About ten years ago, while on a short term mission trip to France, I visited a the Tower of Constance. It is a tower that served as a prison to Huguenots (French Christian Protestants) who resisted converting to Catholicism during the 1700’s. In 1730 a very young Huguenot woman, Marie Durand was arrested and sent to the to the tower. Her crime was having a brother who was a Protestant minister, Pierre Durand. Apparently, they held church gatherings in their home. Her father was also an active Protestant and for this she was imprisoned in the tower with other Huguenot women. Shortly before she was imprisoned in the tower, she was married. Sadly, her husband was also arrested along with her father. And later on, Catholic government officials captured her brother and hanged him. When Marie entered the tower, she was only 15.
While in the tower, Marie was a strong leader. She cared for the other women, not only spiritually, but also cared for their physical needs. The women were regularly tortured in order to force them to recant their Protestant beliefs and convert back to Catholicism. Marie Durand held strong. And although it cannot be proven precisely many believe she she wrote the word that still exists today, “Register!” which means to “Resist!”. (in France, I toured the Tower of Constance, and this word is etched into a brick, the very word that Marie is thought to have engraved!) Marie was an inspiration to the other women and became their spiritual leader and advocate. She wrote letters to church and government leaders asking for better living conditions. Upon her requests they allowed the women to have a book of Psalms and get fresh air on the tower’s roof.
On December 26, 1767, after 38 years of living in the squalor of the prison, Marie Durand and the remaining women were released. Afterward, Marie went back to her childhood home to live out the rest of her life. But to this day, her story is an amazing inspiration to many! Her strength and fortitude are admirable. Her devotion to Christ and her love for her fellow inmates is humbling. It is because of the strong convictions of men and women like Marie Durand, that we are free from the legalism and oppression of the Catholic Church. May we be like her in our commitment to the Word and to our Lord Jesus Christ!