The Dutch Rebellion

[français] [deutsch]

Huldrych Zwingli and John Calvin

Although Switzerland is situated in the center of Europa, it took part in nearly no wars at all. That's what it seems at a first glance. But since the middle ages, swiss soldiers died on all battle fields throughout Europe, swiss soldiers constituted the guards of Louis XIV and the Pope (even today, you can photograph the "swiss guard" at Vatican city). While the higher regions of Switzerland were longtime cut off the political, economic and philosophical development in Europe, the greater towns like Basel, Zurich and Geneva took part in the trans-alpine commerce. At the end of the middle ages, town-coalitions, for example like the coalition of Zurich and Strassburg, illustrate the importance of commercial and political links.

[ Huldrych Zwingli ] Parallel to the German peasants war a reformation movement began in Zurich, which differed in some important points from the German reformation. In 1519 Huldrych Zwingli (1484-1531) became priest at the cathedral in Zurich. In this very year, the plague came to Zurich, killing one fourth of the 9000 habitants. Zwingli was in contact with Erasme of Rotterdam and we can assume that the news of Luther's Reformation arrived at Zurich at the same time. Zwingli began to question the Institutes of the catholic church, but religious matters were linked to political consequences. In the focal point of his lectures were the following principles:

and finally the abolishment of serfdom, which became effective in 1523. Zwingli wanted a "cheap" church, under control of wealthy government, in the particular case the council of the town of Zurich. This led to two disputes with Luther in January and November 1523.

However there remained a strong resistance of the conservative Provinces. The resistance grew as the reformation spread over all the greater towns of Switzerland. In spring of 1531 the five great towns of the reformed union got no more provisions from the conservative provinces. Finally this became an open war and at the battle of Kappel on October 11, 1531, the reformations army was defeated and Zwingli killed in the battle.

Even though Heinrich Bullinger continued the work of Zwingli, the conservative provinces triumphed and the reformation movement was temporary weakened.

[Jean Calvin] Temporary, because some years later a political refugee came to Switzerland, who had more success: John Calvin (1509-1564). Calvin had studied in Paris, however because of its heretic theses had to exile and went to Basel. During a journey in August 1536 he came to Geneva, where he met William Farel who persuaded Calvin to stay there: "You are following only your own wishes, and I declare, in the name of God Almighty, that if you do not assist us in this work of the Lord, the Lord will punish you for seeking your own interest rather than his." Seems Calvin has been convinced, he remained at Geneva. But Calvin's asceticism seemed to the Geneva citizens somewhat exaggerated and they expulsed him. Three years later the radical group in Geneva had become strong enough so that Calvin returned and this time until the end of his life. Calvin claimed the unit of state and church (read: subjecting the church), preached a simple life and the impenetrable destiny of those chosen by God. He declared Geneva as town of God. While Luther had adapted the reformation to the interests of the German aristocracy and to the princes the religious justification in the peasants war had finally supplied with, Calvin created religious theories in the service of the middle classes of the cities. Calvin's theories recognize the power of the terrestrial administration.

At that time, these theories not only had a success in Geneva, but also, following the routes of trade, in France, where they were taken up by the Huguenots (Theodore Beza), as well as in the Netherlands (Guido de Brès, "Confessio Belgica") and in Scotland (John Knox, "Confession of Faith").

Suggested Links:
It has some really good info on Calvin

Last modified: Jun 12, 2001, /english/calvine.html