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True to the common law, Calvin did not build himself a tomb of dead stones. He constructed it from living stones. A tyrannical dictator without scruple, Calvin held Geneva, his adopted country, with a hand of iron. In fact, seized by the same secular passion, the author also attempts a parallel more daring than profound between Jesus of Nazareth and Karl Marx, both of whom had a certain influence on universal history. We will encounter it repeatedly on our path.

In the s some charitable souls still strove to assure us that, "neither angel, nor beast," Calvin was truly a man — and that on occasion he could even reveal himself as a friend. The figure of Calvin has been restored to its context of Renaissance rhetoric. As Olivier Zweig found a supporter in a pastor of the Cathedral of Saint-Pierre in Geneva, the author of a vitriolic attack on the illustrious Reformer, Jean Calvin et sa dictature Geneva: P.

Grivet, The author says p. Also, A. Bouwsma has without doubt attempted the most audacious synthesis of the man Calvin in distinguishing in him two faces, or rather two individuals. One Calvin, a "conservative," detesting "discord" and trying to establish "order," "intelligibility," and "certainty"; another Calvin, a "humanist," open, attached to "paradox" and "mystery. And among them, Heiko Oberman has raised the important issue of the link between the public Calvin and the private man, who, unlike the German Reformer, is extremely reluctant to voice his feelings and emotions.

For more than four hundred years Calvin has influenced the way successive generations of Europeans and American have thought about religion, structured their political institutions, looked at paintings, written poetry and music, theorized about economic relations, or struggled to uncover the laws which govern the physical universe.

Calvin was not simply the author of the Institutes of the Christian Religion, that lasting Reformed monument. Neither was he a pure soul, but I have endeavored to give him back a body and a sense of belonging. My good friend Pierre Chaunu, certainly one of our best Reformation Millet, Calvin et la dynamique de la Parole.

Essai de rhetorique reformee Paris: H. Champion, , p. Bouwsma, p. Indeed, Calvin was not the sort of man you could take out for a drink — even though the "pursuit of happiness" was not totally alien to him. Luther and Calvin? Two temperaments, to be sure. But also two distinct traditions. The comparison remains captivating to this day. Calvin's understanding of mystery is closely fashioned by his philosophy of language, with its sharp dissociation between words and things. Calvin can never be entirely "enclosed" — to take up a figure frequently employed by the author of the Institutes.

Like Montaigne, Calvin deserves a portrait in motion. See M. Engammare's fascinating study of the concept of 'pleasure' and related notions in his "Irdiche Freude bei Calvin," Calvinus Sicerioris Religionis Vindex, ed. Neuser and B. Armstrong, Sixteenth-Century Essays and Studies, vol. This will be the subject of my forthcoming study of the Reformation from Luther to John Wesley and the Great Awakening. The Reformer never aroused the slightest personality cult among his entourage. Theodore Beza, who succeeded him in Geneva, described him with admiration certainly, but without excessive adulation, never sacrificing to the golden legend.

As a friend of the dead man, he did not hesitate to celebrate his eminent role as the "champion" of God or to blacken his adversaries. For Beza Calvin was indeed the scourge of all heresies: "There will be found no heresy ancient or revived, or newly founded in our time, which he did not destroy down to its foundations. Opera Calvini, ed. Baum, 58 vols. Brunswick: Braunschweig, hereafter cited as OC 33, col.

Yes, Calvin was hot tempered and obstinate, "gloomy and difficult. His father was named Girard Calvin, a man of good understanding and judgment, and therefore in great demand in the houses of the neighboring nobility. And indeed, considering that he himself had such a horror of the abuses of judicial astrology. The future, according to Calvin, depended only on man himself, or at least on man listening to God.

His first admiring biographers likewise found 4. Beza, p. OC 21, col. Beza, Vie de Calvin. This life of Calvin exists in three different redactions: 1. The first version, dated August 19, , appeared shortly after the Reformer's death, in connection with his commentary on the book of Joshua: Commentaires de M. Avec une preface de Theodore de Besze, contenant en brief I'histoire de la vie et mort d'iceluy. Geneva: Francois Perrin, Various editions, including one in Latin. A second version, enlarged by Nicolas Colladon: Commentaires de M.

Geneva: F. Perrin, , in numerous editions. See also J. Armogathe, "Les vies de Calvin aux xvie et xviie siecles," in Historiographie de la Reforme, ed. OC21, col. The biography of Calvin revived an ancient genre, the lives of illustrious men. A great man, moreover, is not a lay saint; his private virtues are less significant than his collective importance. From this perspective Calvin's precise influence is difficult to disentangle with accuracy; apart from the impact of his theological work, which is absolutely undeniable, his effect on the society of his time, and in particular on Geneva, is the subject of constant reevaluation.

Already in , in a new edition, some accompanying words stated that Calvin's life was that of "a great servant of God," and added that it concerned "a holy man whom Our Lord has received into his glory. No, Calvin fortunately smelled the sulfur too plainly to lend himself to the use of the reliquary. From the side of his adversaries, Jerome Bolsec insisted on Calvin's Picard origins, calling him "John Calvin of Noyon, a man among all others who were ever in the world ambitious, presumptuous, arrogant, cruel, malicious, vengeful, and above all ignorant.

