Thursday, May 31, 2012

May 31, 2012

The Massacre of Saint-Eloi – Lost victims of the French Wars of Religion

One of the highest hopes I have for my blog is to bring honor, dignity, and value to my Protestant ancestors and spiritual forebears by giving them names, faces, and identities. I hate to hear things such as “unknown” and “lost to memory,” alluding to anonymous victims and forgotten events. One such historical event occurred during the eighth War of Religion. Those who have studied the Wars are likely familiar with major events like the Battle of Coutras in 1587 and the Battle of Ivry in 1590 but have probably never heard of this particular atrocity: On June 21, 1587, Anne de Joyeuse, a duke who led the Royalist Catholic armies and was later killed at the Battle of Coutras in October 1587, took it upon himself to occupy La-Mothe Saint-Héray in Poitou and set himself up as the angel of death. 

All that is known is that about 800 French Protestants were subsequently slaughtered in what became known as the massacre of Saint-Eloi. In battle you expect to hear of casualties. That does not, of course, demean the sufferings of those who died in wartime, nor does it say that they somehow were unimportant, but whereas one sees death and sacrifice as a natural side effect of the French Wars of Religion, the word “massacre” conveys that the victims had little if any opportunity to defend themselves. 

It is beyond saddening when I realize that the names of the dead will never be known. Today I wanted to remember all those who fell at the massacre of Saint-Eloi and to honor their courage in practicing a faith that they knew very well could --- and did --- result in their deaths. I can hardly imagine “800” in such a context. They were all Protestants whose only crime was being Protestant, and were killed literally for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Unwittingly chosen as sacrificial victims and purified for abandoning the pleasures of life for the purity of faith, they ascended from that bloody altar into the Father’s arms.

The name Eloi means “chosen.”

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

May 30, 2012

When Historical Accuracy Goes Too Far

Last night I watched some travel videos concerning St. Augustine, Florida while remembering my recent trip and looking forward to returning. (Of course, rooting for Fort Caroline and the Huguenots, looking at videos of St. Augustine undoubtedly made me a traitor of sorts!). In this video, a costumed reenactor representing a Spanish soldier of 1740 was giving a musket-firing demonstration. Harmless enough, I thought. But after firing, he actually looked into the crowd and said “and another Protestant bites the dust.”

I felt that this was very offensive, not to mention shocking. I cannot imagine how I would have felt if I had been standing there, for as a Protestant there are already many places in St. Augustine that I feel my faith is unwelcome. I understand that the Spanish Catholics saw the French Protestants as nonbelievers and probably would have expressed such sentiments, but it is not appropriate and certainly does not honor the dead, considering that I know the event from where this sentiment came.

It seems that the massacre of Matanzas near St. Augustine, where nearly 250 men were slaughtered for their faith and for upholding the French flag, can unfortunately be used as fodder for jokes and used as a “teaching tool.” I agree that visitors should understand that there was enmity between the two groups. Even if this was a man costumed from 1565, it still would not have been acceptable, but it would have made sense. But in 1740? There were no Protestants in St. Augustine! 

Now I may just be sensitive in this regard, but I felt personally offended and am particularly saddened that the bloodshed Protestants faced in the area of the Nation’s Oldest City is made into comedic material or quick little jabs meant to “entertain.” I feel that if other ethnic or religious groups would have been referred to in such a way, there would have been an outcry. It seems that when Indian or Spanish burial grounds and the like are uncovered, any remains are laid to rest with great ceremony or at least some amount of respect. 

Nearly four and a half centuries after the French martyrs died at Matanzas, their sacrifice is being cheapened, dishonored, and offended. It was no walk in the park, being shipwrecked, suffering under the pretense of hoped-for mercy, and having their hands tied behind their backs. It was no joke to make the decision to die rather than renounce their God and the faith they held so dear.

If so many other events and sacrifices are remembered, why not this? It is arguably the bloodiest event in St. Augustine history and should be treated with interest, respect, and a desire to educate others on what truly happened. Yet, thinking on that video, I remembered that I have encountered such “jokes” personally. 

Once while I was riding a sightseeing train at St. Augustine’s famous Fountain of Youth, I noticed a man dressed in full sixteenth century garb. He asked if there were any French on the train, and said that if there were, they had better stay there, because there was only one thing they were good for. It took me a moment to realize that there was a fine line between stating historical fact, mocking, and trying to “entertain.” I do not think other bloody events in St. Augustine’s history would have been cheapened in such a way. It should not be casually spoken of, tossed around for “authenticity,” or demeaned. It was no joke.

In both instances, the one I witnessed and the one I encountered through video, I am sure the reenactors thought they were being “authentic” and perhaps even “cute.” But, even if you happen to be from a different denomination, it is not all right to insult and demean Christians of any stripe, and it is not all right to vilify the dead and make light of their bloodshed. May the Huguenots be remembered only for their faith and courage!

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

May 29, 2012

Clues of the French Presence in Southeastern America

Despite centuries of speculation and decades of detailed archaeology, the original Fort Caroline has never been found. It may seem as if an early French presence in America is but a figment of the imagination. Time destroyed the evidence of La Caroline’s location just as the Spanish had wiped out those who lived within its walls. It may seem as if there is nothing to suggest that the Protestant French ever settled Southeastern America . . . but, ironically, sites that were impermanent yield proof of occupation while well-grounded colonies such as Fort Caroline remain a mystery.

In October 1565, there were a handful of men who --- rightfully --- did not trust Pedro Menéndez’s suggestion of surrender at Matanzas Inlet. Instead they staggered to a place near modern-day Canaveral National Seashore, building a temporary camp and praying that unfriendly Timucuans and bloodthirsty conquistadors would remain ignorant of their location. Some of the objects found at Canaveral include ceramic fragments and French coins. Many handmade tools, the likes of which the native Timucuans could not have produced, were found as well. All this seems to suggest the French encampment at Canaveral. 

