In France, during era of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, there were countless disputes between the French Calvinists, otherwise known as Huguenots, and the Catholic Church. These Huguenots made up a decent amount of the total population of France. Consisting of around 1/8 to 1/10 of the total population of France, the Catholic Church felt threatened and afraid that they would be overthrown. As a result of this, the Catholic Church began to persecute and execute a large number of Huguenots. There were countless bloody battles and disputes between the two parties, but the Huguenots were determined to stay in France and fight for their religious rights. Behind the famous French theologist, John Calvin, the Huguenots became inspired and determined to fight the authorities of the Catholic Church. However, after the countless massacres including: the Massacre of Vassy, the French Wars of Religion, and the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, the Huguenots only option was to evacuate and flee France.
The French Calvinists, otherwise known as Huguenots, were a religious minority group in France who were “reformed and protestant, but who were for whatever reason not able to flee to areas that were overwhelmingly Protestant, and so they ended up staying in a Catholic Country,” (Reeves). There were very few Protestants who were able to escape the authorities of the Catholic Church. The first emigration was an extremely small group that fled from France to the New World during 1519. The French explorer, Gaspard de Caligny successfully “worked to protect fellow Huguenots by attempting to establish colonies in the New World in which Huguenots could find a refuge,” (emmigration.info, 1). Also, along with Jean Ribault, a group of Huguenots founded one of the first ever settlements in Florida. There were a few small flows of Huguenots out of France during the early 16th century, however most stayed in France to try and spread French Calvinism and fight the Roman Church. The Huguenots were vastly outnumbered, however contained enough people to strike fear into the eyes of the Catholic Church. Due to this fear that the Catholics had, they conducted massacres of Huguenots through out France.
In an attempt to control and destroy the Huguenots, the Catholic Church condoned multiple massacres of Huguenots. The first massacre, The Massacre of Vassy (1562), was conducted by The Second Duke of Gee, Francis. Francis was a hardline Catholic. During the early 16th century he was on tour of France, when he saw numerous Huguenots worshipping and praying to god. This infuuriated Francis and as a result, he ordered for them all to be executed. He killed approximately 80 to 200 Huguenots, and these people were all unarmed. This is absolutely horrific because he slaughtered numerous children, pastors, and harmless family members. In addition, 100 other people were seriously injured. Interestingly, this was just the beginning of the terrible chain of massacres that were soon to come. Under the orders of the Catholic Church, there was an even bigger massacre. In fact, this massacre was one of the biggest in the world during the 16th century. This massacre, known as the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre (1570), resulted in the death of over 35,000 Huguenots. This struck absolute fear and panic into the Huguenots in France.
In an attempt to gain religious freedom and avoid being killed, “there was a mass exodus of over 500,000 Huguenots who fled France to go to the New World,” (emmigration.info, 1). There were a large variety of places that the Huguenots went, but a vast majority of them went to The New World, South America, and Prussia. Specifically, in the United States, there were a large amount of people that found solitude and aid in New England, New York, and Jacksonville. There, these Huguenots were able to find the security that they were looking for. While living in these areas, these emigrants were able to be viewed normally by people in America. The Huguenots were able to practice their religion in peace and their quality of life was vastly increased. In fact, there were even Huguenots that rode on the Mayflower in coming to the United States. These Huguenots were able to adapt and adjust to the other majority groups in American society and live in peace with them. “All the Huguenots proved very adaptable and faithful to their new homeland. Some stood out and played a role in the future of America,” (museeprotestant.org, 1).
Through all of the fighting and all of the religious struggles, the Huguenots were finally able to gain what they desperately needed. Compared to all of the other emigrants that came to the United States to find freedom, the Huguenots were persecuted the hardest in their home countries. They were slaughtered, molested, and hunted by the Catholic Church in an attempt to rid the country of the Protestants. In doing this, the Catholic Church condoned some of the 16th centuries worst massacres: The St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre and The Massacre of Vassy. However, once the Huguenots were able to successfully flee from the Catholic Church, they were able to find a better life. While in America, they were able to live in harmony with the Native Americans and the British. In fact, a lot of Huguenots played a big part in the development of the United States.
