Info

of the rosary in all-female veillées. Whenever possible, parishioners gathered in households, barns, or forest clearings to hear a Mass said in secret by a priest. These covert rituals could attract large and determined crowds. In one village in the Haut-Rhin, when the police tried to arrest a non-juror saying an illicit Mass for 200 people in a hayloft, the gendarmes got no help from the municipal officer, while his wife admonished them, 'Yes, we want the Mass and we'll have it. . . Watch yourself for everybody detests you.'1

As this example reminds us, Catholicism had always drawn its strength and character from the public and collective expression of faith. The religious revival of the mid- to late 1790s was above all an attempt to restore public practice: to recover the village church, ring bells freely once again, take part in pilgrimages or outdoor saints' festivals, or make it possible for a local cure to say Mass publicly. In 1795, many French villagers echoed the sentiments of one pastor in the Vendee: 'Their promises for religion are worthless, because there will be no solemn and public cult, no bells, no processions, not even religious vestments outside of church'.2

Catholics used a variety of means to regain their churches and religious symbols and to reinstate public ritual. Parishioners peppered local authorities and the distant legislature with petitions imploring them to return their churches or bells or to free priests from prison. Particularly in areas that generally supported the Revolution, some Catholics proclaimed loyalty to religion and republic and appropriated revolutionary ideology to demand religious freedom as a natural 'right', newly won by the Revolution. Petition after petition clamoured for the use of a local parish church and reminded the authorities that support for religion was 'the general will' ofthe sovereign people and that 'the Constitution of the Republic guarantees the freedom of religion'. These Catholics often sought to align a legal re-establishment of religion with a return to peaceful republicanism: for example, fifty-six petitioners from Laroquebron in Cantal assured the Directors, 'We are resolved to shed the last drop of our blood to uphold Religion and Republic, one and indivisible: this is our wish. Vive la republique! Vive la liberté!'3

Although some Catholics supported the republic, more frequently Catholicism was allied with counter-revolutionary sentiment, and many parishioners turned to violence to reclaim their faith. Notably, the counter-revolutionary rebels who engaged in guerrilla activity over large areas of the Vendee, Brittany, Anjou, and Normandy had many interlocking reasons for hating the Republic and fighting for a return to communal autonomy. Catholic resentment of de-Christianizing policies acted as one important element fuelling these persistent resistance movements. On a much smaller scale, other parishioners

0 0

Post a comment