Restes mortels et reliques des hommes de guerre huguenots. L’exemple de l’amiral de Coligny

On 29 September 1851, nearly three centuries after his death, the ashes of admiral Coligny were buried in the former lands of the lords of Châtillon. The return of his remains to the Loiret stimulated much scholarly discussion at the hand of historical and polemical reports of the Wars of Religion, as well as written accounts dating from a much later period. Less scholarly interest has been shown for these tiny remains of Coligny’s alleged body when framed as relics. The present study of the legendary history of the preserved bones, of the debates they occasioned by their special destiny, and of two secular reliquaries in France reveals the ambivalent status of this Calvinist hero’s corpse and of his memory. Intended as a witness to past events, his remains also function as ‘objects of memory’, purveyors of values and representations, which are worth examining for the identitary and ideological reinvestment of this nineteenth-century Protestant symbol.