The Politics of Piety

The Politics of Piety

Franciscan Preachers During the Wars of Religion, 1560-1600

Megan C. Armstrong


University of Rochester Press



A history of the role played by the Franciscans during the contentious Wars of Religion (1562-1594).
The Politics of Piety situates the Franciscan order at the heart of the religious and political conflicts of the late sixteenth century to show how a medieval charismatic religious tradition became an engine of political change. The friars used their redoubtable skills as preachers, intellectual training at the University of Paris, and personal and professional connections with other Catholic reformers and patrons to successfully galvanize popular opposition to the spread of Protestantism throughout the sixteenth century. By 1589, the friars used these same strategies on behalf of the Catholic League to try to prevent the succession of the Protestant heir presumptive, Henry of Navarre, to the French throne.
This book contributes to our understanding of religion as a formative political impulse throughout the sixteenth century by linking the long-term political activism of the friars to the emergence of the French monarchy of the seventeenth century.

Megan C. Armstrong is Associate Professor of History at McMaster University.


6 black and white illustrations
286 pages
9x6 in
Changing Perspectives on Early Modern Europe
Hardback, 9781580461757, October 2004
Paperback, 9781580463676, September 2010
Library eBook
University of Rochester Press
BISAC REL033000, REL084000, REL108020
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Table of Contents

An Age of Spiritual Crisis: The Wars of Religion
Internal Reform and the Revitalization of the Franciscan Mission
The French Franciscan Mission and Ecclesiastical Support
Patronage and Piety
The University of Paris
Political Activism and the Franciscan Body Politic


An extremely readable account, written in a lively and fluent style. . . presents a convincing case for the importance of the Franciscans' political and spiritual role and their contribution to the triumph of Catholicism. H-FRANCE

For the first time, this book brings into focus the substantial Franciscan role in the French religious wars and as such makes a welcome contribution to our understanding of the period. One of the real strengths of this text is the careful contextualization of the Observant Franciscans in the wider political and religious struggles of the period. ENGLISH HISTORICAL REVIEW, Vol. 39 No. 2 (Eric Nelson)

This is an extremely readable account, written in a lively and fluent style, establishing an effective balance between quotation, anecdote and analysis. The main themes are clearly enunciated and followed through, and it presents a convincing case for the importance of the Franciscans' political and spiritual role and their contribution to the triumph of Catholicism. H-FRANCE

Engagingly written . . . it is solidly based on manuscript and primary printed sources . . . what she has done in this book is to put in place an important piece of the puzzle of explaining why France remained Catholic. CATHOLIC HISTORICAL REVIEW

Written in a lively and engaging style Armstrong demonstrates how the medieval spiritual tradition and broad popular appeal of the Franciscans provided an ideal mix for the political-even militant-activism that would create a distinctively Catholic absolutist monarchy. The book provides much needed balance for the primarily political studies that have shaped our understanding of the French Religious Wars and their aftermath. The Politics of Piety is essential reading for those interested in early modern France, religious history, and the development of French political institutions. --Larissa Juliet Taylor, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History, Colby College

Politics of Piety contributes to refining the picture of traditional religion by showing that, although they owed a great deal to their medieval roots, Franciscans were not slavish followers of papal supremacy and recognised the importance of the Gallican claims to spiritual independence that arguably ensured the continuity of the Catholic Church, as it was orchestrated by the French monarchy in the seventeenth century. JOURNAL OF ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY

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