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“Le Massacre fait a Vafsy le premier jour de Mars. 1562,” in Le premier volume contenant Quarante tableaux
12017-07-07T15:05:36+00:00Newberry Library09980eb76a145ec4f3814f3b9fb45f381b3d1f02310The 39 prints in this album were mainly the work of Jacques Torterel and Jean Perissin. They depict events occurring between the June 1559 meeting of the Parlement of Paris and a minor 1570 skirmish between Huguenot and Catholic. Thousands of copies of the prints – which reported, newslike, on the events in quasi-contemporary fashion – circulated separately, but were often bound together in albums such as this one.plain2017-09-15T19:03:58+00:00Religious Change727157The Newberry LibraryWing folio ZP 539 .T63Jean Perrissin, before 1547–1617 and Jacques Tortorel, active 1568–75.“The Massacre at Wassy, the First Day of March, 1562,” in The First Volume Containing Forty Tableaus or Diverse Memorable Histories Concerning the Wars, Massacres, and Troubles that have Occurred in France in these Last Years.20170503025454Broadside with etching and letterpress, printed in Paris, France, around 1575.Le premier volume contenant Quarante tableaux by Jean Perrissin and Jacques Tortorel. Paris, 1575.The John M. Wing Foundation on the History of PrintingNewberry Library09980eb76a145ec4f3814f3b9fb45f381b3d1f02
Though the kingdom of France remained officially Catholic, it was also home to a substantial number of Reformed Protestants, the Huguenots, who were determined to secure for themselves a “pure” community in which they could worship without fear of Catholic influence. Many noblemen were Huguenots, which led to the real possibility that a Protestant might inherit the throne someday. With these high stakes, Catholics and Huguenots violently clashed for decades over the political and religious future of the kingdom.
Religious beliefs and practices were central to the French Wars of Religion. We can see this in the sensational print from The First Volume Containing Forty Tableaus, which depicts the slaughter of dozens of Protestant worshipers by men under the direction of the Catholic duke of Guise. The image, very clearly showing the Huguenot version of events, starkly portrays the attack as brutal; the victims, who had sought to worship as they saw fit, are portrayed as helpless innocents, vainly fleeing the armed Catholic attackers with their arms raised in terror and surrender. This massacre helped motivate Huguenots to mobilize and defend themselves, which set the stage for civil war.
A resolution to this intractable conflict came with the accession of Henry of Navarre, a Huguenot, to the French throne in 1589. Henry formally converted to Catholicism for the second time (the first had been in 1572) but made it a priority to end the religious wars tearing his kingdom apart. His solution was “The Edict of Nantes,” which legalized Protestantism in France, protected the religious conscience of French subjects, and restored property confiscated during the wars. It fell short of full religious tolerance (for example, Protestantism was restricted it to certain cities and other areas throughout the kingdom), but it was able to bring the cycle of violence to a temporary close. Henry was adamant that the Edict represented a new era for France; the first article strikingly orders all Frenchmen to forget “everything” that had occurred since the wars began “as if they had never happened.”