St. Bartholomew's Day massacre  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The St. Bartholomew's Day massacre (Massacre de la Saint-Barthélemy in French) was a wave of Catholic mob violence against the Huguenots (French Calvinist Protestants), traditionally believed to have been instigated by Catherine de' Medici, the mother of King Charles IX. The massacre took place six days after the wedding of the king's sister to the Protestant Henry of Navarre, an occasion for which many of the most wealthy and prominent Huguenots were in Paris, and two days after the attempted assassination of Admiral Gaspard de Coligny, a Huguenot leader. Starting on 24 August 1572 (the feast of Bartholomew the Apostle) with the murder of Coligny, the massacres spread throughout Paris, and later to other cities and the countryside, lasting for several months. The exact number of fatalities is not known, but it is estimated that anywhere from ten thousand to possibly one-hundred thousand Huguenots died in the violence throughout France. Though by no means unique, it has been called the worst of the century's religious massacres. The massacres marked a turning-point in the French Wars of Religion. The Huguenot political movement was crippled by the loss of many of its prominent aristocratic leaders, and those who remained were increasingly radicalized.

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