History of the rise of the huguenots

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Jacques Pauvan.

The poor wool-carder of Meaux was succeeded by more illustrious victims.

One was of the number of the teachers who had been attracted to Bishop

Briçonnet's diocese by the prospect of contributing to the progress of a

purer doctrine. Jacques Pauvan2 was a studious youth who had come

from Boulogne, in Picardy, to perfect his education in the university,

and had subsequently abandoned a career in which he bade fair to obtain

distinction, in order to assist his admired teacher, Lefèvre, at Meaux.

He was an outspoken man, and

1 The story of Leclerc's fortunes is told both by Crespin,

ubi supra, fol. 46, and by the Histoire ecclésiastique, i. 4; but,

strange to say, both these early authorities fall into the same error:

they place the first arrest of Leclerc in 1523, and his death a year

later. Almost all subsequent writers have implicitly followed their

authority. The Registres du parlement de Paris, already referred to,

March 20, 1524/5, fix the former event as having occurred only three

days before--"depuis trois jours" (p. 27); while François Lambert's

letter to the Senate of Besançon, dated August 15, 1525, expressly

states that Leclerc was burned Saturday, July 22, 1525. Herminjard, i.

372. Jean Châtellain had been executed at Vic, in Lorraine, six months

earlier (January 12, 1525). See P. Lambert to the Elector of Saxony, Herminjard, i. 346.

2 In accordance with the uncertain orthography of the age,

the name is variously written--Pauvan, Pauvant, Pavanne, or Pouvent.]

disguised his opinions on no point of the prevailing controversy. He asserted that
purgatory had no existence, and that God had no vicar. He repudiated excessive
reliance on the doctors of the church. He indignantly rejected the customary
salutation to the Virgin Mary, "Hail Queen, Mother of mercy!" He denied the
propriety of offering candles to the saints. He maintained that baptism was only
a sign, that holy water was nothing, that papal bulls and indulgences

were an imposture of the devil, and that the mass was not only of no

avail for the remission of sins, but utterly unprofitable to the hearer,

while the Word of God was all-sufficient.1

Pauvan was put under arrest, and his theses, together with the defence

of their contents which one Matthieu Saunier was so bold as to write,

were submitted to the Sorbonne. Its condemnation was not long withheld.

"A work," said the Paris theologians, "containing propositions extracted

and compiled from the pernicious errors of the Waldenses, Wickliffites,

Bohemians, and Lutherans, being impious, scandalous, schismatic, and

wholly alien from the Christian doctrine, ought publicly to be consigned

to the flames in the diocese of Meaux, whence it emanated. And Jacques

Pauvan and Matthieu Saunier should, by all judicial means, be compelled

to make a public recantation."2

Even strong men have their moments of weakness. Pauvan was no exception

to the rule. Besides the terrors of the stake, the persuasions of

Martial Mazurier came in to shake his constancy. This latter, a doctor

of theology, had at one time been so carried away with the desire of

innovation as to hurl down a statue of their patron saint standing at

the door of the monastery of the Franciscans. He had now, as we have

already seen, become the favorite instrument in effecting abjurations similar

1 Pauvan's propositions, with the vindication by Saunier

(or Saulnier) are recapitulated in the censure of the theological

faculty, dated Dec. 9, 1525, and published in extenso among the

documents appended to Gerdesius, Hist. Evang. Renov., iv. 36, etc.

Professor Soldan (i. 107) and others are incorrect in placing the

propositions and their condemnation by the Sorbonne subsequent to the

abjuration, which in this very document the Sorbonne demands.]

2 Ibid., iv. 47.]

to his own. His suggestions prevailed over Pauvan's

convictions.1 The young scholar consented to obey the Sorbonne's

demand. The faculty's judgment had been pronounced on the ninth of

December, 1525; a fortnight later, on the morrow of Christmas day--a

favorite time for striking displays of this kind--Pauvan publicly

retracted his "errors," and made the usual "amende honorable," clad only

in a shirt, and holding a lighted taper in his hand.2

He is burned on the Place de Grève.

If Pauvan's submission secured him any peace, it was a short-lived

peace. Tortured by conscience, he soon betrayed his mental anguish by

sighs and groans. Again he was drawn from the prison, where he had been

confined since his abjuration,3 and subjected to new

interrogatories. With the opportunity to vindicate his convictions, his

courage and cheerfulness returned. As a relapsed heretic, no fate could

be in store for him but death at the stake, and this he courageously met

on the Place de Grève.4 But the holocaust was inauspicious for

those who with this victim hoped to annihilate the "new doctrines."

