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A Parisian Colloquy of 1566: Holy Spirit or Holy Church

  • Donald G. Nugent (a1)


Mary Stuart was accused of many things, but never of being a theologian. Nevertheless, at the end of the summer of 1561, the recently widowed and star-crossed Queen, in an extraordinary interview with the intrepid Reformer, John Knox, put her finger on what was perhaps the fundamental question of the Reformation. Concerning the respective credentials of the Kirk of Scotland and the Kirk of Rome, she pleaded: ‘Ye interpret the Scriptures in one manner, and they interpret in another. Whom shall I believe? And who shall be judge?’ Knox's reply was, au fond, an appeal to the Holy Spirit.



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1 John, Knox, History of the Reformation in Scotland,ed. William Croft, Dickenson, 2 vols. (London, 1949), II, 18; 1819.

2 (Assen, 1960), and the same author's ‘Scepticism and the Counter-Reformation in France,’ Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte ,LI (1960), 58-87, here after cited as ARC On the general question, also see Don Cameron, Allen, Doubt's Boundless Sea: Scepticism and Faith in the Renaissance [Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1964], and Henri, Busson, Le rationalisme dans la littérature française de la Renaissance (1533-1601) [Paris, 1957].

3 ‘The marriage of the Cross of Christ and the doubts of Pyrrho was the perfect combination to provide the ideology of the French Counter-Reformation,’ Popkin, 49.

4 See my doctoral, dissertation, ‘The Colloquy of Poissy: A Study in Sixteenth Century Ecumenism’ (University of Iowa, 1965), projected for publication soon.

5 See, among the various pieces in the Mazarine, Recueil des conferences entre les Catholiques et les Protestans ,No. 37209, and in the B.N. (Paris), Conférence avec les ministres de Nantes en Bretaigne, Cabannes et Bourgonnière: Faicte par Maistre Jacques du Pré … (Paris, 1564), No. 21992.

6 There are several editions and a number of printings of the proceedings of the conference. The Protestant edition is the Actes de la dispute et conférence tenue à Paris, es mois de luillet,&Aoust, 1566, entre deux docteurs de Sorbonne, and deux ministres de l’Éiglise réformées (Strasbourg: Pierre Estiard, 1567), B .N 22855 (also see Mazarine, 25402 and Strasbourg). The Catholic edition is Les actes de la conférence tenue à Paris es moys de iuillet et aoust, M.D. LX. V.I. Entre deux docteurs de Sorbonne, et deux ministres de Calvin (Paris: Pierre l'Huiller, 1568), B.N. 85531 (also see B.N. 22853 and 6087 bis). The Catholic account is the officially notarized record of the conference, but apart from its being more complete, it does not vary in essentials from the Protestant edition. The latter will be cited as Strasbourg, the former, as Paris. It is noteworthy that the conference was apparently considered important enough to be rendered twice into English. See the Actes of conference in Religion. … trans. GefFraie Fenton (London, 1571), and Acts of the Dispute and Conference.. .. trans. John Golburne (London, 1602), B.M., c. 37e. 17 and 3902. c.27, respectively.

7 In his otherwise good study of one of the Reformed theologians at the conference, Louis, Hogu, Jean de VEspine, Moraliste et théologien (1505?-1597)(Paris, 1913), pp. 4142, publishes a short, unofficial account of the conference by Claude Haton and, in an effort to clarify the personalities, delivers the whole thing over to a horrible confusion. He confuses Louis Gonzaga-Mantua with Henri-Robert de la Marck, as the Duke of Bouillon, the Duke of Bouillon with a Prince Porcien, and the key daughter, Françoise, with a Henriette, granddaughter of the Duke of Montpensier. For clarification, see the Dictionnaire de la noblesse ,ed. De la Chenaye-desbois de Badier, 3rd ed., XIII, 194-195, XIV, 447- 448, 963, and Eugéne and Émile Haag, La France Protestante ,1st ed., VI, 232. For Montpensier, see Coustureau, N., Histoire de la vie etfaits de Louis de Bourbon, surnommé le bon, premier due de Montpensier. Pair de France …(Rouen, 1645), p. 269; for Gonzaga, see M atilde Enrica, Brambilla, Ludovko Gonzaga, Duca di Nevers (1539-1595)(Udine, 1905); for Charlotte, who withdrew to Germany in 1572 and married William the Silent two years thereafter, see Jules, Delaborde, Charlotte de Bourbon, Princesse d'Orange(Paris, 1888). Hogu did not go into the theological substance of the conference and did not consider its implications.

