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François De Sales and Catholic Reform in Seventeenth-Century France1

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Until recently, studies on French pastoralism have overlooked the existence of a political ideology within late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century sermon literature. And yet it appears that court preachers were co-opted by the Bourbon monarchy to assist in the pacification of the nobility and radical elements of both Catholic and Protestant confessions. This essay examines the sermon literature of the French saint, François de Sales, 1567-1622, in order to demonstrate that de Sales's sermon literature consciously supported the crown's pacification agenda. It is further argued that this political ideology in the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century sermon literature shaped the relations between court preachers such as de Sales and the Huguenot factions in the aftermath of the Edict of Nantes. With the emphasis on pacifying rebellious elements in the realm, the rhetoric in the sermon literature exhibited a sense of toleration of the existing Huguenot faction that had been absent in the sermon literature of the mid sixteenth-century.


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