Wassy bloodbath

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Wassy's bloodbath. Colored copper engraving by Frans Hogenberg .

The blood bath of Wassy (also blood bath of Vassy ; French Le massacre de Wassy ) describes the murder of a large number of French Protestants ( called Huguenots ) in the northeastern French town of Wassy on March 1, 1562 . Then the Huguenot Wars broke out (1562–1598), which weakened France for 100 years with their repercussions .

Political background

The Queen Mother Catherine of Medici took over the reign of her underage son Charles IX at the end of 1560 . She wanted to put a stop to the political power of the Guise , who dominated French politics under Katharina's eldest son Francis II . Therefore, although she was Catholic herself, she made concessions to the Huguenots in the Edict of St. Germain : Before that, they had always been persecuted; now, among other things, they were allowed to hold services outside the cities. The Wassy assembly, however, was a deliberate political provocation because of its size.

Legal background

A gathering of this size was illegal and had to be watched by troops for security reasons. The duke Franz von Guise , who was the most deserving French general of the time, was entrusted with this . By helping to escalate the situation at Wassy, ​​which he either provoked or allowed, he acted specifically against the intentions of the regent Katharina von Medici.

Course of events

The Duke of Guise arrived in Wassy while passing through (according to statements from Catholic circles on the way back from a visit to his mother in Joinville, but accompanied by numerous armed men) when an illegal Huguenot service was held in a barn at around 600 Participants was held. Depending on your point of view, there are contradicting information about the other events:

The Huguenots describe a massive intervention by the Catholic troops against their service, which after the first exchange of words ended in fire and attacks on the unarmed.

The Catholics, on the other hand, claim that they wanted to hear mass in the nearby church and that the Huguenots were unmolested. Suddenly the mass was disrupted by calls from outside. Even requests from Catholics did not prevent radical Huguenots from protesting on the forecourt. One word led to the other, there were first scuffles and even stone throwing, and finally the shots, which were more likely to have been fired in self-defense.

Both sides made full use of this event for propaganda purposes in order to portray the intolerance of the other side as extensively as possible. But it could well be plausible that, regardless of whether in the barn or in front of the church, verbal disputes between the warring parties led to an escalation that could no longer be stopped by the stubborn views of both sides and probably never stopped should be.


The consequences of that event called Wassy bloodbath were the final loss of all government offices of the Guise. In Geneva, Jean Calvin warned the Huguenots to avoid further provocations by the French state. Nevertheless, the Catholics did not lead the first three Huguenot Wars in 1562/63 , 1567/68 and 1568 to 1570 very energetically and so the Huguenots received relatively favorable peace conditions in 1563, 1568 and 1570.

Duke Franz von Guise was murdered in 1563 by the Huguenot Poltrot de Méré from Admiral Coligny's entourage .

The then exercised vengeance on Admiral Coligny in 1572 degenerated into Bartholomew's Night . Furthermore, the Huguenots founded colonies in Florida and Rio de Janeiro in 1562 with the support of the French state , which were destroyed by the Spanish and Portuguese in 1565.

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