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La Réforme en France et en Italie

 | 
Philip Benedict
, 
Silvana Seidel Menchi
, 
Alain Tallon

Session VII. Les églises du refuge et les lieux d’exil

Refugee churches and exile centers in the French Reformation1

Philip Benedict

Texte intégral

  • 1 Abbreviations: BHR = Bibliothèque d’Humanisme et Renaissance; BSHPF = Bulletin de la Société de l’ (...)
  • 2 Guillaume Farel, 1489-1565. Biographie nouvelle écrite d’après les documents originaux par un grou (...)

1What role did refugee churches and exile centers play in the French Reformation? At first glance, the answer to this question might seem too obvious to merit extended discussion. Hasn’t it been known for generations that Geneva as a center of exile and return was absolutely central to the entire story of the development of the French Protestant movement? «C’est de Genève, en effet, que l’impulsion religieuse et l’organisation ecclésiastique étaient données au protestantisme français, dont Calvin est le chef spirituel», wrote Louis Aubert in 19302. The context makes it clear that he was not advancing a provocative thesis but stating common knowledge.

  • 3 Key titles within a vast literature include: R. M. Kingdon, Geneva and the Coming of the Wars of R (...)
  • 4 F. Joubert and S. de Mérez, Mémoires de divers événements en Dauphiné notamment pendant les guerre (...)

2In the years since these lines were written, scholarship has only clarified the ways in which Geneva was central to the growth of French Protestantism. We now know that as soon as the reformation triumphed within Geneva, the city became the leading center for the production of evangelical propaganda in French. Thousands of refugees for their beliefs passed through or took up residence between 1535 and 1575. As organized Reformed churches began to proliferate between 1555 and 1562, over 220 individuals left Geneva to pastor to them and to show them how properly to organize a church3. Not for nothing did contemporary chroniclers record that the first Reformed assemblies that gathered publicly in France in 1560 «faisoient les prières comme à Geneve»4.

3While all of these aspects of Genevan influence over the French Reformation are unquestionable, a number of historians have begun to realize in recent years that the richness of the source materials produced in Geneva too easily breeds an excessively Geneva-centric view of the French Reformation. Other centers of refuge also exercised a measure of influence at various times over the formative stages of the Reformed churches. Theological ideas and ecclesiastical programs other than Calvin’s were known and appreciated. Only a fraction of French Reformed churches were founded by Genevan «missionaries» or those they subsequently ordained. Certain features of the church structure created by the French Reformed developed in response to indigenous conditions. And this is not even to mention the numerous French men and women who found themselves drawn to elements of an evangelical or Protestant critique of the established church, but who came to disagree with details of Calvin’s thought or the manner in which the new Reformed churches were organized, and so refused to join or remain in these churches. As Bernard Roussel has written:

  • 5 B. Roussel, Pierre Viret en France (septembre 1561-août 1565), in BSHPF, 144, 1998, p. 805. For ot (...)

Les Églises « plantées » et « dressées » dans le royaume [...] ne sont pas autant de « colonies » genevoises, même si des « missionaires » dénombrés et identifiés par R. Kingdon et P. Wilcox, sont recrutés, formés, envoyés, contrôlés et rappelés par Genève. Certes, ils aident à la « coagulation » de mouvement autour de quelques « Églises-mères » – Poitiers et Paris par exemple – et de quelques ministres qui ont pris l’initiative des premiers synodes nationaux, mais beaucoup d’assemblées conservent des traits et des coutumes qui témoignent des circonstances particulières de leur formation. La mise en présence les unes des autres des Églises locales d’origine [...] ne s’est pas fait en un jour. L’implosion du mouvement, son évolution vers un certain anabaptisme, l’insertion dans une Église catholique renouvelée, restaient des possibilités. Critiquer, quitter la religion traditionnelle, en agresser le personnel ou en détruire les symboles ne préparait pas sans délais ni conflits à la proposition d’une alternative viable qui puisse être intégrée dans la société environnante5.

4In the wake of observations such as these, an adequate portrayal of the role of refugee churches and exile centers in the French Reformation must acknowledge the place of other centers of refuge beside Geneva. It must also measure the importance of Geneva relative to these other centers and to the forces of initiative coming from within France. This essay will attempt such an overview. It will show that places such as Strasbourg, London, Neuchâtel, and even Antwerp were also important places of refuge for persecuted French evangelicals at different moments, and that much of the initiative for building an alternative to the Roman church arose within France. At the same time, the comparative dimension introduced by this conference underscores that in many ways the community of French refugees in exile in Geneva played an exceptionally creative and important role in the French Reformation, especially in financing and organizing the distribution of Protestant propaganda within the kingdom, and in convincing the young French Reformed churches to adopt a single model of organization derived largely from Geneva’s church. Even when due account is given to indigenous organizational efforts and non-Genevan influences, the contrast with the Italian situation serves to underscore the quite exceptional role that this one city played in the French Reformation.

5Places of refuge were important in the French Reformation from its earliest days, even if it is hard at times to say just when temporary migration became permanent exile. For François Lambert, the Avignon Franciscan turned reformer, that moment may have come within six months of his arrival in Wittenberg in early 1523, when he agreed to Luther’s suggestion that he take a wife. There was no going back now to his former life. For others such as the «Bibliens» of Meaux the possibility of refuge in neighboring lands more hospitable to reform was critical at moments when repression threatened. Most subsequently returned to France, but a few less willing to make accommodations with the established order such as Farel quickly passed from temporary refuge to a more enduring exile status.

  • 6 F. M. Higman, Le domaine français... cit. n. 3, p. 107-111; A. Tricard, La propagande évangélique (...)

