Edict of Saint-Germain-en-Laye (1562)

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In the Edict of Saint-Germain-en-Laye (also January edict or Tolerance Edict of Saint-Germain ; French L'édit de janvier or édit de tolérance de Saint-Germain ) on January 17, 1562, the French regent Catherine de Medici secured the Huguenot nobility restricted freedom of belief in the Catholic kingdom.


Catherine of Medici

It was Katharina's first decision as regent after the death of her son, King Franz II. The new king was her next son, the underage Charles IX. She acted on his behalf. In the dispute between Catholics and Protestants, she tried to steer a middle course that should strengthen royal power. Without affecting the privileges of the Catholic Church , the decree, largely conceived by the Chancellor of France , chancelier de France Michel de l'Hôpital , allowed Protestants to freedom of belief and private worship.


The edict issued in Saint-Germain-en-Laye marked a clear change of direction in royal policy towards the Reformed after many years of oppression during the reign of Henry II and after the failures of the Colloquium of Poissy and the conferences of Saint-Germain . Katharina von Medici allowed tolerance to prevail in him, but not unreservedly and even temporarily. In a letter written on February 16, she regretted

"... the harshness and doggedness of all those who preferred to defend their position by force of arms instead of discussing and deliberating in order to submit to the establishment of the truth and to reason"

. In fact, the regent was waiting for a decision by the Council of Trent .

The royal decree, also known as the 1st religious edict, allowed Protestants to pursue their beliefs, which deviated from the Catholic convictions, in the suburbs or out in the country. In return, they were expected to return the places of worship they had now occupied. Synod meetings and the creation of church governing bodies (consistories) were allowed for the first time. The pastors were recognized, but had to swear allegiance to the civil authorities.

The next day the Council of Trent resumed its work, although it appeared that a tougher course had now been chosen towards the Protestants. In addition, the Catholic-dominated Parlement de Paris refused to register the January dict. After weeks of debate and several lettres de jussion , the text was finally adopted on March 6, 1562 - 5 days after the bloodbath of Wassy in Champagne , commanded by Franz von Guise . Around 200 Protestants listened to a sermon in a barn within the city - which was a violation of the edict. 60 people were killed in the massacre and more than 100 were injured, some seriously.


The Vassy bloodbath

The Edict of Saint-Germain-en-Laye was viewed by Protestants as a model case. In later negotiations with the monarchy, they should use it as a reference for further edicts.

In the overwhelming majority of cases, however, the Protestants - especially in the south of France - refused to return the places of worship they had confiscated, preferring to destroy churches and chapels instead. They also committed educational vandalism by deliberately destroying pictures and crosses just to indicate that God remains silent on such acts, which Catholics call blasphemy.

The rival Guisen viewed the edict as a wrong decision, interpreted it as a victory for the opposing party and were not prepared to take a tolerant stance. There was already the bloodbath of Wassy on March 1, 1562 and subsequently the first of the Huguenot Wars , which were to last for over 30 years.


  • Ernst Walder: Comparisons of religions in the 16th century . Volume 2: The January edict of 1562. The Edict of Nantes 1598 . 2nd revised edition. Peter Lang, Bern 1961, ( Sources on Modern History 8, ISSN  0171-7162 ).
  • August Lebrecht Herrmann: France's religious and civil wars in the 16th century. Voss, 1828
  • Robert J. Knecht: Renaissance France 1483-1610. Blackwell Classic Histories of Europe, John Wiley & Sons, 2001, ISBN 0-6312-2729-6
  • Robert J. Knecht: The French Wars of Religion, 1559–1598. Seminar Studies in History, Longman, 2010, ISBN 1-4082-2819-X

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Noël Valois: Les essais de conciliation religieuse au début du règne de Charles IX . In: Revue d'histoire de l'Église de France. Tome 31. N ° 119 . 1945, p. 237-276 .
  2. H. de La Ferrière: Lettres de Catherine de Médicis, t. I . S. 276 .
  3. ^ Jean Delumeau: Renaissance et discordes religieuses . Ed .: Georges Duby, L'histoire de France. Larousse, Paris 2007, p. 474 .
  4. Michel Péronnet: Le XVIe siècle . Hachette, Paris 1981, p. 287 .