Affair of the Placards

The Affair of the Placards (French: Affaire des Placards) was an incident in which anti-Catholic posters appeared in public places in Paris and in four major provincial cities, Blois, Rouen, Tours and Orléans, in the night of the 17th to the 18th of October, 1534. One of the posters was posted on the bedchamber door of King Francis I at Amboise, an affront and a breach of security that left him shaken. The Affaire des Placards brought an end to the conciliatory policies of Francis, who had formerly attempted to protect the Protestants from the more extreme measures of the Parlement de Paris, and also of the public entreaties for moderation of Philip Melanchthon.

The placards

The placards carried the title "Genuine articles on the horrific, great and unbearable abuses of the papal mass, invented directly contrary to the Holy Supper of our Lord, sole mediator and sole savior Jesus Christ"[a][citation needed] This provocative title was a direct attack on Catholic conceptions of the Eucharist. The text supported Zwingli's position on the Mass which denied the physical presence of Christ in the eucharist.

The individual who has been traditionally credited as the chief inspiration, if not the direct author, of the placards, was the French Protestant leader Guillaume Farel, but it seems probable that Antoine de Marcourt, a pastor of Neuchâtel from Picardy, was the real author: Antoine Froment averred that "these placards were made at Neuchâtel in Switzerland by a certain Antoine Marcourd".[1] Writing anonymously the following month, Marcourt took credit for the placards in the address to benevolent Readers of his anonymous "Most useful and salutary little treatise of the holy Eucharist", published at Neuchâtel, 16 November 1534,[2] in which he avers "I have been moved by true affection to compose and edit in writing some true Articles on the unbearable abuses of the Mass. Which Articles I wish to be published and posted throughout the public places of the land..."[b][citation needed]


Processions were announced in all the parishes of Paris for the following Sunday. In Paris, the King himself stood under the canopy where the Most Holy Eucharist was usually carried, making a clear political statement. [3]

Also, a reward of a hundred écus was advertised for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrator or perpetrators, who were to be burned at the stake. Protestant sympathizers were soon identified and sent to the Châtelet. The first condemnations were pronounced 10 November; the first of those burned at the stake, 13 November, was a cripple named Barthélemi Milon.[4]

The polemic against the Catholic Church was considered a severe insult to Catholics; and the King now publicly affirmed his Catholic faith. The immediate public outcry necessitated the flight of several prominent Protestant leaders, including John Calvin, and of scholars and poets like Clément Marot.

In another provocative action the following 13 January, when François had recently returned to Paris, broadsheets of a tract on the Sacraments were deposited in the streets and doorways of Paris. Later, printing was banned by royal decree.[5]

A few years later, Francis I issued the Edict of Fontainbleau against the Huguenots.