6Foreign printing centers also were important in the French Reformation from very early on. Throughout this paper, «evangelical literature» will be understood to encompass vernacular Bibles, Bible extracts, and reformist or devotional tracts that appealed primarily to the text or authority of Scripture, whether or not they advocated a rupture with the Church of Rome or expressed doctrines that can be classified theologically as Protestant. In the years from 1520 to 1534, such literature meant above all vernacular editions or summaries of the Bible, the devotional writings of Luther produced without his name on the title page, and works that combined gospel passages with prayers and commentaries from various sources. While Simon Du Bois, first in Paris and then in Alençon, and Pierre de Vingle, in Lyon until 1532, braved the hostility of the Sorbonne to produce such works within the kingdom, as early as 1525 the French native Martin Lempereur thought it best to leave Paris for Antwerp, which then afforded printers more latitude for printing evangelical works because of the broader views of the University of Louvain. There, not far from shops that produced other key works of early evangelical literature in English and Danish, Lempereur (also Tyndale’s publisher) printed two dozen evangelical works in French, primarily Bibles and treatises by Luther, Erasmus, Brunfels and Hermann Bodius6. As table 1 shows, a few evangelical books were also printed in French in the 1520s in Strasbourg, Basel, and Marburg. The printers in this case were local men, not French refugees.

  • 7 P.-F. Geisendorf (ed.), Livre des habitants de Genève, Geneva, 1957. The most useful overview of G (...)

7The contours of French heterodoxy changed and refugee centers became more important yet after the mid 1530s. Between 1528 and 1536 local reformations were carried out in a series of Frenchspeaking towns in the Swiss borderlands: Aigle 1528, Neuchâtel 1530, Geneva 1535-1536, Lausanne 1536. The exiled Farel helped finance the establishment of the exiled de Vingle in Neuchâtel. There he printed the sacramentarian placards that sparked a new moment of intensified heresy-hunting and an important wave of migration from France that included Calvin. It is over the next 25 years, from 1536 to 1561, that the migration of French-speaking refugees to Geneva became most central to the story of the French Reformation. The other great names of the first refuge – Theodore Beza, Jean Crespin, Robert Estienne, Laurent de Normandie – followed Calvin to the shores of Lac Leman within fifteen years. There they helped to create the conditions that made Geneva both a magnet for godly refugees and a center for the subsequent spread of the Reformed message in the direction of France. The theme that those who had seen the light of the Gospel should shun the abuses of Popery and, if necessary, withdraw to where God is truly worshipped became particularly insistent in Calvin’s writings after 1543, the year which saw the appearance of his Petit traicté monstrant que doit faire un fidele entre les papistes. Soon the numbers of refugees grew, to become so important by 1549 that Geneva’s authorities started to maintain a special livre des habitants to record all those admitted to the status of inhabitant of Geneva. Five thousand names were inscribed in this register by 15607. After about 1560, the flow of refugees to Geneva tapered off and to some extent reversed itself, as the foundation and proliferation of Reformed churches within France led many who had sought exile to return in the hope of the imminent triumph of the Gospel in their native land. Even after that date, however, Geneva remained important as a place of refuge in times of civil war and proscription. New waves of French refugees arrived in 1567-70, 1572, and after 1585, often staying only until the return of peace back home.

  • 8 P. Denis, Les églises d’étrangers en pays rhénans (1538-1564), Paris, 1984, p. 48-145, p. 241-56; (...)
  • 9 P. Denis, Églises d’étrangers... cit. n. 8, passim; F. de Schickler, Les églises du réfuge en Angl (...)
  • 10 G. Syvert (ed.), Chroniques des Îles de Jersey, Guernesey, Auregny et Serk, Guernesey, 1832, esp. (...)

8But Geneva was not the only place where French evangelicals might seek refuge during these years. The other French-speaking towns of the Swiss borderlands, especially Lausanne and Neuchâtel, also drew refugees. Strasbourg, an important haven in the first decade of the Reformation, continued to attract people as well, especially after the first separate congregation for French refugees was founded there in 1538. It would endure to 1563. Guilddominated Basel was far less hospitable to refugees. A separate French church would not gain official sanction there until 1588, when the local church had aligned itself with Reformed orthodoxy. But the city did shelter a number of French or French-speaking intellectuals and printing workers in the earlier and middle decades of the century. It was important as a place where opinions at variance with Calvin’s could make their way into print, occasionally in French8. Farther North, regnicoles of the kingdom of France appear to have been few and far between in the «French» churches of the Rhineland, East Anglia, and Kent (all composed overwhelmingly of Walloons), but they comprised an important, if fluctuating, fraction of the members of the French church of Threadneedle Street, London, active from 1550 to 1554 and then from 1559 onward. They also figured significantly in the smaller refugee churches of Southampton and Rye, the latter of which revived every time France’s civil wars forced into exile the Huguenots of strongly Protestant Dieppe, just across the Channel9. Finally, the Channel Islands provided refuge for ministers and important noblemen from nearby regions of Normandy, Brittany and Anjou both during the reign of Edward VI and again under Elizabeth, especially in times of civil war in France10. For the periods of civil war after 1562, it should also be stressed that Protestant strongholds within France were also important centers of refuge. Orléans, La Rochelle, and Montargis played especially vital roles at different moments.

  • 11 A. Perrenoud, La population de Genève xvie-xixe siècles, Geneva, 1979, esp. p. 31; E. W. Monter, C (...)
  • 12 W. Naphy, The Renovation of the Ministry in Calvin’s Geneva, in A. Pettegree (ed.), The Reformatio (...)

9Estimating either the relative or the absolute size of these various refugee communities is difficult. Not only do the kinds of sources available vary from place to place. The high mobility and abnormal demographic profile characteristic of groups of refugee groups make it difficult to extrapolate confidently from the surviving records. For Geneva, comparison of the livre des habitants with other records has shown that the actual number of heads of household arriving in the city between 1549 and 1560 was probably at least fifty percent higher than the 5,000 people registered. How many dependents accompanied them is unknown. The city’s population as a whole swelled from about 10,300 in 1537, when the great wave of refugees began to build, to 21,400 in 1560 at the crest of the immigration, before falling back to 15,960 in 1570 and 16,500 in 1580. Since French subjects made up three quarters of those listed in the livre des habitants, we can ascribe three fourths of the permanent increase of 5,600-6,200 people to refugees from France and estimate a permanent addition to the city’s population of 4,2004,600 people of French origin. Several times as many again would have passed temporarily through the city11. All of Geneva’s ministers from Calvin’s first arrival until 1594 and all of the ministers in the surrounding countryside until 1570 were recruited from among these immigrants12.

