Christian Cyclopedia

About the Cyclopedia


1. Area: ca. 210,000 sq. mi. Fr. (ancient Gaul) was one of the 1st countries of Eur. in which Christian chs. were est. A Christian community formed at Lyons ca. 150. At Lyons and Vienne Christians suffered persecution in 177 (see Persecution of Christians, 3). There were ca. 30 episcopal sees by 250, ca. 70 by 350. A syn. was held at Arles* 314. Monasteries were est. in the 2d half of the 4th c. Christians among Goths, Franks, Huns, and others that overran Gaul in the 5th c. were mostly Arian. With conversion of Clovis* I to Cath. (as distinguished from Arian) Christianity (496) miss. work of monks (e.g., Columban*) increased. The Merovingian (from Mérovée, 2d Frankish king 448–458; the 1st was Clodion, or Chlodio, 428–448) king Dagobert I (b. ca. 605; king ca. 629–639) put all Fr. under one scepter. The Carolingian rulers, beginning with Pepin* the Short, assoc. themselves with the pope. See also Charles Martel; Robert II.

2. In the 11th and 12th c. the nobility gained greater control of the ch. and abuses multiplied. In the 12th and 13th c. extensive reforms were inaugurated; new orders and monasteries were founded; Fr. played a leading role in the crusades* (Peter* the Hermit, Bernard* of Clairvaux, Louis* VII, Louis* IX) and contributed outstanding scholars (e.g., Roscellinus,* P. Abelard,* Peter* the Lombard, Alexander* of Hales) to the scholastic movement (see Scholasticism).

3. In the 14th and 15th c. the struggle bet. Fr. and the papacy became acute. Philip IV (the Fair; 1268–1314; king 1285–1314) engaged in a long controversy with popes. The bull* Clericis laicos (1296) forbade him to tax the clergy; royal authority was challenged by Ausculta fili (1301) and Unam sanctam (1302). The first States-General (1302) supported the king gainst the pope. Clement* V (pope 1305–14) resided in Fr. (see Babylonian Captivity, 2). Charles VII (1403–1461; king 1422–61) issued the Pragmatic* Sanction of Bourges (1438), which upheld right of Fr. ch. to administer its temporal property and disallowed papal nominations to vacant benefices. During the papal schism 1378–1417 (see Schism, 8) Fr. kings supported the popes that resided at Avignon.

4. Fr. took a prominent part in all great ch. movements of the Middle Ages. Reformatory movements were repeatedly inaugurated in the Fr. ch. to restore purer Christianity or overthrow the papacy. See also Albigenses; Huguenots; Waldenses.

5. Under Louis* XIV (the Great; le Grand Monarque; 1638–1715; king 1643–1715) Fr. reached the zenith of its power and splendor. The Fr. Revolution, which broke out 1789, for a time seemed to sweep away the whole Fr. ch.; the Nat. Assem. decreed that all ecclesiastical officers, under penalty of losing office, should submit under oath to the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, which ordered priests and bps. to be chosen by civil elections and paid by the govt. See also Roman Catholic Church, The, D 7. Napoleon* I, on the contrary, regarded est. of RCm as state religion necessary; in 1801 he concluded a Concordat with Pius VII (see Popes, 27) and in 1802 enacted the Organic Articles, which preserved principles of Gallicanism* and were promulgated as supplementary and explanatory part of the 1801 Concordat (see Concordat, 5). In 1813 he concluded a new Concordat with the captive pope Plus VII at Fontainebleau; it dealt mainly with official confirmation of bps.; when the pope revoked his action, Napoleon pub. the Concordat as imperial law. See also Gobel, Jean Baptiste Joseph.

6. Louis XVIII (1755–1824; king 1814–15, 1815–24) and Charles X (1757–1836; king 1824–30) recognized RCm as state religion but granted toleration also to every other rel. The 1830 revolution revealed popular indignation against RCm; under Louis Philippe (Citizen King; 1773–1850; king 1830–48) RCm lost the privilege of a state religion. Repeal of the 1801 Concordat in 1905 and legal separation of ch. and state (in force since January 1, 1906) radically changed the situation of the RC Ch. The separation law, e.g., repealed all state and municipal appropriations for pub. worship, abrogated all establishments of worship, and permitted use of chs. for divine service only by virtue of annual notifications to the civil authorities pending the term of their use. But the ch. retained freedom in organization, hierarchy, discipline, and liturgical arrangement.

7. The hist. of Protestantism is a long record of conflicts with RCm Early stages of the Reformation in Fr. are assoc. with J. Lefèvre* d'Étaples. The center of the Fr. Reformation was J. Calvin.* The Geneva Academy, whose first rector was T. Beza,* trained many pastors and teachers for Fr.

8. Francis I (1494–1547; king, 1515–47) was originally mild toward the Reformation, but posting by extreme Prots. of placards against the mass 1534 led to severe reaction against them. In 1521 the Sorbonne (U. of Paris) had declared itself against the Reformation; but beginning the same yr. G. Briçonnet* gathered Lefèvre, G. Farel,* and others at Meaux and arranged for ev. preaching and for dissemination among the people of the Gospels and Epistles of the ch. yr. in a Fr. translation. The January Edict (January 25, 1535) was restated in severer form in the Edict of Fontainebleau (1540) and was a law against heresy aimed esp. at Evangelicals of Meaux and the Waldenses.* See also Speyer, Diets of, 1–2, 4. Prots. were persecuted as “Luths.” under Henry II (1519–59; king 1547–59). But Prots. increased in number. A Prot. syn. assembled secretly in Paris 1559 and adopted a confession of faith, Calvinistic in content, called Gallican Confession (see also Reformed Confessions, B).

