The Siege of La Rochelle

 Cardinal Richelieu at the siege of La Rochelle, Henri-Paul Motte

Cardinal Richelieu at the siege of La Rochelle, Henri-Paul Motte

By the Edict of Nantes (1598), King Henry IV gave French Huguenots extensive rights. La Rochelle, situated on the Atlantic coast of France, became a Huguenot stronghold, and at that time, the second or third largest city in France, with over 30,000 inhabitants. However, the assassination of Henry IV in 1610, and the advent of Louis XIII under the regency of Marie de' Medici, marked a return to intense persecution. Louis XIII wished to suppress the Huguenots, and his Chief Minister, Cardinal Richelieu, declared that to be the first priority.

In 1627 Royal forces began surrounding La Rochelle with an army of 7,000 soldiers, 600 horses and 24 cannons. Cardinal Richelieu acted as the commander of the besieging troops. Once hostilities started, engineers isolated the city with entrenchments 7 miles long, fortified by 11 forts and 18 redoubts. A seawall was built to block seaward access to the city. The surrounding fortifications were completed in 1628, manned with an army of 30,000. The residents of La Rochelle were surrounded and cut off from receiving food and vital supplies. They resisted surrender for 14 horrific months. During the siege, the population decreased from 27,000 to 5,000 due to casualties, famine, and disease.

To escape persecution, many Huguenots migrated to dozens of countries around the globe during the 16th-17th centuries. (Some went to the New World and founded the city of New Rochelle, New York.) And yet, the Reformed Faith of the Huguenots remains alive to this day in France! The Huguenot Fellowship exists to help support the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the French-speaking world, focusing on the Reformed Seminary in Aix-en-Provence, France (La Faculté Jean Calvin). Please consider becoming a friend and faithful partner through your prayers and regular contributions!