"Raiding the Mystical Ark: The Suppression of the Huguenot Multipliant Sect (Monpellier, March-April 1723)"
Otto Selles of Calvin College
Given on March 5, 2009
Even if the issue of tolerance has always been of interest, recent scholarship evidences increased attention to this topic. Particularly noteworthy are the religious controversies from sixteenth- through eighteenth-century France, given that the dynamics changed radically from the situation during the Wars of Religion (1562-1598), to the truce under the provisions of the Edict of Nantes (1598), and to the era of the Refuge after the Revocation of the Edict (1685). On March 5, 2009, Professor Otto Selles of the French department at Calvin College presented his findings on the suppression of a group of the “RPR”—Religion Prétendue Réformée, or “Religion Claimed to be Reformed,” the derogatory title used by Roman Catholics for all Protestant groups—during the Refuge in Montpellier in southern France. Using a wide range of original manuscript material he had been able to photograph in various archival deposits, Selles reconstructed the series of events that began with the report to the authorities regarding secret religious meetings held in the house of one Anne Robert. When the lieutenant went to investigate, he found nearly fifteen participants, and further investigation revealed that as many as fifty attended the meetings, arriving on Saturday and leaving again on Monday – a circumstance which led to them being called condormants (“together sleepers”) or multipliants (“multipliers”), although the members themselves preferred more positive titles such as “Children of Zion.” After interrogations and a trial, four of the participants were executed, and others were sent to the galleys, to the Tour of Constance, or even to a convent. Given restrictions of time, Selles was unable to develop the implications of these events for the nature of religious tolerance (or intolerance) in France during the period of the Refuge, yet we look forward to the time when his full-length study will appear in print.