The Huguenot Society of Maryland

The Massacre at Vassy

In 1562 the first of the great massacres of Huguenots took place. It was a Vassy, a city in Normandy. On 1 March (the Feast of Saint David, for those who also have Welsh blood), a Sunday, François, duc de Guise, a leader of the radical Roman Catholic faction, and his brother Charles, Cardinal de Lorraine, along with the retinue of about 200 retainers, passed through Vassy and discovered an Huguenot congregation at worship. They attacked the congregation, killing more than 1,200 men, women, and children as well as pillaging houses in the village.


The massacre at Vassy ignited the Wars of Religion in France, which tore France apart for more than thirty years. France’s Wars of Religion were not among the country’s glories, on either side of the conflict, and they almost ruined France.