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Title: History of the Reformation - First Armed Attack of the Catholics upon the Reformation (March 28, 1533).
Author: John Calvin
Language: English

 34 00005-0033 First Armed Attack of the Catholics upon the Reformation
(March 28, 1533).

THIS effusion of blood, far from calming men’s minds, served but to inflame them. ‘All good Christians were more excited than before,’ says Sister Jeanne. The skirmish in which, being seven hundred against two, they had gained the advantage, was an omen of victory! They looked at each other and counted their numbers. ‘We are the majority and wellarmed,’ they said; ‘we must sally out boldly and fight these rascals.’ The principal leaders, lay and ecclesiastic, withdrawing into a private part of the cathedral, held a final council. The most influential represented that the huguenots had celebrated the sacrament, that they persevered in holding their meetings ‘here and there,’ that the sacerdotal authority was decreasing and the number of heretics increasing, and that there was only one means left of saving the Romish faith — putting every heretic to death. The syndics stretched out their wands in vain, and ordered them to keep the peace. All was useless. ‘Now is the time,’ cried the priests; ‘let us run to the great bell and give the signal.’ At the word many hastened to the tower of the church and begin to ring the tocsin. At the same time those who were in the church prepared to march.

Three of the syndics were devoted to the catholic party: Nicholas du Crest, Pierre de Malbuisson, and Claude Baud. Finding that they could not stop the riot, they determined if possible to direct it. Claude Baud, lord of Troches, in whose castle many a plot had been concocted against the independence of Geneva, would have desired to make an end of the Reform, but not by violent means. Seeing, however, that it was impossible to check the torrent, he put himself at the head of the emeute, but with the hope of restraining it, and afterwards of repressing the Reform by legal means. ‘Shut the doors of the church,’ said Baud. This had a surprising effect: the catholics on a sudden grew calmer. The syndic feared that if they came to blows, the two parties might become confused in battle, and that friends would strike friends without recognizing each other. He ordered a great bundle of laurel boughs to be brought in, and addressing the crowd around him, said: ‘Formerly, citizens, they used to give garlands to the conquerors; I give you these laurels before the victory: they will distinguish you from the wicked.’ The combatants each took a sprig and fastened it to their caps; and then the pious catholics who were in the crowd, wishing to give a religious character to the emeute, proposed that they should implore the blessing of heaven before they started. The ecclesiastics were silent immediately, and turning to the choir, prostrated themselves in fervent devotion before the high altar. All present knelt down ‘with great abundance of tears,’ and sang the famous hymn of the Roman breviary: Vexilla regis prodeunt. As soon as the strain was ended, one of the priests said: ‘Let us commend ourselves to the blessed Virgin, that she may intercede for us and for the holy faith!’ And all, as with one voice, joined in the Salve Regina — a prayer which the people were accustomed to sing at the execution of a criminal. The echoes of this ominous chant having died away in the aisles of the vast cathedral, the priests rose from their knees: one of them took the cross, while some laid hold of other banners. ‘Behold,’ they said, ‘behold the standards of the king advancing.’ The excitement grew greater every minute. It was Friday, the one before Passion Week. ‘Let us this day call to mind the day on which our Lord was willing to shed his blood for us, and therefore let us not spare ours. Let us take vengeance on his enemies who crucify him anew more cruelly than the Jews did.’ They uttered such cries that ‘it was quite pitiful to hear them,’ and, ‘there was no heart so hard as not to melt into tears.’ All this emotion was not without a cause. The religion of the middle ages was disappearing. We believe that it must disappear altogether; and yet we are touched by the enthusiasm displayed by its adherents, which was worthy of a better cause. Syndic Baud, who wished to give an appearance of legality to the clerical movement, called Percival de Pesmes, and ordered him to go with a body of men to fetch the banner of the city. ‘At length the great bell, which had kept on ringing, was silent; the ringers came down from the tower and joined the rest of their party. The churchmen then formed into companies and elected their captains; all were full of courage and’ ardor, and St. Pierre’s resembled a parade-ground rather than a church. The companies defiled in front of the high altar, and the syndic, ordering the doors to be thrown open, all the clerical army quitted the temple, descended with a firm step the steep street of the Perron, and proceeded towards the Molard, which was the general rendezvous for those who desired on that day to destroy both the reformed and the Reformation in Geneva.

