The tolerated “Church of the Desert” (1760-1787)

In the second half of the XVIIIth century, the marginalisation that excluded Protestants from French society gradually eased.

After 1760 real tolerance took hold in France

  • Court de Gébelin (1725-1784) © S.H.P.F.

The repressive laws remained, but they were less rigorously enforced.

However, things were still insecure and this was practically general.

The Calas affaire (1762) and the Sirven affaire (1764) proved that royal legislation always threatened. The Protestant position still often depended on the local authorities.

Protestants had to wait until the 1787 Edict of Toleration for legal recognition.

The Church slowly reorganised itself :

  • The Reformed Church gradually rebuilt and restructured itself, thanks particularly to Antoine Court. After 1760 the number of pastors had increased and their position became more stable, in as much as it became more settled. It was Paul Rabat who – as head of the church in Nimes – continued the fight to improve the lot of Protestants.
  • Relationships between the Church and civil authorities were re-established. Court de Gébelin, son of Antoine Court, was appointed by the secret national synod of 1763, to be Deputy General of the Churches of France, both for the Protestants and the civil authorities.

Associated notes

  • The Edict of Toleration (November 29th, 1787)

    With this Edict, King Louis XVI granted the Protestants civil status. He secured their right to live in the kingdom without discrimination for religious reasons.
  • Paul Rabaut (1718-1794)

    As a pastor in the “Churches of the Desert”, Paul Rabaut lived a secret and dangerous life
  • Relative tolerance for the Protestants

    In the second part of the XVIIIth century, the political regime which took over the government in France was, on the whole, fairly tolerant towards Protestants, although there were some...
  • The Calas affair

    Jean Calas, a Protestant merchant, was sentenced to death on the Wheel by the Parliament in Toulouse and executed on March 10th, 1762 after being convicted of murdering one of...
  • The Sirven affair

    Although less known than the Calas affair, the Sirven case became the topic of conversation among Protestants in Montagne du Tarn. Voltaire became a staunch advocate of the Sirven family...