In Jacques Amyot opportunely published his translation of Plutarch's Lives of Illustrious Men, which enjoyed a considerable success. Bolsec, Histoire de la vie, moeurs, actes, doctrine, Constance et mortdejean Calvin, jadis ministre de Geneve. Recueilly par M. Climber Paris: Beauvais, , series 1, vol. Bolsec, p. Mercury, in the house of the sun, promised him a strong memory, and the ability to put things down well in writing If in fact his coreligionaries saw in him, according to Raemond, a "second Saint Paul," the "Scorpion in the ascendant" decided that he could not "hold rank and station in the true church.

The saint and the heretic maintain a state of kinship in Raemond's work; the defender of Satan and the friend of God, good and evil approach and recede from each other in a complementary relationship within the secret network of convergences traced by the stars. It is written in the heavens. Raemond clearly feared that evil thoughts would be imputed to him in turn. Astrology cannot substitute for Providence: "I am not however one of those who wish curiously to subject our destinies, our fortunes, and our birth to celestial influences, knowing well that the church, our mistress and conductress, reproves and condemns these opinions.

The God of Calvin, more than any other, broke with the pretensions of "judicial astrology. Armogathe, p. Raemond, bk. Florimond de Raemond fl had at one time been converted to Calvinism. His history had a considerable influence, noted by B. Raemond, p. Calvin, Avertissement contre Vastrologie qu'on appelle judiciaire , OC 7, col.

The destiny of the Reformer took on none of the traits of the marvelous proper to the lives of saints. In the end Calvinist hagiography remained limited. Thus the pastor Charles Drelincourt, in the seventeenth century, despite the admiration, indeed the veneration that the personality of Calvin inspired in him, concluded his study in measured terms by calling the Reformer "A great man, whom God inspired extraordinarily for the illustration of his truth.

The "extraordinary" providence of God, without being equivalent to a miracle, which is accorded, often and no doubt wrongly, a spectacular quality, perceptibly approaches it. The "extraordinary" character of a vocation or an event — this is a miracle without prodigy or spectacle, the direct intervention of God in the course of history. Calvin's vocation, his intimate sense of a mission which surpassed in importance the common destiny of men, was therefore not accompanied by any visible stigma.

The outcome of this evolution is clearly found in the work of Fran9ois Guizot in the nineteenth century. The former Protestant minister of Louis-Philippe had a plan at the end of his life for an illuminating tetralogy. Guizot's Calvin apparently lacked warmth; he aroused "admiration" more than "sympathy. Crouzet, Les guerriers de Dieu. La violence au temps des troubles de religion, vers vers , 2 vols.

Seyssel: Champ Vallon, , Drelincourt, Defense de Calvin Geneva: J. Aut, S. Guizot, La vie de quatre grands Chretiens francais Paris: Hachette, , p. In November , learning of the destruction of his town by the Spaniards, he let his bitterness appear: "I have outlived my country, something I could never have believed. The town where I was born has been entirely destroyed by fire. If the news that is spread is correct, this will be the second time that I will outlive my country" September The cosmopolitanism of his thought and the international character of his enterprise harked back in him to a French passion: the taste for universality, that Utopia of clarity and transparency that found in his language its point of attachment.

Down to the end Calvin remained a man of a native soil, and of a childhood — of which we know practically nothing because of his reticence. The religious troubles, the Protestant desacralization of places, and finally the instinctive resistance this secretive character felt to writing about himself partly explain this aloofness.

It was not until that anyone devoted a book to the Reformer's youth. The nineteenth century returned his psychological depth to Calvin by invoking anew, under cover of historical accuracy, a disavowed spirit of locale.

OC 14, col. OC 16, col. Lefranc, La jeunesse de Calvin Paris: Fischbacher, The family home was located in the parish of SainteGodeberte. It was by the grain market, between the Rue des Porcelets and the Rue Fromentiere. The grain market was, along with the cathedral, one of the nerve centers of the episcopal city, divided between its ecclesiastical vocation and its bourgeois aspirations.

The important agricultural market of Noyon provided an outlet for the villages of the Santerre through the Oise Valley. But Noyon, episcopal seat of the Vermandois, also played a significant administrative role in the secular world. Outstanding in importance were the grain merchants who ruled over the wheat market and the merchants of wool and linen.

A notable position was also held by the tanners and tawers28 established on the banks of the Verse and the Versette. His godfather, Jean des Vatines, was a canon of the cathedral. The name "Calvin" is a later corruption of "Cauvin," derived from the Latin "Calvinus. The family's anchorage had been the village of Pont-1'Eveque, near Noyon.

The grandfather of our Calvin practiced the trade of cooper there, in the waning of the Middle Ages. This honest craftsman had several sons. One, Richard, became established as a locksmith in the Auxerrois quarter in Paris. He must have founded a family there, since Jacques Cauvin, a cousin of our Calvin, practiced the same trade in the Rue du Renard.

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Another son, Girard, father of John Calvin, was established in his own right in Noyon in Rising one by one through all the degrees of provincial respectability, he achieved the bourgeoisie of the town in The rise of the family was directly linked to the protection of a powerful ecclesiastical lord, Charles d'Hangest, bishop of Noyon from on, following the recommendation of Louis XII.

