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List Of Contents | Contents of Massacres of the South, by Dumas, Pere
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by Alexandre Dumas, Pere


It is possible that our reader, whose recollections may perhaps go
back as far as the Restoration, will be surprised at the size of the
frame required for the picture we are about to bring before him,
embracing as it does two centuries and a half; but as everything, has
its precedent, every river its source, every volcano its central
fire, so it is that the spot of earth on which we are going to fix
our eyes has been the scene of action and reaction, revenge and
retaliation, till the religious annals of the South resemble an
account-book kept by double entry, in which fanaticism enters the
profits of death, one side being written with the blood of Catholics,
the other with that of Protestants.

In the great political and religious convulsions of the South, the
earthquake-like throes of which were felt even in the capital, Nimes
has always taken the central place; Nimes will therefore be the pivot
round which our story will revolve, and though we may sometimes leave
it for a moment, we shall always return thither without fail.

Nimes was reunited to France by Louis VIII, the government being
taken from its vicomte, Bernard Athon VI, and given to consuls in the
year 1207. During the episcopate of Michel Briconnet the relics of
St. Bauzile were discovered, and hardly were the rejoicings over this
event at an end when the new doctrines began to spread over France.
It was in the South that the persecutions began, and in 1551 several
persons were publicly burnt as heretics by order of the Seneschal's
Court at Nimes, amongst whom was Maurice Secenat, a missionary from
the Cevennes, who was taken in the very act of preaching.
Thenceforth Nimes rejoiced in two martyrs and two patron saints, one
revered by the Catholics, and one by the Protestants; St. Bauzile,
after reigning as sole protector for twenty-four years, being forced
to share the honours of his guardianship with his new rival.

Maurice Secenat was followed as preacher by Pierre de Lavau; these
two names being still remembered among the crowd of obscure and
forgotten martyrs. He also was put to death on the Place de la
Salamandre, all the difference being that the former was burnt and
the latter hanged.

Pierre de Lavau was attended in his last moments by Dominique Deyron,
Doctor of Theology; but instead of, as is usual, the dying man being
converted by the priest, it was the priest who was converted  by de
Lavau, and the teaching which it was desired should be suppressed
burst forth again.  Decrees were issued against Dominique Deyron; he
was pursued and tracked down, and only escaped the gibbet by fleeing
to the mountains.

The mountains are the refuge of all rising or decaying sects; God has
given to the powerful on earth city, plain, and sea, but the
mountains are the heritage of the oppressed.

Persecution and proselytism kept pace with each other, but the blood
that was shed produced the usual effect: it rendered the soil on
which it fell fruitful, and after two or three years of struggle,
during which two or three hundred Huguenots had been burnt or hanged,
Nimes awoke one morning with a Protestant majority.  In 1556 the
consuls received a sharp reprimand on account of the leaning of the
city towards the doctrines of the Reformation; but in 1557, one short
year after this admonition, Henri II was forced to confer the office
of president of the Presidial Court on William de Calviere, a
Protestant.  At last a decision of the senior judge having declared
that it was the duty of the consuls to sanction the execution of
heretics by their presence, the magistrates of the city protested
against this decision, and the power of the Crown was insufficient to
carry it out.

Henri II dying, Catherine de Medicis and the Guises took possession
of the throne in the name  of Francois II.  There is a moment when
nations can always draw a long breath, it is while their kings are
awaiting burial; and Nimes took advantage of this moment on the death
of Henri II, and on September 29th, 1559, Guillaume Moget founded the
first Protestant community.

Guillaume Moget came from Geneva.  He was the spiritual son of
Calvin, and came to Nimes with the firm purpose of converting all the
remaining Catholics or of being hanged.  As he was eloquent,
spirited, and wily, too wise to be violent, ever ready to give and
take in the matter of concessions, luck was on his side, and
Guillaume Moget escaped hanging.

The moment a rising sect ceases to be downtrodden it becomes a queen,
and heresy, already mistress of three-fourths of the city, began to
hold up its head with boldness in the streets.  A householder called
Guillaume Raymond opened his house to the Calvinist missionary, and
allowed him to preach in it regularly to all who came, and the
wavering were thus confirmed in the new faith.  Soon the house became
too narrow to contain the crowds which flocked thither to imbibe the
poison of the revolutionary doctrine, and impatient glances fell on
the churches.

