Stealing Communion Bread in Reformation Geneva

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The development and refinement of the doctrine of transsubstantiation in the 12th and 13th centuries, culiminating in the creation of the Corpus Christi feast in 1264, resulted in a dramatically heightened focus on the eucharist. This had two obvious consequences: first it made it more desirable to steal the host and, second, it made it […]

Calvin Complains about Ruffians and Swallows at Church

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We have many references to people misbehaving at sermon, and this is the least of them, but typical enough and fun as well. It’s also not the only time I’ve seen complaints about birds in church, but here we have both. On June 27, 1552 (R.C. 46, f. 229v–230), Calvin came before the city council […]

Spectator “sport” in Reformation Geneva

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Of course we know that there were only two really good spectator activities in sixteenth-century Geneva: sermons and executions. Good a preacher as Pierre Viret may have been (he had the reputation of being the most eloquent preacher), it could not compare with the drama of a good execution. We know executions were popular because […]

Child of Geneva or Child of God

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One of my oldest and dearest friends from sixteenth-century Geneva is a character named Jacques Simond. In one of my articles [“Cette loi ne durera guère” in the Bulletin de la Soc. d’Hist. de Genève, 1995–96], I wrote a brief “spiritual biography” of Simond. I originally came across him because I thought he represented the […]

Andrew Beattie, A Cultural History of the Alps (review)

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I bought this book because it came up in a Google Books search. That’s a first for me and, I think it was a mistake. Not that it’s a bad book, but it’s not the book I wanted. The search showed great promise — it returned a result showing that there was a chapter entitled […]

The Laughter of Monarchs (a brief quote from Mark Twain)

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This doesn’t have anything to do with Geneva this time, except for the fact that in the 1530s Geneva overthrew its prince and became an independent city state and republic. Genevans henceforth retained a deep and abiding distrust of monarchs. So on the occasion of a certain royal wedding and much fawning by those of […]

A Dwarf’s Life in Sixteenth-Century Geneva

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I’ve never done a search for information on dwarves in sixteenth-century Geneva and I’m not sure how much one would find in the Council and Consistory registers, but I did recently come across this illuminating tidbit from the life of Michel Die, a dwarf living in Geneva in 1550. Michel Dye, from Arsena, dwarf. This […]

John Muir, Antoine Saunier and the Perception of Mountains in Past Times

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I recently had the chance to visit Twenty Hill Hollow and environs with a couple dozen Yosemite naturalists, following in the footsteps of John Muir. It was in and around Twenty Hill Hollow that Muir spent much of his first year and a half in California and he dubbed that “delightful Hollow” the “Merced Yosemite […]

Let the Games End

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The Consistory members complained about rural governors (châtelains) who refused to remand people to the Consistory and then (loosely translated) Des Jeux. Item des jeux, qu’il disent sont si frequentz que les loix et bonne discipline [are ignored?], chose de tres mauvaise consequence. Arresté que les cries des jeux et quilles soyent exequutees sus les […]