Paris, France, January 21, 1535

As with Sunni versus Shia, previously we had Catholic versus Protestant. The cruelties of ISIS’ modes of execution actually resemble the increasingly cruel ways that Catholics sought to kill blasphemers and other criminals during those times.

In Paris on January 13, 1535, placards appeared all over Paris denouncing the Roman Mass. The initial incident happened several months before on October 17, 1534 i what is known as the Affair of the Placards. On that day, placards denouncing the Catholic Mass were distributed all over Paris and several other cities on doorsteps. One of the pamphlets was actually posted on the door of King Francis I’s bedchamber in a breach of security that severely shook the king.

The king previously tried to protect the Protestants of France from the persecutions of the Parlement of Paris. But the placard affair ended these conciliatory policies. On January 21, a massive Catholic procession was held in Paris, one of the largest the capital had ever seen. at the end of the procession was a funeral pyre. The king, the rest of the royalty and Catholic hierarchy all sat in attendance before the pyre.

The pyre faced the royal platform at a convenient distance, in order that the noble assemblage be annoyed neither by the heat nor smoke of the fire, and yet could follow closely the cruel details of the tragedy. The pyre consisted of a heap of fagots from fifteen to twenty feet long, and about six or seven feet high.

Close to the pyre rose six machines. Each consisted of a perpendicular beam, the bottom driven into the earth and the top furnished with an iron clamp in the socket of which a cross-beam was attached. This beam could be made to tip forward over the fagots.

At the forward extremity of the cross-beam, and hanging from chains, was an iron chair provided with a back and foot-board after the fashion of a swing. To the rear extremity of the cross-beam ropes and pulleys were attached, holding it down to the ground.

Sue, Eugène, 1865. Mystères du peuple; ou, Histoire d’une famille de prolétaires a travers les ages. Bruxelles, Leipzig, A. Lacroix, Verboeckhoven. English translation by Daniel De Leon, 1910. The Pocket Bible; or, Christian the Printer: A Tale of the Sixteenth Century. New York: New York Labor News Company.

At the head of the march were six heretics:

Etienne Laforge led; behind them came St. Ernest-Martyr supporting the architect Poille. The wretched man had his tongue cut out. Blood streamed from his mouth, and dyed his long white shirt red. Mary La Catelle and Hena, called in religion Sister St. Frances-in-the-Tomb.


Two Catholic clergy spoke in the crowd, wondering what was afoot:

The Franc-Taupin contemplated with horror those implements of torture, while he gave his support to poor Odelin, who shook convulsively. The Superior of the Mathurins, who happened to stand near Josephin, addressed him with a smile:

“Perhaps you do not understand the value of those machines which we shall shortly see put into operation?”

“No, dear brother, you are right. I have no idea of what those machines are for in this affair.”

“They are an invention due to the genius of our Sire the King, to whom the men put to the torture for coining false money already owe the rack on which they are executed. To-day the application of these new machines, which you are contemplating with so much interest, is inaugurated in our good city of Paris. The process is very simple, besides ingenious.

“When the pyre is well aflame, the patient is chained fast to the chair which you see there, dangling from the end of that cross-beam; then, the beam acting as a lever, he is, by slacking and pulling in the ropes at the other end, alternately sunk down into the flames and pulled out again, to be re-plunged, and so on, until, after being plunged and re-plunged, death ensues. Do you now understand the process?”

“Clearly, my reverend. Death by fire, as formerly practiced, put too speedy an end to the patient’s torture.”

“Altogether too speedy. A few minutes of torture and all was over, and the heretic breathed his last breath—”

“And now,” broke in the Franc-Taupin, “thanks to this royal invention by our Sire Francis I, whom may God guard, the patient is afforded leisure to burn slowly—he can relish the fagot and inhale the flame! How superb and meritorious an invention!”

“It is that, my dear brother! Your expressions are correct—quite so—relish the fagot—inhale the flame. It is calculated that the agony of the patients will now last from twenty to thirty minutes.