Before mounting the huge pyre heaped up to receive him, Pauvan was

thoughtlessly permitted to speak; and so persuasive were his words that

it was an

1 "You err, Master Jacques," Crespin tells us that Mazurier

used to say, "You err, Master Jacques; for you have not looked into the

depth of the sea, but merely upon the surface of the waters and waves."

"You err, Master Jacques" became a proverbial expression in the mouths

of the inhabitants of Meaux for a generation or more. Actiones et

Monimenta (Geneva, 1560), fol. 52 verso.

2 "Tout nud, en sa chemise, criant mercy à Dieu et à la

vierge Marie." Journal d'un bourgeois, ubi infra.

3 His sentence seems to have been seven years' imprisonment

in the priory of St. Martin des Champs, and it was the prior that

denounced him to parliament. Ibid., ubi infra.

4 Crespin, ubi supra, fol. 53; Hist. ecclés., i. 4; Haag,

France prot., s. v. On the 26th of August, 1526, if, as is likely, he is

the "jeune filz, escolier bénéficié, non aiant encore ses ordres de

prestrise, nommé maistre ... natif de Thérouanne, en Picardie," whom the

Journal d'un bourgeois de Paris refers to--page 291--as having abjured

on Christmas eve, 1525, and been burned "le mardi 28^e aoust, 1526." At

any rate, as M. Herminjard has remarked, Beza and Crespin are certainly

wrong in placing Pauvan's recantation and execution respectively a year

too early (in 1524 and 1525, instead of 1525 and 1526). The date of the

Sorbonne's judgment is decisive on this point.

enemy's exclamation that "it had been better to have cost the

church a million of gold, than that Pauvan had been suffered to speak to

the people."1
The hermit of Livry.

Scarcely more encouraging to the advocates of persecution was the scene

in the area in front of Notre-Dame de Paris, when, at the sound of the

great cathedral bell, an immense crowd was gathered to witness the

execution of an obscure person, known to us only as "the hermit of

Livry"--a hamlet on the road to Meaux. With such unshaken fortitude did

he encounter the flames, that the astonished spectators were confidently

assured by their spiritual advisers that he was one of the damned who

was being led to the fires of hell.2
Bishop Briçonnet becomes the jailer of the "Lutherans."

Where less rigor was deemed necessary, the penalty for having embraced

the reformed tenets was reduced to imprisonment for a term of years,

often with bread and water for the only food and drink. The place of

confinement was sometimes a monastery, at other times the "prisons of

Monseigneur the Bishop of Meaux."3 Thus Briçonnet enjoyed the rare

and exquisite privilege of acting as jailer of unfortunates instructed

by himself in the doctrines for the profession of which they now

suffered! Meantime their companions having escaped detection, although

deprived of the advantage of public worship, continued for years to

assemble for mutual encouragement and edification, as they had

opportunity, in private houses, in retired valleys or caverns, or in

thickets and woods. Their minister was that person of

1 Our authority for the remark of the Parisian doctor,

Pierre Cornu, is Farel, in a MS. note to a hitherto inedited letter of

Pauvan, and in his speech at the discussion at Lausanne. Herminjard, i.

293, 294. Farel's application was not without pungency: "Votre foi

est-elle si bien fondée qu'un jeune fils, qui encore n'avoit point de

barbe, vous ait fait tant de dommage, sans avoir tant étudié ne veu,

sans avoir aucun degré, et vous étiez tant?" The admirer of heroic

fortitude will scarcely subscribe to the words of the Jesuit Daniel, Hist. de France, x. 24:

"On ne donne place dans l'histoire à ces méprisables noms, que pour ne laisser ignorer
la première origine de la funeste contagion," etc.

2 Histoire ecclés., i. 4.

3 Journal d'un bourgeois de Paris sous le règne de François

Ier, April 14, 1526, p. 284.

their own number who was seen to be the best versed in the Holy Scriptures.
After he had discharged his functions in the humble service, by a simple
address of instruction or exhortation, the entire company with one voice

supplicated the Almighty for His blessing, and returned to their homes

with fervent hopes for the speedy conversion of France to the

Gospel.1 Thus matters stood for about a score of years, until a

fresh attempt was made to constitute a reformed church at Meaux, the

signal, as will appear in the sequel, for a fresh storm of persecution.

