Resumption of worship after 9 Thermidor
After the Reign of Terror, the Church only slowly recovered.
The resumption of worship after 9 Thermidor did not result in any attempt at reorganisation of the church. The churches were not in any hurry to re-establish the synod system, with the exception of Haut-Languedoc where it began again in 1796.
Most pastors in the Reformed Church resumed their jobs, although their number was somewhat depleted. It was often for financial reasons that some pastors had to take up another profession.
Proclamation of freedom of worship
On the instruction of the Protestant Boissy d’Anglas, a law of 3 ventôse year III (21st February 1795) officially proclaimed the separation of Church and State, and freedom of worship with no State support, although this would be amended by the Concordat.
Protestant worship had never been supported by the State.
At the same time, another law made places of worship available for use and allowed several denominations, at different times, to use the same building. This practice was rarely followed, Protestants preferring to return to “Church of the Desert” customs in situations where they did not own a building in their own right.
Return of Huguenots from the "Refuge"
Many Huguenots benefited from the royal Edict of 15th December 1790 which gave French nationality to everyone in exile on account of their religion. Anyone born in another country and descended, in any degree whatsoever, from a French man or woman exiled because of their religion, was declared a French National. If they returned to France, made their home there and took the civil oath, they enjoyed the rights of a French citizen. The law of 15th December 1790 also restored material assets to “religious fugitives”. Its first article said : “Religious fugitives and others whose assets were confiscated because of their religion, and their heirs, may repossess (…) such assets which are currently in the hands of farmers but under state control”. It is impossible to know exactly how many benefited from this law. However, it must be said that it was many fewer than lost out originally. The largest numbers of returnees came from Prussia and French-speaking Switzerland. Amongst the latter, one can mention the writer and politician, Benjamin Constant (1767 – 1830).
- AEBERSOLD Estelle, Les émigrés du refuge huguenot, Le retour des descendants des religionnaires fugitifs en France depuis la loi du 9 décembre 1790 jusqu'au Code de la nationalité du 19 octobre 1945. (Mémoire de maîtrise ss. dir. d'Eckart Birnstiel), Toulouse, Université de Toulouse II - Le Mirail, 2005
- Article de CABANEL Patrick, AEBERSOLD Estelle et BIRNSTIEL Eckart, "Diasporas. Histoire et sociétés", Retours, retrouvailles, Bulletin de la SHPF, 2006, Tome 8
The French Concordat
The Concordat with the Organic Articles, ruled the organisation of Protestant as well as Catholic churches. It did not comprise any restrictive measures, and pastors were to be paid by the State for the first time. But the Concordat only applied to « consistorial » churches comprising 6,000 members, and not to « local » churches, better suited to the scattered Protestant community. But foremost it ignored the national synod, the traditional central authority of the Protestant church, the only body which could settle problems.
François Boissy d'Anglas (1756-1826)
Benjamin Constant de Rebecque (1767-1830)
Religious historian, scholar, moralist, literary critic, writer, but also political theoretician and committed politician , an impressively active intellectual, Benjamin Constant tried to achieve a definitely liberal synthesis between the upheaval inherited from the French Revolution and the 19th century world.
Jean-Paul Rabaut Saint-Étienne (1743-1793)
A champion of freedom of worship, Jean-Paul Rabaut, known as Saint-Étienne, fought against the discrimination which had excluded Protestants from French society since the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685.
The Protestants under the French Revolution
In late 1791 in France the Revolution had answered the majority of Protestant expectations. Several Protestants were involved in the unfolding of events and took part in the different political assemblies.
Dechristianisation under the Terror meant that public worship was forbidden and many pastors resigned. The Protestants returned to their clandestine assemblies.
Worshiping survived in the chapels of Scandinavian embassies.