As soon as the tocsin was heard, the city was agitated to its most retired quarters, and even the inhabitants of the surrounding districts had listened with alarm to its ill-omened sound. The startled and uneasy citizens caught up their arms, rushed hastily from their houses, and ran ‘like poor wandering sheep without a shepherd,’ some one way, some another, not knowing where to go, what was the matter, and whether the enemy was within the walls or without. The peasants of the vicinity, forewarned by the agents of the canons, entered the city in arms. The confusion continued to increase: some cried ‘Fire,’ others ‘Fall on;’ all shouted ‘Alarm, alarm!’

Some ran to the gates, others to the hotel-de-ville, and others to the ramparts; but the priests who had contrived the affair, and who were marching ‘in large bands’ from different quarters towards the Molard, excited the ignorant people to follow them, and shouting so as to drown all other cries, ‘Down with the Lutherans,’ thus made it known who were the enemies to be attacked. ‘To the Molard,’ they added; ‘Down with the dogs that want to destroy our holy mother Church.’ No fervent catholic hesitated; all ran along the streets, isolated or in bands; they drew their swords, then arquebusses rattled… It was like a flock of birds in search of their prey, opening their talons, and plunging swiftly upon the Molard. Meanwhile the main clerical body, that which started from St. Pierre’s, arrived. It numbered from six to seven hundred men — canons, priests, monks, sacristans, and devout laymen, all well armed, Syndic Baud marching at their head, and ‘wearing his great hat and feathers.’ When this body debouched on the square by the arcade of the Fort de l’Ecluse, the Molard and adjacent streets were filled with an agitated and confused crowd. But immediately, by the syndic’s order, companies were formed in imitation of that of St. Pierre’s, and all the people put themselves ‘in order for fighting.’ Baud having thus drawn out his corps, proceeded to count them: there were about 2,500 men, not reckoning the old men, women, and children, who shouted and wept, and although unarmed, added to the tumult. The catholics were full of hope. To the majority of them, the struggle was a mere party matter; but others, better instructed and better theologians than the rest, felt that it was an effort to expel for ever from Geneva the doctrines of protestantism touching the pre-eminence of Holy Scripture, justification, works, the mass, the Church, and especially grace, to which alone the Reformation attributed salvation, while the Romish Church claimed a part in conversion for the natural powers of man, and looked upon this difference between the two Churches as the essential point. At the same time, however, it must be acknowledged that just then they troubled themselves very little about theology. Being ready to contend with the arms of men of war, the two bodies were especially animated by political passions. The catholics feared lest their enemies should succeed in escaping. ‘Shut the gates of the city,’ said the syndic, ‘so that no one can take flight.’ Again cries were heard: ‘Forward, lead us to Baudichon’s.’ ‘No,’ answered Baud, ‘let us wait for the other corps, before we attack.’

There were still three bands to come: the first, commanded by the bishop’s equerry, Percival de Pesmes, was to come straight from the hotelde- ville, bringing the banner, as we have said; the second, commanded by Canon de Veigy, descending from the west, was to make for the Molard by the Rue de la Cite; the third, coming from the suburb of St. Gervais, was to cross the Rhone bridge, and was commanded by Captain Bellessert. ‘He was a stout fellow and like a madman,’ says Froment. The band that he conducted was the most violent in the republic. These three corps united with the 2,500 men already at the Molard could not fail to give the death-blow to the reformed and the Reformation.

