Reliques et miracles. Continuité de la controverse antipapiste au XIXe siècle en France

The revival of the cult of relics in French Catholicism starting in 1815 elicited a vigorous response from the Protestants. While liberal quarters for the most part kept silent on this popular phenomenon, the evangelical camp produced numerous works written by the likes of Napoléon Roussel, François Puaux, and César Malan. Their main source was Calvin’s Treatise on Relics, which had in fact not been reprinted in French since 1601, until in 1822 it was included by Collin de Plancy as an appendix to his Dictionnaire critique des reliques et des images miraculeuses. De Plancy, who converted to Protestantism in 1841, drew extensively and sympathetically on Protestant writings. This was not so for his anti-clerical successors of the Third Republic, who placed all Christians, Catholic and Protestant alike, under a single condemnation by virtue of their view of the Reformation as just a moment in history, which had since been surpassed. Their outcry against relics also did not win the evangelicals any sympathy from the rural populations, which they might have had if their criticism had pertained to auricular confession or priestly stipends instead. By its time honoured and geographically anchored nature, the devotion to relics offered French rural inhabitants a form of sociability of which they would not be deprived.