Marie Durand

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Entry by Yves Krumenacker], 2007, updated 2013.

Marie Durand was born on July 15th, 1711 in Bouchet Pranles (Vivarais). Her father, Etienne Durand, a consular clerk, born in 1657, and her mother, Claudine Gamonnet, born in 1670, were both Protestants. Her brother, Pierre, born in 1700, a clandestine preacher (Protestantism was banned in France since the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685), became one of the first pastors ‘of the Desert’ (The Cévennes) in 1726. In an attempt to make him abandon his ministry, the royal authorities imprisoned his father in 1729. He was only released in 1743. Marie, being alone, became engaged to Matthew Greenhouse, more than twenty years her elder. As was often the case with the Protestants of the period, a marriage contract was drawn up by a notary. As Pierre Durand would not yield to pressure from Catholics, the newly-weds were arrested in July 1730. Matthew was sent to Fort Brescou (Agde), now a state prison. He was released in 1750. Marie was locked in the Tower of Constance in Aigues-Mortes, famously used as a prison for female Huguenots. Soon she seemed to exert a moral influence over her fellow captives. She helped them to persevere in their faith, prayed with them, sang Psalms, read the Bible and managed to obtain many books. She kept up a prolific correspondence, most notably with her niece Anne Durand, daughter of Pierre, with Pastor Paul Rabaut Nîmes and with benefactors who sent aid to the prisoners. They were gradually released. Following the intervention of the Prince of Beauvau, an advocate for greater tolerance, Marie was one of the last women to be released on April 14th, 1768, after 38 years in captivity. She returned home to Bouchet Pranles, and spent the last years of her life under constant financial pressure and harassment from both her creditors and niece’s husband. She died in early July 1776. To today’s Protestants, Marie Durand appears above all as the perfect embodiment of the Ardèche resistance against intolerance and persecution, which is symbolized by the famous injunction ‘resist’ engraved on the rim of the well of her prison.

(Translated by Martine Sauret)


  • 1734-1776: Lettres de Marie Durand 1715-1776, prisonnière de la Tour de Constance, éd. Étienne Gamonnet et Frédéric Mayor, Montpellier, Presses du Languedoc, 1986.
  • 1734-1776: Lettres de Marie Durand 1711-1776, prisonnière de la Tour de Constance de 1730 à 1768, éd. Étienne Gamonnet et Frédéric Mayor, 2e éd. revue et augmentée, Montpellier, Presses du Languedoc, 1998.

Selected bibliography

  • Benoît, Daniel, Marie Durand prisonnière à la Tour de Constance (1715-1768), Dieulefit, Nouvelle Société d’Éditions de Toulouse, 1935.
  • Krumenacker,Yves, « Marie Durand, une héroïne protestante ? », Clio. Histoire, femmes et sociétés, t. 30, 2009, mis en ligne le 15 décembre 2012,[1].

Selected bibliography of images

Web links

  • Site Musée du protestantisme= Musée protestant. Ce site donne une biographie sommaire de Marie Durand (avec une erreur sur sa naissance), des documents iconographiques et des renvois à des notices du Musée virtuel du protestantisme; reproduction d’une lettre manuscrite de Marie Durand


  • «Une vie comme celle de l’héroïne de la Tour de Constance nous est la forte preuve de ce que cette grâce [de Dieu] a pu faire dans un coeur de femme, naturellement faible et par cela même très près du nôtre.» (André Fabre, «Avant-propos», dans D. Benoît, Marie Durand prisonnière..., voir supra, choix bibliographique, 1935)
  • «Elle est plus qu’une figure légendaire. Elle est une chrétienne, une femme nourrie de la Parole de Dieu. Elle nous laisse un témoignage précis qu’il nous faut recevoir car il s’inscrit dans celui de la nuée de témoins qui, par leurs souffrances, attestent la vérité des promesses de Dieu.» (Frédéric Mayor, «Préface», dans Lettres de Marie Durand 1715-1776..., voir supra, oeuvres, 1986, p.5)
Marie Durand
Spouses Mathieu Serre
Birth date 1711
Death 1776
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