But as they did not appear, the catholics and mamelukes who were ready for fighting, zealous in the cause of the pope, and overflowing with hatred for the Reform, became impatient, and striking the ground with the buttends of their guns, desired to march forthwith. ‘Forward!’ they cried. ‘Let us wait,’ said the syndic, whether because he feared that ‘their business would not take well,’ as the chronicle says; or because he wished by an imposing force to constrain the reformed to surrender without fighting; or, lastly, because he hoped that if he procrastinated, some unforeseen circumstance might happen to disarm the combatants. ‘We want artillery,’ he said, ‘to besiege Baudichon’s house.’ This quieted the most ardent, by giving them something to do; they hurried off to the arsenal, but it was doubtful whether it would be opened to them, as the captain-general was opposed to them. The artillery-keeper, named Bossu (hunchback), in consequence of his infirmity, a man of vulgar character and suspected morals, and a strong partisan of the priests, did not hesitate. He delivered up the artillery to the catholics, who dragged away the cannon with much uproar, planted them in the square, and loaded them. At this moment arrived the band led by the descendant of the crusaders, the young and dashing Percival de Pesmes, eager to fight, like his fathers, for the pope and his Church against these new Saracens. He bore the great banner with pride, and, defiling with his corps, drew them up in line of battle. Syndic Baud took the banner from his hands, and planted it in the middle of the square. The people, electrified at the sight, ‘raised a loud shout.’ There is no longer any doubt: the republic is arming, the city banner floats above the catholic ranks, and the huguenots are only rebels.

The monks took the most active part in this business; the convents were therefore empty, all but that of Saint, Claire, which alone was not deserted. The nuns, however, wished to take part in the struggle: ‘Alas!’ they said, ‘our worthy fathers have gone to share in the fight with a number of monks, because it is in behalf of the faith… Let us kneel before God that He may show mercy to the poor city.’ The mother abbess drew a cross of ashes on the foreheads of the sisters, after which they marched in procession round the cloister, invoking in devout litanies the protection of the whole celestial choir. Then forming a cross, they took their places in the middle of the choir, and there, distracted and weeping, they fell on their knees and cried aloud: ‘Mercy, O God! through the intercession of the glorious Virgin Mary and all the saints! Give victory to the christians, and bring the poor wanderers back to the way of salvation.’ At this moment the sisters heard a noise at the gate of the convent: it was a few good catholic women who, very much afraid themselves, came to bring the sisters tidings calculated to add to their distress. ‘If the heretics win the day,’ they said, ‘they will certainly make you all marry, young and old — all to your perdition.’ This was the customary bugbear of the poor nuns. They were superstitious and even fanatical, but nothing indicates that they were not pure. A tradition to the effect that there was an underground communication between their convent and that of the gray friars is a fiction as void of foundation as the frightful news of a forced marriage brought by their indiscreet friends. The terrified nuns crossed themselves, sang their litanies once more, and cried louder than ever: ‘O holy Virgin, give victory to the christians!’

The agitation in the city was then at its height; the shouts of the priests were frightful. They bawled lustily to those who lagged behind, exhorted those who appeared indifferent, and animated the whole body with voice and gesture, as hunters urge their hounds after the stag. The catholics responded to the tumultuous clamors of these ministers of disorder and strife. But the tempest was not confined to the streets: scenes still more harrowing were taking place in the houses. ‘Alas!’ said the wisest men, ‘there is no humanity left, and they take no account of the ties of nature? One of the most fiery catholics, hearing the tocsin, was hurriedly fitting on his armor, when his wife, a fervent Romanist like himself, and whose father was at the head of the Lutherans, was filled with terror at seeing her husband’s animation, and looked at him with a dejected countenance. She was Micah, daughter of Baudichon de la Maisonneuve.