“French Immigration to America.” French Immigration to America: History for Kids ***. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 May 2017. <http://www.emmigration.info/french-immigration-to-america.htm>.
This source explained the history of the Huguenot emigrants and their travels to the New World. Furthermore, this source explained the massive exodus that happened and the massive amount of people that left France. Plus, this source gave a lot of background on John Calvin and Martin Luther and their influences on the Protestant Reformation.
“Themes.” Muse Virtuel Du Protestantisme. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 May 2017. <https://www.museeprotestant.org/en/notice/le-refuge-huguenot-en-amerique/>.
This source explained the roles that the Huguenots had to play in adapting and adjusting to their new homeland, the locations that the Huguenots decided to go to in the United States, and the repercussions of their fleeing to the New World.
“The Reformation.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 03 May 2017. <http://www.history.com/topics/reformation>.
This source explains the origins of the Protestant Reformation, how the thoughts and ideas of John Calvin spread to create Calvinism and what that entitled, and lastly the principles and ideologies behind Huguenots.
This video is the interview that I conducted with my friend Evan Keating. Evan’s relatives originally are from France back in the 16th century. He has a book filled with old family history, about the Protestant Reformation and the emigrating of this family to America. It is interesting because his family was discriminated against and they risked everything to go to America and have a better life.
The Protestants found multiple homes throughout the United States and adapted quit well. This image explains one of the Protestant Settlements during the 18th century. These Protestants fit in well and even traded with the Indians to adapt and assimilate into American community.
The Protestants had numerous places where they fled. The main route that they went was to America, however they also went to places in South America. To escape religious persecution, and to flee the violence, they left to try to find a better life. These Huguenots were some of the first people to make the journey to the New World. They primarily came to Florida and South Carolina.
This image displays all of the different Huguenot Churches through out France. These churches consisted of millions of Protestants throughout France. In total, the Huguenots made up about 1/8 or 1/10 of the total population of France. The Catholics were concerned that the Huguenots were going to take over due to their large presence in France.
Huguenots and the French Reformation. Prod. Ryan Reeves. N.p., n.d. Web. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1wOgMLZlF1Y>.
This video explains the extensive amount of difficulties that the French Calvinists, or Huguenots had to face in France during the 16th century. The Catholics felt threatened by the rise in the amount of Protestants, so they started to persecute and execute a large number of them. Through the Massacre of Vassy, the French Wars of Religion, and the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, the Protestants only option was to evacuate and flee France to find religious freedom and a better life.
The two images above depict the horrors of the Protestant Reformation and the suffering that the French Protestants (Huguenots) had. These people were being politically, intellectually, and religiously scrutinized against due to their beliefs and ideology. This laid way to the great reformers like: Martin Luther or John Calvin who decided to challenge these authorities. This caused numerous disputes, battles, and even wars between the Catholic Church and the Protestants. As a result of this, hundreds of thousands of people fled to the New World to gain religious freedom and escape persecution and death.
Source #1 – “French Immigration to America.” French Immigration to America: History for Kids ***. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 May 2017. <http://www.emmigration.info/french-immigration-to-america.htm>.
Source #2 – “Themes.” Muse Virtuel Du Protestantisme. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 May 2017. <https://www.museeprotestant.org/en/notice/le-refuge-huguenot-en-amerique/>.
Source #3 – “The Reformation.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 03 May 2017. <http://www.history.com/topics/reformation>.
Oral Interview – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXcXpthBcMc&feature=youtu.be
Youtube Video – Huguenots and the French Reformation. Prod. Ryan Reeves. N.p., n.d. Web. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1wOgMLZlF1Y>.
Photo #1 – http://www.markerhistory.com/huguenot-settlement-marker-sa-20/
Photo #2 – https://www.museeprotestant.org/en/notice/le-refuge-huguenot-en-amerique/
Photo #3 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1wOgMLZlF1Y
Photo #4 – https://www.quora.com/How-did-the-Catholic-Church-respond-to-the-Protestant-Reformation
Photo #5 – https://www.quora.com/How-did-the-Catholic-Church-respond-to-the-Protestant-Reformation