Monday, July 14, 2008

The Catholic Revolt in the Vendée

The revolt in the Vendée was an 1793-1796 popular uprising against the Republican government during the French Revolution.

Variously known as the Uprising, Insurrection, Revolt, Vendéan Rebellion, or the Wars in the Vendée, it took place in the Vendée, a coastal region in west central France, and represented the largest internal counter-revolution to the new Republic.

Class differences were not as great in the Vendée as in the capital Paris and the other French provinces, and in rural Vendée, the local nobility seems to have been more residential and less bitterly resented than in other parts of France. The conflicts that drove the revolution were also lessened in this particularly isolated part of France by strong adherence of the populace to Roman Catholicism. There were outbreaks of anti-Republic violence in 1791 and 1792, as the peasants perceived that their position had worsened, not improved since the fall of the Ancien régime. It was not until the social unrest combined with the external pressures from the Civil Constitution of the Clergy (1790) and then the Conscription (or "Levy") Decree (1793) that the region erupted.

The Civil Constitution required all clerics to swear allegiance to it and by extension to the increasingly anti-clerical National Constituent Assembly. All but seven of the 160 bishops refused the oath, as did about half of the parish priests. Persecution of the clergy and the faithful was the first trigger of the rebellion; the second being conscription. Nonjuring priests were exiled or imprisoned. Women on their way to Mass were beaten in the streets. Religious orders were suppressed and Church property confiscated. On March 3, 1793, virtually all the churches were ordered closed. Sacramental vessels were confiscated by soldiers and the people were forbidden to place a cross on their graves.

The Vendean clergy were replaced by clergy appointed and approved by the Revolutionary authorities, known as jurors, who were almost universally disliked and condemned as intruders. Nonjuring priests declared the new civic ceremonies as false and worthless; in response gangs of Republicans came from the cities into the countryside, closing and vandalizing the churches of nonjuring priests.

The March 1793 conscription Vendeans to fill their district's quota of 300,000 enraged the populace, who took up arms as "The Catholic Army", "Royal" being added later, and fought for "above all the reopening of their parish churches with their former priests."

and everything we need to know about the Glorious French Republic:

A massacre of 6,000 Vendée prisoners, many of them women, took place after the battle of Savenay, along with the drowning of 3,000 Vendée women at Pont-au-Baux and 5,000 Vendée priests, old men, women, and children killed by drowning at the Loire River at Nantes in what was called the "national bath" - tied in groups in barges and then sunk into the Loire.

With these massacres came formal orders for forced evacuation; also, a 'scorched earth' policy was initiated: farms were destroyed, crops and forests burned and villages razed. There were many reported atrocities and a campaign of mass killing universally targeted at residents of the Vendée regardless of combatant status, political affiliation, age or gender.

Simon Schama: “Every atrocity the time could imagine was meted out to the defenseless population. Women were routinely raped, children killed, both mutilated. . . . At Gonnord . . . two hundred old people, along with mothers and children, [were forced] to kneel in front of a large pit they had dug; they were then shot so as to tumble into their own grave. . . . Thirty children and two women were buried alive when earth was shoveled onto the pit.”

Ah yes,

the Enlightenment.

1 comment:

steve rainbow said...

It was,indeed, a horrendous period in French history.
The Terror ,lead by Psychopaths, brooked no argument nor debate.