Lefèvre's subsequent history.

A few words here seem necessary respecting the subsequent fortunes of

the venerable teacher whose name at this point fades from the history of

the French Reformation. The action of parliament (August 28, 1525), in

condemning, at the instigation of the syndic of the theological faculty,

nine propositions extracted from his commentary on the Gospels, and in

forbidding the circulation of his translation of the Holy Scriptures,

had given Lefèvre d'Étaples due warning of danger. We have already seen

that a few weeks later (October, 1525) he had taken refuge in Strasbourg

under the pseudonym of Antonius Peregrinus. But the incognito of so

distinguished a stranger could not be long maintained, and before many

days the very boys in the streets knew him by his true name.2

Meantime the Sorbonne, in his absence, proceeded to censure a large

number of propositions drawn from another of Lefèvre's works. Shortly

after a letter was received from Francis the First, written in his

captivity at Madrid, and enjoining the court to suspend its vexatious

persecution of a man "of such great and good renown, and of so holy a

life," until the king's return. The refractory judges, however,

neglected to obey the order, and continued the proceedings instituted

against Lefèvre.3

1 Crespin, Actiones et monimenta, fol. 118.

2 Haag, La France protestante, art. Lefèvre; Schmidt,

Wilhelm Farel. Bayle (Diet. s. v. Fèvre) maintains, on the authority of

Melchior Adam's Life of Capito, that Lefèvre and Roussel were sent by

Margaret of Angoulême on a secret mission to Strasbourg. Erasmus, in a

letter of March, 1526, and Sleidan (lib. v. ad fin.) know nothing of

this, and speak of the trip as merely a flight.

3 Haag, ubi supra, vi. 507, note.

Lefèvre and the Nuncio Aleander.

When, however, Francis succeeded in regaining his liberty, a year later,

he not only recalled Lefèvre and his companion, Roussel, from exile, but

conferred upon the former the honorable appointment of tutor to his two

daughters and his third and favorite son, subsequently known as Charles,

Duke of Orleans.1 This post, while it enabled him to continue the

prosecution of his biblical studies, also gave him the opportunity of

instilling into the minds of his pupils some views favorable to the

Reformation.2 A little later Margaret of Angoulême secured for

Lefèvre the position of librarian of the royal collection of books at

Blois; but, as even here he was subjected to much annoyance from his

enemies, Margaret, now Queen of Navarre, sought and obtained from her

brother permission to take the old scholar with her to Nérac, in

Gascony.3 Here, in the ordinary residence of his patron, and treated

by the King of Navarre with marked consideration, Lefèvre d'Étaples was

at last safe from molestation. The papal party did not, indeed, despair

of gaining him over. The Nuncio Aleander, in a singular letter exhumed

not long since from the Vatican records, expressed himself strongly in

favor of putting forth the effort. Lefèvre's "few errors" had at first

appeared to be of great moment, because published at a time when to

correct or change the most insignificant syllable, or a faulty

rendering, in the ancient translations of the Holy Scriptures approved

by the church, was an unheard-of innovation. But, now that more

important questions had come up to arrest attention,

1 Haag, La France protestante, art. Lefèvre; Gaillard,

Hist. de François premier, vi. 411. The boy, at this time Duke of

Angoulême, did not assume the name of Charles until after his eldest

brother's death. The Swiss cantons, acting as his sponsors, had given

him the somewhat uncommon Christian name Abednego (Abdénago)!

Herminjard, ii. 17, 195.]

2 The Duke of Orleans may have had sincere predilections

for Protestantism. At least, it is barely possible that the very

remarkable instructions given to his secretary, Antoine Mallet, when on

the 8th of September, 1543, Charles sent him to the Elector of Saxony

and the Landgrave of Hesse, were something besides mere diplomatic

intrigue to secure for his father's projects the support of these

Protestant princes. See, however, a fuller discussion of this incident

farther on, Chapter VI.]

3 Margaret to Anne de Montmorency, Génin, Lettres de

Marguerite d'Angoulême, i. 279, and Herminjard, ii. 250.]

the mere matter of retranslation, without introducing unsound doctrine,
seemed to be a thing of little or no consequence.1 Let Lefèvre but
leave the heretical company which he kept, and let him make the least bit
of a retraction respecting some few passages in his works, and the whole

affair would at once be arranged.2

Lefèvre's mental suffering.