  • 13 G. Berthoud, Les Français dans le clergé neuchâtelois à l’époque de la Réforme, in Cinq siècles de (...)
  • 14 G. Syvert (ed.), Chroniques des Îles... cit. n. 10, p. 74, 102-103.
  • 15 P. Denis, Églises d’étrangers... cit. n. 8, p. 53-4, 60, estimates the total size of the French ch (...)
  • 16 A. Pettegree, Foreign Protestant Communities in Sixteenth-Century London, Oxford, 1986, p. 77-78, (...)
  • 17 A. Pettegree, Foreign Protestant Communities... cit. n. 16, esp. p. 220.

10Comparable demographic information is unfortunately lacking about Lausanne and Neuchâtel, but we know that no less than 60 ministers ordained by the classis of Neuchâtel between 1530 and 1563 came from France. If nothing else, that territory was very important as a place of refuge for future pastors13. At least 44 ministers took refuge in the Channel Isles at some point up to the 1580s, most of them during later civil wars14. Strasbourg’s French refugee community was much smaller than Geneva’s: perhaps 150300 people of French origin at any given moment between 1552 and 156215. Scattered indications suggest that London’s French church had roughly 600-800 Huguenot members in these same decades, most from Normandy16. The London and Strasbourg communities were thus smaller than the Genevan by a considerable order of magnitude. London’s in particular was still large enough to be of significance for the portions of France that furnished much of its membership, especially since the Threadneedle Street church is also known to have maintained correspondence with congregations in Normandy and Orléans17.

  • 18 F. G. Higman, Le domaine français... cit. n. 3, p. 111-114; H.-L. Schlaepfer, Laurent de Normandie(...)
  • 19 P. Bietenholz, Basle and France... cit. n. 8, p. 122-36, p. 202-31, p. 253-336; A. Pettegree, Emde (...)

11While Geneva was not the only refugee center of importance between 1534 and 1560, as table 1 shows it dominated the printing and dissemination of evangelical propaganda in French even more thoroughly in this period than its relative size alone would warrant. Indeed, the Genevan effort in this domain was remarkable. Vernacular French evangelical literature became far more outspokenly anti-Roman and sacramentarian in these years. The press that Pierre de Vingle established in Neuchâtel late in 1533 after fleeing Lyon initiated this new direction, but he published only 19 works there in the two years that remained to him to live. After his death, Jean Michel acquired his typographic material and had it transported to Geneva. The Piedmontese refugee Jean Girard established another, extremely productive printing shop in Geneva soon after that city embraced the Reformation. The great wave of refugees of the 1550s brought additional master printers such as Jean Crespin, Conrad Badius, and Robert Estienne, as well as upward of a hundred printing workers. The wealthy ex-mayor of Noyon, Laurent de Normandie, began actively financing new projects and developed a network of over two hundred colporteurs and booksellers to distribute Genevan books across France. The charity fund of the French refugee community, the bourse française, contributed additional money to this effort. Between 1551 and 1564, Geneva’s presses turned out upwards of 527 titles18. Against this massive Genevan effort one can only oppose, for the years prior to 1560, a dozen works published by Etienne Dolet in Lyon before his execution in 1546; some two dozen titles produced in Strasbourg; a few rare titles in Emden, Lausanne, and Basel, these last significant because they include anti-Calvinist voices such as Castellio and Acontius; and some French Bibles produced in Lyon in the 1550s19. As Andrew Pettegree’s paper for this volume makes clear, the situaton would change after 1560, when the great surge of foundation of Reformed churches within France encouraged a burst of Protestant printing activity in Lyon and the foundation of presses associated with the cause in Rouen, Caen, Orléans, La Rochelle, and elsewhere. Subsequently, Geneva’s predominance within the world of French Protestant printing was increasingly counter-balanced by production centers within France.

Table 1. REFUGEE PUBLISHING IN FRENCH AND ITALIAN

Table 1. REFUGEE PUBLISHING IN FRENCH AND ITALIAN

Note: Evangelical books are defined as Bibles, extracts from the Bible, and reformist or devotional tracts that appeal primarily to the textor authority of Scripture. The statistics concerning Antwerp are incomplete after 1536. The category of «works aimed at Italian Protestantspublished outside Italy» and all statistics in that column are taken from Pierce. This category includes at least 43 books published in Latin.
Sources: J.-F. Gilmont and W. Kemp (ed.), Le livre évangélique en français avant Calvin, Turnhout, 2004, p. 149, 371-380; G. Bietenholz, P. Basle and France in the Sixteenth Century: The Basle Humanists and Printers in Their Contacts with Francophone Culture, Geneva, 1971, p. 253-336; J. W. Joliffe, Draft Bibliography of Lausanne and Morges Imprints 1550-1600, Oxford, 1981; J.-F. Gilmont, Bibliotheca Gebennensis. Les livres imprimés à Genève de 1535 à 1549, in Genava, n.s. 28, 1980, p. 229-248; R. Peter, Les premiers ouvrages français imprimés à Strasbourg, in Annuaire des Amis du Vieux-Strasbourg, 4, 1974, p. 73-108, 8, 1978, 11-75, 10, 1980, p. 35-46, 14, 1984, 17-28; P. Chaix, A. Dufour and G. Moeckli, p. Les livres imprimés à Genève de 1550 à 1600, Geneva, 1966; R. Pierce, Pier Paolo Vergerio the Propagandist, Rome, 2003, p. 247-248.

  • 20 R. Pierce, Pier Paolo Vergerio the Propagandist, Rome, 2003.

12The Genevan accomplishment in the years 1535-1560 emerges even more clearly when it is compared with Italian-language evangelical printing from exile, as revealed by Robert Pierce’s recent Pier Paolo Vergerio the Propangandist20. Not only, as table 1 shows, did Genevan printers turn out substantially more evangelical books in French than all of the places where Italian exiles settled did in Italian. The chief author and distributor from exile of Italian-language evangelical propaganda, Vergerio, had to solicit charity from near and far to fund his publishing efforts. Trunks containing his books were often intercepted in transport, forcing him to distribute his tracts primarily by slipping them into letters sent to a network of correspondents across Italy. This in turn restricted the size and length of what he could write. Few extended theological treatises, vernacular Bibles, or important devotional works made their way into Italy after mid-century, just when Genevan production for the French market was exploding. Whether because the trade routes into Italy could be more easily policed, because the Italian exile community never found its Laurent de Normandie, because no Italian-speaking city ever offered exiles the enduring political protection and commercial infrastructure that Geneva provided, because Calvin turned away from Italy to focus more on France as the years passed, or, most likely, because of the combination of all of these reasons, no center of Italian exile could ever produce the same volume of religious propaganda or dominate the debate about religious change as thoroughly as Geneva did for the French Protestant movement between 1535 and 1560.