Further up the coast, in a South Carolina locale that was first known as the French settlement of Charlesfort, then the Spanish colony of Santa Elena, and finally Parris Island, remains of Charlesfort were found in the 1990s. Most of this evidence involved French pottery from the appropriate era. Charlesfort had been founded in 1562 by Jean Ribault and René de Goulaine de Laudonnière and was later left to rot and ruin after a mutiny and hard times forced the colonists to flee.

One must again ask why, if such sites have yielded beloved proof of the Huguenots’ colonization, Fort Caroline’s location has not yet been discovered. There is certainly a reason. Perhaps the Lord is waiting until the opportune moment, until it will be fully appreciated. One can only hope it will be soon . . .

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Monday, May 28, 2012

May 28, 2012

His Grace is Enough

I am definitely a “by grace through faith” person. Every time I ponder the wonder of God’s mercy, I am awestruck, and I can just feel the gratefulness and joy of my Protestant ancestors when they first latched onto this liberating Scripture. I search for contemporary Christian music that might somehow lift me to the highest elevation of praise, love, and hope, and a few days ago I found a song that expressed so beautifully how I and my Protestant forebears have felt. I have heard few better representatives of Ephesians 2:8. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith . . .”

The song is called “Your Grace is Enough.” It was written by Matt Maher and Chris Tomlin, and though there are a few different versions (it seems as if Chris Tomlin sang the first), my favorite version was sung by a girl band called The Rubyz. The lyrics express what I believe in such an incredibly good way (I’ve included most of the song but left out the end verses, which are repeats): 

Great is Your faithfulness, oh God
You wrestle with the sinner's heart
You lead us by still waters into mercy
And nothing can keep us apart

So remember Your people
Remember Your children
Remember Your promise
Oh God

Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough for me

Great is Your love and justice, God
You use the weak to lead the strong
You lead us in the song of Your salvation
And all Your people sing along

So remember Your people
Remember Your children
Remember Your promise
Oh God

Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough for me

Ah, the essence of my Reformation soul! How good it is to take hold of such a promise!

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Sunday, May 27, 2012

May 27, 2012

1605: Huguenots in St. Augustine, Part Two

Well, it did not happen exactly as it sounds. The French Huguenots trading with the Native Americans further down the coast in 1605 had no intention of going to St. Augustine; in fact, they probably did their best to avoid it. No one had forgotten the treacherous massacre of nearly 250 Huguenots on the beaches of Matanzas just forty years earlier. But these beleaguered Protestants had the unlucky distinction of being captured by Spaniards and taken to the tiny outpost of "San Agustín."

They were not exactly blameless. They were pirates engaging in activities that were probably less than wholesome, yet considering their fate, one still feels a great amount of empathy for their plight. As the soldiers did not perceive these trading Frenchmen as so much of a threat, they agreed to try and convert them before executing them. The Spaniards insisted they were killing the men for piracy and not for their Protestant beliefs. Although that may have been true, the irony remained: They would die whether they accepted Catholicism or not. Accepting it just meant that they would be buried in hallowed ground.

The priests were assigned to the job. They peppered the Protestants with questions and assaulted them with all sorts of information, again hoping that, if the men would die, at least they would die in the Catholic tradition. Here comes the part of the story that has always fascinated me. All but one of the Frenchmen renounced his Protestant faith. Who was that one man? What strength did he possess? What was his name? Whereas all the others died for piracy and were buried in the manner of the Catholic Church, it could be said that he died not only for his mistakes but also for his faith. How did one man have the courage to hold fast when every single one of his companions failed to give testimony?

Did he have “the peace that passeth understanding”?

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Saturday, May 26, 2012

May 26, 2012

 The Battle of Coutras, Eighth French War of Religion, 1587

It had been fifteen years since the Saint Bartholomew’s Day massacre, and France’s Catholics and Protestants had long since reached the boiling point. Decades of bloodshed and mutual enmity had led to the eighth War of Religion. The date was October 20, 1587. The predawn hours must have been horribly cold . . . I imagine that before the battle was joined, the Huguenot soldiers under Henri de Navarre were doing a variety of singing, praying, eating, drinking, and the like.

Coutras in the region of Gironde was a miniscule village with little to offer; there was a chateau, a park, and a forest just beyond, but that held scant value in the eyes of the Huguenot soldiers. They had only camped at Coutras because they believed the enemy was far behind them. When morning came, they gathered their accoutrements and prepare themselves for the icy Isle River swim that was required before they might move forward.

           ‘To arms! To arms! To arms!’

I can imagine the voices ringing out. 

Le armée du Duc de Joyeuse had arrived. Anne de Joyeuse (yes, a man) was the bane of every Huguenot warrior. This force to be reckoned with appeared on the field with no warning. Henri de Navarre brought his generals into his tent and desperately sought a solution. Was there a chance of survival? Could the Huguenots get into position in time? Could they flee without heavy casualties? 

There must have been snatches of Huguenot psalms, Psalm 68 (the “Battle Hymn” in the Wars of Religion) being the most prevalent. At such times the Calvinists seemed unstoppable. Henri de Navarre spoke a rousing speech to his men. Soldiers stood shoulder-to-shoulder, hearts soaring. The king of Navarre had a way of stirring hearts and filling Protestant souls with resolve, pride, and confidence.

              ‘Courage! There is none so lowly among you that henceforth he shall not be mounted on a fine charger and served on silver dishes. Who indeed could not be hopeful of victory on seeing you so heartened? They are ours; I swear to it as I see your eagerness to fight. Nevertheless, we must all believe that the outcome is in the hands of God, Who, knowing and favoring the righteousness of our cause, will allow us to see at our feet those who should hold us in honor rather than battling against us. Let us therefore pray to Him for help. This will be the finest deed we will ever accomplish – the glory belongs to God, the service to the king, our sovereign; the honor shall be ours, and we will bring salvation to the state.’

