The Effects Of Reformation In Geneva

Daily religious life changed in significant ways in the first years following Geneva’s Reformation. The city churches—which the French reformers called temples—were reduced in number of rom seven to three, and the outlying parishes consolidated. A company of around fifteen Protestant pastors soon replaced the roughly five hundred priests, curés, cathedral canons, monks, and nuns who had once ministered in and around the city. Reformed ministers officiated at public worship services wearing the attire of scholars—black gowns, white starched collars, and black caps—rather than the colorful vestments of the traditional clergy. Their primary public responsibility was to preach expository sermons in the French vernacular rather than recite the Latin Mass. Geneva’s churches no longer observed the Catholic sacraments of confirmation, penance, holy orders, ordination, marriage, and extreme unction. Though the Lord’s Supper and baptism were still celebrated, the liturgical form and theological substance of these two sacraments were substantially changed. Public worship in reformed Geneva was simpler and less ornate than in the medieval church. Gone were the processions, the incense, the candles and acolytes, the monastic choirs, and the melodious organs. Instead the reformers created a liturgy that gave priority to public prayers, the proclamation of the Word of God, and a cappella singing of the Psalter. Even the rhythm of religious time was transformed as Calvin and Geneva’s magistrates stripped nearly all religious holidays from the calendar. With the monasteries closed, and the Divine Office no longer recited, the bells of the city churches now rang only to mark time, announce the daily sermons, and summon Geneva’s magistrates to their meetings. In all these ways and more, the texture of daily religious life in Geneva was radically altered in the months following the summer of 1536.

—Scott Manetsch, Calvin’s Company of Pastors, 19–20.

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