Sixty Huguenots Slain in a Church at Vassy
At the town of Vassy, in the north of France, there lived a great many Huguenots. Religious services were publicly held in church by their minister, and the number of converts rapidly increased.
One day the duke of Guise, with about two hundred soldiers, marched past Vassy. Before they had gone quite out of hearing the bell of the Huguenot church rang out, as usual, for morning service. "Why does that bell ring so loud?" asked the duke. A soldier named La Montague replied that it was to call together the Huguenots, and said there were a great many of them in the town who went to hear the sermons preached by their minister. "Back!" cried the duke to his soldiers, "We shall take them in the act." So they all turned back, and having halted before the market-house of the town, the duke went into the monastery which stood near and talked awhile with the prior. Then coming out hastily, he commanded his men to march to the church where the Huguenots were assembled.
Now, Leonard Morel, the minister, had just begun his sermon, and some hundred or more men and women were listening to his words, when the reports of two muskets sounded in their ears. The people, frightened at this, tried to escape by the door, but were driven back by the soldiers, who rushed in upon them crying out, "Death to the Huguenots!"
Three of the men in the church were slain in a moment at the door, and then the soldiers rushed in among the congregation, striking the poor people down with their weapons, and sparing neither man, woman, nor child in their fury. The unfortunate Huguenots were so terror-stricken that they knew not which way to turn, "but running hither and thither, fell one upon another, flying as poor sheep before ravening wolves." A number of the soldiers coolly aimed and fires their guns, while others cut in pieces with their swords every person within reach.
"Some of the Huguenots had their heads cleft in twain and their arms and hands cut off; so that many of them died even in the place." The walls and galleries were dyed with the blood of those who were murdered. So great was the fury of the soldiers, that a number of the men they were pursuing broke open the roof of the church, hoping to save themselves upon the top of it; but having climbed there, and still fearing to fall again into the hands of their enemies, some leaped down to the ground, and were cruelly bruised and hurt. Those who remained were even in a worse case, for a party of soldiers outside, seeing them on the roof, shot at them with their muskets and killed several.
The household servants of Dessalles, prior of Vassy, also took part in this cruel work; and one of their company was not ashamed to boast, after the massacre, that he had brought down six from the roof of the church, and said that if others had done as well, none would have escaped.
The minister did not cease preaching until the soldiers had entered the church; then he got down from his pulpit, leaving his gown behind him, so that it would not hinder his flight. But when he had nearly reached the door, he stumbled over a dead body, and was immediately afterward struck with a sword, which cut a great gash in his head. Morel, thinking himself mortally hurt, cried out, "Lord, into they hands I commend my spirit." While he thus prayed, one of the soldiers came at him, intending to run him through; but two others, who had recognized him, said, "He is the minister; let us take him prisoner to our lord duke."
Then they led Morel away, one at each arm, and brought him before the gate of the monastery. The duke saw them, and coming out, cried, "Come hither;" and he said, "Art thou the minister of this place? Who made thee so bold as to seduce the people thus?"
"Sir," said the minister, "I am no seducer, for I have preached to them only the gospel of Christ."
The duke perceiving in this simple answer a rebuke for his cruel outrages, cried out in anger, "Doth the gospel preach sedition? Prevost, go and have a gallows set up, to hang this fellow."
After this the minister was handed over tot he keeping of two servants, who misused him shamefully. Some of the women of the place, also, caught up dirt and threw it in his face, crying, "Kill him! kill this varlet, who has caused the death of so many." The massacre at the church continued for nearly an hour. After the Huguenots had all been slain, or driven away, the trumpet sounded, the soldiers put up their weapons, and marched away.
There were killed in this attack sixty persons, besides seven others who died afterward from their wounds. The minister was kept in prison for a considerable time, and frequently threatened with death, but he at last escaped and left the country.
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