Professor Mahgoub Eltig Mahmoud
Intro to Sociology: SOCI 2010-07
3 December 2014
Catherine de Medicis: Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre
Catherine was a very well-known Queen of France. Her rule lasted from the years of 1547 to 1559. Her reign is a very memorable one but not in the way that would put her in the book of the greats. During her reign a great massacre happened that she basically led. She ordered there to be an assassination of the Protestant leaders in Paris. This order caused there to be thousands of Huguenots killed. However, that was far from her first crime against the Protestant religion of France, she, two days before the order of the assassination, ordered there to be a killing of the Huguenot leader Admiral Gaspard de Coligny. Catherine had claimed that her reasoning for ordering him dead was because he was leading her into war with Spain and not because of the fact that he was one of the many Protestant Huguenots that she’d grown to dislike. Her despise of the religion went further when she persuaded France that the Protestant religious leaders were on the brink of rebellion. The actual massacre began on August 24th, the Catholic Parisians, who were said to have been overcome with bloodlust, hunted many Protestant Huguenots. This killing ebbed on into the month of October. This vicious killing spree resulted in an estimated 3,000 death of the Protestants in Paris alone. But in France, overall, 70,000 Protestants had been murdered. The murder and slaughter of the many Protestants under her rule started a religious civil war in the year of 1562 and it continued well into the year of 1598.
The theory that would best fit this tragic discrimination against the Protestants, in my opinion is the conflict’s theory. This massacre was a struggle of powers between the Protestant and the Catholic church of France, although they never were initially battling for power, the Protestant church was defending itself against the Catholic Church who, in fact, was afraid that the Protestant church would become too powerful. This fits the conflict theory/perspective which, according to the book: “Groups in society are engaged in a continuous power struggle for control of scarce resources. The book even goes on further to say: Conflict may take form of politics, litigation, negotiations, or family discussions about financial matters. (Sociology in our times: The 9th edition, 17) When researching the discrimination against the Protestant church I found that it may have also dealt closely with the Functionalist theory which said: A society is composed of interrelated parts, each of which serves a function and (ideally) contributes to the overall stability of the society. Societies develop social structures, or institutions that persist because they play a part in helping society survive. These institutions include the family, education, government, religion, and the economy. (Sociology in our times: The 9th edition, 16) But this theory lacked the struggle that took place to say which religion was more powerful. The struggle, although not for resources, was for power over France. During that time, the church was well respected and they influenced the choice of anarchy, the leader whom was chosen became a puppet to the church, therefore giving more power to the church than the King or Queen held themselves. When the dominant religion, Catholicism, was faced with a potential interruption of the control, otherwise known as the rise of the Protestant church, that the dominant religion held they reacted began to fight, or struggle for power.
My assumption is probable, the outbreak of war and the discrimination and murder of over 70,000 Protestants was over power. This assumption lines up with the conflict theory that states there is always a constant battle over some sort of resource. According to the book Earthly Powers: The Clash of Religion and Politics in Europe, from the French Revolution to the Great War. This book guides the reader through the separation, or lack thereof, of religion from politics. In the book it says that France well respected the Church. The beginning of chapter one goes on to say that (The Church and the French monarchy were linked in a hierarchy that reached down from God in His heavenly kingdom. Throne and altar were inseparable, with senior clerics omnipresent at solemn public occasions well into the French Revolution. Earthly Powers: The Clash of Religion and Politics in Europe, from the French Revolution to the Great War, 23) the Church held not only power but it also held much wealth, in the 1700s the Church’s clergy was even exempt from taxes and according to the conflict theory this is a large stance of inequality saying there is the poor and powerless and the rich and powerful. The French respected the Church highly and the Church had many assets to becoming a great influence on politics. (Land and tithes meant that the Church was immensely rich, although this wealth was so unevenly distributed as to cause widespread resentment. Earthly Powers: The Clash of Religion and Politics in Europe, from the French Revolution to the Great War, 25)
The Renaissance period, which was the period in which the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre accrued, was the period known for the philosophic movement known as humanism. (The belief that an all-powerful and all-knowing God created humankind in his own image. This image could only be good, since God can only be good. The philosophy also included the belie3f that God provided people with the ability to make choices that determine their destiny. Our World Our Music Ch. 2 Renaissance Society, 67) the religious practices that were followed during the time was the practice of Catholicism, which linked man and God through the pope that placed a lot of power on the Pope. The rise of a new religion where man could contact God directly threatened that power. This is also another instance that would enrage the Catholic leaders.
While researching I found out there was always a tie between the church and politics. While it is true, during the 1500s the dominant religion was Catholicism, even today with Christianity, religious stereotypes are constantly in play with the law and the ruling powers. I also determined that during this time the philosophical movement called for there to be a deeper connection to God. There was only one link between God and man in the Catholic religion, and that was the Pope or priest who participated in the religion. So my assumption could be true, there could have been a fight over power because of the threat to power that the new and rising religion.