“There are to-night three such pyres raised in Paris,” the Superior of the Mathurins proceeded to explain. “The one before us, a second at the market place, and the third at the Cross-of-Trahoir. After our good Sire shall have assisted at the executions in this place, he will be able to visit the two others on his way back to the Louvre.”


The King gave a speech.

“…Some wicked blasphemers, people of little note and of less doctrine, have, contrary to the honor of the holy Sacrament, machinated, said, proffered and written many great blasphemies. On account thereof I have willed that this solemn procession be held, in order to invoke the grace of our Redeemer.

“I order that rigorous punishment be inflicted upon the heretics, as a warning to all others not to fall into the said damnable opinions, while admonishing the faithful to persevere in their doctrines, the wavering to become firm, and those who have strayed away to return to the path of the holy Catholic faith, in which they see me persevere, together with the spiritual prelates.

“Therefore, messieurs, I entreat and admonish you—let all my subjects keep watch and guard, not only over themselves, but also over their families, and especially over their children, and cause these to be so properly instructed that they may not fall into evil doctrines. I also order that each and all shall denounce whomsoever they may happen to know, or to suspect, of being adherents to the heresy, without regard to any bonds, whether of family or of friendship.

“As to myself,” added Francis I in a thundering voice, “on the same principle that, had I an arm infected with putrefaction, I would cause it to be separated from my body, so if ever, should it unhappily so befall, any child of mine relapse into the said damnable heresies, I shall be ready to immolate, and to deliver him as a sacrifice to God.”

Jean Bouchet. 1557. Exhortation of the King of France against the Heretics, in-folio, p. 272. Poitiers.


The heretics were then led to the stage. Six chairs suspended by chains hung above the pyre. A pulley was attached to each of them.

The heretics, to the number of six, marched two by two, bareheaded and barefooted, holding lighted tapers in their hands. John Dubourg and his friend Etienne Laforge led; behind them came St. Ernest-Martyr supporting the architect Poille. The wretched man had his tongue cut out. Blood streamed from his mouth, and dyed his long white shirt red. Mary La Catelle and Hena, called in religion Sister St. Frances-in-the-Tomb, came next.

Their feet were bare, their hair hung down loose upon their shoulders. They were clad in long white shifts held at the waist with a cord. Hena pressed against her heart a little pocket Bible which Christian had printed in the establishment of Robert Estienne, and which she was allowed to keep. It was a cherished volume from which the Lebrenn family often read together of an evening, and which recalled to Hena a whole world of sweet remembrances.

Hervé recognized his sister among the condemned heretics. A thrill ran through his frame, a deadly pallor overcast his countenance, and, turning his face away, he leaned for support on the arm of Fra Girard. The executioners had set fire to the fagots, which soon presented the sight of a sheet of roaring flames.

As the prisoners arrived at the place of their torture and death, and caught sight of the seats swaying over the lambent flames, they readily surmised the cruel torments to which they were destined. In her terror, poor Hena began to emit heartrending cries, and she clung to the arm of Mary La Catelle. The taper and the little pocket Bible which she held rolled to the ground.

The holy book fell upon a burning ember and began to blaze. One of the executioners stamped out the fire with his heels and threw the book aside. It fell near the Franc-Taupin. Josephin stooped down quickly, picked up the precious token and dropped it into the pocket of his wide frock. Petrified with terror, Odelin only gazed into space. The frightful cries of his sister were hardly heard by him, drowned as they were by the buzz and throb of the arteries in his own temples.

The executioners were at work. Hena and the other five martyrs were seized, placed in their respective seats, and chained fast. All the six levers were then set in motion at once, and dipped over the fire. It was a spectacle, an atrocious spectacle—well worthy of a King! The victims were plunged into the furnace, then raised up high in the air with clothes and hair ablaze, to be again swallowed up in the flaming abyss, again to be raised out of it, in order once more to be precipitated into its fiery embrace!

