Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Calvin 500th Anniversary

by Kathryn Hadley

John Calvin was born in Noyon in the Picardie region of France on July 10th, 1509. Commemorative events are being organised worldwide this year to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the life of the French humanist and supporter of the protestant reformation. The influence of Calvin’s teachings spread across the world and during his lifetime Calvin also travelled throughout Europe. Between 1525 and 1532, he studied in both the universities of Grenoble and Bourges in France. He returned to Paris in October 1533. Calvin then fled to Basel in Switzerland in January 1535. He subsequently worked on reorganising the church in Geneva with William Farel. Following disputes with the city’s council, however, he left for Strasbourg, in 1938. Geneva city council eventually called him back, in September 1541, where he remained until his death in May 1564.

Here is a selection of some of the exhibitions organised across Europe over the summer to mark his quincentenary.

Les lecteurs de Calvin
Until June 28th

Musée Calvin
Place Aristide Briand
60400 Noyon
Telephone: 00 33 3 44 44 03 59
This exhibition explores the history of the book from the perspective of those who read and use books, showcasing, for the first time, a collection of printed works by Calvin that bear manuscript annotations by readers spanning four centuries, from the 16th to the 20th century. It includes the famous copy of the Institutes of the Christian Religion annotated by Sully, which has recently been acquired by the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

Calvinism. The Reformed Protestants in Germany and Europe
Until July 19th
Deutsches Historisches Museum
I. M. Pei Building
Unter den Linden
10117 Berlin
Telephone: 00 49 30 20 30 47 50
This exhibition places the work of John Calvin in the context of the political and religious tendencies of the time, presenting it as an integral part of the social and cultural history of Europe and exploring Calvin’s enduring and wider influence on science, art, politics and the human frame of mind.

Post tenebras liber
Until September 30th
Geneva Library, Espace Ami Lullin
Promenade des Bastions 1 CH-1211 Genève 4
Telephone : 00 41 22 418 28 00
The exhibition illustrates the contribution of the Calvinist Reformation in four areas of the production of the Geneva presses in the 16th century: teaching material for instruction at the College and the Academy, a first Protestant historiography which illuminates the unrest of the century, polemical writings (disputations between confessions or churches, satires and polemics against the church of Rome, political pamphlets) and Bible exegeses (lectures and commentaries by Calvin).

A Day in the Life of John Calvin
Until November 1st

International Museum of the Reformation
4 rue du Cloitre
CH-1204 Geneva
Telephone: 00 41 22 310 24 31
This animated exhibition, featuring a display of 16th-century artefacts including engravings and books, and in which Calvin appears animated and speaking, charts a typical day in Calvin’s life.

They had Calvin in their luggage – Calvin and the Huguenots
July 11th – October 31st
German Huguenot Museum
Hafenplatz 9 a
34385 Bad Karlshafen
Telephone: 00 49 5672 1410
An exhibition devoted to Calvin and the Huguenots in France and Germany.

A series of lectures and conferences will also be held from June until the end of year. Again, here is a small selection…

Calvin and Capitalism
June 11th, 6.30pm
Swiss Embassy
16-18 Montagu Place
London W1H 2BQ
Telephone: 020 7836 1418
Rev Dr Frank Jehle will both discuss Calvin’s works and address some more contemporary issues, in particular the possible relations between Calvinism and Capitalism, a thesis first put forward by Max Weber in 1904.

International Calvin Conference, Mainz
"Calvin and Calvinism - European Perspectives"
June 25th – 28th
Erbacher Hof
Akademie & Tagungszentrum Bistum
Telephone: 00 49 6131 39 393 59
This international conference, in German, will focus on the European dimension of the Calvinist Reformation addressing three main topics: ‘Calvin's impact in Western and Eastern Europe’, ‘Expulsion – exile – rebuilding’ and ‘Spirituality and the media - the spiritual power of Calvinism’.

Conference: "Calvin500"
July 5th – 9th
St. Pierre Cathedral auditorium
An international, interdenominational, and interdisciplinary commemoration of the life and work of John Calvin during which esteemed leaders, scholars, and ministers will discuss Calvin, his city, and the cultural, religious, political, and economic impact of his teachings.
A complete program of the Lectures and Sermons that will be given from July 5th - 9th in Geneva is available at

John Calvin and the Reformation in Italy
September 4th – 6th
Centro Culturale Valdese
Via Beckwith 3
Torre Pellice
Telephone: 00 39 12 193 27 65
An international historical symposium, in Italian, organised by the Waldensian Studies Society that will consider and evaluate current studies on the relationship between Calvin and Italy, which Calvin is believed to have visited for the first time in 1536.

The Dutch Church of London will also host two lectures in September.
Calvin on creation and redemption
September 27th, 12.45pm
Light and shadow of the reformation
September 28th, 7pm
Dutch Church of London
7 Austin Friars
London EC2N 2HA

Calvin’s significance for today
October 6th, 7pm
Crown Court Church
Russell Street
Covent Garden
London WC2B 5EZ
Telephone: 020 7836 5643

Modernité de Calvin
October 8th, 7pm
Institut Français
17 Queensberry Place
London SW7 2DT
Telephone: 020 70731350
A lecture by Jean-Paul Willaime, Max Engammare and Gilles Petel.

University colloquium in Orléans
November 12th – 13th
University of Orléans, Department of Law, Economics and Management
Rue de Blois
45067 Orleans
Telephone: 00 33 2 38 41 70 31
This colloquium, in French, will examine different aspects of the contributions of Jean Calvin and the Protestant Reformation in various spheres of spiritual, social, economic, literary and political life, through history and at the present day.

Calvin & Hobbes
December 14th – 17th
Institut Protestant de Théologie
83, Boulevard Arago
75014 Paris
Telephone: 00 33 1 47 07 56 45
A colloquium, in French, organised by the Institute of Protestant Theology and the International College of Philosophy.

For a full list of the events organised throughout the year to mark the Calvin09 festival, visit

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