The reconciliation of Lefèvre with the church did not take place. The

"bit of a retraction" was never written. But none the less are Lefèvre's

last days reported to have been disturbed by harassing thoughts. The

noble old man, who had consecrated to the translation of the Bible and

to exegetical comment upon its books the energy of many years, and who

had suffered no little obloquy in consequence, could not forgive himself

that he had not come forward more manfully in defence of the truth. One

day, not long before his death, it is said, while seated at the table of

the King and Queen of Navarre, he was observed to be overcome with

emotion. When Margaret expressed her surprise at the gloomy deportment

of one whose society she had sought for her own diversion, Lefèvre

mournfully exclaimed, "How can I contribute to the pleasure of others,

who am myself the greatest sinner upon earth?" In reply to the questions

called forth by so unexpected a confession, Lefèvre, while admitting

that throughout his long life his morals had been exemplary, and that he

was conscious of no flagrant crime against society, proceeded, in words

frequently interrupted by sobs, to explain his deep penitence: "How

shall I, who have taught others the purity of the Gospel, be able to

stand at God's tribunal? Thousands have suffered and died for the

defence of the truth in which I instructed them; and I, unfaithful shepherd
that I am, after attaining so advanced an age, when I ought to love

1 "Come un cavallo ch' ha un apostema stringendoli il naso

non sente il cauterio."

2 "Una retrattationcella." The letter of the Nuncio to

Sanga, secretary of Clement VII., Brussels, December 30, 1531, appeared

in H. Laemmer, Monumenta Vaticana (ex Tabulariis Sanctæ Sedis Apostolicæ

Secretis), Friburgi Brisgoviæ, 1861. I have called attention to its

importance in the Bulletin de la Société de l'hist. du prot. franç.,

xiv. (1865), 345. M. Herminjard has given a French translation, ii.


nothing less than I do life--nay, rather, when I ought to desire

death--I have basely avoided the martyr's crown, and have betrayed the

cause of my God!" It was with difficulty that the queen and others who

were present succeeded in allaying the aged scholar's grief.1

The "anguish of spirit and terror of God's judgment experienced by so

pious an old man as Lefèvre," because he had concealed the truth which

he ought openly to have espoused, supplied an instructive warning for

his even more timid disciples. Farel, who never lacked courage, was not

slow to avail himself of it. Taking advantage of the freedom of an old

associate, he addressed a letter containing an account of Lefèvre's

death, with some serious admonitions, to Michel d'Arande, who never

venturing to separate from a church whose corruptions he acknowledged,

had reached the position of Bishop of Saint Paul-Trois-Châteaux, in

Dauphiny. The letter has perished, but the reply in which the prelate's

dejection and internal conflicts but too plainly appear, has seen the

light after a burial of three

1 This incident has been rejected as apocryphal by Bayle,

and, after him, by Tabaraud (in the Biographie universelle), as well as

more recently by Haag (France protestante). It has rested until now on

the unsupported testimony of Hubert Thomas, secretary of the Elector

Palatine, Frederick II., whom he accompanied on a visit to Charles V. in

Spain. On his return the Elector fell sick at Paris, where he received

frequent visits from the King and Queen of Navarre. It was on one of

these occasions that Margaret related to him this story, in the hearing

of the secretary. (It is reproduced in Jurieu, Histoire du Calvinisme,

etc., Rotterdam, 1683, pt. i. 70.) Bayle objected that it was incredible

that the reformers should have failed to allude to so striking and

suggestive an occurrence. The objection has been scattered to the winds.

With singular good fortune, M. Jules Bonnet has discovered among the

hidden treasures of the Geneva Library an original memorandum in Farel's

own handwriting, prefixed to a letter he had received from Michel

d'Arande, fully confirming the discredited statements. "Jacobus Faber

Stapulensis noster laborans morbo quo decessit, per aliquot dies ita

perterritus fuit judicio Dei, ut actum de se vociferaret, dicens se

æternum periisse, quod veritatem Dei non aperte professus fuerit, idque

dies noctesque vociferando querebatur. Et cum a Gerardo Rufo admoneretur

ut bono esset animo, Christo quoque fideret, is respondit: 'Nos damnati

sumus, veritatem celavimus quam profiteri et testari debebamus.'