Many Catholic soldiers misunderstood the Huguenot soldiers’ fervent prayers.

              ‘They are trembling, the cowards; they are confessing their sins!’ one said.
But another man answered: 

              Monsieur, when the Huguenots go on like that, they are ready to put up a stiff fight.’

That was certainly the truth. 

There in the shadow of battle, it must have seemed as if the spirits of those Huguenots so senselessly butchered were looking on. Huguenot soldiers heard the frightening sound of enemy cavalry being pulled into proper formation. The Catholic banners had been lifted with great care, but while they seemed fascinated with getting into the perfect battle lines, Henri de Navarre’s warriors remained motionless. 

Until . . . a crash! The Huguenot army came to life. De Navarre’s men were positioned on a hill and their artillery could reach nearly anywhere on the field they might wish. The enemy did not have this position. Also, de Joyeuse’s army could not bring up to their artillery to a place where it might benefit them. The armies readied. Trumpets split the air. I imagine men must have felt the resonation throughout their entire bodies.

As soldiers fell on all sides --- fathers, sons, brothers, sweethearts, friends --- the horror might have shut down upon them that the forces of evil reveled in this violent dance with death. The soldiers, though, probably did not think upon such things. There was something about battle that kept men’s minds only on the all-important goal of staying alive and fighting the enemy perceived to be the root of all evil. The citizens of Coutras gathered at the sidelines. It must have seemed odd to see people watching the struggle as if it was any day in the park, for to the soldiers it must have been like a scene from a fantasy story. Horses’ hooves. Screaming soldiers. The sound of steel and the splashing of blood. Curses and praises. 

What could the Huguenots do as the battle raged on? Fight and pray. Though it is might have been difficult to tell while the engagement was being undertaken, the Huguenot army was reaching victory. Of a sudden, Joyeuse, fleeing the battlefield, implored that his enemies save his life. As his captors remembered an earlier massacre (Saint-Eloi) in which he had had hundreds of wounded Huguenots put to death, he found no mercy. And when the Protestants had proclaimed victory, Henri de Navarre, exhausted and triumphant, uttered a witty phrase that seems strange in its lightheartedness:

              ‘Well, at least now no one can say we Huguenots never win a battle.’

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Friday, May 25, 2012

May 25, 2012

Lyon’s “Temple of Paradise” and Why We Remember

No one is entirely certain why French Protestant churches were often known as “temples.” The general consensus seems to be that (1) the description separated them from Catholic churches, and (2) the term “temple” is Biblical. At any rate, one must mourn the loss of the many beautiful temples that once existed throughout France. The “Temple of Paradise” in Lyon caught my eye one day while I was researching. I have little information concerning it, and I have no knowledge of when it might have been built. All I know is that it existed in 1564 / 1565, when it became the focal point for a painter’s artistic eye.

One must admire the men and women in the portrait. They sit nonchalantly upon a variety of benches, some standard picnic-style, some a kind of bleachers cut out at intervals for feet to go through. These Huguenot parishioners were risking their lives simply by worshiping there. One looks at the faces and wonders how they found the strength hold the Protestant banner high in a time when doing so was a dangerous affair . . . in a time when they were most especially a church of martyrs --- and when they must have had family members who had suffered such a fate. Who was the woman in the pink dress? She was probably unmarried. Was she frowned upon by the rest of the women in the portrait, who wore black? Was this portrait true to form with how the people actually looked or did the artist use artistic license for colors?

"The Temple of Paradise" in Lyon, seen in 1564 or 1565

The church itself was quite beautiful. Seemingly round, with an impressive wooden lectern in the front center, it had a wooded spindled balcony wrapping around the room. This balcony was held up by simple yet elegant supports. There were oval windows that each bore some kind of shield or chest, and upper-story windows were cut directly out of the roof and were decorated with crests as well. The exposed-beam ceiling was simple yet somehow pleasing to the eye.

The floor, it seems, was plain wood. The doorways and edging around the windows appear to be of stone, but it could be some other material. Though only part of the temple can be seen, it is likely the rest looked much the same, void of ornamentation except of that on the windows, for Huguenots did not believe in placing statues or other religious objects in their temples due to the restrictions of the Ten Commandments.

What happened to those people in the portrait? The men, one notices, were more likely to wear brighter colors, yet they still sported the plain black Puritan-style hats and somber white neck-ruffs. Considering that the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre occurred less than a decade later, and considering many of these Huguenot worshipers likely remained in the town of their birth, it is safe to say that many of the people in this portrait were likely massacred for their faith. 

We are the messengers. The world may have forgotten this lovely Huguenot church known as the “Temple de Paradis,” but we, the Protestants of this generation, the spiritual descendants of the Reformation faiths, can always remember. We have little information to go by. We could not know the circumstances surrounding its construction or all the trials it bore. But we know it is existed, and we have one portrait, one window in time, to prove its appearance. This way it can live in our hearts forever.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Thursday, May 24, 2012

May 24, 2012

Julian Hernandez and the Bibles

When one first thinks of the country in which Protestants might have fared most poorly in the 16th century, Spain inevitably comes to mind. Though the correct answer would be France, where there was a large number of Protestants and thus greater persecution, Spain was known as the cruelest when dealing with “dissenters.” In this country the ideas of Luther and Calvin were never allowed to take root. The few men and women who dared to latch onto this new gospel and its life-giving message were quickly silenced, yet it is edifying to know that many did, indeed, try.

One such man was named Julian Hernandez. By all accounts he must have been fearless, receiving beloved Spanish Bibles in wine barrels before distributing them to people who had never read the words of Scripture for themselves. It must be remembered that the thought of daring to practice Protestantism or to be involved in Bible smuggling in the Spain of the 16th century brings shivers to Protestant hearts even today. Hernandez was closely involved with believers at San Isidro del Campo, a monastery in Seville known for those who thought a little differently.