Her catholic faith did not make the young wife forget the sweet and holy ties that bind a child to her father. She shuddered at each malediction uttered by her husband against the author of her days. At length her grief broke out in a flood of tears. Her fanatical husband, exasperated to the highest degree against Maisonneuve, who was regarded as the main support of the heresy, turned back and, without showing the least pity said: ‘Wife, cry as much as you please. If we come to blows and I meet your father, he shall be the first on whom I shall try my strength… I will kill him, or he shall kill me.’ And then, callous at the sight of Micah, whose tears flowed faster at these words which pierced her heart, the barbarous husband said as he left her: ‘He is a bad christian, a renegade, the worst of the worst — this wretched Baudichon! Micah was twice married: first to Bernard Combet, and secondly to Guyot Taillon. We have not been able to discover which of her two husbands was so cruel; probably it was the firSt. These distressing scenes became more heart-rending every moment. In the houses nothing was heard but the cries and groans of mothers and wives, of daughters and young children. The streets echoed with the oaths of the men who cursed that law (the Reformation), and the first man who had brought it there. ‘In truth, it is not possible,’ says the chronicler, ‘to describe the cries and tears which then filled the whole city.’ But the mournful sounds of grief and sorrow which rose in the air could not drown the fanatical and sonorous voices of the priests. During this time, a deep and solemn awe prevailed in Baudichon’s house.

The evangelicals were not insensible to the hatred which was arrayed against them, but the greatness of the danger gave them that calmness which the christian experiences in the presence of death. The strong encouraged the weak, addressing them in words of piety and feeling: ‘Ah!’ they said, ‘if all the world would agree in the truth, we should be at peace; but as the majority fight against it, we can not confess Christ without encountering resistance and hatred. It is the malice of the wicked one that divides us into contrary bands, and everywhere kindles strife and debate.’ ‘An unexpected reinforcement added to the numbers of the catholic troops. The women of that party had not all a tender soul and bruised heart, like Baudichon’s daughter: the virtues of the evangelical women, the eagerness with which they had renounced their jewels and dress in favor of the poor, had excited the displeasure of many of them; and the thought that they no longer came to kneel with them at the altar of Mary, had filled them with anger and hatred. The tempest then sweeping through the city fanned the evil passions of the weaker sex. In every house the wives and sisters, and even the mothers of the catholics got ready; they assembled the children from twelve to fifteen years old, and proceeded with them to the Place d’Armes, where they had agreed to meet. ‘In this assemblage of women,’ says Sister Jeanne, who was very intimate with them, ‘there were full seven hundred children from twelve to fifteen years old, firmly resolved to do good service along with their mothers.’

When these ladies met, they held a parliament of a new sort; and their speeches were far more impassioned than those of the men. They had no doubt that their husbands would put all their adversaries to death, but were vexed to think that their wives would be left alive. ‘If it should happen,’ said one of them, ‘that our husbands fight against the unbelievers, let us also make war and kill their heretic wives, in order that the breed may be extirpated. ’ This was the only way, these pious ladies thought, of preserving Geneva catholic; if the wives and children were spared, the heresy would shoot forth again in a few years. An unanimous cry of approval was raised by the women, and even by the accompanying children, and the Amazons immediately prepared for the combat. They armed their children, distributing little hatchets and swords among them; when there were no more weapons to give out, their mothers told them to fill their hats and caps with stones. They, too, fiercely gathered up their aprons, which they filled with missiles. Sister Jeanne does not omit a single detail in her narrative, for it is of this that she is most proud. Some of these women had stationed themselves at the windows to crush the evangelicals at the moment of battle by pouring their missiles down upon them; but the more determined marched with the children to the Molard, where they arrived with loud shouts. Strange madness! as if God who requires in the christian woman a meek and quiet spirit, and forbids her to be adorned ‘with braided hair and costly array,’ did not all the more forbid her to arm herself with stones and march to battle. Frenzied and guilty women! Some huguenots, observing them from afar, asked with astonishment what could be the meaning of such a singular assemblage. They seemed to resemble those druidesses who (as it is related) when their sanctuary was threatened, ran to and fro along the shore of the lake, in black robes with hair disheveled, and waving torches in their hands. Delighted at the sight, the priests, unwilling to be behindhand, exclaimed: ‘We will be the first to defend our spouse the church.’ There were about one hundred and sixty armed priests in the square. If the clergy and women set the example, shall the citizens remain behind? The whole body assembled at the Molard shouted again mid again ‘Forward, forward!’ The syndics did not incline to attack, but the excited crowd carried them away. The plan was to march to Baudichon’s house, where the huguenots had assembled, to set fire to it, and thus, having forced them to come out, to murder them as they were escaping from the flames by the doors and windows. Citizens, priests, women, and even children, wished to have the privilege of being the first to strike Maisonneuve, Salomon, and their friends; torrents of heretical blood were to flow in the streets. ‘Forward!’ they repeated, but amid the general agitation the beautiful plumes that ornamented the syndic’s hat remained stationary. Baud wishing to temporize, and to avoid bloodshed, refused to give the signal: ‘To be more sure,’ he said, ‘and in order that none may escape from our hands, let us wait for the corps from St. Gervais.’ The syndic still hoped that the reformed would lay down their arms and surrender at discretion to an imposing force.