8 ‘Mélanges,’, in Bulletin de la Sociéte de Vhistoire du Protestantisme Français,XXI (1872), 526. Hereafter cited as BSHPF.

9 Hogu, p. 44, n. 1; Reproductions d'aucunsplans de Paris, 1,1530-1675 ,3, vii, in the B.N.

10 For particulars, see Hogu, and Haag, 1st ed., vn, 37-40.

11 Beuzart, P., ‘H. Sureau du Rosier (1530?-1575?),’ BSHPF,LXXXVII (1939), 249268, and three items by Robert M., Kingdon, ‘Gèneve et les réformées français: le cas d'Hughes Sureau, du Rosier,’ Bulletin, Société d'histoire et d'archéologie de Genève,XII, 2 (1961), 7787; 'Problems of Religious Choice for Sixteenth Century Frenchmen,’ The Journal of Re- ligious History ,iv (December, 1966), 105-112; and Geneva and the Consolidation of the French Protestant Movement, 1564-1572 (Geneva, 1967), especially pp. 83-86.

12 To replace Barbaste, minister to the Queen of Navarre, who took ill shortly before the conference. See Hogu, p. 44 and Beuzart, p. 255; also see Kingdon's book, p. 85.

13 On Vigor (1515?-! 575), see Feret, P., Lafaculté de théologie à Paris, Epoque moderne, 5 vols. (Paris, 1900-07), II, 118123, and Jean Baptiste, Louis Crevier, Histoire de I'Université de Paris, depuis son origine jusqu'en 1'année 1600,7 vols. (Paris, 1761), VI, 134. For de Sainctes (1527-1591), see Feret, II, 123-130.

14 On Guillaume Ruzé (1520?-1587), see Feret, II, 202-203.

15 ‘… il iroit pisser durant la prière.’ The entire preliminary controversy is in the unpaginated prefaces of both the Paris and Strasbourg accounts.

16 As recounts the conclusion of the Strasbourg preface.

17 Ibid. ,[fols. 5-6]; Paris, fol. 6.

18 Strasbourg, fols. 6-7. Only the ‘Paris’ edition, based on a collation of the materials provided by both Catholic and Huguenot notaries, has the certification of authenticity. The elaboration here does not falsify the sense of things. It goes without saying that both parties sought maximum propaganda value from the published accounts.

That this is orthodox Calvinist doctrine, see Calvin, , Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John McNeill, T., 2 vols. (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960), 1, vii, 4-5, III, i, 1-4, 33-36; and the French Confession of Faith, of 1550 ,in , Philip, Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom,4th ed., 3 vols. (New York: Harper&Brothers, 1919), III, 361.

On the problem of pneumatology see, among the many fine studies, Henry P., Van Dusen, Spirit, Son and Father: Christian Faith in the Light of the Holy Spirit(New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1958), George S., Hendry, The Holy Spirit in Christian Theology (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1956), George H., Tavard, Holy Spirit or Holy Church: The Crisis of the Protestant Reformation(New York: Harper&Brothers, 1959), especially ch. VII: ‘John Calvin and the Secret Operation,’ Gottfried W., Locher, ‘Testimonium internum: Calvins Lehre vom Heiligen Geist und das hermeneutische Problem,' Theologische Studien,Heft 81 (1964), Krusche, W., Das Wirken des Heiligen Geistes nach Calvin(Göttingen, 1957), and Ruckert, H., Schrift, Tradition, Kirche(Lüneburg, 1951).

19 Paris, fols. 7-8; Strasbourg, fols. 7-8.

20 Paris, fols. 8v-9; Strasbourg, fols. 9-10. Cf. Popkin, p. 9, on the principle of inner persuasion: ‘… the consequence is a circle: the criterion of religious knowledge is inner persuasion; the guarantee of the authenticity of inner persuasion is that it is caused by God, and this we are assured of by our own inner persuasion.'