The part of the house called "Calvin's room" could still be visited in It was destroyed in , during the battles that marked the second occupation of the city. Baudoux and R. Regnier, Une grande page de noire histoire locale. Noyon pendant la premiere guerre mondiale Chauny: A. Baticle, The first stone of the present John Calvin museum was laid on July 10, Dedicated three years later, the monument suffered again in the war of Restored, it was again dedicated on July 17, Tawers: workmen who prepared skins and bleached them.

Braillon, Un cas de promotion sociale sous Fancien regime. Les bourgeois gentilshommes de Noyon Noyon: Societe archeologique, historique et scientifique, , p. Charles d'Hangest was born in His father, Jean d'Hangest, seigneur de Genlis, had been a royal councillor and bailli of Evreux in Lacking sons, why not transmit his bishopric to a nephew? Girard Cauvin, apostolic notary, figures among the drafters of this document. What do we know of Girard Cauvin that is not already confused with old wives' tales or with legend? Jacques Desmay, vicar-general of Rouen, came to Noyon to preach during Lent in Therein he deplored the libertinism of Calvin's father, "a sly man, of a sharp and crafty nature, skilled in chicanery, but a great rascal.

Jacques Le Vasseur, at the beginning of the seventeenth century, celebrated in the man an "ardent spirit, among the most skilled in the finest practice and algebra of the law. He therefore became apostolic notary, procurator fiscal of the county, scribe in the church court, secretary of the bishop, and prosecutor of the chapter In short, he embraced so much that he burdened himself for the rest of his life.

But he who embraces too much burdens himself in his turn. What true credit should be given to these belated testimonies, bordering on proverbs, where stereotypes of men of law, wily and dishonest, overshadow the elements of proof? Girard Cauvin certainly showed the exterior signs of success and of an honest bourgeois competence, rendered still more evident by the modesty of his origins. He had married as his first wife Jeanne Le Franc, the daughter of a former innkeeper of Cambrai, made wealthy in business. Pretty and devout, Calvin's mother undoubtedly habituated her son early to those pious exercises that later incurred the sarcasms of his Treatise on Relics.

She died in , leaving behind her an orphan still of a tender age. Desmay, Remarques sur la vie de Jean Calvin tirees des registres de Noyon, lieu de sa naissance Reported by E. Doumergue, Jean Calvin. Les hommes et les choses de son temps, 1 vols. Lausanne: G. Bridel, , An incomplete edition of this extremely rare text exists: Archives curieuses, p. Paris, , pp. His father Girard had mounted one by one all the steps of respectability; a simple town clerk, then recognized by the episcopal court, he had been an agent fiscal episcopal secretary, and finally procurator of the cathedral chapter.

He lived a laborious life and embarked upon a judicial career, in the service of the clergy — who finally condemned him and turned against him. Girard died in in a state of excommunication as a result of his quarrels with the chapter. It was a struggle even to have him rest in consecrated ground. As for Charles, Calvin's older brother who took holy orders, he departed in his turn five years later, refusing the sacraments of the church that had tormented the last moments of their father's life.

Little enough is known, however, about Calvin's two other brothers, Antoine and Francois. Francois undoubtedly died at an early age; Antoine was to go to Geneva, where his wife's levity earned him the reputation of a cuckold. To these four sons must be added two daughters, issue of a second marriage. Marie later rejoined her brother in Geneva, but hardly even the name of the second is known.

Linked to the church by its financial ties, the Cauvin family certainly could, according to Emile Doumergue's formula, "be clerical in its appearance and its functions" while revealing itself to be "extremely anti-clerical in its acts and its spirit. This picturesque name, La Gesine, commemorated the nativity, or more precisely the confinement of Our Lady. In there was added the cure of Saint-Martin de Martheville, eight leagues from Noyon, finally exchanged two years later for that of Pont-1'Eveque.

In La Gesine descended to Antoine, John's younger brother, but in Calvin recovered this benefice. Tiring of simony and nepotism, Calvin officially renounced his church revenues in Calvin was barely twelve years old. According to a recent hypothesis, the year of grace may have marked his departure for Paris and the College de la Marche. Whether it was or matters little see app. Calvin was provided with ecclesiastical benefices as he was preparing to undertake his active studies in Paris; moreover, he profited from the aristocratic protection of the family of Doumergue, It appears that Calvin did not benefit from the revenues of La Gesine from to "for unknown reasons," as noted by F.

Wendel , Calvin, sources et evolution de sa pensee religieuse ; Geneva: Labor et Fides, , p. The young man must have followed the Monmor children, the companions of his childhood studies — Joachim, seigneur de Moyencourt, and Yves, seigneur dTvoys — to Paris. Did this noble protection weigh on the personality of the young Calvin? One may think that he owed to it in part his humanist formation, and also his haughty character, more inclined to voluntary friendships than to cronyism. The succession to Charles d'Hangest in the bishopric of Noyon was not without conflicts.

