« Camillus de Lellis Camisards Campanella, Tomaso »


CAMISARDS, cam´i-zɑ̄rds: The name generally applied to those French Protestants who, in the reign of Louis XIV., rose in arms in Languedoc and waged a bloody war (1702–05) for the purpose of restoring their Church.


Their name was derived from the jacket (camisia) which they wore over their clothes during their night attacks. Neither the dragonades nor the revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685) succeeded in destroying Protestantism in France; but, though private worship was never forbidden, new laws were continually enacted by Louis XIV. in his attempt to enforce conformity in religion throughout France, which made it more and more difficult, and at last almost impossible, for a French citizen to adhere to the Reformed confession. In 1686 and the following years the gatherings in the desert were forbidden, and fines, imprisonment, demolition of homes, the galleys, and the wheel were employed as punishments. Nevertheless, with the pressure grew the power of resistance. Religious meetings were held by night in secluded places, originally presided over by refugee clergy, and later by men of little learning, but fervent in prayers and exhortations.

As was natural, the miseries of the time produced a corresponding hope of the future; and books like Pierre Jurieu's L’Accomplissement des prophéties (Rotterdam, 1686) and Suite de l’accomplissement (1687), in which he predicted the 369speedy downfall of the papacy, contributed to give shape and direction to this unconscious movement. A girl appeared as prophetess in Dauphiné in 1688. Other prophets arose in Vivarais. The number increased rapidly, especially in the Cévennes after 1700, where almost a fourth of the population was Protestant. Despite the creation of new bishoprics for their conversion and notwithstanding the military aid given by the State to the ecclesiastical authorities, ecstatic phenomena increased throughout the district, sparing neither old nor young.

Fanatical Disorders.

In the trance, when seized by convulsions, and pouring forth words of repentance and admonition, often in pure French instead of the local dialect, those "possessed by the spirit" saw troops from far-off garrisons come marching toward the place, they singled out those among their comrades who should fall in the encounter, they recognized the traitors among them; and these predictions were always accepted with reverence and confidence, and often proved true; although, on the other hand, the power of prophecy later steadily declined. Without this apocalyptic factor, diseased yet sincere, the enthusiasm and obstinacy of the Camisards is unintelligible. Terming themselves "children of God," and their camp the "camp of the Eternal," they relied with absolute trust on divine guidance and aid, while their fanaticism in destroying churches, like their cruelty in killing priests, finds its explanation in the fact that they believed themselves called of God to extirpate "Babylon and Satan," as they designated the Roman Catholic priests and their Church.

The Camisard Wars.

Open revolt broke out in 1702, when a priest named François de Langlade du Chayla undertook to punish the refractory. In his house at Pont de Montvert, in the present department of Lozère, he built a cell in which he shut up his recalcitrant parishioners, and tortured them. On the night of July 23, hearing a rumor that the abbé intended to put certain prisoners to death, the Camisards assembled at the instigation of the prophets Séguier, Couderc, and Mazel, burned the house, liberated the prisoners, and slew the priest. Bâville, the intendant of Languedoc, felt a particular satisfaction in pursuing the guilty. Séguier was caught and burned at the stake Aug. 12; but the rest escaped among the mountains, where they were soon reenforced by new throngs formed by Castanet, Catinat, Roland, and others. In Jean Cavalier (b. at Ribante, department of Gard, Nov. 28, 1681) they found an able leader, and the war began which was to depopulate and devastate the provinces of Languedoc, Vivarais, Gevaudan, and Rouergue. The Camisards never numbered more than five thousand, and they had no military organization. But they fought with brutal fury, even when they marched into battle with psalms on their lips, while the royal troops punished them with torture and imprisonment. In their camps they lived as in a church, preaching, praying, and fasting; and they won brilliant victories, particularly at Sainte-Chatte, Mar. 15, 1704. Bâville was unable to make head against them, and in Feb., 1703, Marshal Montreval was sent with a large body of troops. He defeated the Camisards repeatedly (La Jonguière, Mar. 6; La Tour de Bélot, Apr. 29), but the cruelties practised by the troops won new adherents to the Protestant cause, even though he razed all the houses and villages in the upper Cévennes, thus rendering 20,000 homeless. The confusion was increased by a bull of Clement XI. (May 1, 1703), proclaiming a crusade against the heretics and creating bands which equaled their opponents in savagery. In Apr., 1704, Montreval was replaced by Marshal Villars. Before Villars began active operation, he surrounded the whole district with a line of strong military poets, thus cutting off all communication between the rebels and the outside world; and then he offered pardon to all who, within a certain time, laid down arms and surrendered. Cavalier, who saw that further resistance was useless, left the country, afterward fought against his countrymen in Holland, Italy, and Spain, and settled finally in England. There he was appointed governor of Jersey, and later governor of the Isle of Wight. He died in Chelsea, London, May 18, 1740. His former comrades branded him as a traitor and continued the hopeless struggle. Roland fell Aug. 14, 1704. Castanet, Catinat, Joanni, and others fled to Geneva. Without leaders, the Camisard army gradually melted away. In 1705 Catinat, Ravanel, and some of their colleagues returned and conspired to raise a new revolt, only to die at the stake or on the wheel. A last attempt, made by Mazel, Coste, and Claris in 1709 in Vivarais was quenched in blood, and the French Reformed Church was definitely blotted out. [In England the Camisards were known as the French Prophets.]

(Theodor Schott.†)

Bibliography: For sources from the Roman Catholic standpoint consult: C. J. de la Baume, Rélation historique de la révolte des Camisards, ed. Goiffon, Nimes, 1874; J. B. Louvreleuil, Le Fanatisme renouvelé, Avignon, 1704–1707; Lettres choisies de Fléchier avec une rélation des fanatiques du Vivarez, Paris, 1715 (partizan); Mémoires de l’intendant Bâville, Amsterdam, 1734 (serviceable); Mémoires de Villars, The Hague, 1734 (brief but impartial). Written from the Protestant side are: M. Misson, Le Théâtre sacré des Cévennes, London, 1707 (by an eyewitness, but partisan and unreliable); J. Cavalier, Memoirs of the Wars of the Cévennes, ib. 1712 (inaccurate). In the Bulletin de la société de l’histoire du protestantisme français are Le Camp des enfants de Dieux, 1867, pp. 273 sqq., and the memoirs of Monbonnoux, 1873, pp. 72 sqq. Read also Mémoires de Rossel d’ Aigaliers, ed. G. Frostérus, in Bibliothèque Universelle, March-May, 1866, and A. Jäger, Spiritus miraculosus in provincia Sevennensi regnans, Tübingen, 1712. Consult further: A. Court, Histoire de troubles des Cévennes, Villefranche, 1760, ed. Alais, 1819 (rich and reliable); I. C. K. Hofmann, Gesehichte des Aufruhrs in den Sevennen unter Ludwig XIV., Nördlingen, 1837 (also valuable); N. Peyrat, Histoire des pasteurs du désert, Paris, 1842 (picturesque but unreliable); G. Frostérus, Les Insurgés protestants sous Louis XIV., ib. 1868 (of importance); E. Bonnemère, Histoire des Camisards, Paris, 1869; S. Smiles, Huguenots in France After the Edict of Nantes, London, 1877; C. Tylor, Huguenots in the Seventeenth Century, pp. 255 sqq., London, 1892; H. M. Baird, The Camisard Uprising, in Papers of the American Church Hist. Society, ii. 13–34, New York, 1890; idem, Huguenots and the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, vol. ii., ib. 1895.

« Camillus de Lellis Camisards Campanella, Tomaso »
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