Calvin. History and Reception of a Reformation Week 1. Calvin's Life. Sequence 2. The Reformation in Geneva. Welcome to this sequence, in which we will focus on the Reformation in Geneva. Calvin's name is often associated with the concept of Reformation in Geneva, and rightly so to a certain extent, since Calvin was responsible for giving the Reformation in Geneva an international dimension. Yet the fact that by the time Calvin arrived in Geneva, the Reformation was already well underway, is often overlooked. In Geneva, the first generation of the 16th century was a very tumultuous one. At that time, Genevans were fighting for their independence from the Duke of Savoy. In the words of Henry Naef, historian of the origins of the Reformation in Geneva, at the end of the 15th century and beginning of the 16th, the "powerful wind of civic spirit" was blowing through Geneva. And this wind would lead, on the one hand, to political freedom -- independence from the Duke of Savoy -- and, on the other, to a new form of Christian freedom -- in other words, to the Reformation itself. Naef writes: "Genevan Independence and Genevan Reformation are two inseparable sisters. Which was
born first? Here we must abandon the metaphor: it is rarely possible to assign a date
to the birth of an opinion." We won't be able to go into the details of Geneva's struggle for independence during the first generation of the 16th century. Suffice it for us to know, as noted by the American historian E. William Monter, that Geneva was the only city in all of Europe to not only conquer but maintain its independence at the time of the Reformation. In Geneva today, many streets are still named for the heroes of that time, who were imprisoned, tortured, exiled, and in some cases executed as a consequence of their struggle to gain independence for the city against powerful Savoy. Heroes like Philibert Berthelier, Besançon Hugues, Jean Pécolat or Ami Lévrier. Geneva's number one enemy, as we've just seen, was Savoy. But the rule of Savoy also meant that the Bishop of Geneva, Pierre de la Baume -- who was at the head of a huge diocese ranging from the Mont Blanc
almost all the way to Lausanne -- was controlled by the Duke of Savoy. Pierre de la Baume owed his position to Duke Charles of Savoy, whom he also served, in fact, as personal advisor. Hatred of Savoy thus found itself directed, by association, towards the Bishop, who, it must be said, spent relatively little time in Geneva. He visited infrequently and, by all accounts, showed little concern for the pastoral welfare of his diocese, seeking instead to escape the city as often as possible. After 1527, he was rarely seen in Geneva. Upon becoming aware of a certain number of incidents -- clashes, brawls -- in 1533, he returned to Geneva, but even then only for two weeks. This would turn out to be his last stay in Geneva. The Duke of Savoy himself had made his final appearance in 1525. Subsequently, neither he nor his soldiers were seen again in the city of Geneva. Geneva, then, was ripe for what has been called the "evangelical Reformation." Here, we must interrupt the story to address an important terminological consideration. The partisans of the Reformation were at the same time adversaries of the House of Savoy. As such, they sought political refuge and support from the Swiss Confederation -- the Eidgenossen -- a Confederation which included the powerful cities of
Bern, Fribourg and Zurich, among others. Thus they came to acquire the nickname "eidguenots" or "eyguenots," a nickname they gladly accepted and which, in the second half of the 16th century, would become by linguistic deformation the French "Huguenots" (the word's Genevan origins had perhaps been forgotten by then), a term that >came to designate French Protestants as a whole. The Huguenots, then, are to some extent descendants of the Genevan resistance, of the fight for independence from Savoy that took place in the 1520s and 1530s. Henry Naef has shown how Lutheran ideas were able, little by little, to reach Geneva and take hold there. Geneva was a very small town of 12,000, perhaps 13,000 residents at most, squeezed together behind fortified walls, parts of which remain today, but the majority of which were destroyed in the 19th century. The place where I am now, the roof of a University of Geneva building, is well beyond the city limits of 16th century Geneva. Yet these 12,000 to 13,000 residents were very important from an economic point of view. Indeed, Geneva was home, four times a year, to large fairs attended by merchants from France, Holland, Italy, and Germany: the "Foires de Genève." Beyond the products they carried with them, these merchants also carried new ideas. And when the merchant was a bookseller, ideas were indeed the product itself. Naef has shown how, in this way, Genevans came to know of Luther's ideas as early as the 1520s. He has also shown how these ideas were able to nourish and contribute to Geneva's struggle for independence. This struggle was not without its incidents. The year 1533, in particular, saw a proliferation of riots. In the French of the time, these riots were referred to as "émotions." And these popular "émotions" could be quite bloody. A canon from Fribourg, canon Verly, was killed by a crowd. In April 1533, for the first time ever in Geneva, the Lord's Supper was celebrated according to the Zwinglian ritual, followed by a baptism. The authors of this theological shift were people like Guillaume Farel, from the Dauphiné region of France (and whom we've introduced already), Pierre Viret,
from the Canton of Vaud, and Antoine Froment. These are the people whose groundwork set the scene for the Reformation in Geneva. In August 1535, in response to the bishop's defection, the Council of Geneva issued a prohibition on celebrating the Mass. A few months later, in November 1535, the Small Council made another very important decision in Genevan history: to create a General Hospital. What does this mean? A hospital also served as a hospice; a place where the poor were cared for. Since so many of the poor were sick, and virtually all of the sick were poor, this means we are talking about one and the same segment of the population. A few years ago, a book was published in Geneva entitled "Save The Soul, Nourish The Body." This same principle governed the creation of the General Hospital. That said, the event truly signifying the Reformation's inception was yet to come. It was not until May 21,1536 that the citizens of Geneva -- i.e., the voting members of what was called the General Council -- officially decided, unanimously and by show of hands, to enact the evangelical Reformation in Geneva. An excerpt from the text in question is included in your study material for this sequence. It's also very important to note that, on the very same day -- May 21, 1536 --, the General Council also issued a decree regarding public education in Geneva. Let me read it for you (this text is also provided in your material): "The article regarding schools having also been submitted for consideration, in this regard it is hereby unanimously resolved to employ a man competent for the task, and who shall receive a salary sufficient for him to feed and nourish the poor without requiring from them any payment; and also that each citizen shall be required to send his children to school and educate them." Based on this text, if we are not careful to avoid anachronism, we might conclude that public education became both mandatory ("each citizen shall be required to send his children to school") and free. But we would be fooling ourselves: there is a wide gap between theory and practice. Indeed, illiteracy persisted in Geneva long after this text. In the 17th century, we have the example of a pastor's wife who was unable to sign her name other than with an X. The principle underlying the 1536 decree, then, would take a long time to become a reality. In conclusion, what we are beginning to see is that the Reformation in Geneva took place in a context of major societal transformation. Political transformation, first, with independence from Savoy. Significantly, Geneva was able to hang on to its independence without falling under the control of its powerful and troublesome ally, the city of Bern. In 1536, Bern took control of the territory of Vaud and the province of Chablais. Lake Léman (Lake Geneva) itself, in 1536, belonged to Bern, with the exception of one small part of the lake adjacent to Geneva, guarded jealously by the Fiefdom of Geneva. Secondly, we've seen that the Reformation had a social dimension, as illustrated by the creation of a General Hospital for the poor and the sick. Thirdly, the Reformation's pedagogical dimension: a headmaster position was created and funded, and citizens were required to send their children to school so that everyone would learn to read and write. We've reached the end of this sequence; thank you for your attention.