Odelin still gazed, motionless, his arms crossed over his breast, and rigid as if in a state of catalepsy. The Franc-Taupin looked at his unhappy niece Hena every time the lever raised her in the air, and also every time it hurled her down into the abyss of flames. He counted the plungings, as the Superior of the Mathurins humorously called them. He counted twenty-five of them.

At the first few descents poor Hena twisted and writhed in her seat while emitting piercing cries; in the course of a few subsequent descents the cries subsided into moans; when she disappeared in the burning crater for the sixteenth time she was heard to moan no more. She was either expiring or dead.

The machine continued to dip twenty-five times—it was only a blackened, half naked corpse, the head of which hung loose and beat against the back of the seat. The Franc-Taupin followed also with his eyes Ernest Rennepont, who was placed face to face with Hena. The unhappy youth did not emit a single cry during his torment, he did not even utter a wail. His eyes remained fixed upon his bride.

Etienne Laforge, John Dubourg and Mary La Catelle gave proof of the sublimest courage. They were heard singing psalms amidst the flames that devoured them. Of these latter, only Anthony Poille, whose tongue had been cut out, was silent. The death rattle finally silenced the voice of the heretics. It was but charred corpses that the executioners were raising and dropping.

– Ibid

Sue comments on these executions in a footnote:

These monstrosities seem to exceed the boundaries of the possible. Let us quote literally the text of the historians:

“On the evening of the same day (January 21, 1535) the six culprits were taken to the parvise of Notre Dame, where the fires were prepared to burn them. Above the pyres rose a sort of scaffolding on which the patients were tied fast.

“The fire was then lighted under them, and the executioners, gently slacking the rope of the lever, allowed the miscreants to dip down to the level of the flames, in order that they be caused to feel the sharpest smart; they were then raised up again, kept hanging ablaze in midair, and, after having been several times put through that painful torment, they were dropped into the flames where they expired.”

– Father Daniel of the Society of Jesus. 1751. History of France, vol. IV, page 41. Paris.

“On the said day (January 21, 1535) in the presence of the King, the Queen and all the court, and after the aforesaid remonstrances, the six heretics were brought forward to make the amend honorable before the church of Notre Dame of Paris, and immediately after they were burned alive.”

– Jean Bouchet. 1557. Acts and Deeds of the Kings of France and England, in-folio, pp. 271-272. Poitiers.

“In order to purge their sin, the said heretics were burned to death on the said day (January 21, 1535) at several places, as the King passed by, while in vain the poor sufferers cried and implored him for mercy.”

– Jean Sleidan. 1557. History of the State of Religion,  vol. IX, p. 137.

“Among those burnt at Paris that day, January 21, 1535, were: John Dubourg, a merchant-draper of Paris, living in St. Denis Street, at the sign of the Black Horse; Etienne Laforge, of Tournay, but long an inhabitant of Paris, a man very rich and very charitable; a schoolmistress named Mary La Catelle; and Anthony Poille, an architect formerly of Meaux, and blessed of God in that he carried off the palm among the martyrs, for having been the most cruelly treated. He had his tongue cut out, as more fully it is set forth in the book of the martyrs.”

– Theodore of Beze. Ecclesiastical Chronicles, vol. I, p. 1.

Ibid. Footnotes, 43 and 46.

As you can see, at one time, the Catholic Church was as cruel as ISIS, and for much the same reasons. Both were devising crueler and crueler tortures to be used against heretics, among others.Both are ultra-fundamentalist institutions devising crueler and crueler ways to kill dissenters, including heretics, the purpose of which being to terrorize people into submission.

In fact, ISIS recently executed several Shia spies in almost this same way, by dangling them just above a slowly creeping flame that moved towards them in a line to where it ended up just under them, where it burst into a large fire, which they dangled in and out of in a similar fashion to the way that these Protestant heretics were killed. Incredible that the Catholic Church hierarchy itself was involved in making these torture-executions crueler and crueler. Note the sadistic glee with which the high-ranking priest above laughs as he describes the method of execution with relish.

More on this fascinating period of history here.


Elwood, Christopher. 1998. The Body Broken: The Calvinist Doctrine of the Eucharist and the Symbolization of Power in Sixteenth-Century France. New York: Oxford University Press.