His nephew Jean d'Hangest, despite the recriminations of the chapter, insisted on sporting a superb beard. Confronted with the hostility of the canons, the good bishop ended by departing for Rome, where he accumulated debts. But this effervescent pilosity barely impeded the unleashing of smothered passions against the heretics. On January 16, , Bishop d'Hangest addressed the chapter: To the deans and chapter: Because I am informed that these vicious unfortunates multiply more and more and that the scandal grows bigger and more terrible and moreover very close to us, and because the king admonishes us to do what is required by our position, I ask you to hold a procession next Thursday more honorable, if possible, than those preceding, and for my part I engage myself to be found there on the said day doing my duty, with the aid of the Creator, and may He hold you in his holy protection.

Calvin himself mentioned in the course of his correspondence his very close acquaintance with the Monmors; letter to Monsieur De Palais, September 10, Wendel, p. Lefranc, p. See J. To tell the truth, we know very little about this young provincial, who must have acquired some rudiments of Latin at the College des Capettes in Noyon.

The picturesque name "Capettes" derived from the short cape cappa worn by the scholars. Paris at that time contained numerous colleges, venerable rivals: the College d'Harcourt, the future Lycee Saint-Louis, had been founded in ; the College du Cardinal Lemoine, the College de Navarre, and those of Montaigu, Du Plessis-Sorbonne, and Lisieux all dated from the fourteenth century.

On his arrival in Paris, the young Calvin probably lived with his uncle Richard, the locksmith, near Saint-Germain-rAuxerrois. He must have received some private lessons from a preparatory master whom he later denounced for incompetence. Cordier was convinced, with that ignorance that afflicts the most enlightened educators, that young boys should already express themselves in Latin when talking with their mothers.

At the College de la Marche Calvin completed the required courses in grammar before being able to study theology or law. Cordier had the sententious character associated in all ages with pedagogical repetitiousness and didactic success. Born about , this Norman had a jaundiced view of the Parisian colleges, where he presided from to Ultimately attracted to the Protestant reform, this excellent man taught the young strong and simple mottoes marked with the seal of common sense and untouched by the notions of later psychology.

He was to pass away in at the age of eighty-five, after having taught his last courses at the Academy of Geneva. The good master presented in his Mirror for Young People certain sound principles, in which physical well-being balanced moral rectitude: The good child gladly hears Talk about God, because he believes in him; , p. Since the medieval period, higher education had emphasized two complementary exercises: the expositio, or master's lecture, delivered by a regent or professor, and the disputatio, which required the participation of the students. OC 13, col. Cordier, March 13, The logical result of which is: The good child tries to live According to Jesus and to follow him; The naughty child follows Antichrist And makes war on Jesus Christ.

One could also cite other passages in this Mirror for Young People, in which Cordier summed up his philosophy in , at the end of his life: The good child in listening Is diligent, without chattering; The naughty child has no desire Except for babbling and badinage. But behind this systematic and laborious character was hidden a remarkable expert in questions of translation.

In he published a manual which showed an unambiguous desire to promote a classical Latin without obscurity or periphrases. De corrupti sermonis emendatione comprises a list of 1, faulty expressions used by pupils, with their corrections, arranged in fifty-eight alphabetical chapters and three supplements.

Cordier's method was original. It has not lost its interest for the teaching of living languages today. To lead the student to grammatical correctness the professor begins with his errors, and not the inverse. In other words, he concerns himself with taking account of the difficulties encountered by the child and examining their causes before promoting canons of good usage. A collection of foolish errors is a serious matter: "As a good humanist, Cordier strove against that direct transcription of vernacular terms and expressions into Latin which disfigured the good Latinity of his young students with so many Gallicisms.

But for this purpose he concentrated in his De corrupti sermonis emendatione on these same Gallicisms, familiar phrases and proverbial expres From Cordier, Miroir de la jeunesse. Cordier abominated the received pedagogical methods; he placed the gospel at the center of his practice and criticized the brutality used in the schools: "The sages never approved this unnatural custom of bringing children only with strokes of the rod and with punishments to observe correct language.

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The master cannot substitute himself for God; he can encourage the student to learn by his example, but he cannot substitute for him. Thus blows and bad treatment derive from an erroneous conception of one's relation to God: "It is your business only to plant or irrigate; God will make the plant grow. Calvin would always demonstrate his gratitude to Cordier. In March he wanted to invite him to Geneva. In February he dedicated his commentary on the First Epistle to the Thessalonians to his former professor, who had become the principal of the College of Lausanne: "It is with good reason that you also have a place in my labors, since having first begun the process of study under your conduct and skill, I have advanced at least to this point of being able in some degree to benefit the church of God.

Champion, , pp. This linguistic purism was not restricted to the Latin of the colleges; it extended to the Latin of the church, from which Cordier wished to banish the words ecclesia and missa and replace them with templum and sacra.

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His Ciceronianism also extended to dress, where the good man wished to revive the word toga for the "upper robe worn by men. Our pedagogue made use of byroads: "It is a sort of dictionary of common usages, and the remarkable point is that it gives first the expression in common Latin, that is the Latin spoken as a living international language by the students of the Middle Ages, modified, clarified and simplified by practical needs, then the French translation, and finally the expression in classical Latin.

