)A prophet and a fighter, Abraham Mazel was the first and the last of the Camisards.
Jean Cavalier (1681-1740)