Hernandez was thrilled to see even the tiniest spark of Reformation thought in Spain, thus he pressed on. We may never know for sure who alerted the Inquisition authorities to his activities; it seems to have been someone he trusted, which makes it all the more painful. For three years he found himself locked up and tormented with seemingly no hope of escape. Hernandez was constantly asked if he would convert. No doubt the Inquisitors sweetened the deal, reminding him that he would be immediately freed and would live the life he desired if he would only betray his beliefs.

What would one honestly expect of a man called “Julian the Little”? But appearances, as we know, are often deceiving. The height and depth of his love for Scripture, for God’s Word, far outweighed any physical characteristics. With that calm, lionhearted, steadfast conviction the Protestant martyrs cultivated in their hearts and souls by God’s mercy, he refused. On December 22nd, 1560, Hernandez was burned at the stake. He shared that fate with thirteen of his friends who also held fast to their beliefs even in the face of death. Yet the spark had been lit in seekers’ hearts. Though most were killed outright in Spain --- the faith never took hold amidst the careful research of the Holy Office --- many died having read the words of Scripture for themselves, in their own tongue.

I always get a thrill of peace and dare I say excitement of sorts when I realize that I can once again bring the names of these long-dead martyrs to life. They have never been forgotten, and, I hope, never will. It is of utmost importance that Protestants remember those who suffered, bled, and died for their faith. They are our legacy . . . our tradition . . . the firm and courageous foundation on which we are built. And underneath that foundation --- and above, and beyond --- is the bedrock of God, the highest of all, the orchestrator of every event. To God be the glory.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

May 23, 2012

“Painter in a Savage Land”

For those history buffs and students of religion interested in the story of the French in Florida from 1562 to 1565, books dealing with this subject are hard to come by. I have always been fascinated by the Huguenot settlement at Fort Caroline and the massacre site of Matanzas and was afraid there would be no literature that would explain events and teach me something new. Also, there is always the fear that the information might come from a biased source.

Last year I found a book that it is such an incredible resource for those interested in this time period and place that it became my favorite book (and that’s saying a lot, as I have always been a voracious reader). It is called “Painter in a Savage Land,” by Miles Harvey. This book is incredible. It chronicles the story of the French in Florida by following the adventurers of renowned New World painter Jacques le Moyne de Morgues, detailing each event in a colorful, vivid, and captivating way. The language used is flowery without being difficult to understand, and the obvious compassion that the author feels for the Huguenots during times of struggle and bloody massacre is a refreshing change.

To give an example of the writing in “Painter in a Savage Land,” here is my favorite descriptive paragraph describing how Pedro Menéndez de Avilés burned every Protestant book he found at La Caroline and possibly also paintings of native Timucua ceremonies:

“. . . the flames consuming those pages just as history would soon consume the people they commemorated, the carefully rendered lines and forms and figures blurred and then blotted by ash, the blackened papers peeling into the Florida sky, and floating off like ghosts, like lost dreams, like memories drifting to oblivion.”

Tears fill my eyes every time I read those lines. It is true that the French colony in Florida was a haunting bastion of lost dreams; there is still a tangible longing for those who mourn what was lost and imagine what might have been. There is another section that speaks of Jacques le Moyne having survived the massacre at Fort Caroline and now setting out for France in a tiny vessel: 

“Perhaps he felt as cold and insensate as the fish fitting beneath the hull of his pilotless ship. If not, it’s hard to even conceive of his terror at that moment. Having just endured a famine, having just been wounded in war, having just witnessed the massacre of his countrymen, he was now entering a vast churning ocean amid storms of stunning violence, with only biscuits and water to live on and barely enough clothing to cover his back. Yet for all that, he must have known that whatever perils awaited him at sea, he was lucky to be alive.

“Terra Florida now vanished from view. On that shore the slaughters continued.”

Chills. Everything about the Huguenot story is filled with pathos . . . “Painter in a Savage Land” captures each moment with skill and emotional umph, and I would highly recommend the book to anyone who’s interested in Huguenot history, the French in Florida, the history of painters in the New World, or just history or Protestant religious history in general. I was very glad to find it as I did not believe there was such a treasure concerning this obscure chapter in history. Cheers to Miles Harvey for creating a book that tells the story amazingly well.

May we remember forever.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

May 22, 2012

Reading the 95 Theses - Finally!

As a Lutheran there are certain things I have been meaning to do, things that seem to be “rites of passage” in my faith tradition, and yesterday I finally accomplished one of my major goals: I read all of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses. Lest anyone wonder why Christians fail to do so even if they come from the Lutheran or Reformed tradition, I must say in my defense that (1) I believed them to be written in “old” language, which I understand very little at times, (2) I have a notoriously short attention span, and (3) I wondered if I would understand the “technicalities” and subjects of the time.

When I finally read the 95 Theses, I expected a dry exchange. In many cases there was little I could expound upon, as most concern the abuse of indulgences and other such subjects, but there were a few “gems” that I found particularly intriguing and saw as a forerunner to the Protestant tradition:

36. Every Christian who is truly contrite has plenary remission both of penance and of guilt as his due, even without a letter of pardon.

37. Any true Christian, living or dead, partakes of all the benefits of Christ and the Church, which is the gift of God, even without letters of pardon.

Revolutionary stuff! I started to get excited when I read of the freedom and free-will Luther was highlighting. As I continued reading the Theses, I found something else that struck me: (and showed his candor).

