Philippe and Richard de Gastines
Yesterday, a very good friend of mine dutifully took my advice to “adopt a martyr.” The name that “spoke” to her was that of Philippe de Gastines of Paris, a man I had heard of only briefly and knew very little about. Thus I launched an “inquiry” into his life, and this is what I found. De Gastines was a typical Protestant of the 16th century: passionate about his faith, practicing his doctrines “under the radar,” and constantly subject to danger from violently-Catholic Parisians. Philippe and his son Richard were willing to risk imprisonment --- or worse --- to hold religious services in their home. They managed to survive in Paris until 1569.
Then their luck ran out.
Who knows how the truth became known? A rumor here, an observance there, nosy neighbors seeking gossip. Philippe and Richard were cornered and jailed. A relative and neighbor, Nicolas Croquet (in a tragic case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time) was seized as well. It was not enough for superstitious Parisians to consign the de Gastines to jail and eventually to death. They obliterated the house in which these “heretical” practices had taken place, unsatisfied until the deed was done.
Sources vary on how the men fared in prison. Some say that Richard de Gastines preached Protestant doctrines and extorted fellow prisoners to state their sins only to God, but Richard himself said in court that he had not done such things. The Protestants said he had; the Catholics had dueling views even among themselves. In the end, the fact and fiction did not matter. Father and son both died for the “crime” of Protestantism.
And what became of the extended Gastines family? Richard had been married with a family, and his wife was killed during the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre of 1572. Her children were forced to watch. I am uncertain of what happened to them. Another family member, Jacques, was related to the Le Merciers by marriage. The Le Merciers, too, were slaughtered during the St. Bartholomew’s. According to the book “The French Wars of Religion” by Mack P. Holt, a Le Mercier daughter who witnessed her parents’ deaths was told in no uncertain terms that, “if ever she became a Huguenot, the same would happen to her.”
The “Gastines cross” marked the spot where the Gastines house had once stood. Catholics revered it almost like a shrine; Huguenots hated it. It took until December 1571 to tear it down. Even then, superstitious Parisians refused to let it go. They thronged the workers and tried to force them away from the cross. To them it was a symbol of victory over “evil.” Eventually the cross was moved to a nearby cemetery. It is no longer in existence.
But the memories remain.
(c) 2012 Joyously Saved