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Open Access A Jesuit Missio Castrensis in France at the End of the Sixteenth Century: Discipline and Violence at War

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A Jesuit Missio Castrensis in France at the End of the Sixteenth Century: Discipline and Violence at War

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France was a crucial testing ground for the Counter-Reformation conduct of war. In 1590–92, the Holy League appeared a receptive field for the model of an ideal “Christian soldier,” and a Jesuit apostolate to an army at war and some examples of missio castrensis were therefore attempted in France, or in close contact with French battlefields. In particular, a Jesuit mission was established for the papal troops sent to support the Duke of Mayenne (1554–1611), and the Holy League. An earlier Jesuit mission to the troops of Alessandro Farnese in the Low Countries served as an inspiration to the Leaguers, the more so as on two occasions he led his soldiers into France to help them. As shown in numerous writings coming from the radical and urban circles of the League, as well as from the clergy engaged alongside the soldiers and urban militias in certain towns, the Christian soldier model was welcomed. However, no formal religious service was introduced within Mayenne’s army, and the Jesuit project ended in failure, largely because the expected discipline and moral reform of soldiers’ behavior failed to materialize. The failure of the mission is equally highlighted by the levels of violence during the war.

Affiliations: 1: Université de Rennes 2, ariane.boltanski@univ-rennes2.fr

France was a crucial testing ground for the Counter-Reformation conduct of war. In 1590–92, the Holy League appeared a receptive field for the model of an ideal “Christian soldier,” and a Jesuit apostolate to an army at war and some examples of missio castrensis were therefore attempted in France, or in close contact with French battlefields. In particular, a Jesuit mission was established for the papal troops sent to support the Duke of Mayenne (1554–1611), and the Holy League. An earlier Jesuit mission to the troops of Alessandro Farnese in the Low Countries served as an inspiration to the Leaguers, the more so as on two occasions he led his soldiers into France to help them. As shown in numerous writings coming from the radical and urban circles of the League, as well as from the clergy engaged alongside the soldiers and urban militias in certain towns, the Christian soldier model was welcomed. However, no formal religious service was introduced within Mayenne’s army, and the Jesuit project ended in failure, largely because the expected discipline and moral reform of soldiers’ behavior failed to materialize. The failure of the mission is equally highlighted by the levels of violence during the war.

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2017-08-08
2018-05-27

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