St. Vincent’s Reading list VIII: Cardinal Richelieu, Vincent de Paul, and French Protestants

Richelieu, Armand Jean du Plessis, duc de. Traitte qvi contient la method la plvs facile et la plvs assevree pour conuertir ceux qui sons separez de l’eglise. Paris: Chez Sebastien Cramoisy & Gabriel Cramoisy, 1657.
Call Number: SpC. 230.2 R528t1657.


Traitte qvi contientOne problem facing the Bourbon monarchy in 17th century France was a strong Protestant (Huguenot) minority that had been granted limited recognition by the ex-Protestant Henry IV in the Edict of Nantes (1598). The Edict was a temporary solution that the monarchy hoped would buy time for it and the French Catholic church to gain strength and then work for the conversion of the French Protestants. This would in turn lead to the destruction of the Protestant political threat.

However, during the 1620s a final civil war broke out.  With the decisive defeat of the Huguenots at the siege of La Rochelle (1629) the fate of French Protestantism was sealed even though the Edict of Nantes would not be repealed by Louis XIV until 1685.

Vincent de Paul was a man of his time. He considered Protestantism to be a ‘heresy,” and Protestants to be “heretics.” He believed the best means to ensure conversions was not by force, nor by argumentation, but through the reform of the French Catholic Church, and the good example given daily by French Catholics to their Protestant neighbors. He never allowed the label “heretic” to change his view of the humanity to be honored in each person.

For example, in late 1659, Vincent wrote to a missionary who was about to leave on a ship that would have Protestant crew-members: “Be very careful to avoid every sort of dispute and contention with them, and be patient and kindly in their regard, even if they attack you or our holy faith and our customs. Virtue is so beautiful and amiable that they will be compelled to love it in you… Make no distinction of persons and show no apparent difference in your treatment of Catholics and Huguenots, so that the latter may know you love them in God.” (Coste 8:209)

Cardinal Richelieu made the conversion of French Protestants one of the cornerstones of the Bourbon monarchy’s policies. The work cited summarizes Richelieu’s thinking on this point.


St. Vincent’s Reading List is recurring blog series exploring texts known to have been read and recommended by St. Vincent de Paul, those which can be presumed to have been read by him, and important works published during his lifetime (1581-1660). All materials discussed are held by DePaul’s Special Collections and Archives. The entire series may be viewed here.

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