On April 13, 1598, Henri IV, King of France, promulgated the Edict of Nantes, which was intended to be permission for freedom of worship, civil and political rights for Protestants in France. This will therefore put an end to the wars of religion which plunged France into a chaotic situation for nearly 40 years.

“The Edict of Nantes has great importance in the history of France; it is the symbol of the victory of tolerance over civil and religious war. By this edict, in fact, France becomes the first kingdom in Europe where the king's religion is not officially imposed on all his subjects. Yet the negotiation of the edict was slow and difficult, and its provisions are not so exceptional as one would like to believe. "

Source: Larousse.fr

“Promulgated by Henri IV (1589 - 1610), […], the Edict of Nantes grants freedom of worship to French Protestants. He organized for a century the forced coexistence between Catholics and Reformed, […] This acceptance of religious division, then exceptional in Europe, did not mean equality: the Reformed had to comply with the tithe and the festivals of Catholicism, including the cult is everywhere restored. In addition, the preamble of the edict recalls the monarchical project of religious unity, temporarily put to sleep, but which Louis XIV will wake up. "

Source: Universalis.fr


At the end of the activities, the student will be able to:

- Understand the causes and consequences of the Edict of Nantes;
- Understand the influence of the Edict of Nantes on current Western society;
- Identify the significant events that led to the signing of the Edict of Nantes;
- Identify the different countries which allow religious cohabitation.

Suggested activities

ACTIVITY 1: The Edict of Nantes

Challenge 1: The causes of the Edict?

Using the following articles (1, 2) ask students to complete this survey allowing a better understanding of the events that led to the signing of the Edict of Nantes.

Challenge 2: The impacts of the Edict of Nantes?

In light of this excerpt:

“Once again, the main measures proposed by the edict are not new: previous edicts already proposed freedom of conscience, areas where worship was authorized and places of safety. The first novelty is that this time, we will really give ourselves the means to apply it.
The second novelty is that for once the Protestants are treated as subjects of the king almost like the others. Previously, we legislated on a seductive and agitating faction, to which we conceded favors. With the Edict of Nantes, they have a status (even if the status of Catholics is more comfortable), not a temporary and precarious favor regime.
The third novelty is the king's new position: he no longer poses as the leader of one of the parties which asks the other to make amends and to fall into line, but he poses as the arbiter of the parties. two factions. He no longer participates in the confrontation, he arbitrates. This attitude of the king who places him above religious dissension is a very strong first step towards absolutism: from arbiter, the king will soon become sole judge and sole decision-maker. "

Source: History of France

Have students answer the following questions;

- Are the Protestants winners of the Edict of Nantes? Why?
- What do we mean when we say that "Protestants are treated as subjects of the king almost like the others"?
- What was the king's role before the Edict of Nantes?

ACTIVITY 2: Religious tolerance in 2016

The Edict of Nantes encouraged religious tolerance, that is, cohabitation tolerated between different religious groups.

As a group, ask students if they know of any situations today where religious tolerance is accepted and even encouraged.

- Some situations that can be mentioned by the students:

  • Religious plurality in Canada;
  • Religious plurality in the United States.

As a group, then ask the students if they know of any situation today where there is religious intolerance, which without being encouraged by the state, is strongly experienced by the population.

- Some situations that can be mentioned by the students:

  • The situation in the Parisian suburbs;
  • The Balkan countries;
  • The situation between Israel and Palestine;
  • The place of Christians in certain Arab countries - Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Iran;

- Are these situations all "perfect"?

- Is it possible that certain groups fight against intolerance? Conversely, are there groups that incite intolerance?

- Should governments intervene in the field of spiritual life, or like King Henry IV, should they move away from religious questions and leave this in the hands of the private domain?

ACTIVITY 3: Countries with multiple religions?

As a group, ask students the following questions:

- Are there countries which do not have “official” religions? [see the map]

- Are these countries more tolerant of each other than those in which there is an official religion?

- Why do some countries have an official religion?

This can be explained by often historical reasons.

- Using the menu, can students see a religious trend on the planet?

  • Where are the majority of Muslims on the planet?
  • Where do the majority of Christians meet? The Catholics? Protestants? The Orthodox?
  • Where do the majority of Buddhists meet?
  • What can explain this distribution?

More about the magazine

The Edict of Nantes
History of France

Religious war (France)
History of the world

Edict of Nantes

Edict of Nantes

Revocation of the Edict of Nantes

Chronology of the wars of religion in France

The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes and its consequences
Virtual Museum of Protestantism

State religion

Religion and ancient Civilizations today, Distinction from symbols to stories!

Children and religion: Influence of religion on children and their rights


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