Museum of National Archives

The sinister past of the Hôtel de Soubise.

Located in the Marais neighborhood in Paris, France, the Hôtel de Soubise is a massive hôtel that now houses the Museum of National Archives, but once served a very different purpose. In the late 1500s, the hôtel became the headquarters of the Catholic League during the Wars of Religion. It is believed that the infamous St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre was planned here, an event that changed France’s history.

The Hôtel de Soubise was owned by Francois de Lorraine, duke de Guise, who was the leader of the Catholic League, at the time. Under his influence, his mansion would become the setting for the League meetings and the planning of what became known as the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. What happened on that bloody day in Paris? As a result of political and religious rivalries and upheaval, a massacre between French Huguenots and Catholics broke out. The Catholics targeted the Huguenots and started the slaughter. Thousands were killed on the grounds of the Louvre and the Tuileries, and bodies were dumped in the Seine River. Many suspect this heinous event was planned by Catherine de Medici, the ambitious mother of the King of France, King Charles IX.

Medici feared Huguenot influence was growing over her son, King Charles IX, and because of this, she agreed to have Huguenot Admiral Coligny assassinated by the Roman Catholics. Things snowballed from there. To add fuel to an already tense situation, Medici’s daughter was to be married to a Huguenot, Henry of Navarre, in just a few days. This meant that there would be a large number of prominent Huguenots in Paris, all gathered in the same place for the same event. However, the plot to assassinate Coligny failed, and Medici consequently agree to investigate the attempt. Instead, she met in secret to hatch a new assassination plan to have the Huguenot nobles killed who were still in Paris for her daughter’s wedding.

When Medici’s heinous plan finally came to fruition on the morning of August 24th, 1572, the massacre began. Admiral Coligny and Navarre’s right-hand men were murdered. People were slaughtered on the streets and their corpses thrown in the Seine, Huguenot homes and shops were destroyed by the Catholics. Even after the king issued a degree for the killing to stop on the 25th of August, it continued to the outskirts of Paris. It is estimated that a total of 10,000 Huguenots were killed by Catholics, by the order of Catherine de Medici. This event prolonged the Wars on Religion. The Huguenots in France were not weakened after this event, as expected, but furthered enraged. This day created a need for revenge in them that powered the war to go on.

Those passing by the Museum of National Archives housed in the stately Hôtel de Soubise today, may not suspect that this site once contributed to the planning of the mass slaughter fueled by religious hatred that is now known as the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. As headquarters of the Catholic League, it served as the planning table for the massacre, an infamous day in French history that resulted in the deaths of 10,000 Huguenots in Paris and throughout France.



60 Rue des Francs Bourgeois, 75003 Paris, France