The reformed assembled in Baudichon’s house on the left bank of the river, at the corner of the streets of the Allemands and of the Corraterie (about 450 paces from the Molard) had gradually seen their numbers increase. Many of their friends, who at first desired to remain at home, observing the danger that threatened their brethren, had come to their help, determined to conquer or die with them. The enthusiasm had spread even to the children and excited them to acts of devotedness beyond their years. ‘A young apprentice went there, in spite of father, mother, and priests, and exhorted them all to be of good cheer.’ The elder portion were not blind to the gravity of the situation, but they remained firm, being full of confidence in God. ‘As a spark,’ they said, ‘may suddenly set fire to a whole city, so Geneva has in an instant been stirred up to riot.. . But let not our hearts be troubled; the Lord holds the tempests and whirlwinds in His hand, and can appease them whenever He pleases.’

Sinister omens might intimidate them. They had before them the unhappy Vandel, faint and bleeding… They approached the wounded young man with compassion. ‘See,’ they said, ‘see how the bishop and his officers treat the best citizens.’ Noticing the paleness of his face, they despaired of his life, and gloomy thoughts filled their hearts.

This was not the only presage of the danger that threatened them; the shouts of the catholics, increasing in violence, reached even there. They looked at each other with astonishment and even with alarm. ‘What fury!’ they said; ‘how large a number against so few!’ And some of them added: ‘If God be not for us, we are undone.’ But others, changing the words, answered: ‘If God be for us, who can be against us?’ De la Maisonneuve was the firmest. Possessing a quick and even violent temper, an enthusiast for liberty and truth, he was at this solemn hour calm, thoughtful, and christianlike. No one was more exposed than he: his house was to be as it were the battlefield; but forgetful of self, he went up to such as were dejected and said: ‘We must show our magnanimity, even should they drive us to despair. The wicked are already erecting triumphal arches… in the air. God does not look to numbers, be they great or small, but to the cause for which they fight. If we are under the banner of Jesus, God will be a wall of brass to us.’ These words encouraged such as were shaken, and gave joy to their afflicted hearts; and scarcely had Baudichon uttered them than those who stood round him fell on their knees and bowed before the Lord. One of them prayed: ‘O God, thou givest the rein to the wicked only so far as is necessary to try us. Stop them, therefore, and restrain them, lest they hurt us. Change the hearts of our enemies; and look only to the cause for which we are going to fight.’ This simple prayer availed more than a Salve Regina. Rising from their knees, the friends of the reform stretched out their hands and said: ‘We swear to die in God’s cause, and to keep faith and loyalty with one another.’ And, like the martyrs of the early ages, they waited for the blow with which they were threatened, because they refused to abandon the Gospel which God was then restoring to Christendom.