Cited by P. Calvin, Commentaires sur le Nouveau Testament, 4 vols. Paris: C. Meyrueis, , for this and the following quotations. And it was thus that he made on the young Calvin — who was still called only Jean Cauvin — a permanent impression. Apparently this teaching lasted less than a year, since Calvin had the misfortune to be pushed against his will into the third class. And although it was not permitted me to enjoy it for long, since a thoughtless man, without judgment, who disposed of our studies at his own will, or rather according to his foolish whims, made us immediately move higher, nevertheless the instruction and skill you had given me served me so well afterwards that in truth I confess and recognize that such profit and advancement as followed was due to you.

A Latin proverb stressed, among other characteristic traits, the teeth of its pupils sharpened by hunger and the fineness of their minds enlivened by bad treatment. But would Calvin have thought of complaining? Admitted as a philosophy student to the famous college, did the young Noyonnais not feel a secret resentment? However, his respectable provincial income permitted him to be a cameriste or paying guest at the college, thus dodging some of the rigor of its discipline, which was felt more heavily by poor or penniless residents.

The institution, which was located at the present site of the Library of SainteGenevieve, facing the Pantheon, had been reorganized forty years before by Jan Mons acutuSy ingenium acutum, denies acuti; literally, "sharp peak [i. A curious person this Jan Standonck ca. When Catholicism felt itself threatened, his posthumous influence proved considerable. He imported into France a little of the spirit of the Brothers of the Common Life, developed in Holland by Gerhard Groote at the end of the fourteenth century; that is, criticism of medieval scholasticism, idealization of poverty, mysticism.

Even certain laymen were invited to partake of this evangelical ideal. Becoming principal of Montaigu, he "imprinted on his college its already pronounced character of a seminary of poor clerics. The author indulges himself in some untranslatable Latin wordplay concerning the "sharpness" of this "acid" college, where apparently the privations of the body were thought to awaken the pupils to the pure joys of the spirit: "I carried nothing away from there except a body poisoned with infected humors and a very great abundance of lice.

Indeed, in memory of his youth, which he spent in the most extreme poverty, he concerned himself with the poor, and this should be strongly approved. And if he had relieved the misery of young men enough to furnish them with what was necessary for hard study, but without permitting excessive abundance to disorder them, this would have merited praise. But that he attempted to achieve this by giving them a bed so hard, a diet so strict and so little abundant, vigils and labors so overpowering that in less than a year from beginning the experiment he had brought numerous young people, gifted by nature and highly promising, either to death, or blindness, or madness, or even sometimes to leprosy I knew several of them personally , so that he clearly put every one of them in danger; who would not understand that this was cruelty to those around him?

Renaudet, "Jean Standonck, un reformateur catholique avant la Reforme " in Humanisme et renaissance Geneva: Droz, , p. Erasmus, Oeuvres choisies, ed. Erasmus, pp. Not to mention the lodgings: "certain rooms at ground level, with rotten plaster, pestiferous from the neighborhood of the latrines"; or the corporal punishments: "I leave aside the extraordinary torture with the rod, even of the innocent.

It was one of the commonplaces of a sixteenth century preoccupied to the extreme with pedagogical questions. A partisan of the rod in pedagogy and of the liberty of peoples in politics, this Scottish humanist taught in France for several years in the middle of the century. The poor teachers, he sighs, were obliged to wear themselves out beating the children for their own good, and then condemned to hear them whimpering all day long.

This moving account does not fail to describe the sad condition of the penitential staff: "While the professor tires himself out, these parasitic children sleep or think about their pleasures. One, who is absent, has paid one of his comrades to respond in his place; another has lost his stockings; another looks at his foot, which shows through the gaping upper of his shoe.

This one pretends to be ill, that one writes to his parents. One must use the rod; the faces are grimed with tears; there are sobs for the rest of the day. Erasmus, p. Similarly, Montaigne leaves us a comparable description of the College de Guyenne in Bordeaux at a later period: "But, among other things, the discipline in the majority of our colleges has always displeased me. It would perhaps have been less injurious to err on the side of indulgence.

It is a virtual jail of captive youth. They are made debauched by punishing them for it beforehand. On arriving in their place of business you hear nothing but cries, tortured children, and masters drunk with rage. What a means of awakening an appetite for their lessons in these tender and timid souls, to guide them there with a frightful, bloated face, and hands armed with rods! An iniquitous and pernicious practice. Montaigne himself had been taught at the College de Guyenne in Bordeaux. Cited by J. Quicherat, Histoire de Sainte-Barbe, 3 vols.

Paris: Hachette, , A strong man, called for his energy to rule the entire faculty of theology, this Bedier fl still exercised a certain influence on Montaigu in Calvin's time. But he was better known for his role as a conservative theologian with his face set against the challenge of the Protestant Reformation.

Condemned in June by the bull Exsurge domine and excommunicated the following year, Luther aroused the anger of many Frenchmen. Becoming syndic of the faculty of theology in the same period fall of , Bedier participated actively in the repression of the "heresy. Directing the College de Montaigu from to , the dreadful Pierre Tempete terrorized all the stunned little children.

This frightful being appeared to be drawn from one of those stories with which one fills children's anguished imaginations to help them fall asleep. Sadly celebrated, Tempete ruled the institution with a hand of iron, meriting without doubt that tyrannical renown of which an echo is found in Rabelais.


