One of the things you notice about Montpellier is that, although the buildings are old, they're all pretty much the same age. There's a reason for that, some of which happened here:
Just another of the nice old houses, this one belonging, apparently, to someone of some stature because of its huge door and imposing facade. And yes, the guy was definitely somebody, as the plaque on the front indicates:
For the French-impaired, this says "In 1561, Jean Bocaud, regent of the University, became the first Montpellierian to ask for an expulsion of Huguenots." Huguenots were French Protestants, and the woods were thick with them in this part of France. The King, however, may have been 500-some miles away in Paris, but he was up to his neck in debt -- financial, spiritual, and military -- to the Pope. M. Bocaud got his way, but much of the center city burned, and the Cathedral was trashed in the process. In the end, the Protestants who lived made it to Berlin (a lot of them: the Kaiser was a Protestant and looking to increase the population to raise Prussia's profile) and Britain and even the United States: I grew up not far from a town in New York called New Rochelle where a lot of them settled. So when you see that most of the listed buildings here all date from the 17th through 18th centuries, that's why.
Not that the fires of Montpellier stopped burning. The other day I was wandering around the Esplanade and came upon this lovely little memorial:
Again, for the French-impaired a rendering of that first paragraph: "Here, on the Esplanade of Montpellier, 34 Protestant pastors or preachers were hung, broken on the wheel, or burned alive after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes." A list, with the dates of execution follows, from three guys who died in 1690 all the way up to poor Étienne Teissier in 1754. It goes on to say that after the Revolution, Article X of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizens made freedom of religion part of French law.
There are a few other interesting things in this park, and I'll snap them one of these days. I'm just amazed it took me this long to find this quiet, but horrifying monument.
EDIT: Boy, does my French need work. Translating the plaque on the Hôtel Boquet, I got a crucial word wrong. What M. Boquet did was to request burial as a Huguenot. In other words, he was a force for tolerance, not one of the bad guys. Thanks to Olivier (in the comments) for pointing this out.
10 months ago