Genève, Le Mur des Réformateur. Photo/Foto: TES

The Wall of Reformers

The Wall (Le Mur des Réformateurs, Monument international de la Réformation) of hundred metes was built in 1909 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the birth of Jean Cauvin (1509-1564), better known as Jean Calvin. Calvin fled from France in 1535 to relatively tolerant Basel, the hometown of Desiderius Erasmus (1467-1536). Basel converted to the Protestant faith in 1527.

The reformer Johannes Oekolampad (1482-1531) was the main protagonist. Erasmus fled Basel in 1529 because of the reformation and went to Catholic Freiburg (Baden). Just before his death, he returned to his beloved Basel to find his final resting place near the reformer Oekolampad in the Protestant Münster in 1536.

Jean Calvin, Guillaume Farel (1489-1565), Théodore de Bèze (1513-1605), John Knox (1513-1572).

Calvin published his ‘Institution de la religion chrétienne‘ in Basel in 1536. Shortly afterwards, Calvin left for Geneva, which had also become Protestant in 1536. He worked in this city with the reformer Guillaume Farel. Farel was the driving force behind Protestantism in the French principality of Neuchâtel.

However, Calvin was too dogmatic for the Geneva government and left for Protestant Strasbourg (at the time, still an independent Imperial city in the Holy Roman Empire). Calvin was pastor to Protestant French refugees.

In 1541, he returned to Geneva to spread Calvinist doctrine from there. Within a few years, he made Geneva a Protestant ‘Jerusalem’, a holy city of the Reformation. He published numerous books and writings in Latin and French. He founded the academy for preachers, the forerunner of today’s university, and the Auditorium Calvin. The city grew from 10 000 inhabitants in 1535 to over 23 000 in 1562.

He was in permanent conflict with other Protestant theologians and reformers, including Martin Luther (1483-1546) and Sebastian Castellio (1515-1563), s a current exhibition in the University Library of Basel shows.

Calvinism became the dominant religion in the Netherlands on the eve of the Eighty Years’ War (1568-1648) against catholic Spain of Emperor Charles V. The protestant Prince William the Silent (1531-1584) was the leader of the revolt.

Le 26 juillet 1581 les Etats-Generaux reunis a la Haye adpotent la déclaration d’indépendance des Provinces-Unies”:

“D’ondersaten zyn niet van Godt gheschapen tot behoef van den Prince om hem in alles wat hy beveelt weder het goddelick oft ongoddelick recht oft onrecht als slaven te dienen, maer den Prince om d’ondersaten wille sonder dewelcke geen Prince is om deselve met recht ende redene te regeeren”. 

The Netherlands was then called the Seven United Provinces of the Netherlands (1581-1795). For this reason, William the Silent has a place of honour on the ‘Mur des Réformateurs’ among other protestant leaders: Gaspard de Coligny (1519-1572),  Friedrich Wilhelm Graf von Brandenburg, 1620-1688), Roger Williams (1603-1684), Olivier  Cromwell (1599-1658) and István Bocskai (1557-1606).

Among the Protestant characters is an English king, King William III, Prince of Orange (1650-1702), and King of England from 1688-1702. He is pictured with his wife, Mary Stuart (1662-1694), Queen of England.

“Le 13 février 1689 Guillaume Prince d’Orange et Marie son épouse fille ainée de Jaqcues II appellés au trône d’Angleterre acceptèrent la couronne et la déclaration de droits fondementals de la monarchie constitutionelle. Les Lords et les communes présentent a Guillaume et à Marie la déclaration des droits d’Anglais.

William was the primary political and military opponent of the catholic Sun King (Louis XIV 1638-1715).

The Wall begins on the left corner on 21 May 1536 and ends on the right on 12 December 1612.

On this night, Charles-Emmanuel (1562-1630), the Catholic Duke of Savoy, with the support of the expelled bishop of Geneva, tried vainly to capture the city. This event is named ‘L’Escalade’ because of the ladders the attackers used. This day is annually commemorated in Geneva.