While the evangelicals were praying, the band so impatiently expected from St. Gervais began to cross the bridge at last. The ex-syndic Jean- Philippe, now captain-general, who inclined to the reform from political motives, being called by his office to repress all disorder, had taken his post between the bridge and the city, near Baudichon’s house and those who belonged to neither party had rallied round him. Just as the corps from the suburb was debouching from the bridge and entering the city, Philippe ordered them to return. At these words their leader, Bellessert the butcher, furious at the attempt to stop him, flew into a passion, and with horrible oaths struck the captain-general so violently with his halberd that he fell to the ground. At the instant Claude de Geneve, and other citizens who followed Phillippe, dashed forward to meet the assailants; the captain sprang to his feet, and, turning sword in hand upon the man who had struck him, wounded Bellessert. At the same time, his followers, hitting right and left, drove the St. Gervaisians back upon the bridge. The latter attempted in vain to resume the offensive; Philippe’s troop did not give them time to breathe. Many had been wounded, and disorder was in their ranks; they were too proud and violent to give way if they had not suffered much loss. At last they fled and returned dejected to their houses. The captain’s followers immediately closed the bridge gate to prevent the people of the suburb from returning into the city. This measure exposed the reformed in St. Gervais to some danger. Aime Levet lived, as we: have said, at other end of the bridge. His wife, distressed at the struggle and the wounds her brethren were about to give and to receive, had gone out, imprudently perhaps, and standing in the street, tried to discover what was going on. At this moment, the catholic women of the quarter, inflamed by the sight of their idol Bellessert’s wounds, and determined not to be behind the women of the city in warlike zeal, caught sight of Claudine Levet, to whom they attributed all the mischief. With a loud cry they rushed upon her, exclaiming: ‘Let us begin the war by throwing this dog into the Rhone.’ Claudine, seeing the furies coming, uttered a shriek, and ‘being tricky,’ according to Sister Jeanne, returned hastily into the house and shut the door. It was certainly a very lawful trick. The catholic women instantly moved to attack it: but much as they tried to break the door down, they could not succeed. They then vented their fury on the apothecary’s drugs: at first they took what served for show, and then entering the shop ‘threw them all contemptuously into the street.’ This expedition against the drugs did not calm them: leaving the shop and standing in front of the house, they turned their angry eyes to Clandinc’s windows and used insulting language. Madame Levet remained calm in the midst of the uproar, and ‘raised her thoughts to heaven, where she found great matter of joy to blot out all her sorrows.’

At last the catholics retired, ‘very wroth because they could not get at this woman or any other.’ Claudine was saved. While this was going on, the third band expected at the Molard, that headed by Canon Veigy, had assembled in the upper part of the city. The immobility of the reformers, who did not leave Baudichon’s house, fretted the canon and those whom he commanded. ‘They keep themselves still as hares,’ he said: ‘we must compel them to leave their form.’ This they prepared to do. It had been decided, as we have said, by Moine and his friends, the chiefs of the movement, that they should surround and set fire to Baudichon’s house, so that the heretics should be stifled, burnt, driven out, and dispersed. In the opinion of some it was a capital idea of the huguenots to shut themselves up in one house, for by this means a single match would suffice to get rid of them… But the plan of fire-raising was not to everybody’s taste. ‘It can not be done without great mischief,’ said the wiser heads; ‘the whole street might be burnt down.’… The barbarous plan had, however, been resolved on, and its execution entrusted to Canon Veigy’s corps. It was a churchman who had been charged with the cruel duty. ‘Canon de Veigy was to pass through the narrow street of the Trois Rois, behind the Rhone, set fire to Baudichon’s house, and drive the others into the street, so that they could escape nowhere.’ The canon’s band was preparing to descend into the city to perform its task, when some catholics, running to the hotel-de-ville, announced the defeat of the troops from St. Gervais. ‘We may expect a similar encounter,’ said the canon and his subordinates; and being not at all eager to measure weapons with the captain-general, they resolved to join the crowd on the Molard, by passing to the east, in order to be out of the reach of Philippe’s attack, and to have a reinforcement to burn the huguenots. Changing their direction, they descended by the Rue Verdaine.