21 Strasbourg, fols. 11-12.

22 Actually a composite of several different speeches for purposes of elucidation. Ibid. , fols. 12, 30-31.

23 Ibid. ,fols. 12-15; Paris, 9-10.

24 Strasbourg, fols. 21-23; Paris, 12v-13V.

25 Strasbourg, fols. 23-32; Paris, 13v-17v.

26 Paris, fol. 34.

27 Hogu, p. 45; G. Genebrand, Chronographia … (Paris, 1580), p. 759.

28 See Tavard, p. 110 . An illustration might be the practice of infant baptism. One solution might be that found in the provocative study of Robert P., Scharlemann, Thomas Aquinas and John Gerhard: Theological Controversy and Construction in Medieval and Protestant Scholasticism(New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1964): ‘Protestantism attained its classical period not in the sixteenth but in the seventeenth century.’ Again, the seventeenth century ‘more fully exhibits problems and solutions which were partly explicit and partly implicit in the sixteenth-century reformers’ (pp. 3, 8). Of course, this places the classical period in the presently much maligned ‘Age of Orthodoxy.’ Was 'Orthodoxy’ really so unorthodox?

29 Popkin, ch. n: ‘The Revival of Greek Scepticism in the 16th Century.'

30 It can be allowed that the Sorbonnists in some respects approximated the arguments of the later proponents of Pyrrhonism, but the former reveal no awareness of Sextus. Cf. Popkin, ARG ,p. 64. It should also be mentioned that the Roman Catholic controversialist, Gentien Hervet, does relate in 1567 that he came across the manuscript writings of Sextus in the library of the Cardinal of Lorraine (ibid. ,p. 60). It can be stated most emphatically, however, that Lorraine did not employ the arguments of Pyrrhonism at the Colloquy of Poissy. See author's dissertation.

31 On More, see John M., Headley, ‘Thomas Murner, Thomas More, and the First Expression of More's Ecclesiology,’ Studies in the Renaissance,XIV (1967), 8283. On Pigge, see Tavard, pp. 147-150. Also see Edward Surtz, s.j., The Works and Days of John Fisher (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967), pp. 3940.

32 See Popkin, ch. rv: ‘The Influence of the New Pyrrhonism.'

33 This need not necessarily be seen as a process of devolution. Wilhelm Dilthey termed it ‘the process of objectification.’ Leslie Paul, ‘The Church as an Institution— Necessities and Dangers,’ Journal of Ecumenical Studies ,IV (Spring, 1967), 272, offers some elucidation: ‘Everything, as it were, begins in the heart or mind of man: all the intuitions, insights, visions, intellectual discoveries begin there: but all is eventually lost, even to the individual, if it never escapes from there. To be given value, permanence, identity, it has to be communalised and fixed in a cultural milieu… . religions, have an inevitable tendency to institutionalise. This is because they have a double role—they represent not only an objectification of man's religious experience but a concretization of the divine.’ Of course, Reinhold Niebuhr has written perceptively on this theme.

34 Van Dusen, pp. 11-14. Also see Yves M.J. Congar, o.p., Tradition and Traditions, trans. Michael, Naseby and Thomas, Rainborough (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1967), pp. 154155.

35 Van Dusen, p. 12.

36 Tavard, p. 150. It would seem to go without saying that there is presently no consensus on some of these larger considerations. For example, Heiko Augustinus, Oberman, The Harvest of Medieval Theology: Gabriel Biel and Late Medieval Nominalism(Harvard University Press, 1963), p. 368, has taken exception to Tavard's thinking about the earlier coinherence of Church and Writ. Congar, pp. 44-45, however, would sustain Tavard. I have no pretensions about resolving this problem, preferring to suggest some inadequately explored relations between doctrine and the historical context. This I have done more systematically elsewhere: ‘The Historical Dimension in Reformation Theology,' Journal of Ecumenical Studies ,v (Summer, 1968), 555-571.

37 A point advanced in the author's dissertation on Poissy, p. 341.

38 According to Haag, VI, 233.

39 Sec Hogu, pp. 52-53.

40 Sec Beuzart, pp. 256-263, and Kingdon's article in The Journal of Religious History.

41 Feret, II, 130.

A Parisian Colloquy of 1566: Holy Spirit or Holy Church

  • Donald G. Nugent (a1)


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