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Canadian History With New Eyes: The Dark Ages?

The Dark Ages & the French Wars of Religion

Some time ago, I started to read through the book of Romans. Upheaval in my life derailed me.

On March 13th 2019, I started reading the book of Romans again, but this time, imagining  myself back in the era of the Reformation and reading it from that perspective.

So what did that era look like from a religious perspective? Well, as a devout commoner, I would be attending the Catholic Church (the ONLY church around), and hearing mass in a language I may or may not have understood because I was largely illiterate.

The icons, the sounds, the smells, the statues, the veneration of the clergy (who are wealthy and appear pious and holy in their ceremonial garb), makes for a sensual worship of God and really puts me in my place.

I may never get out of this ‘estate’ ( there are three – the clergy, the nobility, everybody else) so this might be all the ‘religion‘ I know. I live to please these pious representatives of God. I believe whatever they tell me is in the Scriptures because they are the repository of all things Scriptural.

And then, Martin Luther bursts on the scene. Remember, only the wealthy and nobles can read or be educated at the Sorbonne and other Academies. Luther’s ideas from Romans Chapter 5 take root. They are explained to the masses.

Aided by the printing press, the Holy Scriptures of the New Testament are put into the hands of the commoners by their pastors who teach them to read. Over time, households are learning to read the Scriptures together.

Now go to your Bible and read Romans Chapters 1-5, and think about Martin Luther, the monk, and God’s revelation of the themes of Scripture Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Christ Alone, and to God’s Glory Alone, as you read it.

Next, read Romans Chapter 10: 14.15a: How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?  Verse 17 says: So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Paul follows up by quoting Isaiah: “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”

Historians have called the era before the Reformation ‘The Dark Ages‘ because, it was argued, the Light of God’s  Word had disappeared from society. (Doesn’t this remind you of Isaiah 9:2 -The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light?) Suddenly, people were brought in direct contact with who God is and Who Jesus is, and The Light Comes On AGAIN!

And the fire burns. And there are those who handle God’s Word correctly, there are those who handle God’s Word irrationally (fanatics), there are those who fall somewhere in the middle between Protestantism and Catholicism, (moderates), and there are those who are totally opposed to potential changes in the status quo (powerful noblemen and clergy).

The latter persecute all the other groups, and the irrational ones stoke the fires of war by doing what they think is righteous in an unrighteous way.

That, My Friend, is the setting for the French Wars of Religion.

So what should you know about the French Wars of Religion?

It was seen as a war between Catholics and Protestants, but on further research you will see that it involved other issues like:

  • incompetent Queen regents ruling on behalf of their under-aged sons
  • a struggle for power between different ‘Houses’ of the nobility
  • the abuse of God-ordained marriage as a tool for the amalgamation of lands and acquisition of power
  • horrendous dysfunctional family dynamics
  • the machinations of the Holy Roman Emperor

Some of the women who technically ruled France on behalf of their young sons were:  Catherine de Medici, Louise of Savoy, Jeanne D’Albret and Marie de Medici. 

In the 1700s, Anne of Austria (mother of Louis XIV) was instrumental in indoctrinating Louis XIV in the doctrine of ‘the Divine Right of Kings’ and so unleashing the worst persecution that the French Protestant Church ever saw.

Watch for another post on the three ‘Estates’. Want to know more? Contact us at:, or scroll down to the ‘Leave a Reply’ option and tell us what aspect of the reformation in France you would like to know about.

Romans 5: 3-5 – Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Author’s Note; Lynette is the owner of ChristianRoots Canada. She has been developing this curriculum for over 10 years and is learning how to move from teaching History to small groups and 1-on-1, to teaching History digitally.

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