Meanwhile the Vicomte de Joyeuse, who had just been appointed
governor of Languedoc in the place of M. de Villars, grew uneasy at
the rapid progress made by the Protestants, who so far from trying to
conceal it boasted of it; so he summoned the consuls before him,
admonished them sharply in the king's name, and threatened to quarter
a garrison in the town which would soon put an end to these
disorders.  The consuls promised to stop the evil without the aid of
outside help, and to carry out their promise doubled the patrol and
appointed a captain of the town whose sole duty was to keep order in
the streets.  Now this captain whose office had been created solely
for the repression of heresy, happened to be Captain Bouillargues,
the most inveterate Huguenot who ever existed.

The result of this discriminating choice was that Guillaume Moget
began to preach, and once when a great crowd had gathered in a garden
to hear him hold forth, heavy rain came on, and it became necessary
for the people either to disperse or to seek shelter under a roof.
As the preacher had just reached the most interesting part of his
sermon, the congregation did not hesitate an instant to take the
latter alternative.  The Church of St. Etienne du Capitole was quite
near: someone present suggested that this building, if not the most
suitable, as at least the most spacious for such a gathering.

The idea was received with acclamation: the rain grew heavier, the
crowd invaded the church, drove out the priests, trampled the Holy
Sacrament under foot, and broke the sacred images.  This being
accomplished, Guillaume Moget entered the pulpit, and resumed his
sermon with such eloquence that his hearers' excitement redoubled,
and not satisfied with what had already been done, rushed off to
seize on the Franciscan monastery, where they forthwith installed
Moget and the two women, who, according to Menard the historian of
Languedoc, never left him day or night; all which proceedings were
regarded by Captain Bouillargues with magnificent calm.

The consuls being once more summoned before M. de Villars, who had
again become governor, would gladly have denied the existence of
disorder; but finding this impossible, they threw themselves on his
mercy.  He being unable to repose confidence in them any longer, sent
a garrison to the citadel of Nimes, which the municipality was
obliged to support, appointed a governor of the city with four
district captains under him, and formed a body of military police
which quite superseded the municipal constabulary.  Moget was
expelled from Nimes, and Captain Bouillargues deprived of office.

Francis II dying in his turn, the usual effect was produced,--that
is, the persecution became less fierce,--and Moget therefore returned
to Nimes.  This was a victory, and every victory being a step
forward, the triumphant preacher organised a Consistory, and the
deputies of Nimes demanded from the States-General of Orleans
possession of the churches.  No notice was taken of this demand; but
the Protestants were at no loss how to proceed.  On the 21st December
1561 the churches of Ste. Eugenie, St. Augustin, and the Cordeliers
were taken by assault, and cleared of their images in a hand's turn;
and this time Captain Bouillargues was not satisfied with looking on,
but directed the operations.

The cathedral was still safe, and in it were entrenched the remnant
of the Catholic clergy; but it was apparent that at the earliest
opportunity it too would be turned into a meeting-house; and this
opportunity was not long in coming.

One Sunday, when Bishop Bernard d'Elbene had celebrated mass, just as
the regular preacher was about to begin his sermon, some children who
were playing in the close began to hoot the 'beguinier' [a name of
contempt for friars].  Some of the faithful being disturbed in their
meditations, came out of the church and chastised the little
Huguenots, whose parents considered themselves in consequence to have
been insulted in the persons of their children.  A great commotion
ensued, crowds began to form, and cries of "To the church! to the
church!" were heard.  Captain Bouillargues happened to be in the
neighbourhood, and being very methodical set about organising the
insurrection; then putting himself at its head, he charged the
cathedral, carrying everything before him, in spite of the barricades
which had been hastily erected by the Papists.  The assault was over
in a few moments; the priests and their flock fled by one door, while
the Reformers entered by another.  The building was in the twinkling
of an eye adapted to the new form of worship: the great crucifix from
above the altar was dragged about the streets at the end of a rope
and scourged at every cross-roads.  In the evening a large fire was
lighted in the place before the cathedral, and the archives of the
ecclesiastical and religious houses, the sacred images, the relics of
the saints, the decorations of the altar, the sacerdotal vestments,
even the Host itself, were thrown on it without any remonstrance from

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