The Protestant Prisoners of Rouen
The French city of Rouen saw more than its fair share of Reformation-era bloodshed. It was the scene of an infamous siege during the first War of Religion in 1562, yet its streets would become even more tarnished than that. For when the hot winds blew ten years later in August 1572, they brought the scent of blood and the misguided fervor of religious zealotry.
The St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre had been raging in Paris and in other regions for days. One never knew which city would be next. Like a wildfire, like the flames that had been previously used to burn Protestant believers and would be used again, the hatred for Huguenots leapt from city to city. The Huguenots of Rouen knew what awaited them. Tales of savagery were already spreading. They knew of the St. Bartholomew’s and how men, women, and children were awakened at midnight and slaughtered simply for their faith. The Protestant inhabitants of Rouen must have been afflicted with numb dread and terror as they contemplated the possibility of their city being one of those afflicted. Yet it was inevitable.
Some authority figures did not wish for a city full of blood, a charnel-house such as venerable old Paris had already become. Whether they truly wished to incarcerate the Huguenots or had kinder motives, they devised a plan to keep Rouen’s Protestants out of harm’s way, at the very least avoiding a massacre of such a grand scale. So they imprisoned the Huguenots in all the prisons available, attempting to incarcerate them and keep them hidden from the public’s view until the bloodlust had passed. It did not work.
How must have those people felt? Trapped in damp and dreary conditions not because of any crimes committed, but because of their peers’ probably well-meaning but ultimately futile attempts to keep them from the assassins’ daggers? What were accommodations like? Did they keep the faith by reading Scripture to one another and praying for deliverance? Did they sit --- and one must think they certainly did --- and hope, hour after hour, that all of Rouen would rally around them and refuse to allow a bloodbath such as the St. Bartholomew’s Eve had been?
Imprisonment did not last long. On the 17th of September, 1572, the mob came, breaking through the gate, smashing windows, kicking in doors. What must have gone through the minds of those inside? Did they hear the angry mob approaching? Were they afraid? Did they have their minds on Christ, His mercy, and the Scriptural references to suffering in Jesus’ name? Without doubt.
Every prison was assaulted without mercy. Every Protestant discovered inside these places was slaughtered outright. It is doubtful any questions were asked. This bloody ‘act first, think later’ exploded throughout Rouen until the 20th of September. Evil walked the earth in those days, as it often did during the Wars of Religion and during the shaky first decades of the Reformation era.
So Rouen’s Protestants, having been imprisoned so they might live to see another day, were blindly slaughtered by those who cared nothing for their names, lives, and identities. As the assassins of Rouen continued to ride the coattails of Paris and her butchery, the “prisoners” of Rouen joined the ranks of so many martyrs who were ripped so violently from the world in those dark days.
Let us remember them always. "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." -- Hebrew 12:1.
(c) 2012 Joyously Saved