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Massacre of Saint Bartholomew’s Day

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In the Massacre of Saint Bartholomew’s Day, tens of thousands of French Protestants of the Calvinist confession, also known as Huguenots, were executed on the night of 23-24 August 1572 by order of King Charles IX and his mother, Catherine de Medici.

The massacre was named “The Night of St Bartholomew” because the 24th was the feast day of St Bartholomew, one of the 12 apostles of Christ the Saviour. It was considered the most tragic chapter in the history of Catholic-Protestant fighting. It is one of the most tragic episodes in the history of France and the Church in the West during religious fanaticism.

The persecution of the Huguenots spread throughout France that night, as it was well known that the movement spread by Martin Luther and John Calvin was questioning the authority of the Catholic Church.

Who played an essential role in the 1572 massacre?

There were years of bloody clashes between supporters of the two camps. 

Catherine de Medici, the mother of the King then, played a decisive role in the massacre of 24 August 1572 when she asked the King to take immediate reprisals against the Protestants in Paris.

Many Protestant leaders were in the French capital to attend the wedding of Henry of Navarre to Margaret of Valois, sister of King Charles IX and daughter of Catherine de Medici. Terror broke out afterward, with over 3,000 Huguenots brutally murdered.

How many Huguenots were massacred?

On the dawn of 24 August 1572, when the Western Church celebrated St Bartholomew. This beginning of the St Bartholomew’s Season would echo in 12 other French cities, resulting in more than 5,000 deaths within months.

On the night of 23 to 24 August 1572, there was the “Massacre of Saint Bartholomew’s Day,” the name given to a bloody event in Paris when Catholics massacred more than 2,000 Huguenots (Calvinist Protestants), a pivotal moment in the religious wars in France (1562 – 1598).

The Roman Catholic Church celebrates the Apostle Bartholomew on 24 August.

Massacre of Saint Bartholomew’s Day

What happened on the afternoon of 23 August?

On 18 August 1572, the wedding between the heir to the crown of Navarre, the reformed Prince Henri de Bourbon, and the sister of the King of France, the Catholic Princess Marguerite de Valois, took place in Paris in a solemn setting. 

On the afternoon of 23 August, amid rising tension among Protestants demanding that someone guilty of the previous day’s attack be punished, several meetings of the King’s Privy Council decided to assassinate the admiral and others close to him, targeting around 50 people in all.

The massacre of Saint Bartholomew’s Day is a little-known subject. Western historiography, however, speaks of a St Bartholomew’s Night Massacre to avoid confusion about the scale of the event, which took place over a more extended period, encompassing several incidents.

Why were the Hungeonites massacred?

One of the worst crimes committed in the name of religion occurred on the night of 23-24 August 1572 in France.

According to historians, the Huguenots were massacred because they were considered the main culprits of the kingdom’s problems and attracted God’s wrath through their heresy. 

At the instigation of his mother, Catherine de Medici, King Charles IX decided to give fanatical Catholics a free hand in assassinating Protestant leaders in Paris. 

How many people died on St. Bartholomew’s Night?

Instigated by agitators who blamed the Huguenots for the disastrous economic and social situation in which the kingdom found itself, the population, the majority of whom were Catholics, attacked the Huguenots everywhere.

An estimated 3,000 Protestants were killed that night and the day after in Paris, and 70,000 across the country, the carnage marking the resumption of religious wars in France.

Most of the Protestants were in Paris themselves, attending the wedding of their leader, Henry of Navarre, to the king’s sister Margaret. The killing of Admiral Coligny, thrown from the window of the room where he lay wounded, signaled the start of the slaughter.

Primary Takeaways

  • Admiral Gaspard II de Coligny-Châtillon, who had become the prominent leader of the French Protestants in 1569. He possessed considerable military power conferred by his position as admiral and his links with Protestants in the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the German Empire.
  • At the end of 1571 and again in the summer of 1572. The admiral had negotiated with the king for French military intervention to support the anti-Spanish revolt in Flanders led by the brothers Guillaume of Orange and Louis of Nassau.
  • On the contrary, the massacre of the remaining Protestants by Catholic fellow citizens was based on religious fanaticism fuelled by the words of extremist preachers, most notably Simon Vigor.


A body of soldiers, under the leadership of Duke Henri de Guise of Lorraine, who had accused the Admiral of ordering the assassination of his father in 1563, went to the hotel where he was staying, killing him and all those who opposed him. They went to the Saint Germain district, where they continued the killings. 

The St Bartholomew’s Day massacre remains one of the most tragic episodes in the history of France and the Apulian Church. 

Quizlet about Saint Bartholomew’s Day

St Bartholomew's Day

1 / 5

2 / 5

In what day is St Bartholomew's Day?

3 / 5

Who played an important role in the 1572 massacre?

4 / 5

She asked the ___ to take immediate reprisals

5 / 5

More than ____ Huguenots (Calvinist Protestants) were massacred by Catholics.

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  • Soman, A. (Ed.). (1974). Massacre of Saint Bartholomew’s Day. Nijhoff.
  • Soman, A. (Ed.). (2012). The massacre of St. Bartholomew: reappraisals and documents (Vol. 75). Springer Science & Business Media.
  • Sutherland, N. M. (1974). The Massacre of St. Bartholomew and the Problem of Spain. In The Massacre of St. Bartholomew (pp. 15-24). Springer, Dordrecht.
  • Smither, J. R. (1991). Massacre of Saint Bartholomew’s Day: 1572-1574. The Sixteenth-century journal, 27-46.
  • White, H. (1868). THE MASSACRE OF ST. BARTHOLOMEW. Fortnightly3(16), 476-478.