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

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