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The French Religious Wars

In Professor Natalie Davis’s analysis of “The Rites of Violence” in the French religious wars, she clearly demonstrates that the war was neither incoherent nor blind. She makes an attempt of describing the religious riots as a structure that is self-sufficient by rejecting the sociopolitical, traditional and conjectural explanations. Moreover, she tries to isolate this self-sufficient structure from the broad scope. Consequently, she compares varied situations of a similar nature. Through the study of the 1562 and 1570 movements particularly the St. Bartholomew large-scale riots, Davis establishes similarities and concordances between the Protestants and Catholic crowds’ behavior. Her method evokes a need for certain reservations just like the other original attempts, though they are interesting and quite fruitful. Professor Davis thinks in an appreciation of the religious riots, there should be a total rejection of the classical reasons explaining popular disturbance.

The role played by conjectural accidents is one of the elements of reasons explaining popular disturbance. In the year 1562, an explosion of both rural and urban violence arose in France whereby Protestants and Catholics began killing each other. Most likely, the economic difficulties that hit the country during this period might have fuelled this turbulence. For instance, the prolonged rise in prices became a permanent reality, thus producing dire social repercussions. In addition, much affected by these difficulties was the ancient world of artisans. Moreover, the general feeling of discontent was further heightened by the increase in food shortages. France was struck by the shortages in 1571 and 1572 where there was a sharp rise in town market cereal prices followed by widespread starvation throughout the 1572 spring. Though the prevailing economic hardships were not the popular disturbance’s immediate cause, they created conditions against stability. Besides, taking a closer look at the 1562 and 1572 riots, the resemblance of particular political factors strikes one as the probable cause of influence among the crowds. The magnitude of the movements by Protestants caught the attention of the Catholics in 1562 as well as the dangers involved in the establishment of the Protestant religion. Consequently, this led to the grant of an advantageous treaty to the heretics by the monarchy.

Upon the proclamation of January, the Calvinists were given full recognition as citizens whereby they could practice their religion at their own liberty though limited. After Huguenot defeats in two pitched battles, and three civil wars in August 1570, there was the reintegration of the Saint Germain treaty into the kingdom those who had previously been rebels against it. The Catholic masses declined to accept the monarchy’s tortuous policy. Henceforth, they had a view that the judges and the sovereign failed to accomplish their work of tidying up the country by way of disposing the heretical vermin. Consequently, this called for the replacement of the relevant authorities. On the other hand, the Protestants used the statutes of pacification breaches caused by the Catholics in the legitimization of their violence. This is best exemplified by the third civil war outbreak.

In the next place, Professor Davis totally omits the part played by social tensions in fuelling these religious disturbances, which is a difficult view to sustain. In the view of defense, Professor Davis explains that the Protestant and Catholic movements gathered crowds comprising of all urban society sections. However, she excludes the most susceptible of the urban poor who were neither among the massacred nor among the perpetrators of the massacres.

Review on the Rites of Repair

“Rites of Repair” by Barbara Diefendorf is an intentional response to “The Rites of Violence” by Professor Natalie Davis. The eight religious and civil wars of the 1560s made France experience periods of uneasy peace. Consequently, the little peace that prevailed after the period made Catherine, the queen mother by then and an effective ruler as well; seize the opportunity so as to show her son King Charles IX to the kingdom. The King took part in formal entry ceremonies in the major towns. This presented the people’s sovereignty towards their King as well as that of the King to his people. This act metaphorically joined the social body of the people to its head. Ritually, the welcome received by the King in every city displayed royal authority restoration as well as the reconciliation of the two sides recently engrossed in blood-spattered civil wars. For instance, Catholic and Protestant young adult males of prominent city families paraded side by side. In addition, they dressed in identical white satin doublets which signified a show of unity to the court and the King. Professor Diefendorf revealed the logic underlying the actions of the people participating in the riots by identifying the violent acts committed during the religious riots.

Furthermore, these violent acts were products of many gestures founded in the ecclesiastical and judicial practices. She showed how the behavior of the riot participants, no matter how destructive, was intended to restore civic and sacred communities as well as flush out heresy pollution put into disarray by the religious discord. Therefore, Professor Diefendorf concluded that the violence was legitimated and justified in the perpetrators’ minds. To a great extent, religious rioting was largely discharged as the actions of fanatics and uncouth mobs. Religious wars historical writings were still confessional in inspiration and the renowned violence embarrassed both sides. Catholic historians failed to admit the call of exterminating the heretics given by the Catholic preachers.

On the other hand, the Protestants failed to admit that members of ministries and reformed congregations were pillaging and sacking the Catholic churches. Moreover, the Protestants opted for political in depicting the King and Catholic leaders as their enemy rather than the people. The Catholics and Protestants followed an ideal community in which the civic and sacred were brought together despite their existing religious differences. Nevertheless, members from both faiths believed that there had been a dangerous corruption of the social body and its only restoration would be by washing out the mistakes that defiled it. However, ways parted since the goals of the Protestants were the creation of a godly and newly purified society. On the other hand, the goals of the Catholics were the restoration of the sacred to its suitable place in the city and to excise heresy pollution.

Consequently, the rituals of repair were mutually exclusive in that the aims employed in the restoration of the imagined society excluded each other. The double-edged nature of religious rituals of repair served the heightening of the existing differences rather than the promotion of unity. In the next place, processions became a regular response to iconoclasm acts either individually or as groundwork to sacrilege defiled churches re-consecration. In addition, many cities prepared them as a way of collective supplication so as to end heresy.


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