Rabelais, always on the watch for an apt word, did not fail to stigmatize the impetuous Tempete, or tempest, under the name predestined for him by God. The author of the Fourth Book repeats the epigram that circulated at the time, Horridas tempestas montem turbavit acutum, which might be rendered as "A horrible tempest troubled Montaigu. He must, however, have encountered the gibes of his comrades, who dubbed him, according to a spurious legend, "Accusativus" — a savage nickname, merging without pity the word for the accusative case with that for an accusation, transforming the good student into a "teacher's pet.

True or false, the nickname does not lack spite. One imagines the timid young man rather as a well-behaved child than as a boisterous good-for-nothing. Several Renaudet, p. Rabelais, Oeuvres completes, ed. Jourda Paris: Gamier, , Doumergue, who reports the anecdote, sees in it a Catholic calumny of the Reformer. This is obviously possible, but do not all the world's sluggards have the same tendency to attack good students?

See Doumergue, At this point we are reduced to shaky conjectures. In the Latin version of his Life of Calvin, Theodore Beza mentions a teacher from Spain who taught the young man grammar. Likewise we may mention the presence at Montaigu of the Scot John Mair It would be a rather piquant thing if Calvin had been the student of John Mair, who counted Ignatius Loyola among his students. The first Jesuit and the most famous of the Reformers would have followed the same course, with an interval of some years. Ignatius Loyola, born in , was Calvin's elder by eighteen years; he died in , eight years before the Reformer.

Unfortunately, no proof exists that Calvin received instruction from the Scot. The latter had long resided in Paris before returning to his distant country in He counted among his numerous students John Knox, the future Scottish Reformer. But whether or not he was directly influenced, Calvin repeated in his writings a certain number of themes Mair contributed to popularizing: emphasis on faith, predestination, stressing of the Word, and above all the assimilation of logic and grammar.

Although committed from the beginning to the priesthood, Calvin did not take up studies in theology, as originally intended, but undertook studies in law. He moreover followed his father's advice by directing his steps henceforth to Orleans and Bourges. This is likely, considering Girard Cauvin's difficulties with the chapter. Calvin's later testimony remains laconic: "Since I was a young child my father had destined me to theology, but later, having considered that the science of the law regularly enriches those who follow it, this hope made him suddenly change his intent.

Torrance, "La philosophic et la theologie de Jean Mair ou Major, de Haddington," Archives de Philosophie 32 : , and 33 : This change of direction occurred in , unless we follow the shorter chronology of T. Parker, who places it in Calvin took himself to Orleans, where he followed the course of Pierre de 1'Estoile, then to Bourges, where the famous Alciati taught.

But did God not have other designs for him? Did the Father's purpose not lie hidden behind his father's choices? The apparent triviality of the choice, motivated by all appearances by mercantile desires, does not cover the whole field. Calvin was destined to the priesthood; he embraced the study of law; but finally God recalled him to theology. This strange detour is an ironic illustration of the reforming career; there was no need to be a priest to reveal oneself as a theologian.

This affirmation is at the very center of Calvin's life; in its apparent candor, his account reveals the profundity of a vocation. But Calvin the theologian would be to the end Calvin the jurist. His thought remained permeated with the rigor, the geometry, the fascination, and the memory of the law. Calvin initiated himself into humanist philology in connection with the study of juridical texts.

A "new exegesis in the field of Roman law" was being established; it was based on the establishment of the text, its linguistic interpretation, and the knowledge of the institutions and the facts of civilization. He was also linked in friendship with various fellow students: Francois de Connan, Francois Daniel, and finally Nicolas Duchemin.

In Orleans he followed avidly the course of Pierre de 1'Estoile, without doubt one of the greatest French specialists of his time. He was a conscientious churchman, respectful of tradition, and in he participated in the Council OC 31, col. Carbonnier, "Le calvinisme entre la fascination et la nostalgic de la loi," Etudes Theologiques et Religieuses 64 : Millet, p.

Convoked at the Church of the Grands-Augustins in Paris, this assembly united the three bishoprics of Paris, Meaux, and Orleans in an agreement to fight it out with their local Lutherans, under the leadership of Cardinal Du Prat. No matter. Calvin, still little involved in this, greeted in L'Estoile one of his foremost teachers. His devotion to learning was intense. One may easily imagine the student, hunched over his books to a late hour. One may no less imagine Calvin the next morning, still lying in bed to run over again the lectures which he strove interminably to engrave on his memory.

Much more complex were the relations Calvin had in Bourges with the famous Italian Alciati. In company with Nicolas Duchemin, a dozen years his junior, and his fellow student Francois Daniel, Calvin took the road to Bourges in , drawn by the reputation of the new law professor.

Andrea Alciati was a native of the Milan district. Established in Avignon in , this jurist was summoned ten years later by Francis I to the academy of Bourges. Big, fat, and heavy, endowed with a large appetite, this man, who was called venal, must have also possessed a clear sense of his own value. His arrival at Bourges in April was followed after a few months by a students' strike. Well versed in classical Latin, the professor nevertheless rejected that restored language into which the French plunged with delight: he detected in it the affectations of a borrowed Ciceronianism.

