Matthias Desubas

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Matthias Desubas , actually French Mathieu Majal , called Désubas or des Hubas after his place of birth , also written Desubes (born February 28, 1720 in Désubas near Vernoux ; † February 2, 1746 in Montpellier ), was a French Huguenot preacher and evangelical martyr . He was also called Lubac . Other Germanized name variants are Matthäus von Desubas and Matthäus Majal Désubas . The term Martyr of Vernoux has also become a paraphrasing of his name.


Field service

Matthias Desubas' parents were Jacques Majal and Marie, née Chapon.

At the time of Matthias Desubas' training as a Reformed preacher, the Reformed Church was banned in France. Although he was not yet ordained, the young man served as a pastor in Vivarais from 1743 to 1745 after a candidate began in 1738 . He enjoyed great popularity with his own congregation and the surrounding churches. He was considered gracious, devoted, zealous, and talented. As a representative of Vivarais, he took part in the national synod of the French Evangelical Church, which met on August 18, 1744 in Bas-Languedoc . The court at Versailles felt offended by this illegal gathering and reacted drastically.


Desubas was never to experience his ordination . Before that could happen, he was betrayed by a man who had fallen away from the Protestant faith and arrested on December 11, 1745 in d'Aggrene near Saint-Agrève near Le Chambon (now Le Chambon-sur-Lignon ) when he was in a remote farmhouse slept that belonged to one of his brothers. From here he was well guarded from the next day by a lieutenant and 30 soldiers via Vernoux to Montpellier. On the way to Vernoux, he was recognized by one of his fellow believers, Etienne Gourdol. His excitement about the arrest was to lead to rash and illegal reactions from the Protestant French and numerous deaths among them. These events began when Gourdol persuaded 16 or 17 Evangelical Christians to follow him into a wooded area near Vernoux, where he asked for the pastor to be surrendered. When the officer refused, Gourdol grabbed the pastor to drag him away. The officer then opened fire. Five of those involved in this rescue attempt were killed in this way, and there were also several injured. Desubas received a stab wound from a bayonet. Four people were captured.

Vernoux massacre

The situation worsened when Desubas and his guards reached Vernoux.

Several meetings of Evangelical Christians had taken place in the area that morning. When the events of Desubas became known at these meetings, numerous participants moved to Vernoux. Despite the efforts of the Roman Catholic magistrate Asserty to prevent the crowd, they moved into the city. When Desubas arrived, a large unarmed crowd of men and women of all ages, as well as children, a total of about 2,000 people, had gathered at the gates and demanded Desubas' release. They expressed their sadness but also anger, some cried. Two of the residents of Vernoux, who leaned toward the Roman Catholic side, felt they had to stand by the soldiers who had been harassed in this way and shot the crowd from their windows. The escort fired too. 36 people died and 200 to 300 were wounded, the majority of the injured later succumbed to his wounds. These events would come to be known as the Vernoux Massacre . Desubas was detained in the local prison overnight.

The next morning an even larger crowd of Evangelical Christians gathered; Numerous armed young people had made their way through the mountains to the suburbs of Vernoux and threatened violence if the pastor were not released. The previous day's events had caused anger rather than fear. The crowd, which came from all parts of the village and filled the streets, seemed ready to take revenge. Since the population of the place was predominantly Protestant and the escort was comparatively small, a violent liberation of the clergy and other prisoners seemed promising. Some of the shepherds of the desert , as the leaders of the underground evangelical church were called, condemned the protestant uprising and threw themselves into the crowd; Desubas in particular tried to calm the angry people. From inside prison, he managed to get a message across to the crowd:

“I earnestly beg you, gentlemen, to withdraw; the king's people are numerous here. Too much blood has already been shed. I am very calm and have completely surrendered to God's will. "

This request of Desubas and his fellow officials was granted, the hostile intentions were abandoned, and the crowd broke up. The evangelical clergy apologized to the commandant for not having come in time to prevent the uprising because of the great distance.

