This article investigates the place occupied by the date of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in the collective memory of French Protestants until the end of the eighteenth century.
Beginning in 1573-1574, the August 24, 1572 date (to avoid using the term “St. Bartholomew’s Day” from that detestable papist calendar) was established in the pamphlet Reveille-matin des François as the « Day of Treason », a starting date for a new calendar forever commemorating this imprescriptible crime.
Beginning in 1577 and for the next century, “historical calendars” appended to Huguenot Psalters introduced a collection of commemorative dates from the history of the Reformations in France, in particular those of the massacre (August 24, 1572) and the ensuing defence of La Rochelle. Nevertheless, after the Peace of Alès (1629), such calendars were condemned to a clandestine existence due to the watchful eyes of the authorities, before disappearing altogether shortly before the Revocation.
In the eighteenth century, Voltaire’s La Henriade (1728), which staged the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in a conflict opposing Enlightenment and intolerance, elicited a renewed interest from Protestants who were waiting for an edict of toleration—at least, so Pierre Dangirard claimed in a sermon dated August 24, 1776. But on the national level, when the deputy Rabaut Saint-Étienne pleaded on August 23, 1789 for the complete religious liberty of all French people, he did not dare to mention the Massacre for fear of accusations of confessional bias.
Over the course of these two long centuries, the French Protestants never made a real memorial of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.