The Reformation Of Worship In Geneva

The reformers did not hold back in their assault on the physical and sensory elements of traditional worship: all sacred objects such as crucifixes, statues of saints, and holy relics were removed from the temples.1 Most were systematically destroyed; a few were stored away or sold. The rood screen that traditionally separated the lay congregation from the chancel and high altar was torn down.2 Geneva’s reformers also removed the altars on which priest priest had performed the mass and the tabernacle in which the consecrated host was stored. Over several decades, the walls and pillars of Geneva’s temples or whitewashed to cover over Catholic iconography. Stained glass windows—which served the double function of inspiring religious devotion and keeping the church’s dry and warm—were not removed but were left in disrepair. In 1577, the city council ordered that the broken windows of St. Pierre be covered with netting to prevent swallows from flying into the sanctuary and soiling the clothing of members of the congregation. Likewise, the organ of St Pierre set unused until 1562 when the pipes of the organ were melted down, and the metal was used to make tin plates for the city hospital and communion vessels for the temples.

—Scott M. Manetsch, Calvin’s Company of Pastors, 33.


  1. “Rood” is an Anglo-Saxon word for “cross.” See this post for more.
  2. Manetsch explains that temple was used colloquially for church in Geneva, which is ironic since Farel, Calvin, and the rest of the pastors did everything they could to remove every aspect of Old Covenant, typological, temple worship (e.g., instruments and sacrifices) from the church and her worship.

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