More riots

Desubas was brought on from Vernoux via Nîmes to Montpellier. On the next and the following days there was further unrest among numerous Protestants on his way. Desubas was almost liberated before Paul Rabaut , who was hiding nearby, intervened. This tried to avert any damage to the French Evangelical Church. A violent liberation of Desubas could have sparked a civil war, which he tried to prevent. He mingled with the angry crowd, begging and protesting, and finally persuading them to return to obedience and order. The convoy was able to continue on its way without further disturbance, while Rabaut withdrew into his hiding place.


After a 50-hour journey in Montpellier, Desubas was imprisoned in the citadel, in which numerous Huguenot pastors had previously been held, including the martyr Alexandre Roussel . There he was interrogated by the commandant La Devèze. Some prelates who belonged to the court, in particular the local bishop, Georges-Lazare Berger de Charency (tenure 1738–1748), visited Desubas in prison and tried to persuade him to change his denomination. The bishop is said to have been impressed by Desuba's good looks and his polite and friendly demeanor, but it seemed impossible to dissuade the young clergyman from the evangelical faith.


A month later, in January 1746, Desubas said at the Languedoc Estates meeting in Montpellier before the director of the Languedoc, Jean Le Nain Baron d'Asfeld (* 31.01.1698, † 28.12.1750, term of office 1743–1750), a Jansenist , and the estates. The director was friendly towards him, but he took into account the political conditions that were directed against Desubas. Le Nain had instructed Desubas, in God's name, to answer truthfully. After Desubas agreed, he vigorously denied any treasonable acts or intentions that he was accused of. He was asked: “Don't the Protestants have a common fund, a collection of weapons and regular correspondence with England?” Desubas replied:

“None of that is true. The clergy preach nothing but patience and loyalty to the king. "

Le Nain replied: “I am aware of that, sir.” The court thus came to the conclusion that Desubas was actually innocent in the sense of the indictment. A previous instruction from King Louis XV. but allowed death by hanging as the only judgment . Desubas is said to have heard his death sentence without any recognizable emotions, while the director allegedly cried and the other judges are said to have been touched.


The judgment was carried out on February 2, 1746 on the esplanade of Montpellier in front of the citadel, where Claude Brousson and other evangelical pastors had already been executed. A whole army guarded the place of execution . Desubas had to enter the place of execution, although it was winter, almost naked, that is, bared from his outer clothing, in a thin, sleeveless linen undershirt, with bare legs, barefoot and bareheaded. Otherwise he was only wearing a pair of underpants. The guards found it difficult to clear his way through the large crowd that had gathered. At the gallows arrived, he was the executioner passed. Then he wanted to give a farewell speech, but was drowned out by 14 drums that were constantly beating. He is said to have looked very composed. The audience watched, visibly moved, as Desubas knelt down at the foot of the gallows and prayed. Then he wanted to quickly climb the ladder, but was stopped at the second rung. He was supposed to watch his sermon, church and prayer books and his synodal notes being burned. Then he said goodbye to the Jesuits . One of them presented him with a crucifix which he should kiss. Desubas turned his head to one side and asked that he be allowed to die in peace. Then he continued up the ladder to the gallows, looked up at the sky, and was hanged. Those present from both denominations are said to have been moved to tears by Desubas' composed demeanor. Matthias Desubas died at the age of only 25.

Afterlife and reception

In response to Desubas' execution, the Protestant churches of France ordered a non- working day of penance and prayer for their members.

The bloody events that followed Desubas's arrest had caused such a sensation that similar attacks on the Protestant population were prevented; it was several years before the next person was killed for their evangelical belief.

