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The Politics of Piety

The Politics of Piety: Franciscan Preachers During the Wars of Religion, 1560-1600

Megan C. Armstrong
Volume: 2
Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 286
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  • Book Info
    The Politics of Piety
    Book Description:

    The Politics of Piety situates the Franciscan order at the heart of the religious and political conflicts of the late sixteenth century to show how a medieval charismatic religious tradition became an engine of political change. The friars used their redoubtable skills as preachers, intellectual training at the University of Paris, and personal and professional connections with other Catholic reformers and patrons to successfully galvanize popular opposition to the spread of Protestantism throughout the sixteenth century. By 1588, the friars used these same strategies on behalf of the Catholic League to prevent the succession of the Protestant heir presumptive, Henry of Navarre, to the French throne. This book contributes to our understanding of religion as a formative political impulse throughout the sixteenth century by linking the long-term political activism of the friars to the emergence of the French monarchy of the seventeenth century. By 1594, the resistance mounted by the Franciscans and other members of the League to Navarre's succession secured his conversion. Navarre's conversion marked the triumph of the Franciscan and League conception of the French body politic. Equally importantly, it laid the religious foundations for the absolutist policies of the Bourbon monarchs of the seventeenth century as these rulers made religious unification a priority of royal policy. The success of the friars and other preachers of the League in mounting opposition to the monarchy during the Wars of Religion convinced these rulers that political stability and strong monarchical authority lay in religious unity. Megan C. Armstrong is Assistant Professor of Early Modern Europe in the History Department of the University of Utah.

    eISBN: 978-1-58046-630-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    It is the conviction of monks and preachers during these times, that parricides and the most horrible assassinations are greeted as miracles and the works of God.”¹ Pierre de l’Estoile’s scathing denunciation of the preachers who celebrated the assassination of Henry III in August 1589 was very much in character. Even though he was at times harshly critical of Henry III, L’Estoile came from a magisterial family, and he naturally associated political stability with the monarchy. That anyone could celebrate such a blow to public order was unfathomable to him. The preachers who celebrated the assassination of Henry III, however,...

  4. 1 An Age of Spiritual Crisis: The Wars of Religion
    (pp. 7-32)

    On December 23, 1588, Henry III invited the Catholic Duke of Guise, Henry, and his brother Louis de Lorraine, the Cardinal of Guise, to his château, ostensibly for the purpose of negotiation. The Guise brothers were warned not to accept the king’s invitation, since he was still extremely angry over their recent political behavior. Several months earlier in May, the Catholic League, the radical political organization of which they were titular leaders, had seized control of Paris. Henry managed to elude capture and retreated to his palace at Blois, but seven months later he was no closer to regaining control...

  5. 2 Internal Reform and the Revitalization of the Franciscan Mission
    (pp. 33-60)

    “I lament your miserable behavior, brothers, and I weep bitterly about my misfortune, that instead of . . . presiding over brothers and the most devout Franciscans, it appears that I rule over dogs and vipers. . . .”¹ Francesco-Scipio Gonzaga’s letter attacking the Paris friars arrived in August 1581. The Paris friary was one of the most important convents in the Franciscan order, a nursery of eminent preachers and theologians. It was here that Bonaventure, Duns Scotus, and William of Ockham once pursued their theological work, and the best and brightest friars continued to flood to Paris for theological...

  6. 3 The French Franciscan Mission and Ecclesiastical Support
    (pp. 61-84)

    In a treatise published in 1579, the vicar of the parochial church Saint-Eustache, René Benoist, compared the spiritual importance of the meeting of the Franciscan general chapter in Paris variously to a fountain and a trumpet. The effects of such an international gathering of holy men, he said, will be like “many spiritual fountains” that will soak “the field of the church with the revivifying waters of holy doctrine, praiseworthy life and edifying conversation.” The general chapter will be a trumpet that “will excite and encourage captains and soldiers in their combat” against spiritual disease.¹ Supporting the general chapter, he...

  7. 4 Patronage and Piety
    (pp. 85-110)

    Reflecting back on the period of the Catholic League, the magistrate and historian Jacques-Auguste de Thou expressed mixed feelings about friar Robert Chessé. Chessé had protected De Thou during the Day of the Barricades, the week-long revolt against royal authority in Paris that began on May 12, 1588. During these violent days, the Catholic League took control of the major municipal institutions, and its supporters hunted down well-known royalists, including De Thou. Many were imprisoned if not beaten and killed, including those royalist magistrates of the Parlement and members of the municipal government who failed to escape Paris in time....

  8. 5 The University of Paris
    (pp. 111-142)

    Theodore Agrippa D’Aubigné was among the commentators struck by the intransigence of the Parisians throughout the siege of 1590. The council in question was formed from within the Paris League to advise the Duke of Nemours. D’Aubigné’s bitter suggestion that these League preachers kept themselves well fed even as Parisians starved only underscores his anxiety over their influence. After all, these men were members of a spiritual elite, products of the Faculty of Theology at the University of Paris.² A regent master in the Faculty as well as a highly respected scholar of scriptural and patristic works, the Franciscan Feuardent...

  9. 6 Political Activism and the Franciscan Body Politic
    (pp. 143-164)

    On July 5, 1589 members of the Paris friary marched into the friary church and executed their monarch. The friars did not actually assault Henry III, just his portrait. Even so, Pierre de l’Estoile was not amused. His trademark sarcasm well on display, L’Estoile remarked that such work was “a fine occupation and amusement for those who have nothing to do, and work, as they say, worthy of monks.”¹ L’Estoile’s irritation with the friars is understandable because the mock execution was, to say the least, seditious. The portrait of the king that hung over the central altar of the church...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 165-170)

    François Feuardent proudly insisted in 1599 that the sixteenth-century monarchs, like Clovis before them, never listened to heretical ministers.¹ Francis I and Henry II proved at varying points that they were opposed to Protestantism, and so their inclusion in Feuardent’s list was to be expected. Francis II’s marriage into the very Catholic Guise family and Charles IX’s sanctioning of the Massacre of Saint Bartholomew’s Day also marked these kings as good Catholics. Feuardent did not stop there, however, but went on to extol Henry III. Since Feuardent was among the League preachers who celebrated the assassination of the “tyrant” Henry...

  11. Appendix Patrons of the Paris Friary, 1560–1611
    (pp. 171-188)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 189-246)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 247-270)
  14. Index
    (pp. 271-278)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 279-279)