He did not lack wit, though, and he encouraged the recourse to literature for the understanding of the law. Energetically opposed, he did not fail to justify himself: "There are people who reproach me for the excessive conciseness of my style and demand abundance. I answer them that I strive deliberately for the former; indeed, I regularly laugh at those who write otherwise With the sole exception of Cicero, in whose work one commends the ideas as well as the expression, it seems to me that all the authors would have been better advised to strive for conciseness.

It is tempting to think that Calvin, the friend of brevity, did not remain deaf to this type of argument. To all appearances he should have learned from the humanist Guillaume Bude his sense of erudition and from Alciati his unembellished style. It would be arbitrary to compare the law further with literature. On the other hand, a revival of legal studies coincided at this period with the development of humanist studies. Losing in part its technical character, the law, in the sixteenth century, became a "branch of the studia humanitatis"65 The connection with literature, Doumergue, , in his description of Calvin is probably accurate.

Ducos, "Les juristes," in Prosateurs latins en France au xvie siecle, 2 vols. Paris: PUPS, , lff. Otherwise Calvin revealed mixed feelings about the Italian.

Calvin: A Biography

He especially resented his disdain for France and for Pierre de PEstoile, his former master. This fellow student undertook the public defense of their good master L'Estoile, savagely attacked by Alciati in an anonymous Apologia which emphasized the laborious character of French education. Out of fidelity to his professor, and undoubtedly also out of national solidarity, Calvin unhesitatingly associated his name with this university polemic by writing a preface to the work.

L'Estoile, he says in substance, has better things to do than respond to insignificant attacks. It is more difficult, however, to attribute to him a precise spiritual role, despite his Lutheran ideas. Calvin without doubt remained for the time being a young humanist, not at all attached as yet to the Reformation.

It is indeed possible that he delivered his first sermons at Lignieres, in the region of Bourges, but this would not have been anything unusual for a tonsured young man, the titulary of an ecclesiastical benefice. In any case, it implied no adherence to Lutheran ideas. But there is nothing I have found as pleasant as the remembrance of that first time, when, being sent by my father to learn the civil law, I Morr, This preface was Calvin's first published work OC 10, col.

Ganoczy, Le jeune Calvin. Genese et evolution de sa vocation reformatrice Wiesbaden: F. Steiner, , p. See also Q. Ganoczy, p. He owed to him, not his spiritual conversion, but the love for Greek letters that would later serve his plans of reform. Calvin's fortune, however, was deflected by the difficulties of every sort that assailed his father.

In the spring of the young man was in Noyon when his father fell gravely ill. Girard Cauvin passed away in a state of excommunication on May 26 at the age of seventy-seven. Could Calvin still work for this church? In default of taking up the priesthood, could he think of following his father's course, putting his talents as a lawyer at the service of the clergy?

This is unlikely. Certainly no knowledge seeps through to us of the silent pain, indeed the revolt of Calvin. One of the rare testimonies to his spiritual life appears in a letter of June 23 addressed to Francois Daniel. He had paid a visit to his friend's young sister while she was preparing to pronounce her vows in a nunnery. He did not discourage her from her religious commitment, but simply warned her not to trust her own strength. In any case, Calvin seems hardly more critical than many of his contemporary humanists, quick to repeat Erasmus's aphorism Monachatus non estpietas "Monkhood is not the same as piety".

Still, in December someone proposed to obtain for the young man a post as judge in an officiality in Picardy. Calvin might have become one of those conservative church judges, thinking between two tedious ecclesiastical cases about increasing his provincial patrimony. But this would have been a great pity. Calvin, Commentaires sur le Nouveau Testament, , preface to the Commentaire de la seconde Epitre aux Corinthiens, dedicated to Melchior Wolmar, dated August 1, OC 10, 2, col.

This same letter is sometimes dated two years later, in Daniel, December 27, Thus we see more things than they did and farther than they did, not because our sight is sharper or our height greater, but because they lift us into the sky and raise us up by means of their gigantic stature. His early childhood, at any rate, was in a universe still medieval. Scattered thinly through the works of his adult years, various autobiographical fragments show that Calvin, in that twilight zone of infancy, indeed participated in religious practices that he would later judge idolatrous.

To reform is first to reform oneself. Among many sharp remarks about the miraculously preserved holy foreskins and drops of milk of the Virgin Mary, the mature Calvin allows this avowal to seep through: "Saint Anne, mother of the Virgin Mary, has one of her bodies at Apt in Provence, the other at Notre-Dame-de-rile, in Lyon. Besides this she has one head at Trier, another at Dtiren in Jiilich, and another in Thuringia in a town named for her.

I omit those fragments which are found in more than a hundred places; and among others I remember that I kissed one part at the Abbey of Ourscamp near Noyon, where there was a great feast in its honor. Calvin, Traite des reliques l , in La vraiepiete, ed. Elsewhere, again, Calvin acknowledges having been immersed in the "deep quagmire" of error, before his "conversion" — to which we will return. The young Calvin, like many of his contemporaries, must have sacrificed at first to the "superstitions of the papacy.

But this does not imply that the Middle Ages broke with him. We must do away, as Lucien Febvre has already exhorted us, with the idea of a "Middle Ages that was infantile, stagnant, anonymous and, so to speak, all black and white,"3 which gave way, compelled by the spirit of history, to the first glow of the Renaissance.

