Early Reformation : Calvinist Geneva, Switzerland

Flag of the Canton of Geneva,
from FOTW

In 1535 the city of Geneva threw off the rule of the DUKE OF SAVOY. In 1536, Jean Calvin settled here, and after a brief stay in Strassburg (1538-1541) he returned to stay permanently. The city, meanwhile a republic, adapted it's constitution and laws to Calvin's teaching; the Genevans regarded themselves and their fellow believers God's selected people.
In close vicinity to Geneva there was the SWISS CONFEDERATION, a confederation of tiny, small and a few medium size cantons which in the previous centuries had succeeded in liberating themselves from monarchic rule and establish republics, many of which with direct democracy. Economically and politically, the city cantons (ZUERICH, BERN, BASEL, LUZERN) were dominating. The first of these had adopted protestantism under the influence of HULDRYCH ZWINGLI in 1525/1528. His untimely death in 1531 had left the process of Swiss reformation unfinished; now, these cities turned to Calvin and his teachings.
The majority of the Swiss cantons thus adopted Calvinism. However, in the Swiss Confederation the authority of the individual cantons is strong; a number of them, Luzern and some of the rural cantons, remained loyal to Catholicism. Switzerland, just as other regions of Europe, was split in rival camps. As elsewhere, both sides were convinced to have the only legitimate interpretation of christianity; no side was prepared to tolerate the other. As late as 1848 the religious issue would lead to a civil war.

History of Geneva, from the Geneva Homepage

This page is part of World History at KMLA
Last revised on February 20th 2002

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