Horrendum erat tam pium senem ita angi animo et tanto horrore judicii

Dei concuti; licet tandem liberatus bene sperare cœperit ac

perrexerit de Christo." Bulletin de la Soc. de l'hist. du prot. fr.,

etc., xi. 215; Herminjard, iii. 400.

centuries. Admitting the guilt of his course, the bishop begs the intrepid
reformer to pray for him continually, and meanwhile not to withhold his
friendly exhortations, that at length the writer may be able to extricate
himself from the deep mire in which he finds no firm foundation to stand

Such was the unhappy state of mind to which many good, but irresolute

men were reduced, who, in view of the persecution certain to follow an

open avowal of their reformatory sentiments, endeavored to persuade

themselves that it was permissible to conceal them under a thin veil of

external conformity to the rites of the Roman church.

Fortunes of Gérard Roussel.

Gérard Roussel, the most distinguished representative of this class of

mystics, was appointed by the Queen of Navarre to be her preacher and

confessor, and promoted successively to be Abbot of Clairac and Bishop

of Oléron. Yet he remained, to his death, a sincere friend of the

Reformation. Occasionally, at least, he preached its doctrines with

tolerable distinctness; as, for instance, in the Lenten discourses

delivered by him, in conjunction with Courault and Bertault, before the

French court in the Louvre (1532). In his writings he was still more

outspoken. Some of them might have been written not only by a reformer,

but by a disciple of Calvin, so sharply drawn were the doctrinal

expositions.2 Meanwhile, in his own diocese he set forth the example

of a faithful pastor. Even so bitter an enemy of Protestantism as Florimond

1 "Quo tandem ex hoc profundo limo, in quo non est

substantia, eripi queam." Michel d'Arande to Farel (1536 or 1537),

Bulletin de la Soc. de l'hist. du prot. franç., ubi supra; Herminjard,

iii. 399, etc.

2 Speaking of Roussel's as yet inedited MS., "Familière

exposition du symbole et de l'oraison dominicale," Professor C. Schmidt,

than whom no one has better studied the mysticism of the sixteenth

century, remarks that the basis of the work is the doctrine of

justification by faith, the sole authority invoked is that of the

Scriptures, the only head of the church is Jesus Christ, the perfect

church is the invisible church, the visible church is recognized by the

preaching of the Gospel in its purity, and by the administration of the

two sacraments as originally instituted. He adds that the doctrines of

the Lord's Supper and of predestination are expounded in a thoroughly

Calvinistic manner. See Professor S.'s excellent monograph, "Le

mysticisme quiétiste en France au début de la réformation sous François

premier," read before the Soc. de l'hist. du prot. fr., Bulletin, vi. 449, etc.

de Ræmond, contrasting Roussel's piety with the worldliness

of the sporting French bishops of the period, is forced to admit that

his pack of hounds was the crowd of poor men and women whom he daily

fed, his horses and attendants a host of children whom he caused to be

instructed in letters.1

And yet, Gérard Roussel's half measures, while failing to conciliate the

adherents of the Roman church, alienated from him the sympathies of the

reformers; for they saw in his conduct a weakness little short of entire

apostasy. More modern Roman Catholic writers, for similar reasons, deny

that Roussel was ever at heart a friend of the Reformation.2 Not so,

however, thought the fanatics of his own time. While the Bishop of

Oléron was one day declaiming, in a church of his diocese, against the

excessive multiplication of feasts, the pulpit in which he stood was

suddenly overturned, and the preacher hurled with violence to the

ground. The catastrophe was the premeditated act of a religious zealot,

who had brought with him into the sacred place an axe concealed under

his cloak. The fall proved fatal to Gérard Roussel, who is said to have

expressed on his death-bed similar regrets to those which had disturbed

the last hours of Lefèvre d'Étaples. As for the murderer, although

arrested and tried by the Parliament of Bordeaux, he was in the end

acquitted, on the ground that he had performed a meritorious act, or, at

most, committed a venial offence, in ridding the world of so dangerous a

heretic as the Bishop of Oléron.3

1 Historia de ortu, progressu et ruina hæreseon hujus

sæculi (Col. 1614), lib. vii. c. 3, p. 392.

2 E. g., Tabaraud, Biographie univ., art. Roussel.

3 Haag, France protestante, art. Gérard Roussel; Gaillard,

Hist. de François premier, vi. 418; Flor. de Ræmond, ubi supra.





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