The sixteenth century was filled with contradictions in France as the advent of the Reformation caused confrontations that led to decades of religious war. The monarchy was itself the source of confusion, sponsoring positive changes in roads, laws, and administration while also sinking into extreme disorder and misrule. The crown constructed magnificent chateaux but often lived in them in a repulsive fashion. Despite such problems, the culture of France entered a wonderful and creative period in art, literature, architecture, music, dance, and intellectual life. These lectures will blend following the path of religious collapse with discussing the wonderful work of Rabelais, Ronsard, Montaigne, d’Aubigny, and Caron, all of whom demonstrated that a person does not have to live in decent times to do incredible thins.