Reformation in the
Holy Roman Empire
in Switzerland

The Reformation in France

A.) The French Church on the Eve of the Reformation

Ecclesiastically France was divided in the Archbishoprics of Reims, Rouen, Tours, Sens, Bourges, Lyon, Bordeaux, Auch, Toulouse, Narbonne, Arles and Aix-en-Provence. In contrast to Germany the bishops and archbishops of France, while administrating large landholdings, did not have the simultaneous function of secular rulers. The INVESTITURE CONFLICT of the 11th-12th century had been fought between popes and emperors; in France, the king continued to be the decisive influence when it came to the appointment of bishops. The PRAGMATIC SANCTION OF BOURGES (1445) meant the Church of France, while remaining Catholic, reduced her dependency on Rome; the sanction was accepted by Pope Leo X. in 1516. The separation of the GALLICAN CHURCH from Rome in all but in name in 1682 was based on the special status acquired by the French Church in 1445/1516.
The church in France suffered from the same scandals as elsewhere in Europe, bishops and abbots living in disregard of canonic law, the sale of letters of indulgence etc.

B.) Lutheranism in France

The University of Paris condemned Lutheranism in 1521. JACQUES LEFEVRE D'ETAPLES, secretly and in violation of a royal order, translated the bible into French; he sympathized with Martin Luther. He moved to MEAUX, where Bishop BRICONNET provided protection for French Lutherans, which also included GUILLAUME FAREL. In 1523 Bishop Briconnet forbade Luther's publications; in 1524 he forbade Farel to preach. In 1525 a commission sent by the Parliament of Paris came to Meaux and forbade d'Etaples' translation of the New Testament; d'Etaples and Farel fled France. The SYNOD OF PARIS in 1528 condemned Luther's teaching.

C.) The Emergence of France's Huguenot Community

In 1541 JEAN CALVIN had settled in Geneva and established a protestant theocracy there. In the 1550es he concentrated on spreading his reform to France. In the late 1550es the number of his supporters spread quickly; their name HUGUENOTS is derived from German Eidgenossen (comrades by oath, a name for the Swiss). In 1559 the (Huguenot) GALLICAN CONFESSION was adopted at a synod of French protestants held in Paris. A Calvinist university was founded at Nimes (1562), another at Orthez in 1566. Prosecution was continuing, in 1559 a member of the Parliament of Paris, Anne du Bourg, was executed for having spoken out for Protestantism.
The situation would soon escalate into the HUGUENOT WARS (1562-1598).

Articles Gallicanism, Huguenots, from Catholic Encyclopedia
Who were the Huguenots, from the Huguenot Society of South Africa
Huguenot Timeline, from the Pierre Chastain Family Association
Article Briconnet, from BBKL, in German
DOCUMENTS David Potter (ed., trsl.) : The French Wars of Religion, Selected Documents, New York : St. Martin's 1997

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on February 31st 2001, last revised on November 15th 2004

Click here to go Home
Click here to go to Information about KMLA, WHKMLA, the author and webmaster
Click here to go to Statistics

Impressum · Datenschutz