  • 21 The Paris and Lyon editions are reported in a letter of Oporinus. R. Bodenmann, Wolfgang Musculus, (...)

13Even though the overwhelming majority of French-language evangelical or Protestant works produced between 1535 and 1560 emanated from Geneva, these books spread more than just Calvin’s ideas. The domain of ecclesiology illustrates this. While works such as Les ordonnances ecclesiastiques de l’eglise de Geneve. Item, l’ordre des escoles de ladicte cité, published in both 1561 and 1562, diffused the Genevan model of church organization through print, and while the many editions of Calvin’s Institutes made his observations on this subject by far the most widely known, other visions of how to organize a church also circulated. Martin Bucer’s De Regno Christi was published in French translation in Geneva in 1558; while Bucer was a great influence on Calvin’s thinking about ecclesiological questions, their views were not identical. The exceptionally detailed description of the liturgy and practices of the strangers’ churches in London, Toute la forme & maniere du Ministere Ecclesiastique en l’Église des estrangers, dressee a Londres en Angleterre, appeared in French from the presses of Giles Ctematius in Emden in 1556. At a further remove yet from Genevan principles and practices, Wolfgang Musculus’s Loci communes, with its full-throated justification of magisterial control over discipline and clerical appointments, may have been published in Latin in both Lyon and Paris prior to 1563 and certainly interested French readers enough for Antoine Du Pinet to begin and Claude Kerquefinen to complete a French translation by 1567, subsequently published in Geneva in 157721.

14Another reason why Geneva exercised so important a role in growth of French Protestantism was the aggressive role Calvin took in encouraging the formation of churches independent of the established church and in sending out men from Geneva to found new congregations and minister to already established gatherings. The importance of pastors coming from Geneva vis a vis those coming from other refugee centers or formed within France offers particularly revealing insights into both the mechanisms and limits of Genevan and Calvinist influence over the French Protestant movement.

  • 22 Histoire ecclesiastique des Églises Reformees au royaume de France, ed. G. Baum, E. Cunitz and R. (...)
  • 23 Histoire ecclesiastique, I, p. 117-22; R. M. Kingdon (ed.), Registres de la Compagnie des Pasteurs (...)

15Just where, when, and how the loose networks of evangelical or Protestant sympathizers in different corners of France coagulated into more or less permanent groups meeting regularly for prayer, Bible-reading, discipline or the celebration of the sacraments remains one of the most poorly understood aspects of the French Reformation. The most abundant evidence about this comes from the Histoire ecclésiastique des Églises Réformées au royaume de France, but that vast compilation of materials sent from local churches also has the fundamental limitation that it draws its material from assemblies that were ultimately integrated into the network of Reformed churches. It is largely silent about early gatherings, especially ones that did things that Theodore Beza was not prepared to acknowledge or that did not fit the Calvinist model of an «église dressée» with a consistory, ecclesiastical discipline, and the administration of sacraments. To judge by this source, the first known group of Protestant worshippers to assemble regularly to partake of the sacraments did not take the Genevan church as its model but still felt the effect of Calvin’s work as a church organizer. This was the assembly in Meaux founded in 1546 by a group of men who had observed the workings of the French church of Strasbourg. Calvin, of course, had been the first pastor of this church during the period between his first and second Genevan ministry22. Other groups are known to have met for preaching or prayer in the subsequent years, but the next «églises dressées» to emerge did not do so until 1555-56. One of these, in Paris, was founded by several individuals who had come to reject Catholic ceremonies and wished to have a community that could administer the sacraments properly. It chose as its first minister one of its number who had spent some time in Geneva but had not been ordained a minister there. The history of the emergence of the other early church, that of Poitiers, is not entirely clear but suggests both greater dependence upon and greater tension with Geneva. In 1554 Calvin wrote two letters to the brethren there advising them how to establish a church. The records of the Genevan Company of Pastors show that the first minister sent out to France was then directed to Poitiers in April or May 1555 in response to a request from «les freres» of that city for some one to administer God’s word to them. The Histoire ecclesiastique, however, credits the establishment of the church to a minister, Pierre Chrestien, who does not seem ever to have visited Geneva and may not have been very favorably inclined to Calvin, if a report from the hostile but often well informed Florimond de Raemond is reliable. The church was soon «assailed from within» by two other «malheureux personnages natifs du lieu» whose views were in error from the Genevan perspective. Those in Poitiers who sought a minister from Geneva may have been a fraction of the church that disliked the direction in which the current of ideas was running in the city23.

  • 24 R. M. Kingdon, Geneva and the Coming... cit. n. 3, p. 2; P. Wilcox, L’envoi de pasteurs aux Église (...)
  • 25 H. Vuilleumier, Histoire de l’Église réformée du pays de Vaud sous le régime bernois, I, Lausanne, (...)
  • 26 G. Berthoud, Les Français dans le clergé neuchâtelois... cit. n. 13, p. 57.

16The records of Geneva’s Company of Pastors shows a steady growth in the number of men sent out to France over the subsequent years: 1 in 1556, 11 in 1557, 22 in 1558, 32 in 1559. Another Genevan document of late 1561 or early 1562 shows fully 150 men sent out in 156124. French churches also sent questions to Calvin for his advice and directed copies of documents drafted within France to him for approval. But Geneva was not the only place of origin or training of the ministers who flocked into France in this period. A significant sub-group of the ministers who appear in the Genevan lists had served the Pays de Vaud in the years prior to 1559, when a dispute within that region over the matter of discipline led thirty ministers to resign in protest, freeing them up for missionary work in France. Among these was Pierre Viret. Faced with pleas from throughout the kingdom for desperately needed ministers in the subsequent two years, the Bernese authorities also authorized the six classes of the Pays de Vaud each to detach another minister to serve in France, while still other Vaudois ministers are known to have simply left their posts to go to France25. The churches of the Pays de Neuchâtel also received requests for ministers from France, some forwarded from Geneva. Twenty-five ministers left that region26.