Sue, Eugène, 1865. Mystères du peuple; ou, Histoire d’une famille de prolétaires a travers les ages. Bruxelles, Leipzig, A. Lacroix, Verboeckhoven. English translation by Daniel De Leon, 1910. The Pocket Bible; or, Christian the Printer: A Tale of the Sixteenth Century. New York: New York Labor News Company.


Filed under Catholicism, Christian, Christianity, Europe, European, France, History, Islam, Modern, Radical Islam, Regional, Religion, Shiism, Sunnism

18 responses to “Paris, France, January 21, 1535

  1. In fairness, you could say an act against the king was committed and it was the king (the “secular” authority) who instigated this nasty spectacle. But of course knowing Catholic apologists, they’ll use this fact to distance the Church from any direct blame, even though they clearly sanctioned it.

  2. Jason Y

    In much of human history the argument wasn’t over race, but religion. Now religious debates seem silly and childish, when will racial ones be the same?

    • The cynic in me would suggest, when we’ve found some other stupid thing to divide and persecute each other over.

      The not-cynic in me simply hopes, soon.

    • EPGAH

      Not really. Race is still linked to CULTURE and many of those lesser CULTURES are very violent indeed.

      You can’t tell a Catholic from a Protestant without some very fictional apparatus, but you CAN tell whites from nonwhites.

      Until nonwhites behave, they SHOULD be if not treated worse at the outset, at least regarded with greater suspicion until they PROVE they are not there to cause trouble, and behave like their civilized hosts.

      • Jason Y

        Seems like people were killing a Protestant or Catholic which as much viscousness as a skinhead would a non-white, or visa versa.

    • Guest

      If you found, through experience, that you did not get along with most Catholics and refrained from seeking out their company, would that be acceptable? It doesn’t have to mean anything particular about Catholicism in of itself was unappealing. Maybe you had the misfortune of only having met the “bad Catholics.” Or you could very well find that the vast majority of Catholics share some common characteristics that are incompatible with your personality. People have their own preferences.

      The difference between Christianity and Islam is that Christianity (as a whole) gradually revoked approval of torture and public execution. Unfortunately, much of the Muslim world has not come to the same consensus. It doesn’t even matter if it’s due to culture or religion or genetics. Many countries with Muslim majorities still utilize public disciplining with their legal system. There was recently a couple in Indonesia, I believe, who were caned for being in close proximity to each other without being married. Now, for some people and cultures, this is fine and maybe even beneficial for social functionality or harmony. Our arbitrary moral code is not universal and what right do we have to impose these standards upon the world? There only seems to be a problem when trying to assimilate into the melting pot of traditionally white European values.

      If most blacks, Muslims, or any particular group share common traits or characteristics that I find distasteful: why is it “silly” to want to hedge my bets and simply avoid the entire possible conflict?

  3. SHI

    As you can see, at one time, the Catholic Church was as cruel as ISIS, and for much the same reasons. Both were devising crueler and crueler tortures to be used against heretics, among others.Both are ultra-fundamentalist institutions devising crueler and crueler ways to kill dissenters, including heretics, the purpose of which being to terrorize people into submission.

    A far cry from the Catholic church today which is unarguably the more tolerant version of Christianity. Particularly in Europe where the few remaining Christians (mostly Catholics) are rather cool people. In Italy, they have lots of hidden monasteries where a weary traveler can get some free, delicious food and if they like you, a night rest for free. If you volunteer for them a little while, great! But they don’t really ask for anything as servicing human beings is what they’re really after. Some of those Italian papos are into vampire-hunting, exorcism and stuff, lots of interesting chats!

    • They’re moving with the times in order to survive. Many of the Protestant sects were not much better. Luther advocated the persecution of Jews and Anabaptists, Calvin approved of the death of Michael Servetus, Margaret Clitherow of York was crushed to death for harbouring Catholic priests during the reign of Protestant Queen Elizabeth I, the Queen only disapproving because she was a woman! You will ultimately find some good and bad in any religion.

