episode 7

Saint Bartholomew’s Day

France, 1572

Published the 11 may 2016



What is the difference between Catholics and Protestants ?
Both acknowledge Christ as their Messiah. But Protestants take a more distant stance to Holy Scripture. Mary is merely blessed among women, while Catholics believe in Christ’s miraculous conception and the Virgin Birth. The Catholic church has a strict hierarchy of priests, bishops, and cardinals, with the Pope right at the top. Protestants argue for an individual relationship with scripture, unmediated by religious authorities. Catholics also believe that the host literally becomes Christ’s body during mass, by means of a process called transsubstantiation.
Protestants believe that it stays a wafer, as Christ’s word is more symbolic than literal.

queen margot

The nineteenth-century novelist Alexandre Dumas used the massacre as the setting for one of his historical masterpieces, but the plot takes some liberties with events. Queen Catherine de’ Medici, Charles IX’s mother, is described as the main instigator, though it seems that it was in fact the king and his counsellors, most notably the Duke of Guise, who cooked up the plan to assassinate leading Protestants, including poor old Gaspard de Coligny.

The murder of the Duke of Guise

Henri de Guise (1550-1588), founder member of the Catholic League, was one of the plotters behind the massacre. He proved quite a fly in the ointment when Henri III came to the throne and found he had to deal with the Protestant faction to establish his authority.
The king invited his now inconvenient friend to his palace in Blois, had him murdered, then ordered his body to be burned and his ashes tipped into the Loire.



  1. Wikipedia (Saint Bartholomew’s Day massacre)


  1. Alexandre Dumas, La Reine Margot, Paris, Garnier frères, 1845, 6 vol. in-8.