62. The true measure of the Church is the sacrosanct Gospel of the glory and grace of God.

63. But this is deservedly most hated, since it makes the first last.

64. Whereas the treasure of indulgences is deservedly most popular, since it makes the last first.

65. Thus the Gospel treasures are nets, with which of old they fished for men of riches.

66. The treasures of indulgences are nets, with which they now fish for the riches of men.

Witty as always. (Keep in mind that the Church still referred to the Catholic Church as a whole, as the word ‘Protestant’ was not yet a twinkle in the Reformers’ eyes). The use of “the first last” and the “last first” refers to the New Testament. In Matthew, Christ says “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” Also, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” Martin Luther believed the leaders of the Catholic Church of his day needed a healthy dose of humility and Christian charity, and he was not afraid to say such. 

At the end of the 95 Theses I felt that Protestant pride, that surge that always fills my soul when I think of the Reformation faith traditions and the subsequent legacies from which I sprang, welling up inside. This is one milestone I have wanted to accomplish for quite some time. Up next? The Book of Concord, the confession of faith for the Lutheran Church, hopefully. But that may take awhile.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Monday, May 21, 2012

May 21, 2012

God's Word, Readable

In principio creavit Deus caelum et terram. Terra autem erat inanis et vacua et tenebrae super faciem abyssi et spiritus Dei ferebatur super aquas. Dixitque Deus fiat lux et facta est lux. Can you read this? Most people cannot. Imagine someone telling you these words come from the Latin Bible and that this was the only version you could read. You can pick out some words, perhaps . . . Deus means God, for example, like the Spanish Dios. But most of the words mean very little to everyday Bible-readers. That is how life was before Scripture was translated into the English language. 

Circa 1380 --- over a century and a half before the Protestant Reformation began --- that most influential of pre-Reformation figures, John Wycliffe, did the impossible. He translated much of the Bible into the English tongue. This had been done before but not to this degree. William Tyndale next took up the torch. Before his time the New Testament had never been printed in English. His success in doing so was a monumental milestone. While these events produced a sensation (and rightfully so!) when they occurred, it was not only the 1500s that people began to read the Bible in English on a large scale.

The "Great Bible," published 1539

And it was not just English. Many other congregations, including the French Calvinists and German Lutherans from whom I descend, were blessed with copies of the Bible in their own languages throughout the 1500s as well. The ability to read, memorize, and understand Scripture became a staple for hearty groups such as the Huguenots and the Puritans throughout the 1500s and 1600s. Just imagine . . .  in modern times you can go to just about any store that sells books and browse a varied selection of English-language Bibles. You can go online and purchase a Bible in just about any language you choose. We could thank John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, Martin Luther, or any number of printers, pamphleteers, and Scripture-lovers for this . . .

. . . but we ought to thank God, for it was His hand that set everything in motion.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Sunday, May 20, 2012

May 20, 2012

The Huguenot Temple of Charenton’s Fiery End

Date: November 1685. Engagement: Local mobs versus the Protestant church of Charenton near Paris. Outcome: Too horrific to be believed. Imagine this: On that long-ago day, demonic red-orange flames shot through elegant classical windows and the handsome columned entrance of Charenton temple, astonishing onlookers with an infernal dance along the railings of the finely-carved cupola. There could be few things worse than watching one’s church, a house of God, a place one’s family worshiped so freely, engulfed in flames and horrendously desecrated.

Charenton was the crème de la crème, the model for Huguenot temples. I can imagine standing in numb, disbelieving silence and staring up at the round window over the entrance, watching the flames licking through the opening. Ash must have rained down on skin and clothing before drifting to the ground. This was a burnt sacrifice offered in anything but love. Charenton was one of over five hundred churches obliterated or reused during Louis the Fourteenth’s repression of Protestantism. The same story that unfolded at Charenton was only one of many. Far, far too many.

The temple was constructed in 1621 and, ironically considering its ultimate fate, destroyed by fire. The new temple became one of the most well-known and well-recognized of the Huguenot churches. Architect Salomon de Brosse designed the temple so that over 3,000 worshippers could comfortably fit inside. It was indeed a blessing that so many might pray and hear Scripture in such a beautiful place. The temple of Charenton was a testimony to the civil rights and freedom the Huguenots had enjoyed for the past nine decades. 

Charenton temple sported a Romanesque façade and sides that were somberly festooned with three rows of windows. The back of the temple consisted of a small cupola, a pointed roof, and three rows of windows, the top row being of arched design. Drawings give us a peek at Charenton’s inner beauty. Though the temple was free of statuary and colorful decoration, it was indeed stunning. The room was full of pews, facing toward the altar, facing the sides, facing the back of the temple. There were two levels of open balconies with delicately-crafted spindle railing. These balconies were reached by large winding staircases.

When the flames began to leap, all that engineering would all be gone in a matter of moments.

Fire was not the Charenton temple’s only foe. The Huguenots’ enemies pulled down walls, desecrated whatever remained of the interior, and completely flattened the church to the ground. They stormed through the Protestant cemetery and ravaged old venerable graves while destroying tombstones without care. When the smoke cleared, what was once a beautiful old church and graveyard was a pile of rubble that bore ample testimony to the end result of intolerance, injustice, and persecution.

Perhaps in the 16th century it would have been more expected. That was an era of wars, sieges, massacres, and violent religious upheaval. Yet by the 17th century, French Protestants had been afforded so many rights and privileges that this sudden medievalist attitude toward “heresy” hit them completely out of the blue. They had assimilated. Belonged. Flourished. And now the ugly prejudice of the previous century was rearing its head once more in the most horrific of ways.

Such stories are a physical ache in my soul. Perhaps it is due to my Huguenot ancestry or the proud and long-standing Protestant heritage I claim, but I am personally grieved by this terrible event and its ramifications.  I have long wondered if there is such a phenomenon as ‘ancestor memories’ or if thoughts, feelings, interests, and things of endearment somehow travel through the blood even down through so many generations. I believe it is certainly possible, for I cry for the temple of Charenton just as surely as if I had stood there.

