Collection of Benjamin Weiss
LOUIS XIV: MASSACRE OF THE HUGUENOTS
HAMERANI, Giovanni: France, 1673, Bronze, 45 mm
The Huguenots, the name given to the French Calvinist Protestants who arose in France during the Reformation, suffered severe persecution by the Roman Catholic clergy. Henry IV, although adopting the Roman Catholic faith, issued the Edict of Nantes (1598), which, while recognizing Catholicism as the official religion, gave Huguenots certain rights, among them freedom of worship. Under Louis XIV, however, the clergy regained its influence and the Huguenots were again persecuted. Hundreds of proclamations, edicts, and declarations attacking the Huguenots in their household, their property and their liberty of conscience were promulgated during these years, leading finally to the total revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. This caused thousands of Huguenots to flee France and greatly weakened France’s Protestant alliances in Europe.
According to Forrer, this medal commemorates the massacre of the Huguenots in the Cevennes, one of the persecutions directed by Louis XIV against the Protestants during this period. It was executed in Rome by the Italian medallist Giovanni Hamerani and appears to celebrate rather than criticize this massacre as St. George is shown fighting on the side of God against the Huguenots, with Religion in the background guiding the slaughter. The Latin inscription on the reverse is a partial quotation of a popular saying: "(Si Deus nobiscum), quis contra nos " [(If God is with us,) who is against us?]
It may be noted that van Loon has a somewhat different interpretation for the iconography of this medal. In his view, the medal relates to the Franco-Dutch War (1672-78). The city behind Louis XIV in the background of the obverse is likely the Dutch city of Nijmegen, an important battle site for this war. On the reverse Louis (who considered the Dutch to be Protestant heretics) appears as a Roman soldier, with the Belgium lion at his feet. He is seen stomping on a hideous figure, representing the heretical United Provinces, with the female figure in the background holding a cup in her hand representing the Church of Rome. Although this interpretation is different in some detail from that described above, in both views the medal epitomizes the conflict between Catholics and Protestants during this period of history.
The Cevennes are a mountain range in southern France, home to the Camisards, the name given to the Protestant peasantry who, from 1702 to 1705 and for several years afterward, carried out organized military resistance to the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Although they killed many Catholics and burned several churches, ultimately Louis prevailed over them. It wasn’t until 1789 that the Protestants’ civil rights were restored and their religious equality guaranteed.
LINK to Edict of Nantes (from Wikipedia)
LINK to excerpts of Text of Edict of Nantes (from stetson.edu)
LINK to Image of Medal Commemorating the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (from Baldwin's auction 67)
LINK to article on Medallic History of Religious and Racial Intolerance (by Benjamin Weiss)