No, Calvin was the restless heir of that singular medieval autumn which pursued him, and which he rejected with all the more energy because he belonged to a past too close to be entirely overthrown. How can we say something new with old words? How should we define this period, the "humanist" or "Renaissance" sixteenth century? Neither "Renaissance," nor "humanism," nor even "Reform" or "Reformation" is entirely satisfactory, at least if it is given an exclusive meaning. The singular term "Renaissance," in its restricted sense, risks offending the feelings of the medievalists, who will not fail to remark that the theme of rebirth itself is very old.

Disputed by some,4 the term "Carolingian Renaissance" sufficiently demonstrates the wide use of a concept that is not applied exclusively to the sixteenth century, but can rightly be extrapolated to other periods. From the twelfth century on, one sees various intellectuals claiming the label of moderns, moderni. The adages "There is no authority other than the truth demonstrated by reason" and "This world was made for man" are not the work of a reborn sixteenth century, still less of the dated back to the thirteenth century.

Doumergue described its picturesque ruins in his work Jean Calvin. Febvre, Michelet et la Renaissance Paris: Flammarion, , p. Le Goff, pp. Essai sur les mentalites des milieux intellectuels parisiens et sur la pensee de Guillaume Bude Lille: Atelier de reproduction des theses, , p. They go back to the Middle Ages, whose intellectual modernity has been forgotten. The term "reformed" is therefore not original with the Protestant churches; the earlier church used the concept in an essentially monastic sense. It meant reviving the spirit of the founders, "restoring the ordo monasticus in the splendor of its origin or of the 'golden age' of Cluny and of Saint Bernard.

They were haunted by the grand theme of the "perfection of the church. The Protestant Reformation had a wider meaning: it implied that appeal to conversion and to Christian liberty that descended to all the faithful. On a monastic or at least clerical reformatio, Protestantism superimposed a lay Reformation. Did it break with the past?

The Renaissance had an irreversible aspect; the nation-states in the political sphere and the religious Reformation shattered the universal norms of Latin Christendom. The vernacular languages — French, English, German — contested the reli7. La Garanderie, Christianisme et lettres profanes , p. The quotations are from Honorius of Autun.

Massaut, Josse Clichtove. L'humanisme et la reforme du clerge, 2 vols. Paris: Belles Lettres, , Lemaitre, Le Rouergue flamboyant. Clerge et paroisses du diocese de Rodez Paris: Le Cerf, , pp. The tension between lay reformatio and monasticism preceded the Protestant Reformation.

Humanism, or rather the humanists, as J. Massaut notes, had varying relations with the monks. Humanism cannot be reduced to Erasmus. Humanism opposed to monasticism was countered at every step by another humanist current, represented by Clichtove, heir of the devotio moderna and of Gerson, who on the contrary exalted the monastic state. Massaut, pp. At the end of this twentieth century, when Europe is reorganizing itself under our eyes, we have much to expect from the study of a reborn humanism.

This break from the past, however — dare we employ the often-debased word "progress" to speak of the sixteenth century? Bernard of Clairvaux thus was described as a "vigorous Reformer. Faith is not reducible to knowledge, and is above all not the same as knowledge. To them it was the ineffable and free gift of God. Would such a proposition, common to all the Reformers, have been imaginable without a previous crisis in the philosophy of knowledge? Was this irrationalism? Certainly not. But it entailed at least a limitation of the human capacity to see and understand the intentions of God.

For Calvin, who already employed the metaphor, as later for Pascal, man was a "thinking reed. Leonard, Histoire generate du protestantisme, 3 vols. Paris: PUF, , The author has minutely examined and weighed all the citations of Saint Bernard in Calvin's works. He concludes p. Boisset, "La Reforme et les Peres de 1'figlise: les references patristiques dans 1'Institution de la religion chretienne de J. Calvin," in Migne et le renouveau des etudes patristiques. Actes du colloque de Saint-Flour juillet , ed.

Mandouze and J. Fouilheron Paris: Beauchesne, , p. This author gives a count that differs, but still shows the importance of Saint Bernard, who is nevertheless far behind Saint Augustine: references to Saint Augustine, 36 to Chrysostom, 29 to Ambrose, 24 to Jerome, 21 to Saint Bernard. Among the pagan authors, Plato comes first 18 mentions , ahead of Cicero 9 and Aristotle 8.

Seneca comes far behind: 2 mentions. More recently, see C. Izard, "J. Calvin considered the metaphor too favorable to man in his Institution de la religion chretienne, ed. Pannier, 4 vols. Paris: Belles Lettres, , I, chap. Without them, nothing that followed would have been possible. People were all the more vexed with Erasmus for his pride and, as Luther snorted, his "impiety. Such foolishness was born of a vain polemic between the two men; "Du bist nicht fromm," exclaimed the former German monk, on reading the Dutchman.

Like "Renaissance" and so many other terms we use today, the word "humanism" did not exist in the sixteenth century. It did not appear in its modern sense until , to characterize the intellectuals of the Renaissance who were dedicated to restoring the ancient texts. When did it occur? I'm book-marking and will be tweeting this to my followers! Outstanding blog and fantastic design and style. Magnificent goods from you, man. I've understand your stuff previous to and you are just extremely wonderful. I really like what you've acquired here, certainly like what you're stating and the way in which you say it.

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