Alès (Gard)

Alès, in the southern part of the Massif Central, occupies an outstanding geographical position, at the crossroads of the Cévennes, the Rhone Valley and the South of France. The history of Protestantism is linked to Alès.

Luther's reformed thinking took root in Alès as early as 1530

  • Map of Alès (1629 siege) © R. Laurent

This reformed trend became even stronger as from 1545. Alès was a recognised place of shelter and as such became one of the strongholds of Protestantism. Services of worship were held in the Catholic Chapel of the Cordeliers, then in the Chapel of the Dominicans and in the Church of Saint Jean, built in 1472. When, in 1533, the Edict of Amboise allowed the Protestants to hold their own services, they left the Catholic places of worship.

The first temple was built in 1577

It had seating accommodation for some 5,000 to 6,000 worshippers. The light streamed in through fifteen rectangular windows. The front with its three entrance doors was impressive. A bell steeple towered over the building.

Engraved on the frontal were the words : “my sheep hear my voice, and I know them, they follow me and I give them eternal life.”

In 1629, Louis XIII besieged the city and, on the 16th of June, signed within its walls the “peace of Alais” (or Alès). Richelieu stayed at the auberge du Coq Hardi.

In 1685, the Revocation ordered the building to be destroyed. The Protestants were to have their own place of worship only after the Revolution. In 1792, they were given the Chapelle des Pénitents, built on the site of the former temple in 1707. The latter was demolished in 1864-65 and the present temple was built.

Bibliography

  • Books
    • DUBIEF Henri et POUJOL Jacques, La France protestante, Histoire et Lieux de mémoire, Max Chaleil éditeur, Montpellier, 1992, rééd. 2006, p. 450
    • LAURENT René, Promenade à travers les temples de France, Les Presses du Languedoc, Millau, 1996, p. 520
    • REYMOND Bernard, L’architecture religieuse des protestants, Labor et Fides, Genève, 1996

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