Getting Serious About Sin

MADAME PYAGET wasn’t the only resident of Geneva called to testify before the consistory on March 31, 1542. The city fathers, led by Lord Egrege Porralis and including John Calvin and Pierre Viret, heard all sorts of cases, as reported in these excerpts from the daily register:

Jaques Emyn

Summoned to render an account of his faith. He responded that he had made a little progress and said the Pater, “Our Father, etc.,” and a few words of the creed. The Consistory advise [sic], having given him proper admonitions, that he find a teacher who will instruct him in the faith and explain what the words mean and make him understand what concerns God.

Jaquemaz, widow of Claude Camparet

Asked about frequenting of sermons, etc., and about the child her son has had by her maid. Answers that she has put the child out to nurse. Asked about her faith, she says the Pater in the new Reformed manner, but does not know the Credo. And that she has nursed her husband six years in illness and that her son [incomplete sentence]. And that she was at the sermon Sunday morning and that she believes it was Monsieur Calvin. And that she does not know about her son.

Master Tyvent Laurent, called Echaquet, citizen

Asked about the wizard he had in his house and why. Answers he never had one, except a man from Challex who attended his wife who was sick, and he said he would cure her. And that he often came to his house and would give him herbs to dissolve in wine, which was not done at his house. And that the man owed him money and that he came for no other reason.

Donne Jane Pertennaz

Asked about her faith and why she has not received Holy Communion and whether she has heard and gone to Mass every year. And she said her faith and that she believes in one God and wants to live in God and the holy church and has no other faith. . . .

Asked why she is not satisfied with the Communion celebrated in this city but goes elsewhere. Answers that she goes where it seems good to her. And that there is talk of princes who are not in accord in what they do openly, but they must be obeyed. And that Our Lord will not come here well-clothed or shod [reference to Matt. 11:708 or Luke 7:24-25] and that where His Word is, His body is. . . . Remanded as outside the faith and to appear day by day. And she did not want to renounce the Mass.

Mermeta Jappaz

Said she is pregnant by the son of Berthelomier Fouson, named Bezanson, and she already felt the child at Christmas, and this was at the said Fouson’s house. And she did not say her Pater well, and she goes to sermons on Monday and other days not. And she wants to give it to its father, and her mother knows nothing, and she has had another child. And the other child was put to nurse and died. Remanded to [incomplete sentence]. The Consistory advises that she abstain from taking Communion because of her serious fornication. Remanded to Thursday.

From Registers of the Consistory of Geneva in the Time of Calvin, Vol. 1: 1542-1544.


[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #71 in 2001]

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