Saint Bartholomew’s Day


Name given to the massacre of Protestants which occurred in Paris, France on the Feast of Saint Bartholomew on 24 August 1572, and in the French provinces during the ensuing weeks. The majority of historians deny that the Holy See was the accomplice of the French court in this outrage. The idea of a summary execution of the Protestant leaders, which would end the discord that had caused three civil wars in France (1562-63, 1567- 68, 1569-70), had long existed in the mind of Catherine de’ Medici. As early as 1560 Michaelis Suriano, the Venetian ambassador, wrote that Francis II wanted to fall upon the Protestant leaders and punish them without mercy; in 1569 Parliament offered a reward to whomever would apprehend the Admiral Coligny, leader of the Calvinist party. In 1572 Coligny, with money given to him by Charles IX, unknown to Catherine, sent 4000 men to the relief of Mons, which was at the time besieged by the Duke of Alva. Then he demanded war with Spain, saying that if it were not declared, another war might be expected. From this Catherine deduced that France was threatened with another civil war, the fourth in ten years. These threats and the failure of the attack on Coligny impelled Catherine to try to avert this war by organizing a massacre of the Protestants. The first rumor of what had occurred on Saint Bartholomew’s Day reached Rome on 2 September, and Pope Gregory XIII received the impression that Charles IX and his family had been saved from great danger and escaped a terrible conspiracy. His attitude changed when he was better informed, although the Holy See, like all Europe and many Frenchmen, believed in the existence of a Huguenot conspiracy.

MLA Citation

  • “Saint Bartholomew’s Day”. New Catholic Dictionary. CatholicSaints.Info. 23 December 2010. Web. 19 January 2019. <>