17These numbers are all impressive, but the number of new Reformed congregations founded in France between 1555 and 1565 was more impressive yet: upwards of a thousand. Clearly many churches could not have been founded or staffed by ministers coming from Geneva or other well established foreign churches. Their initial pastors had to be sent from other churches already established within France or trained on the spot. Typically, the history of those French churches whose early ministers have been studied in any detail reveals that they came from both inside and outside France. In Troyes, what became the Reformed church began in 1551 with a group that assembled for prayer but not the sacraments that was formed around a woolcarder and former member of the short-lived Meaux church of the 1540s who had lived at least briefly after that in Geneva. The members of this group were incited to form an «église dressée» in 1559 by the Parisian minister

  • 27 N. Pithou de Chamgobert, Chronique de Troyes et de la Champagne during les guerres de Religion (15 (...)

18Jean Le Macon de la Riviere when he happened to pass through the city after a voyage to Geneva. The first minister was a young native of Angoulême subsequently sent out from Paris, where he had received his training for the ministry as a proposant. In this period of both high danger and dramatic growth for the faith, ministers often were moved quickly from one place to another for their safety. After this first minister was arrested and then liberated by force from the hands of the authorities, four other ministers arrived to serve the church in the next three years. One was sent from Paris, two arrived from Geneva or from elsewhere in France on instructions from Geneva, and one was sent from Neuchâtel in response to a request sent initially to Geneva27.

  • 28 P. Conner, Huguenot Heartland: Montauban and Southern French Calvinism during the Wars of Religion(...)
  • 29 Histoire Ecclésiastique, I, 246, 937-939; P. Conner, Huguenot Heartland, p. 18-24, 95-6, 107-11, 2 (...)

19Some parts of the country were the focus of more Genevan attention than others. No less than 35 ministers were sent from Geneva to the Bas-Languedoc and Cévennes in the early 1560s. Of the first five ministers to serve the church of Lasalle in the Cévennes, three had spent extended period of time in Geneva28. Further west around Montauban, however, Genevan influence was weaker. The Histoire ecclesiastique reports that Montauban’s church began early in 1560 when a small group of young legists agreed to cease polluting themselves at Mass and to gather regularly for prayer and psalm-singing. One of their number had just returned from Paris, where he had joined the Reformed church. But local records indicate that already in the preceding year large armed crowds had already gathered frequently to sing psalms in the streets. One group attacked the Augustinian monastery. Here we see the limits of the Histoire ecclésiastique. The circle highlighted by the Genevan history obtained Montauban’s first minister by writing to Toulouse. The man dispatched had previously pastored in Nérac and Toulouse. He does not seem ever to have been to Geneva. The church grew quickly and aggressively. It sent pleas to Geneva for more ministers, but one did not come until May 1561, and when he arrived he was appalled at the disrespect shown the established authorities by the faithful, had trouble integrating himself into the church, and soon left. A militant native son who had also spent some time in Geneva replaced him. Most of the rest of the 70-plus ministers who subsequently served the church until 1629 were other native sons who never saw Geneva. Montauban’s church also initiated the foundation of a dozen churches in the surrounding Quercy in 1561 and early 1562. The pastors who set these up were again typically local men who had received their training for their new posts in Montauban by serving as diacres catechistes, deacons of a sort found in a number of French Reformed churches in this period who also led oversaw catechism sessions, read the Bible before the minister’s sermon, and led prayers in the minister’s absence29.

  • 30 J. Calvin, Opera Omnia, ed. G. Baum, E. Cunitz and E. Reuss, XVIII, Braunschweig, 1878, p. 726; E. (...)
  • 31 J.-L. Thireau, Charles du Moulin (1500-1566): Étude sur les sources, la méthode, les idées politiq (...)

20The history of the growth of churches in different parts of France thus reveals varying degrees of Genevan direction and involvement. It must also be remembered that the foundation of new congregations was not necessarily the sole or natural end point of hopes and agitation for religious change in this period. In parts of the Southwest and Vivarais where agitation was particularly intense in 1560-1562, there were places where the churches had been purged of their idols, the mass had been forced to cease, monks had left the cloister to marry, but no regular services of any new sort had been put in their place, perhaps because of a lack of intense local demand as well as an absence of even minimally trained ministers30. Then there were the unknown number of individuals who hoped for reform of the established church without schism or the creation of an alternative church structured differently from that which took shape in France. Of such people, we really only know those who published their ideas and incurred Calvin’s wrath. Many of these people, too, had been exiles, but their biographies often show acquaintance with a number of different foreign churches, and their time in Geneva was often marked by conflict with Calvin or Beza that turned them against their ideas31. Not every exile who went to Geneva agreed with John Knox that it was the most perfect school of Christ since the time of the apostles.

  • 32 G. Sunshine, Reforming French Protestantism... cit. n. 5, p. 77-82.
  • 33 B. Roussel, Viret en France... cit. n. 5, p. 825, 831.
  • 34 M. Reulos, Les débuts des communautés réformées dans l’actuel département de la Manche, in Revue d (...)

21With the early churches being formed by people coming from different directions, the institutions that actually took shape in the first years of France’s Reformed churches were not simple clones of Geneva’s. Certain practices found in some local and regional churches were modeled after other foreign churches. The clearest example was the system of classes and colloques established first in Languedoc in early 1562 and soon copied in Dauphiné. This decreed that the ministers of a given area were to assemble to discuss matters of common interest every two or four weeks. Their colloques were in turn grouped into larger classes that were to assemble every three months, attended by the ministers of the region as well as a deacon or elder of each church. Within each unit, a minister was also to be elected to carry out regular visitations of every church. Pierre Viret brought this system to Languedoc from the Pays de Vaud and played the key role in convincing the provincial synod of Languedoc to establish it there. The system endured until 1571, when the national synod rejected the system of visitations by elected doyens32. Bernard Roussel has also recently suggested that a manuscript set of instructions about how to establish elders, deacons and church assemblies may be linked to Viret’s churchbuilding work in Languedoc around 1562-1563. In assigning a very ambitious set of tasks to the deacons and church community, including providing low-cost health care and helping to place poor boys and girls in apprenticeships and service, this document betrays a clear debt to Bucer’s De Regno Christi33. Still further evidence of non-Genevan influence comes from one of the rare local documents that shows how an early French Reformed church was organized, the 1563 «Police et Discipline de l’Église reformée à Saint Lo». It identifies four kinds of ministers within the church. An expression of Calvin’s doctrine of the four-fold ministry? So one might think, until one looks closer and sees that the civil magistrates constitute one of these four kinds of ministers, as they also do in Toute la forme & manière du Ministère Ecclésiastique en l’église des estrangers, dressée a Londres en Angleterre34.

