Reformation Wall, Geneva

The Reformers

John Huss (C. 1372 – 1415)

John HussCzech religious teacher much influenced by the writings of John Wycliffe. Many of his teachings anticipated those of the Reformation. He was burned at the stake in 1415 but became a national hero. The Bohemian Brethren, following his teachings, emphasised Christian discipline, rejected military service and private property and generally stood for a pure and simple Christian life. Their modern successors are the Moravian Church.

Peter Valdes

Lived in Lyons in the 12th century and inspired a movement characterised by lay preaching, voluntary poverty and a life of good works. Followers of his ideals in various European countries suffered intense persecution down the centuries and most were absorbed into the new ‘Protestant’ churches at the time of the Reformation. They maintained their separate identity in the Alpine region of what is now Northern Italy and we know them as the ‘Waldensians’.

Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Martin LutherFounder of the German Reformation. Luther’s study of the writings of St Paul and Augustine of Hippo led him to the belief that men and women could only be justified, by the grace of God, through faith rather than through good works or religious observances. Though he originally intended to bring about the reform of the Roman Catholic Church, his work led to the fracture of that Church and the foundation of national church bodies. Modern Lutheranism owes its origins to Luther’s teachings, though often in a modified form.

Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531)

Ulrich ZwingliLike Luther, a Roman Catholic priest, Zwingli became the first leader of the Swiss Reformation which began in Zurich. He differed from Luther in believing that it was only the faith of communicants which made the body of Christ present in the elements of communion, rejected Luther’s distinction between Law and Gospel, defended infant baptism as a natural successor to circumcision in the Old Testament and held that civil magistrates had the right to legislate in religious matters.

John Calvin (1509-64)

John CalvinFrench Reformer, best known for his work in Geneva and his definitive work: The Institutes of the Christian Religion. In Geneva, Calvin created a community with four orders of ministry (pastor, doctor, elder, deacon) on which all subsequent Reformed churches were based. Calvin’s teachings, which shaped the beliefs of most non-Lutheran Reformed churches, stress the primacy of scripture in matters of faith, justification through grace by faith, and a strong view of God’s omnipotence, combined with a greater emphasis on Church discipline than in Luther’s teaching.

John Knox (1513-72)

John KnoxScottish teacher who embraced the principles of the continental Reformation. As chaplain to Edward VI he was involved in the revision of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. After a period in exile following the accession of Mary he returned to Scotland, where he pioneered changes along Reformation principles. He was primarily responsible for the First Book of Discipline and the Book of Common Order, which were adopted by the newly formed Church of Scotland.