11 SEPTEMBER: A DATE TO REMEMBER – A DATE TO MOURN
Following on from my blog last month about the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, I am now going to tell you about the next chapter in this sorrowful event.
When news of the massacre reached the Vatican in Rome, Pope Gregory XIII decided to ‘celebrate’ with a jubilee day of public thanksgiving. The date set was the 11th September 1572, it was to be a double celebration for the defeat of the Ottoman troops by the Holy League at the Battle of Lepanto on 7th October 1571, and for the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre of the Huguenots in France, in August 1572. The celebration included guns being fired in salute of these events.
It seems distasteful of the Pope to be ordering celebrations for the massacre of thousands of Huguenots, but he viewed it as divine retribution on heretics. When Pope Gregory had heard news of the massacre, he ordered the singing of a Te Deum and ordered a commemorative medal to be struck. This medal depicted the Pope's head on one side and an image of an angel, holding a sword and a cross, standing over the fallen Huguenots with the motto UGONOTTORUM STRAGES or “Huguenot Bloodbath”.
Pope Gregory XIII's medal
Later, the Pope commissioned a mural by Giorgio Vasari of the ‘wonderous St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre to hang in the Vatican.