  • 35 G. Sunshine, Reforming French Protestantism... cit. n. 5, p. 127-30.

22Nor was the process of French church-building simply a matter of copying existing models. Other institutional features of the French Reformed churches arose from improvisation to meet the needs of a group of churches developing in opposition to the established authorities within a vast kingdom. The office of diacre-catechiste is one example of this. Others include the role French consistories came to play not simply as agents of discipline, but also as institutions of church administration and, in certain contexts, political lobby or decision making; and most importantly the presbyterial-synodal structure of the overall church, with its ascending system of representation and descending system of authority35. The foundations of this system were laid at the first national synod of the church in 1559, which was itself a striking illustration of the mix of local initiative and Genevan influence in the construction of the French Reformed churches. The synod was convoked by several of the larger French churches without Calvin’s prior approval. Calvin rushed a draft confession of faith to the assembly that was adopted for the church, but fundamental principles of church organization fixed at the assembly, notably the principle that no church may pretend domination over any other and the construction of regional and national synods with authority over broad questions of doctrine and discipline, were developed independently.

23In sum, initiatives coming from a variety of different directions contributed to the diffusion of evangelical ideas in France and to the construction of the organized network of Reformed churches that became the great vehicle for the articulation of reform demands in the critical years of the French Reformation between 1559 and 1562. Early on, Antwerp and then Neuchâtel were important centers of refugee printing. Later, Strasbourg and London housed significant refugee churches. Their members may have numbered in the hundreds whereas Geneva sheltered thousands of French refugees. Nonetheless, they too entered into contact with and served as models of organization for groups of the faithful within France. The Pays de Vaud, the county of Neuchâtel, several smaller English towns, and even the Channel Islands also sheltered groups of French exiles in times of persecution and offered some the opportunity to train for the ministry. In many cases, this became preparation for these men to return home as pastors. As the disparate groups of believers began to organize more permanent church structures, first locally and then nationally, much of the impetus to do so came from within the kingdom. All this has been too often overlooked or underestimated. If French Protestantism ultimately came to seem synonymous with Reformed Protestantism of a Genevan stripe, it should be obvious that other outcomes were possible too. Other centers of refuge might have served as bases for shaping evangelical opinion within France through print and for organizing an opposition church, had Geneva not quickly emerged as the largest center of refuge and home to the cause’s most driven and persuasive theological voice and church organizer.

  • 36 T. de Bèze, Correspondance, ed. H. Meylan, A. Dufour, and C. Chimelli, VIII, Geneva, 1976, p. 81.

24That said, the role that Geneva played in the French Reformation remains quite remarkable. From this one city came the overwhelming majority of the French-language evangelical books published between 1536 and 1560. From it came many of the ministers who played a critical role in establishing a structured network of alternative churches between 1555 and 1562 and who militated to see that these churches operated in similar fashion. (The preceding paper reminds us that Geneva also played the same role in the construction of enduring churches in the Waldensian valleys of the Piedmont.) That other centers of exile were also important serves to underscore that if Geneva ultimately came to seem the fons et origo of French Protestantism, this was not because it was the only place that could have assumed such a role, but because in the absence of a strong guild regime it proved unusually hospitable to refugees, and especially because certain of the refugees who settled there proved unusually determined, creative, and dogged in their efforts to reach out to their brethren left behind in France and to direct the diverse influences and impulses found within French evangelical circles into channels that they considered proper. Pride of place here goes to Calvin and Beza, of course, but the remarkable system for financing, producing, and distributing Protestant literature created by Laurent de Normandie also requires highlighting. The Genevan primacy within French Protestantism required considerable struggle to establish. Calvin and Beza were not above recalling the obligation of the French churches to «leur pauvre mere nourrice» and threatening the churches with stopping the flow of mother’s milk if they disregarded their admonitions36. They relentlessly denounced Jean Morély’s proposed model of church organization. They defended the presbyterial-synodal alternative made in France so energetically that it came to be seen as characteristically Genevan, even when it was not. In the end, their efforts gave the French Protestant movement the structures it needed to survive as a minority church in a hostile kingdom. It can also be wondered how much potential support for the cause they alienated through their sharp treatment of all those who disagreed with them and their considerable capacity for making enemies.

Notes

1 Abbreviations: BHR = Bibliothèque d’Humanisme et Renaissance; BSHPF = Bulletin de la Société de l’Histoire du Protestantisme Français.
This paper was originally to have been written by Bernard Roussel, but personal reasons forced him to withdraw from the conference. I would like to thank him for so generously sharing his preliminary thoughts about the subject, which aided me in the initial formulation of this paper and facilitated my completing the assignment. All responsibility for the essay is, of course, mine.

2 Guillaume Farel, 1489-1565. Biographie nouvelle écrite d’après les documents originaux par un groupe d’historiens, professeurs et pasteurs de Suisse, de France et d’Italie, Neuchâtel, 1930, p. 689.

3 Key titles within a vast literature include: R. M. Kingdon, Geneva and the Coming of the Wars of Religion in France, Geneva, 1956; idem, Geneva and the Consolidation of the French Protestant Movement, Geneva, 1967; E. W. Monter, Calvin’s Geneva, New York, 1967; F. M. Higman, Censorship and the Sorbonne Bibliographical Study of Books in French Censured by the Faculty of Theology of the University of Paris, 1520-1551, Geneva, 1979; Id., Le domaine français 1520-1562, in J.-F. Gilmont (ed.), La Réforme et le livre. L’Europe de l’imprimé (1517-v.1570), Paris, 1990, p. 105-154; P. Wilcox, L’envoi de pasteurs aux Églises de France. Trois listes établies par Colladon (1561-1562), in BSHPF, 139, 1993, p. 347-374.