Desubas' suffering and death and his attitude, perceived as steadfast, made him a role model for the persecuted evangelical Christians in France of his time. A peasant ballad from Vivarais deals with the interrogation of Desubas by La Devèze and the death of the young pastor, the text below is given in the French original and in an English translation from 1861:

Complainte sur la mort de M. Desubas Lament on the death of Mr. Desubas
"N'êtes-vous pas ministre,
Ou bien prédicateur,
Et de ce cas sinistre
N'êtes-vous pas l'auteur?
Pouvez-vous en conscience,
Sans nul ordre du Roi,
Enseigner in France
Et prêcher votre loi?

Notre glorieux prince
A proscrit pour jamais
De toutes nos provinces
La foi des reformés.
Pourquoi faire violence?
Monsieur, vous avez tort,
Et selon l'ordonnance
Vous méritez la mort. "

Lubac avec constance
Répond à ce seigneur:
- "Si j'ai prêché en France
La loi de mon Sauveur,
Les apôtres en Judée,
En Galilée épars,
Prêchèrent en ces contrées
En dépit de César.

L'on n'est jamais rebelle
Quand on fait en tout lieu,
D'un coeur brûlant de zèle,
La volonté de Dieu.
Peut-on, dans nos provinces,
Dites-moi, Monseigneur,
Pour obéir au prince,
Délaisser le Sauveur?

Si, par les ordonnances,
J'ai mérité la mort,
Que la Toute Puissance
Décide de mon tort;
C'est à ce divin Père
Que j'élève mon coeur;
En lui mon âme espère
D'une constante ardeur.

Aucun ne me pent nuire
Sans son pouvoir divin;
Tout est sous son empire;
C'est lui qui me soutient.
Sans faire resistance,
Je suis prêt à partir:
Prononcez ma sentence,
Je suis prêt à mourir. "

"Mon sort n'est pas à plaindre,
II est à désirer:
Je n'ai plus rien à craindre;
Car Dieu est mon berger.
C'est mon fort, ma défense.
Qu'aurais-je à redouter?
En Lui mon espérance,
Mon unique rocher!

Mon âme, prends courage
Car c'est pour aujourd'hui
Que tu sors d'esclavage
Pour t'en aller vers Lui.
Tu vas être ravie,
Dans ce charming séjour,
D'ouïr la symphonie
De la celeste cour.

Avecque les saints
Tu joindras ton concert,
Pour chanter les louanges
You roi de l'univers;
Dans la gloire éternelle,
La robe tu prendras,
De couleur immortelle,
Après tous ces combats.

Allons en diligence,
Mon coeur, dans ce moment,
Revêtu de constance,
Embrasser le tourment;
Allons avecque zèle,
D'un regard gracieux,
Monter sur cette échelle
Qui nous conduit aux cieux. "

II part pour la supplice,
Escorté à l'entour
D'archers de la justice,
De quatorze tambours,
Qui jusqu'à la potence
Roulent incontinent
Pour vainere sa constance,
Pour étourdir ses sens.

Etant à la potence,
Ce martyr généreux
Implore l'assistance
You monarque des cieux;
D'un courage heroïque
A 1'échelle il monta;
Vers la troupe angélique
Son âme s'envola.

Ainsi finit la course
D'un généreux pasteur,
Pour everything à la source
D'un céleste bonheur.
Que ton sort est aimable,
Et qu'il est glorieux;
Ta joie délectable
Dans les augustes lieux!

- Faisons cesser nos plaintes,
Fidèles protestants,
Nos sanglots, nos complaintes
Et nos regrets cuisants.
Lubac n'est plus à plaindre
II est hors you danger;
II n'a plus rien à craindre,
Ni rien à désirer.

Chérissons sa mémoire,
Imitons son ardeur,
Suivons-le dans la gloire
Et d'esprit et de coeur.
Que si Dieu nous appelle
Au tourment rigoureux,
Imitons ce fidèle,
Nous serons bienheureux.
"Art thou then the preacher
Whose troublesome case,
As protestant teacher,
We try in this place?
Will you dare to proclaim
Without the King's leave,
Or in France to maintain
We thy law should receive?