Perhaps my ancestors did.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Saturday, May 19, 2012

May 19, 2012

The Battle of Ivry: Imagination-Style

           “Companions! If you today run at risk with me, I will also run at risk with you; I will be victorious or die. God is with us. Look at his and our enemies. Look at your king. Hold your ranks, I beg of you; and if the heat of battle makes you leave them, think also of rallying back: therein lies the key to victory. You will find it among those three trees that you can see over there on your right side. If you lose your ensigns, cornets or flags, do never lose sight of my panache; you will always find it on the road to honor and victory.”

Such was the speech of King Henri de Navarre. Many Huguenot soldiers decided then and there that they would follow him forever --- if they survived what would become one of the most well-known battles of the French Wars of Religion. Just beyond the opposing armies lay two dense forests cut back so they appeared to have been dropped in the middle of the plain for no reason. Men shivered in the chilly predawn spring breeze.  It was the 14th of March in the year 1590; to the men of Henri de Navarre’s army, the idea of espousing a cause that could very well swing the fortunes of the much-persecuted Protestant movement sent adrenaline flowing and spirits soaring.

The world was tearing apart at the seams. France’s Catholics rallied with powerful Spain whenever they thought it necessary, while French Huguenots and their fellow Protestants in England cast their lots together as well. The opponents of Calvinism wished them gone, by war or by fire, however they might accomplish such an end. Religious vitriol had been raging for decades. Europe thought of nothing but Catholic and Protestant. Every man’s life had become about these differences. Like the phoenix, the Huguenots always rose from the ashes, coming back stronger. They determined they would no longer be led to the stake like sheep to the slaughter. 

The Battle of Ivry took part during the eighth such War of Religion fought on French soil. There must have been something awe-inspiring in the moments before battle; excitement, fear, anticipation. Mayhap it was the knowledge that they were fighting to avenge decades of martyrs, countless battles, endless sieges, and the horrors of the Saint Bartholomew’s that made Protestant hearts strive so valiantly for victory. 

While most of the Catholics were French, they had Swiss and German footmen at their disposal, as well as Spanish cavalry. The Huguenots had 8,000 infantrymen. The Catholics had 12,000. That did not bode well. Yet one must doubt that the Huguenots were very worried. Rumor had it that the enemy army was full of untrained nobleman and Catholic friars. Men must have mused, as I myself have, that battles were so beautiful before they began. Each side was drawn up in colorful array . . . banners flew as arquebusiers, lancers, infantrymen, and cavalry alternated along the lines. 

Both armies had powerful artillery at their disposal along the front lines. The Plain of Saint André was beautiful and deceptively quiet; few of the men likely knew much geography, but most would have known that the armies were gathered near the town of Ivry. Suddenly, artillery broke the stillness of the dawn. BOOM! One, two, three, four, five, six. Each blast flipped men’s hearts in their chests. For the Huguenots, there was so more at stake than could ever be imagined. They were fighting for their very rights, for the survival and furtherance of their religion, for their peace and safety and for the security of their women and children. 

The Catholic Duc de Mayenne spurred his cavalrymen into frenzy on some ill-fated charge. For about fifteen minutes there was nothing but blind, furious action. That was only the prelude. The Huguenots were pleased to note that some of the Swiss and Germans abandoned their commanders in the heat of the moment. Whether this was due to fear or a desire to protect the Protestants they secretly admired, none could tell. It did not matter. Mayenne’s right flank was breached.

Henri de Navarre dashed madly after the fleeing foe as soldiers watched through the haze of their own struggles. Few Huguenot soldiers of that day and age would have seen war as “glorious.” Perhaps as children they thought that way, but after a few such battles full of guts and gore and helpless screams and clashing steel and heart-pumping mayhem, such notions were quickly obliterated. Yet the Huguenots had much to show for their efforts at Ivry. Their tactics worked . . . they won the day and another victory for the Protestant faith in France.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Friday, May 18, 2012

May 18, 2012

The Fascinating Tale of Lady Jane Grey

“Lady Jane Grey, Queen For Nine Days.” Many of us were taught at least a little something about her, but it was not until I began studying the people of the Protestant Reformation era in greater depth that I learned what a fascinating figure she was. She was a faithful Protestant at a time when being a Protestant could very well be a death sentence . . . Henry VIII’s daughter Mary I ascended the throne and intended that England should have no more Protestants or dissenters, and Lady Jane was to be one of the first victims. 

So who was she? Born in 1536 and thus only seventeen at her death, she married young as was the order of the day, to Lord Guildford Dudley. Common sense dictated that there was no reason she should have had access to the crown. Yet, Henry VIII’s only son Edward VI, just before he died, declared that Jane, not his sisters Elizabeth or Mary, should have the kingdom. Whether or not he fully knew Jane’s regal character or only desired a strong Protestant figure, Jane found herself thrust into a whole new world.

It was difficult for women to get ahead in the sixteenth century. A scholarly woman was considered an anomaly; a scholarly woman who was a Protestant posed a double threat to Mary’s sovereignty. Lady Jane accepted her crowning only with great reluctance, and some believe she was “tricked” into having the crown placed on her head. She understood the immerse power she would wield and was unwilling to take on such a task at such a young age. When she finally did accept the power entrusted to her, it was not long after that fighting broke out between those who supported Lady Jane and those who supported Mary I. Both Jane’s and her husband’s families were up in arms over Jane’s refusal to crown Guildford Dudley king, and about the current state of rebellion in which their troops were finding themselves.

Mary I was victorious. She won over the people quite quickly; custom dictated that Lady Jane should pay for her “arrogance.” To give an idea of what Protestants faced under Mary’s reign, Mary was given the authority for Jane “to be burned alive on Tower Hill or beheaded as the Queen pleases.” Despite Jane’s tender age, she had the mien of a martyr . . . she admitted to having acted in a royal capacity, and she remained steadfast in her faith and met the charges against her without any great drama.