      • EPGAH

        Have you been to Church lately?
        The sermon was OK, but we were invited to pray for “refugees from war–and poverty”. See what they did there? Of course we pray for and help genuine refugees from war. But “refugees from poverty”? That’s an entirely different–political and ideological–concept.

        Poverty is their own fault, and they’re not FLEEING it, they’re SPREADING it! Along with the violence and disease they bring in!

        This bit of intellectual dishonesty was so subtly and cunningly slipped in that it’s difficult not to think that somebody somewhere is masterminding this stuff.
        Oh, yeah, the current Pope…
        Have you read about his “historic” accord with the Moslem terrorists?

        • The last church I went to was a quite conservative (politically and theologically) Pentecostal church so there was very little of that sort of whackiness in our sermons. That seems to be the trouble with modern Catholicism- take the extremes of left-wing anti-poverty/social justice campaigning yet take an undeniably hardline (yet hypocritical) stance on sexuality and reproduction and many other matters. There is no happy medium when it comes to this, unless it happens to suit the eccesiastical hierarchy.

          That said, I’m not sure where you are coming from with your assertion that poverty is the fault of economic migrants and theirs alone. Sure there may be ingrained cultural factors which can cause this and lead them to bring social problems with them but it’s not as if they necessarily know any better, and I can hardly assume this is the case all of the time.

        • Latias

          Just because some religious people disagree with your concept of “poverty” (as you believe it is always a given person’s fault) does not mean it is some conspiracy to spread liberation theology. People could flee poverty. After all, isn’t that the reason why many people attempted to escape from East Germany (for the higher material living standards in the West)? Surely those people would be welcomed with open arms, but people in Guatemala (whose country has been dominated by US foreign policy for a century) are shunned here.

          You interpolated some insidious semantic meaning in “refugees from poverty”. They may be stupid but your standard, but still it is their “stupidity” not malice. “Intellectual dishonesty” means disagreeing with you and your political biases. It certainly is not “intellectually dishonest” to use the phrase “refugees from poverty”.

        • Jason Y

          Many Christian doctrines are not compatable with white nationalist thinking, but neither are many Communist ones. Christianity seems to be taking a middle ground.

  4. Latias


    Does anyone feel sorry for Aaron Hernandez? I do. I hope Obama pardons him so the Patriots would win.

  5. Jason Y

    I think the new Pope is too biased in favor of the left, much as previous ones were too biased toward the right.

  6. Jason Y

    I’m thinking the religous debates were really about power, much as the current racial ones are. In that case, they maybe weren’t so silly and childish.

    For instance, the fight between protestants and catholics in Northern Ireland is really about land and power, not whether you think we should bow down to the Pope or not.

  7. Christianity almost ruined Europe like Islam ruined the MENA region, jews destroyed Greco-Roman and Persian Zoroastrian civillizations with their agitations.

  8. slumlord.

    When a religion is institutionalized it’s nothing but trouble.

  9. Johnny

    There are some parallels, but the Shia-Sunni divide takes on other aspects and in the modern age also has to do with nationalism. The Shiite identity is kind of entrenched in Iranian identity (even though they have Sunni Kurds and Baloch etc) and comes out as nationalism. Similarly, the Saudis and other Arabians of the peninsula view Sunni Islam as the only legitimate brand and disbar groups like the Ahmadi from entering Mecca (and would bar Shiites if they could get away with it). The French struggle between Catholic and Protestant came in the midst of something of a lack of information. People back then relied on word of mouth and things like pamphlets (which would be read to them and interpreted by the few literate people), which would circulate crazy rumors. These would lead to riots and mobs that would be set off at the drop of a hat. Today’s struggle in the MENA has more to do with nationalism merged with religion and a power struggle to, on the one hand, give fellow Shiites some say where they live and for others to keep them subordinate (even though in parts of Arabia along the east they are a majority). Unfortunately, neither faction has been particularly gracious when in power which is democracy really is the way to go regardless of whom they vote in at first.

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