Our great prince has decreed,
And henceforth will take care,
That his realms shall be freed
From this protestant snare.
You are doing great ill
Thus his laws to defy,
And if obstinate still
You are worthy to die. "

Thus Lubac explained
To his Lordship severe:
- "If in France I've proclaimed
The Great Master I fear,
I but follow those saints,
Oppressed in Judea,
Who braved Cesar's restraints
And the Savior confessed.

No rebels are they
Who with zeal, in all lands,
Only seek to obey
God's most sacred commands.
Say, my lord, can we dare
This submission to make,
And thereby to declare
That our God we forsake?

If indeed by our laws
I am worthy to die,
The Almighty my cause
Shall adjudge from on high.
In that Father above
All my hopes find their place;
I rejoice in his love,
His salvation embrace.

None can compass my fall
Unless He shall ordain;
He is sovereign of all,
And his power will sustain.
With submission I go
Your star sentence to meet,
In His service I know
Even death will be sweet. "

"No sad fate is mine,
But one all might desire,
With my Shepherd Divine
Nought can terror inspire.
He's my tower, my defense,
I am free from alarm;
Deathless hope springs from thence,
God my rock shields from harm.

Then, my soul, be not craven,
For soon thou shalt be
Soaring upwards to heaven,
From all bondage set free.
Perfect rapture abounds
In that blissful abode;
Sweetest music resounds
From the courts of thy God.

Angels holy and bright
Those full harmonies raise;
Thou with them shalt unite
Thy great sovereign to praise:
There with glory supernal
Shalt thou be arrayed,
And with triumph eternal
Thy conflicts repaid.

Then, my soul, you canst dare,
Clad with firmness and grace,
Present evil to bear,
And e'en torture embrace:
Hope and ardor shall blend
In each glance of the eyes,
As those steps I ascend
Which conduct to the skies. "

All along the short course
To his tragical end,
With a guard in strong force,
Fourteen drummers attend.
Vain the efforts they make,
With drums rolling around
His fixed purpose to shake
Or his senses confound.

Thus the gallows he reaches
His life to resign,
And there humbly beseeches
Assistance divine;
Then with courage transcendent
His doom hastes to meet,
And with angels resplendent
His soul takes her seat.

Thus he finished his course,
Nobly ended the fight;
Thus his soul sought the source
Of celestial delight.
'Twas a glorious fate:
Now what raptures are thine!
Thy triumph how great
Where the martyr hosts shine!

- Let us cease to complain,
Each true protestant friend,
Sobs of anguish restrain,
Let our bitter grief end.
Lubac needs not a tear;
No more foes to conspire,
No more dangers to fear,
Nothing left to desire.

His name let us prize,
Be devoted as he,
In soul let us rise
His bright glory to see.
And if God should ordain
Us like suffering to bear,
May we like faith maintain
And his blessedness share.

An extract from a free German translation from 1845 has also been preserved:

To the angel's harmonies
If his spirit soars in flight,
And heaven's symphonies
Now hear his delighted ear.

During the time of the National Socialist occupation, a group of scouts in the Cevennes region named themselves after Désubas.

Remembrance day

February 3rd in the Evangelical Name Calendar .

Before the introduction of the official name calendar, the day of remembrance was already listed in:

  • Theodor Fliedner : Book of Martyrs , Kaiserswerth 1849/1859, Vol. 4, pp. 1399-1404.
  • Ferdinand Piper : Evangelical Calendar in Witnesses of Truth , Berlin 1874/1875, Vol. 1, pp. 14-25.
  • Jörg Erb : The Cloud of the Witnesses , Kassel 1951/1963, Vol. 4, pp. 508-520.

A day of remembrance on a different date was found in:

  • Prussian Evangelical Oberkirchenrat: Calendar of names for the German people , Berlin 1876


Web links

Individual evidence