Lady Jane Grey was one of those people who could carry on pleasant conversations even with those who sought to sway her away from the beliefs she held dear. John Feckenham, Queen Mary’s confessor, was sent so he might lure Jane away from her “errors,” but instead he found himself garnering friendship with this outspoken young lady. Jane would bear unimaginable psychological distress before ever being led to the executioner’s block. It is said that she witnessed the procession of her young husband’s body as it was somberly transported from London’s Tower Hill.

Jane was prepared for her fate. Though she showed the same anxiety expected of anyone in her position, she remained calm enough to recite Psalm 51:

Have mercy on me, O God,
According to Your unfailing love;
according to Your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

For the “sin” of taking over the kingdom Edward VI had bequeathed to her and looking distrustfully upon the woman called Mary I who would one day earn the moniker “Bloody Mary,” and of carrying the Protestant faith proudly like a banner, Jane was condemned to die. 

In 2006 an old portrait in Streatham, England, was analyzed in the hopes that it might depict Lady Jane Grey. It shows a young woman in a luxurious dark red bejeweled gown, carrying a small book (perhaps the Bible, which she loved so well?), and sporting a beautiful headpiece. Though her pallor is sickly, her eyes, dark and full of knowledge, stare straight ahead as she treats the viewer to a secret smile. I always find it difficult to imagine the calm and quiet way in which Protestants of this time gaze toward their future. It can be seen in their eyes; the knowledge that martyrdom awaits, and the assurance that their salvation is secure. Whether or not this portrait is of Lady Jane, it still makes one think.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Thursday, May 17, 2012

May 17, 2012

The Power Behind the Huguenot Cross

I was recently thinking about my Huguenot cross and what it means to me, how I feel solidarity for my Protestant ancestors and their suffering when I wear it. Then I really got to wondering how many people truly know what it means. I once attended a relative's birthday party and proudly wore the Huguenot cross. I was rather sad when no one brought it up, but then I realized it was very likely that no one knew what it was. In fact, many people have little idea what "Huguenot" means and why Protestants should be proud to uphold the name and memory of this martyr church. So if you wear a Huguenot cross and someone seems interested in it, tell them. Explain the symbolism, the dove of the Holy Spirit, the twelve fleur de lis points representing the Apostles, the eight points for the eight Beatitudes.

Some might ask why a Christian would wear a Huguenot cross in place of a common cross. Sadly, I believe the usage of the "common cross" has been corrupted. Those who are not Christian wear crosses as a "fashion accessory." A person who wears such a cross is not necessarily Christian, and, though we are not to call attention to ourselves, we instinctively want to show our Christian affiliation to the world. The Huguenot cross is so different and has such a special meaning that if someone asks after its origin, one should teach about the Huguenots and, ultimately, their sacrifice for Christ. All roads lead to Christ in such a situation.

That is not to say that the Huguenots themselves were worthy of more remembrance than Christ. What is the reason we wear a cross? To remember Christ's sacrifice? To show we are Christians? To recall that we are loved, cherished, and saved? The Huguenot cross, by reminding us of those who loved God above their own lives, serves as a powerful reason to give our all for God in our own lives. We know He walked with our forebears and will continue to walk with us. And of course we know we are loved, for the cross shows that the spirit of faith can never die and God's mercy will never cease.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

May 16, 2012

Definitive Moments

What was the most definitive moment of the Protestant Reformation? The first burst in Martin Luther's mind, "the just shall live by faith"? The first pamphlets outlining this new and exciting doctrine? The first martyrs, who gave everything for the love of faith and truth? The French Wars of Religion? The first peace treaty? The first massacre, the first siege, the first tentative agreement? But it does not truly matter. The entire "roller coaster" of the Reformation was full of ups and downs, twists and turns that happened exactly as God planned them to. God's hand was behind the Reformation, as it is behind all else.

Think about that. Had God not planned the Protestant Reformation, there may have never been a choice for the seeking Christian soul. There would be no generation after generation of faithful Protestant believers who crossed the ocean to tame, populate, and revitalize a beautiful New World. The cherished denominations we think of so fondly would fail to exist. Thousands of churches would never have been built. Countless hymns would never have been written. Today, thank God for the truth, purity, and joy of the Reformation. Thank Him for your ancestors and spiritual forebears who had the courage to pass on their faith even under pain of death.

Thank Him that "the just shall live by faith". 

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

May 15, 2012

When I think of the Huguenot men who died in the Matanzas massacre, it is nearly a physical ache deep inside my soul. I suppose I have “adopted” them, in a sense. In my mind’s eye I attach faces, figures, and traits to men whose true identities will most likely remain hidden. They were mostly young, I would think, eyes full of dying dreams and the crumbling hopes of New World conquest. They had already suffered so much amid shipwreck and ruin. Yet they were alive, hopeful, and alert, living and breathing God’s pure ocean air and feeling the benevolent sunshine upon their faces. Then suddenly, unjustly and horrendously, they were gone.

Gone. Lost. Silenced. Betrayed.

There have been few moments more touching in my life than standing at the boardwalk near the spot of the massacre, looking out over the fragile dunes and the sparkling Matanzas River beyond. There were two separate massacres that took the lives of nearly two hundred and fifty men in all. Each with a purpose in life, a family, a plethora of loves and hates and interests and passions. I have written many short stories attempting to capture the extreme pathos of the situation, yet no matter how much I write, I cannot capture the feeling of despair and sadness that fills my soul. I did not know these men, yet I feel as if I do. It seems they have been largely forgotten. That fate is even worse than the slaughter itself.

So I am planning to go back.

Sometime in the near future, I hope to return to Matanzas, for a Protestant pilgrimage, part two. I am uncertain when, what, or how, but hopefully my next pilgrimage will be just as momentous as the first. I also hope to return to La Caroline near Jacksonville and see the inside of the fort, which I could not do this year due to construction. The story of Matanzas remains in my thoughts and refuses to give me peace until I do all I can to make the victims’ memories known. If that is the task with which I have been entrusted, I will uphold it gladly. On a bittersweet note, I have compiled a pitiful pile of names of those killed at Matanzas.

