The St Bartholomew’s Day massacre

In late August of 1572 a powder-keg of religious and political tension erupted in Paris into the infamous massacre of Huguenots that spread across France throughout the early autumn. One sheet of the Geschichtsblätter or ‘History Sheets’ published between 1570 and 1610 by the father-and-son Cologne printers Franz and Abraham Hogenberg, this portrayal of the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in Paris in 1572 offers a narrative in the form of a single image. On either side are represented the two stages of the assassination of the Admiral de Coligny, the major Huguenot force at the French court: on the left, he is shot by a man leaning out of an upper-story window; on the right, two nights later, he is pulled from his bed, stabbed, and thrown out of the window, so that the action now begins to move from right to left. In the centre of the engraving, the violence expands into the streets, and from a targeted assassination becomes a widespread massacre. The dynamic narrative of the engraving, along with its German verse caption, enacts the nature of an event: movement captured as a still image, arrested in time in an interpretive gesture. Fascinatingly, this Lambeth Palace copy bears on its binding the arms of Francis Walsingham, suggesting the possibility that he or his descendants may have owned it.

Franz and Abraham Hogenberg, Geschichtsblätter (Cologne, c. 1585).

LPL: KH186.H6

Further Reading

Erin Blake, ‘News of St Bartholomew’s Day’, Folger Shakespeare Library, (accessed 25 August 2017).

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