9. Catherine* de Médicis (Caterina de' Medici*; 1519–89), regent 1560–63 for her son Charles IX (1550–74; king 1560–74), at first tried to hold a mediating course bet. Evangelicals and RCs with Michel de L'Hospital (1507–73; chancellor 1560) and G. II de Coligny* among her counselors. The January 1562 Edict of Saint-Germain granted Prots. the right to assemble for worship outside the towns; but their activities sparked opposition and the 2d Duke of Guise (François de Lorraine; le Balafré, i. e. the Scarred; 1519–63) began hostilities by ordering an attack that led to the massacre of a number of Huguenots at Vassy (later spelled Wassy; also called Washy-sur-Blaise; in the Haute-Marne dept., NE Fr.) March 1, 1562. Bloody civil wars followed. Prots., led by Louis I de Bourbon (Prince de Condé*) and Coligny, suffered heavy losses. The 1st war ended with the 1563 Edict of Amboise, which left some places of worship in Huguenot hands. The 2d war (1567–68) ended with the Peace of Longjumeau; the govt. put large garrisons in Huguenot cities. The 3d war (1568–70) ended with the Peace of Saint-Germain, in which the govt. gave the Huguenots 4 fortified towns. The Huguenots gained further hope when their chief, Henry of Navarre (see Henry IV), married the king's sister Margaret* of Valois August 18, 1572. But, very likely at the instigation of Catherine de Médicis, Margaret's mother, thousands of Prots. were massacred (see Bartholomew's Day Massacre). Henry III (1551–89) succeeded Charles IX 1574. The Huguenots, under arms, obtained concessions in the Edict of Boulogne 1573, the Peace of Monsieur (Peace of Beaulieu) 1576, and the peace treaty of Bergerac (terms of which were pub. in the Edict of Poitiers) 1577. But a Holy* League, organized by the 3d Duke of Guise (Henri I de Lorraine; also called le Balafré; 1550–88) and others 1576, forced stringent action against Prots. In the treaty of Nemours 1585 Protestantism was suppressed.

10. The assassination of the Duke of Guise and his brother by order of the king 1588 led to the king's own assassination 1589. Henry of Navarre ascended the throne 1589 as Henry IV; became RC 1593. By the Edict of Nantes 1598, freedom of faith and limited pub. worship, civil rights, and pol. privileges were granted to the Huguenots. After the assassination of Henry IV 1610 the Prots. again took up arms to defend their rights. Cardinal Richelieu,* 1524–42 chief minister of Louis XIII (1601–43; king, 1610–43), disarmed them as a pol. party. Ecclesiastical concessions, granted by the Edict of Nantes, were granted again by the Amnesty (Gnadenedikt) of Nimes (Peace of Alès, or Alais) 1629, but pol. power was denied. Louis XIV used rigorous legislation and dragonnades* 1683–86 to break the power of Protestantism in the state and revoked the Edict of Nantes 1685. Thousands of Prots. fled from Fr. Those that stayed were without organization and houses of worship. Huguenot preachers met 1715 under leadership of A. Court,* who gradually organized what has been called the “Ch. of the Desert.” Louis XV (the Well-Beloved; Fr.: le Bien-Aimé; 1710–74; king 1715–74) again prohibited the Ref. religion 1724. But by 1744 Huguenots were holding meetings of 10,000. See also Roman Catholic Church, The, D 6.

11. A. Court opened a school of theol. at Lausanne that continued to supply the Prot. Ch. with pastors till the time of Napoleon L After 1762 toleration began to be practiced. The 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen stated that there should be no discrimination against a person for his convictions (including religious) provided they do not militate against state laws.

12. Fr. remained a RC country, with Prots. widely scattered and gravitating toward the cities.

13. In 1848 F. J. J. G. Monod (see Monod, 1) and others seceded from the state ch. and 1849 formed the Union des Églises évangéliques libres de France (Free Ch.). Lutheranism also found early adherents in Fr. But Calvinism soon prevailed. Part of Alsace and other districts and towns were ceded to Fr. by the Peace of Westphalia* 1648 (Fr. took control of the rest of Alsace toward the end of the c.); religious toleration was secured for RCs, Luths., and Ref. The Peace of Westphalia was in gen. confirmed by the Peace of Nijmegen (Nimwegen; Nimeguen; ancient Noviomagus) 1678–79.

14. Since WW II RC's and Prots. seek so far as possible to conform to the principle of neutrality for the state. RC theologians and leaders concern themselves with Biblical and liturgical renewal and development of a new form of Gallicanism.* Prots. form a small minority divided into several groups and concern themselves with new forms of witnessing and ecumenical movements. Theol. differences are disappearing.

15. The Ev. Luth. Ch. of the AC, composed of Luths. in Alsace and Lorraine, was formed in the early part of the 19th c. Orphaned after WW I, it became a miss. of LCMS The Ev. Luth Ch.-Syn. of Fr. and Belgium is also assoc. with the LCMS See also Lutheran Confessions, A 5.

Histoire de l'Église depuis les origines jusqu'à nos jours, ed. A. Fliche and V. Martin (Paris, 1934– ); C. S. Phillips, The Church in France, 1789–1848 (New York, 1966) and The Church in France, 1848–1907 (New York, 1936); A. Dansette, Religious History of Modern France, tr. J. Dingle, 2 vols. (New York, 1961).

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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