The haunted dunes of Matanzas Inlet, taken on my recent pilgrimage

They are (1) Nicolas Barre (who, interestingly enough, was a colonist in the Brazilian colony at Guanabara Bay in 1555, see my post of May 03rd), formerly governor of the South Carolina colony of Charlesfort; (2) Monsieur Sainte Marie, captain who was martyred at Matanzas in October; and (3) Jean Ribault, a French commander both brave and foolhardy who was martyred in October after having lived an adventurous yet tragic life. According to the official Fort Matanzas website, there were 245 Protestants killed in all. Who were the other 242 that have been lost to history?

Such are the questions that will haunt me forever.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Monday, May 14, 2012

May 14, 2012

Praise God, the One True King

Throughout history, subjects of a particular king would expect protection from said monarch even if their religious views did not agree with his. The Huguenot subjects of many a French king must have felt betrayed, enraged, and helpless when their king, the man who had the power to protect his Protestant subjects and bestow equal rights, failed to treat them with the same kindness as he treated everyone else. Like a parent who obviously favored one child and berated the other, French kings had a habit of showing favoritism to their Catholic subjects. Worse of all was Louis XIV.

When I was growing up, I believed he was a real “good guy.” After all, he was called the Sun King, he cultivated art, culture, and fashion in France and wider Europe, and at the height of his reign he was apparently the man to emulate. I knew he was involved with the French colonization of Louisiana. What I did not know was that in 1685, with the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, he effectively silenced French Protestants socially and often physically. He showed little if any care for his Huguenot subjects by forbidding them to meet for the practice of their religion, to baptize their children in their own faith, to have their own ministers, to work at the job of their choice, to send their children to Huguenot schools, and so forth.

The “Sun King” was said by some to be unaware to the widespread persecution of Huguenots enacted by the “dragonnades,” yet, being a king who took a great deal of pride in knowing what was happening throughout his kingdom, it is likely he had a hand in their cruelty. He watched as Huguenot men were thrown into galleys and forced to row, often to their deaths, and often simply because they were Protestant. Those who had known him as a mild man must have wondered, as does a child when his parent suddenly withholds affection, why these drastic changes had wrought such havoc. 

Louis XIV in 1685, the year when thousands of
Huguenots began to be persecuted after the revocation
of the edict of Nantes.

There was one very important fact that Louis XIV did not understand . . . he touted one faith for his kingdom in the hopes of national unity, but the minds and souls of men were something he could not control. No compulsion in the world could force a man not to believe the convictions he held in his heart. As a result, archaic practices such as burnings at the stake were reintroduced, much to the Huguenots’ horror. France’s Protestant subjects, those who survived, fled by the thousands. They now nursed a sense of betrayal too deep and too painful to touch upon. The very king whom they had faithfully served had turned his powerful hand against those he should have sworn to protect.

Yet there was a lesson in the horrors of the Edict of Fontainebleau. Earthly kings were fickle. Sometimes cruel. Bound by their own hearts, souls, and consciences. They were men, fallible and guided by whatever their religious convictions happened to be. The Huguenots could not trust Louis the Sun King, but there was one King Who would never fail them no matter how far their lives had fallen . . . the Lord of Hosts, the King of Kings, a gracious, protective, and merciful monarch, would always hold His faithful in the palm of His hand.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Sunday, May 13, 2012

May 13, 2012

Temple Protestant de L’Oratoire du Louvre: His Kingdom is Forever

In Paris there is a monument to faith, courage, and steadfastness. It skirts the Rue Saint-Honoré and the Rue de Rivoli, and to the unpracticed eye it might appear to be just another church, turreted and domed with a typical French slate-gray roof. Yet this church symbolizes the Huguenot community in French, the community that has been described as a “martyr church,” the group persecuted for over three centuries almost without pause. But despite burnings, hangings, sieges, massacres, and atrocities of all sorts, this fierce and prayerful community always rose from the ashes. To this day there is a Reformed Church in France, with a headquarters in Paris. It is called L’Église de Réformée de France

At the Temple Protestant de l’Oratoire du Louvre, a church that was gifted to French Protestants in 1811 by Napoleon, it might seem that the stones cry out. After all, Paris was one of the major sites of the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre in 1572. Though few if any of the landmarks from that time have remained, doubtless the stench of guilt still hangs heavy just a few feet under the modern city. Yet the Oratoire du Louvre represents the spirit of regeneration and the refusal to fold under pressure. French Protestants waited centuries to have their churches restored. Most of their beautiful houses of worship had been obliterated by King Louis XIV in 1685 after the Edict of Fontainebleau (who, at least in regards to his Protestant subjects, was a far more volatile sort than the stories of “Sun King” splendor might have one believe).

In the past, the idea of a Protestant church in Paris, let alone one where the Huguenot dead could be remembered and duly mourned, might have seemed strange to the majority of the population. The statue of Admiral Gaspard de Coligny, placed in the 1880s, in a way includes all the French Protestants who lost their lives. Though he is the one featured, his death in the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre almost seems to indicate that the memories of those who shared his fate are represented here as well. The sheer horror and injustice of the St. Bartholomew’s is like an open wound that can never be truly healed. At first here, in the quiet courtyard of the Oratoire du Louvre, those who gave their lives can be duly remembered.

So what does the Oratoire du Louvre represent? Failure to lie down and die. Refusal to give up. The necessity of remembering the dead. This church stands as a focal point to remember and honor those French Protestants who went before, who suffered and died for a truth they could never deny. Even greater than the Oratoire du Louvre, the Reformed Church of France represents the spirit of faith and freedom, the spirit that can never die. Their motto is Flagrore Non Consumor. “Burning but not consumed.”

I cannot think of a better motto.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

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