The Renaissance is a fascinating period, with its grandeur, its ostentation, its extravaganzas; also with its miseries which one wouldn't imagine if they too had not been well documented.

Let's stay in France, since there lived Du Caurroy.

From 1562 to 1598, the country was shaken by no fewer than seven religious wars! Simple verbal skirmishes, at the start, they rapidly degenerated into more deadly disputes which reached their height on the night of August 23 to 24, 1572, when 3 000 Huguenots in Paris ( which ,iat the time, numbered about 300 000 inhabitants), and nearly 7 000 in the province were massacred. Admiral Coligny's head was cut off and sent to Rome, to Pope Gregory XIII, who couldn't have been happier and struck a commemorative medal! Nightmare? Bad dream? One is consoled by Peguy (whom we quote very approximately) who remarked, «proof that the church is of a divine nature, is that the priests haven't succeeded in killing it». One is also reassured remembering that this century of violence is also that of Ignatius of Loyola, of Vincent de Paul, and of the gentle Francois de Sales...

One must make a real effort to imagine life in those tumultuous years, when Catholics joined forces with the Spaniards against the king of France and Protestants, using the same stratagem, found collaborators on England's side.

Such was the climate in which the Renaissance artists lived!

And Ronsard, twelve years before the night of St-Barthelemy, had written:

«Don't preach any more about a gospel army in France
A Christ, armed with a pistol, all blackened from smoke,
Who as a Mohammed will carry in his hand
A large cutlass, red with human blood.»

Then at last came Henry IV, whom history has called «Good King Henry».

After he besieged Paris and knew the papal thunderbolts of excommunication, he renounced his Protestant way, saying that «Paris is well worth a mass», a whim less cynical than it seem and more likely sound politics. This radical change would bring peace to France at last. It should perhaps be emphasized that there was a real and sincere faith among a good number of Calvinists on the one hand and Catholics on the other. Musicians such as Goudimel and Louis Bourgeois had dedicated the essence of their work to setting French psalm texts to music. We still use Louis Bourgeois' psalm «We will sing for you, Lord» that Protestants maintain under the title «Old One Hundredth».

But the problem was essentially one of politics and power. In 1555, the Peace of Augsbourg sought to regulate the matter of the religious factions with the principle « Cujus regio, ejus religio », that is, where you live you adopt the religion in force - in other words, you must embrace the faith of your Prince...Now, the French Calvinists, called Huguenots (derived from a German word refering to the Swiss confederates), were very numerous in France, not concentrated in a specific region, but well scattered throughout the territory. If the principle of the Cujus regio could be applied in England, in Switzerland, or in one or another of the myriad of small German principalities, it would cause more problems than it would solve in France, as the kings were looking to consolidate a national unity even more fragile. France had to be uniform at any cost and the masses must follow. (It was the same principle Cujus regio that later led Louis XIV to revoke The Edict of Nantes).


(English version by Fran Wright and Cindy Teel)