4 F. Joubert and S. de Mérez, Mémoires de divers événements en Dauphiné notamment pendant les guerres de religion, E. Maignen (ed.), Grenoble, 1886, p. 17.

5 B. Roussel, Pierre Viret en France (septembre 1561-août 1565), in BSHPF, 144, 1998, p. 805. For other expressions of a similar point of view, see B. Roussel,
«Colonies» de Genève? Les premières années de vie commune des églises réformées du royaume de France (ca 1559-ca 1571), in Bulletin de la Société d’Histoire et d’Archéologie de Genève, 26-27, 1996-1997, p. 1-13; G. Sunshine, Reforming French Protestantism: The Creation of Huguenot Ecclesiastical Institutions, 1557-1572, Kirksville (Mo.), 2003.

6 F. M. Higman, Le domaine français... cit. n. 3, p. 107-111; A. Tricard, La propagande évangélique en France. L’imprimeur Simon Du Bois (1525-1534) and E. Droz, Pierre de Vingle, l’imprimeur de Farel, in Aspects de la propagande religieuse, Geneva, 1957, p. 1-78; J.-F. Gilmont, La production typographique de Martin Lempereur (Anvers 1525-1536), in J.-F. Gilmont and W. Kemp (ed.), Le livre évangélique en français avant Calvin Turnhout, 2004 (Nugae humanisticae, 4), p. 115-129; P. Arblaster, G. Juhász, and G. Latré (ed.), Tyndale’s Testament, Turnhout, 2002, p. 3-5.

7 P.-F. Geisendorf (ed.), Livre des habitants de Genève, Geneva, 1957. The most useful overview of Geneva’s transformations in this period remains E. W. Monter, Calvin’s Geneva... cit.

8 P. Denis, Les églises d’étrangers en pays rhénans (1538-1564), Paris, 1984, p. 48-145, p. 241-56; P. Bietenholz, Basle and France in the Sixteenth Century: The Basle Humanists and Printers in their Contacts with Francophone Culture, Geneva, 1971.

9 P. Denis, Églises d’étrangers... cit. n. 8, passim; F. de Schickler, Les églises du réfuge en Angleterre, I, Paris, 1892; The Registers of the Walloon or Strangers’ Church in Canterbury, London, 1894 (Publications of the Huguenot Society of London, 5).

10 G. Syvert (ed.), Chroniques des Îles de Jersey, Guernesey, Auregny et Serk, Guernesey, 1832, esp. p. 74, 98-100, 102-03.

11 A. Perrenoud, La population de Genève xvie-xixe siècles, Geneva, 1979, esp. p. 31; E. W. Monter, Calvin’s Geneva... cit. n. 3, p. 166-173; Id., Historical Demography and Religious History in Sixteenth Century Geneva, in Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 9, 1979, p. 402-412. Cf. the slightly different methods of Monter, who estimates the number of refugees who took shelter in the town at one point or another between 1550 and 1580 at 15-20,000 adult men, most of them unmarried. Monter also estimates that 800 religious refugees received the status of bourgeois de Genève. To estimate their demographic impact on the city, this number must be multiplied by the average size of their families.

12 W. Naphy, The Renovation of the Ministry in Calvin’s Geneva, in A. Pettegree (ed.), The Reformation of the Parishes: The Ministry and the Reformation in Town and Country, Manchester, 1993, p. 127.

13 G. Berthoud, Les Français dans le clergé neuchâtelois à l’époque de la Réforme, in Cinq siècles de relations franco-suisses. Hommage à Louis-Edouard Rollet, Neuchâtel, 1984, p. 53. It should be noted that Neuchâtel (2,000 inhabitants?) and Lausanne (5,000?) were both considerably smaller than Geneva and located farther from important trade routes.

14 G. Syvert (ed.), Chroniques des Îles... cit. n. 10, p. 74, 102-103.

15 P. Denis, Églises d’étrangers... cit. n. 8, p. 53-4, 60, estimates the total size of the French church of Strasbourg at between 500 and 1,000 members throughout the decade 1552-1562. To judge by a 1562 list of church members, roughly a third of church members hailed from the kingdom of France. Refugees from Lorraine were also numerous, with those from the Habsburg Netherlands, the prince-bishopric of Liège, and Franche-Comté trailing well behind.

16 A. Pettegree, Foreign Protestant Communities in Sixteenth-Century London, Oxford, 1986, p. 77-78, 182, for global estimates; Returns of Aliens Dwelling in the City and Suburbs of London from the Reign of Henry VIII to that of James I, ed. R.E.G. and E. F. Kirk, London, 1900 (Publications of the Huguenot Society of London, 10), I, 282-292, for the breakdown of the church by geographic origin in 1562-63.

17 A. Pettegree, Foreign Protestant Communities... cit. n. 16, esp. p. 220.

18 F. G. Higman, Le domaine français... cit. n. 3, p. 111-114; H.-L. Schlaepfer, Laurent de Normandie, in Aspects de la propagande religieuse, Geneva, 1957, p. 176-230; J. E. Olson, Calvin and Social Welfare: Deacons and the Bourse Française, Selinsgrove (Pa.), 1989, p. 50-69.

19 P. Bietenholz, Basle and France... cit. n. 8, p. 122-36, p. 202-31, p. 253-336; A. Pettegree, Emden and the Dutch Revolt: Exile and the Development of Reformed Protestantism, Oxford, 1992, Appendix; J. W. Joliffe, Draft Bibliography of Lausanne and Morges Imprints 1550-1600, Oxford, 1981; R. Peter, Les premiers ouvrages français imprimés à Strasbourg, in Annuaire des Amis du Vieux-Strasbourg, 4, 1974, p. 73-108, 8, 1978, p. 11-75, 10, 1980, p. 35-46, 14, 1984, p. 1728; L. Febvre, Dolet propagateur de l’Evangile, in BHR, 6, 1945, p. 98-170; C. A. Mayer, The Problem of Dolet’s Evangelical Publications, in BHR, 17, 1955, p. 405-414; C. Longeon, Bibliographie des œuvres d’Etienne Dolet, écrivain, éditeur et imprimeur, Geneva, 1980.

