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A History of the Reformation (Vol. 2 of 2)

Farel and Froment were high spirited Frenchmen


the Evangelical community in Geneva was growing, and taking organised form. One of the most prominent of the Genevan Evangelicals, Jean Baudichon de la Maisonneuve, prepared a hall by removing a partition between two rooms in his magnificent house, situated in that part of the city which was the cradle of the Reformation in Geneva. There Farel, Viret, and Froment preached to three or four hundred persons; and there the first baptism according to the Reformed rite was celebrated in Geneva (Feb. 22nd, 1533). The audiences soon increased beyond the capacity of the hall, and the Evangelicals, protected by the presence of the Bernese deputies, took possession of the large audience hall or church of the Convent of the Cordeliers in the same street (March 1st). The deputies from Bern frequently asked the Council of Geneva to grant the use of one of the churches of the town for the Evangelicals, but were continually answered that the Council had not the power, but that they would not object if the Evangelicals found a suitable place. This indirect authorisation enabled them to meet in the convent church, which held between four and five thousand people, and which was frequently filled. Thus the little band increased. Farel preached for the first time in St. Peter's on the 8th of August 1535. Services were held in other houses also.[83]

The Bishop of Geneva, foiled in his attempt to regain possession of the town by well-planned riots, united himself with

the Duke of Savoy to conquer the city by force of arms. Their combined forces advanced against Geneva; they overran the country, seized and pillaged the country houses of the citizens, and subjected the town itself to a close investment. The war was a grievous matter for the city, but it furthered the Reformation. The Bishop had leagued himself with the old enemy of Geneva; the priests, the monks, the nuns were eager for his success; he compelled patriotic Roman Catholics to choose between their religion and their country. It was also a means of displaying the heroism of the Protestant pastors. Farel and Froment were high-spirited Frenchmen, who scoffed at any danger lying in the path of duty. They had braved a thousand perils in their missionary work. Viret was not less courageous. The three worked on the fortifications with the citizens; they shared the watches of the defenders; they encouraged the citizens by word and deed. The Genevese were prepared for any sacrifices to preserve their liberties. Four faubourgs, which formed a second town almost as large as the first, were ordered to be demolished to strengthen the defence. The city was reduced to great straits, and the citizens of Bern seemed to be deaf to their cries for help.

Bern was doing its best by embassies to assist them; but it dared not attack the Pays de Vaud when Freiburg, angry at the process of the Reformation, threatened a counter attack. After the siege was raised, the strongholds in the surrounding country remained in the possession of the enemy, and the people belonging to Geneva were liable to be pillaged and maltreated.

Within the city the number of Evangelicals increased week by week. Then came a sensational event which brought about the ruin of the Roman Catholic party. A woman, Antonia Vax, cook in the house of Claude Bernard, with whom the three pastors dwelt, attempted to poison Viret, Farel, and Froment.[84] The confession of the prisoner, combined with other circumstances, created the impression among the members of Council and the people of Geneva that the priests of the town had instigated the attempt, and a strong feeling in favour of the Protestant pastors swept over the city. The Council at once provided lodging for Viret and Farel in the Convent of the Cordeliers. When the guardian of that convent asked leave to hold public discussions on religious questions in the great church belonging to the convent, it was at once granted.

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