The ideas of the Reformation took hold in France in the 1520s and rapidly gained a large following. This popularity of Protestantism aroused the enmity of the Roman Catholic Church and the Huguenots were persecuted. This persecution created a flow of refugees from France for over 150 years (mostly to England, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and subsequently to North America and South Africa).
During the course of the 1500s and 1600s, a beautiful and symbolic cross was designed and worn by Huguenots as a means of recognizing on another. Whether this was intended to a secret sign to thwart Catholic persecutors is not know. For a detailed account and picture, see below.
Some significant dates and events were:
1523 – The first French protestant martyr, Jean Vallière, burned at the stake.
1533 – John Calvin flees Paris for Switzerland (settling in Basle 1534).
1540s – A Huguenot colony founded (and collapses) in Quebec (this was roughly 60 years prior to the actual founding of Quebec.)
1550, 24 July – The first Huguenot Church established in London.
1558 – Ascension of Elizabeth I (a Protestant) encourages Huguenot migration to England.
1562, 1 March – Massacre of more than a thousand Huguenots at Vassy.
1562– A Huguenot colony founded (and abandoned) in South Carolina.
1562 – Huguenots legally recognised in France under the Edict of St Germain.
1562-1598 – The Wars of Religion.
Eight wars between the French Catholics (backed by the Spanish) and the Protestants (backed at times by English, Germans, and Swiss).
1564 – A Huguenot colony founded in north Florida.
Destroyed by the Spanish (i.e. Catholics) in September 1565.
1572, 23/24 August – St. Bartholomew Day Massacre.
Tens of thousands of Huguenots murdered in Paris and across France by Catholics.
1589 – Henri III (a Catholic) is assassinated (by a less moderate Catholic!).
Henri of Navarre (a Huguenot) becomes king of France as Henri IV.
1593 – Henri IV converts to Catholicism. (In order to secure the submission of the whole of France to his rule.)
1598 – Edict of Nantes issued by Henri IV, granting Huguenots religious freedom and civil rights.
(By some accounts more than 200,000 Huguenots had fled France by now, though with each improvement in the situation some returned.)
1610, 14 May – Henri IV is assassinated (by another fanatical Catholic).
(Resumption of persecution of Huguenots, led by Cardinal Richelieu.)
1617 – Louis XIII crowned king of France at the age of 17.
1624 – Cardinal Richelieu becomes principal minister.
1643 – Louis XIV becomes king of France.
(Huguenot persecution becomes even more severe than under Louis XIII.)
1685, 18 Oct – Edict of Nantes revoked by Louis XIV. This was the last straw for many Huguenots, and created a huge wave of refugees. (The total emigration due to this is variously estimated at 130,000, 200,000, 250,000, 400,000 and even 1,000,000. Up to 1,000,000 Protestants remained in France, many subsequently reverting to Catholicism.)
The Huguenot Cross
The Cross shown here, which has been adopted as the insignia of The National Huguenot Society, is both beautiful and symbolic. It is not, however, exclusive to the Society. It is being used more and more throughout the world as a sign among the descendants of the Huguenots. Many designs of the Cross have been worn by Huguenots throughout the years. This particular design was discovered by the Reverend Andrew Mailhet in the province of Languedoc, France, and dates from at least the eighteenth century. It has, therefore, become known as the Cross of Languedoc.
It is impossible to know exactly when the Huguenots adopted the Huguenot Cross as a symbol and confirmation of their faith. However, it is believed to have been a sign of recognition among the French Protestants as early as the 17th century. It was patterned after the Order of the Holy Spirit insignia worn by Henry IV of Navarre, who issued the Edict of Nantes in 1598 to protect Protestant freedoms. The Huguenot Society of South Africa provides the following information as to its history:
“The Huguenot cross was designed and first manufactured by a certain Mystre of Nîmes in 1688. It has as its predecessor the badge of the Hospitaler Knights of St John of Jerusalem also known as the Knights of Malta, a religious and Crusader order founded in Jerusalem in the 7th century AD. In 1308 they occupied the island of Rhodes after the collapse of the Crusader states, and in 1530 formed the order of the Knights of Malta after Rhodes was surrendered to the Ottoman Turks. They lived for 4 centuries on the island of Malta, hence the name Maltese Cross for the central part. (The Maltese Cross is generally associated with fire and is the symbol of protection of fire fighters in many countries).”
