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Saint Vincent's Reading List: XLVI: The Wars of Religion and the Edict of Nantes

by Rev Edward R Udovic CM 10/28/2013 9:19:00 AM

Conference des Edicts de Pacification des Troubles Esmeus au Royaume de France, by Pierre de Belloy. Paris : P. L'Huillier & Iamet Mettayer, 1600.

Call Number: SpC. 274.407 F815Lc1600

A full-text version of this volume may be viewed here.  


The long, bitter, French Wars of Religion between Catholics and Hugenots, with the attendant struggle for succession to the French Throne, lasted from 1562-1598. During these years there were many unsuccessful attempts to end the conflict. These efforts were memorialized in a number of "edicts" such as the Edict of Saint-Germain (1562), or the Edict of Amboise (1563).  

In order to secure his succession, the new Bourbon king Henri IV re-converted to Catholicism in 1593. Then, in order to end the civil war between Catholics and Protestants the king issued the Edict of Nantes in 1598. This Edict gave the Protestant minority a de facto but limited civil protection. It was not an expression of nascent religious toleration. Henri hoped that this civil truce would lead the way for a religious settlement by the gradual peaceful conversion of French Protestants to the national Catholic faith as the French Church was slowly strengthened by the long-delayed Tridentine reforms. The long term failure of this effort would lead Louis XIV to revoke the Edict in 1685.

One of the founding purposes of the Congregation of the Mission was to convert "heretics" who belonged to the "religion pretendue réformée." Vincent de Paul believed, however, that controversy and public disputes over theological differences were not effective tools for this task and were to be avoided. As he noted, "I can certainly tell you that I’ve never seen or known any heretic who was converted by the strength of the debate or the subtlety of the arguments but rather by gentleness, so true it is that this virtue has the power to win people over to God."1 He believed that "good living and the good odor of the Christian virtues put into practice draw the black sheep back to the right path and confirm Catholics on it."2 

The present volume published in 1599 by Pierre de Belloy, a supporter of Henri IV, is a compilation of the civil and religious documentary records for all the edicts issued during the Wars of Religion under Charles IX, Henri III, and Henri IV up to and including the Edict of Nantes.


1Vincent de Paul, Correspondence, Conferences, Documents, Vol. 11. (Brooklyn, NY: New City Press, 2008), 55.

2Vincent de Paul, Correspondence, Conferences, Documents, Vol. 2. (Brooklyn, NY: New City Press, 1989), 441-442.



St. Vincent’s Reading List is a recurring blog series exploring texts known to have been read and recommended by Saint Vincent de Paul, those which can be presumed to have been read by him, and works published during his lifetime (1581-1660) illustrating his world. All materials discussed are held by DePaul University’s Richardson Library. The entire series may be viewed here.


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