A Difference in Sixteenth-Century French Violence
By Rex Barnes
Strata, Volume 3 (2011)
Abstract: This article considers the implications of both Catholic and Calvinist types of violence during the Reformation of mid-sixteenth-century France. Historical texts and academic discourses exhibit the extent to which French Catholics tended to enact physical torment on their Huguenot victims, whereas French Huguenots typically assaulted their Christian counterparts through iconoclasm and symbolic desecration of sacred objects. From these perspectives, my interest is in the multiple violent acts, which were not sadistic or pathological attempts to inflict agony on religious opponents, but were initially fundamental concerns for establishing and maintaining religious uniformity and orthodoxy through purgative actions. Analysis of such historical violence through individual Christian writings at this time is conducive to understanding attempts at Church reform in France, especially with consideration of the religious dynamics on the part of both Catholics and Protestants. These actions culminated in political, social and religious transformations and confrontations that have come to designate the European Reformations.