25 July 1593: “Paris is worth a Mass”


  Peter Paul Rubens (1627/1630)

From 1562 to 1598, France saw a series of bloody wars between Catholics and Protestant Huguenots, called “the French Wars of Religion” , which ended with the Edict of Nantes, issued in 1598 by King Henry IV, a treaty that fostered religious tolerance.
Nine years earlier, “le bon roi Henri” (the good king Henry) had became the legal heir to the throne, after King Henry III had been  assassinated by a fanatical Catholic monk. He was a Huguenot, like his predecessor, when he inherited the crown.
Many Catholics did not accept to recognize his authority , so Henry decided to reunite the country by converting to Catholicism (under the condition of tolerance towards Protestants)
He did so in a public ceremony at the basilica of Saint-Denis in Paris on Sunday morning, 25 July 1593.
That day, according to legend, he told a friend “Paris vaut bien une messe.” (“Paris is well worth a mass.”) although there is some doubt whether he said this, or whether the statement was attributed to him by his contemporaries.
His conversion to Catholicism was an important event in the history of France.

Good King Henry IV was stabbed to death by a Catholic fanatic in 1610.

The head of his embalmed body was lost after revolutionaries raided the basilica of Saint Denis where he had been buried, in 1793. The head was passed among private collectors until it was tracked down in 2010, but, few years later, DNA tests revealed the head had no royal genetic match.



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