20 R. Pierce, Pier Paolo Vergerio the Propagandist, Rome, 2003.

21 The Paris and Lyon editions are reported in a letter of Oporinus. R. Bodenmann, Wolfgang Musculus, Geneva, 2000, p. 586. The French edition, Musculus, Lieux communs, [Geneva], Eustache Vignon, 1577, épître dédicatoire, recounts the history of the work’s translation. Kerquefinen was a resident of Picardy who took refuge in Geneva and Dauphiné during the First Civil War. Du Pinet is a well known author and translator who was in the service of a French noble family c. 1562 after previously residing and working for a while in Geneva.

22 Histoire ecclesiastique des Églises Reformees au royaume de France, ed. G. Baum, E. Cunitz and R. Reuss, Paris, 1883, I, 67-70; on the repression: E. W. Monter, Judging the French Reformation: Heresy Trials by Sixteenth-Century Parlements, Cambridge (Mass.), 1999, p. 192-195.

23 Histoire ecclesiastique, I, p. 117-22; R. M. Kingdon (ed.), Registres de la Compagnie des Pasteurs de Genève au temps de Calvin, II, Geneva, 1962, p. 62; R. M. Kingdon, Geneva and the Coming... cit. n. 3, p. 2; E. and E. Haag, La France Protestante, 2nd ed., V, Paris, 1884, p. 375-376; P. Dez, Histoire des Protestants et des Églises réformées du Poitou, La Rochelle, 1936, p. 47-48.

24 R. M. Kingdon, Geneva and the Coming... cit. n. 3, p. 2; P. Wilcox, L’envoi de pasteurs aux Églises de France... cit. n. 3.

25 H. Vuilleumier, Histoire de l’Église réformée du pays de Vaud sous le régime bernois, I, Lausanne, 1927, p. 685.

26 G. Berthoud, Les Français dans le clergé neuchâtelois... cit. n. 13, p. 57.

27 N. Pithou de Chamgobert, Chronique de Troyes et de la Champagne during les guerres de Religion (1524-1594), Reims, 1998, I, p. 115-116, 208-209, 278, 313, 315; P. Roberts, A City in Conflict: Troyes during the French Wars of Religion, Manchester, 1996, p. 54-59, 63-68.

28 P. Conner, Huguenot Heartland: Montauban and Southern French Calvinism during the Wars of Religion, Aldershot, 2002, p. 211; C. Bost, Les pasteurs d’une église des Cévennes au xvie siècle (1561-1605): Lasalle (Gard), in BSHPF, 49, 1900, p. 561-581, 617-635.

29 Histoire Ecclésiastique, I, 246, 937-939; P. Conner, Huguenot Heartland, p. 18-24, 95-6, 107-11, 210-11; R. M. Kingdon, Geneva and the Coming... cit. n. 3, p. 50, 111.

30 J. Calvin, Opera Omnia, ed. G. Baum, E. Cunitz and E. Reuss, XVIII, Braunschweig, 1878, p. 726; E. Arnaud, Les protestants du Vivarais et du Velay, I, Paris, 1888, p. 17-18.

31 J.-L. Thireau, Charles du Moulin (1500-1566): Étude sur les sources, la méthode, les idées politiques et économiques d’un juriste de la Renaissance, Geneva, 1980; M. Turchetti, Concordia o tolleranza? François Bauduin (15201573) e i «moyenneurs», Geneva, 1984; P. Denis and J. Rott, Jean Morély (ca. 1524-ca. 1594) et l’utopie d’une démocratie dans l’église, Geneva, 1993.

32 G. Sunshine, Reforming French Protestantism... cit. n. 5, p. 77-82.

33 B. Roussel, Viret en France... cit. n. 5, p. 825, 831.

34 M. Reulos, Les débuts des communautés réformées dans l’actuel département de la Manche, in Revue du département de la Manche, 24, 1982, p. 43, 48-49; Toute la forme et manière du Ministère Ecclésiastique en l’Église des estrangers dressée a Londres, [Emden], Giles Ctematius, 1556, p. 105.

35 G. Sunshine, Reforming French Protestantism... cit. n. 5, p. 127-30.

36 T. de Bèze, Correspondance, ed. H. Meylan, A. Dufour, and C. Chimelli, VIII, Geneva, 1976, p. 81.

Table des illustrations

Titre Table 1. REFUGEE PUBLISHING IN FRENCH AND ITALIAN
Légende Note: Evangelical books are defined as Bibles, extracts from the Bible, and reformist or devotional tracts that appeal primarily to the textor authority of Scripture. The statistics concerning Antwerp are incomplete after 1536. The category of «works aimed at Italian Protestantspublished outside Italy» and all statistics in that column are taken from Pierce. This category includes at least 43 books published in Latin.Sources: J.-F. Gilmont and W. Kemp (ed.), Le livre évangélique en français avant Calvin, Turnhout, 2004, p. 149, 371-380; G. Bietenholz, P. Basle and France in the Sixteenth Century: The Basle Humanists and Printers in Their Contacts with Francophone Culture, Geneva, 1971, p. 253-336; J. W. Joliffe, Draft Bibliography of Lausanne and Morges Imprints 1550-1600, Oxford, 1981; J.-F. Gilmont, Bibliotheca Gebennensis. Les livres imprimés à Genève de 1535 à 1549, in Genava, n.s. 28, 1980, p. 229-248; R. Peter, Les premiers ouvrages français imprimés à Strasbourg, in Annuaire des Amis du Vieux-Strasbourg, 4, 1974, p. 73-108, 8, 1978, 11-75, 10, 1980, p. 35-46, 14, 1984, 17-28; P. Chaix, A. Dufour and G. Moeckli, p. Les livres imprimés à Genève de 1550 à 1600, Geneva, 1966; R. Pierce, Pier Paolo Vergerio the Propagandist, Rome, 2003, p. 247-248.
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