When they arrived at the Molard, they were very ill received. Everybody reproached them, calling them cowards and traitors. The priest-party were ‘greatly astonished and vexed because they had not set fire to the house, as had been agreed upon.’ The news of this scheme for burning them out had reached the citadel of the reformed. Maisonneuve and his friends hesitated no longer. Thus far they had responded to the fury of their adversaries by remaining quiet; they desired as much as possible to spare the effusion of blood; but now their moderation became useless. At first they had been only sixty, their numbers had increased, but they were still inferior to their adversaries: they determined, however, to repel force by force. They sallied forth, therefore, calm and silent, for they felt the gravity of the moment. On arriving in the Rue des Allemands they drew up in line of battle five deep, according to the Swiss practice. The front rank was about 250 paces from the enemy. They were determined not to take the offensive. ‘We will wait for our adversaries,’ they said; ‘but if they ,attack us, we will sooner die than retreat a single step.’

Although they were, as we have said, by no means numerous in comparison with the several catholic bands, they were firm and full of hope. There were neither priests, women, nor children with them to embarrass them: all were stout, resolute, disciplined men, who feared not to fight one against ten. They did not, however, place their confidence in their strength; they did ‘not turn from one side to the other to set their hopes in vain things;’ the most pious among them ‘repeated that there was not one spark of certain help for them except in God alone.’

The fight was about to begin. The reformed, knowing that the city artillery had been surrendered by the Bossu to their adversaries and pointed at the Molard, had procured some cannon, probably by the intervention of the captain-general. The huguenots marching boldly on two sides of the great square, had planted their guns — some in the Rue de Rhone, others in the Rue de Marche, only ninety paces from the catholics. On each side the artillery was ready to be discharged, the arquebuses were loaded, the spears and halberds were in the hands of the combatants, the women and children of the Romish party were bringing stones. There were transports of anger, cries, and terrible threats. All were prepared for the onset, and a massacre seemed inevitable. At this moment the sound of a trumpet was heard; it was not the signal of battle, but the prelude: the city crier, stopping at the corner of some neighboring street, proclaimed, ‘that every foreigner should retire to his lodging under pain of three lashes with a rope.’ In this way they cleared the place where the battle was to be fought. The trumpet and the crier’s shrill voice soon died away, and there was a deathlike silence. On each side there were noble souls, lovers of peace, who were a prey to the deepest emotions at the thought that brothers were about to attack brothers, and many turned a sorrowful look on the streets that were soon to be stained with the blood of their fellow-citizens. These compassionate men would have liked to restrain the fratricidal arms, but they trembled before the priests. ‘No one,’ says a contemporary, ‘dared venture to speak to the ecclesiastics to propose peace; the great pride of the priests intimidated them, and they feared to be called Lutherans. To desire to prevent the shedding of blood, was to be a partisan of the Reformation. The parties cast threatening glances at each other, and the two armies were about to come into violent collision.

Then the agony burst forth. Some of the wives, mothers, and daughters, who were in the Place du Molard, and who up to this moment had been full of ardor for the combat, were moved and could not restrain their anguish. The tenderness of their sex resumed its sway: they let go their aprons, and the stones contained in them fell to the ground. They burst into tears and gave utterance to long and sorrowful moaning. ‘Alas!’ they said, ‘the father is armed against the son, brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor… .They are all ready to kill one another.’ The emotion became almost universal.

Whilst many of the catholic women were thus transformed, the evangelical women who remained at home were praying. They reflected that, however the world may torment and vex, nothing can happen but what God Himself has ordained. They put the immutable decree of the Lord, who wills to maintain the kingdom of His Son for ever, in opposition to the wicked conspiracies by which the men of the world assail it, and doubted not that God would look upon and help them in their necessity. ‘It was God’s will,’ said Froment, :to avoid bloodshed, and He ordained it accordingly.’