“Other predecessors of the Huguenot Cross include the so-called Languedoc Cross, and the order decoration of the Order of the Holy Spirit which Henry III established on December 31st, 1578.”
Significance and Meaning
The gold Cross of Languedoc, with the official ribbon of the Society which is white, edged with stripes of French blue and gold has become the official insignia of The National Huguenot Society worn by members. The Cross of Languedoc consists of four elements:
The insignia consists of an open four-petal Lily of France — reminiscent of the Mother Country of France — in which each petal radiates outward in the shape of a “V” to form a Maltese Cross. The four petals signify the Four Gospels. Each petal, or arm, has at its outside periphery two rounded points at the corners. These rounded points are regarded as signifying the Eight Beatitudes.
The four petals are joined together by four fleur-de-lis, also reminiscent of the Mother Country of France. Each fleur-de-lis has has three petals. The twelve petals of the four fleur-de-lis signify the Twelve Apostles.
An open space in the shape of heart is formed between each fleur-de-lis and the arms of the two petals with which it is joined. This shape — a symbol of loyalty — suggests the seal of the great French Reformer, John Calvin.
A descending dove pendant representing the Saint Esprit or “Sainted Spirit” — the guide and counselor of the Church — is suspended from a ring of gold attached to the lower central petal.
The size of The Cross of Languedoc insignia as used by The National Huguenot Society is normally 1-1/8 inches in height by 1 inch in width, exclusive of the pendant dove. When including the pendant dove the height of the insignia increases to 1-7/8 inches, while the overall width remains unchanged.
This size, however, may be varied based upon need provided that the proportions of 9:8 height to width, exclusive of the pendant dove are maintained. When the pendant dove is included the ratio of height to width must remain at 15:8.
Of all the French Huguenot communities established in the America colonies, this church, located at Church and Queen Streets, is the only surviving institution which has kept the Huguenot religious heritage alive.
The current church building, completed in 1845, was designed by the area-renowned architect Edward White (1806 – 1882). It survived the Civil War with some shellfire damage, but was nearly demolished in the 1886 earthquake. Fortunately, Mr. Charles Lanier, a New York Huguenot, supplied funds for the Church’s restoration.
It was in this church that the Huguenot Society of South Carolina, composed of Huguenot descendents, was organized in 1885.
There is an annual spring service (usually on the last Sunday of March) using the old French liturgy. As an example, the following is The Lord’s Prayer, as the Huguenots recited it:
Notre Père qui es aux cieux,
que ton nom soit sanctifié.
Que ton règne vienne;
Que ta volonté soit faite, sur la terre comme au ciel.
Donne-nous aujourd’hui notre pain quotidien.
Pardonne-nous nos offenses, comme nous pardonnons à ceux qui nous ont offensés.
Et ne nous induis pas en tentation,
Mais délivre nous du mal.
Car c’est à toi qu’appartiennent, dans tous les siècles, le règne, la puissance et la gloire.
This page is used to publicize those Huguenot-related gatherings that may be of interest to Roquemores. If you know of any and would like to have it published here, contact the webmaster via email. Be sure to provide details for the columns listed below.
Date:Sun Aug 4, 2002
Where: John de la Howe School, Route 81, 7 miles north of McCormick, SC
Occasion: Commemoration of the 238th Anniversary of the Arrival of the French Huguenots at New Bordeaux in 1764
Sponsored By: McCormick County Historical Commission, Route 1, Box 2, McCormick, SC 29835
The webmaster, his family, and several cousins were able to attend this commemoration outside of McCormick, South Carolina. It was a unique experience, considering that an estimated 300 people (some traveling from across the country) of diverse backgrounds, came together to discuss family histories. After a chapel service and speaker program, lunch was enjoyed on the grounds of the John de la Howe School, shade provided by a massive oak tree.
Following the meal, Bobby Edmonds of the McCormick County Historical Commission, conducted a tour of the New Bordeaux town site. Sadly, there is nothing in evidence that says there was anything ever there except forest. According to Mr. Edmonds, it would take an archaeological dig to uncover what the Huguenots left behind those many years ago.
The Huguenot Society of South Carolina erected a substantial, granite marker at the site of the New Bordeaux Place of Worship in 1937.