Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Forgotten Reformer: Pierre Viret

Pierre Viret is another forgotten Reformer, but one who did and suffered so much for the Reformation that it is almost a crime that we neglect this man. Viret was born in Orbe Switzerland in 1511. He attended university in France where he became a Protestant. He was convinced to be a minister of the gospel by Guillermo Farel. Farel convinced him to minister in the country of Lausanne. Here Viret became the Reformer of this little place, which I believe today is a part of France, but then was free. It is Viret who invited Theodore Beza to teach at the University of Lausanne. There the duo had a tremendous impact on the reformation in France as many Frenchmen came to be trained in Lausanne, and then went back to France. Viret would also help reform Geneva with Farel and Calvin, but his heart was in France. While in Geneva Viret was fed poison by a Romanist sympathizer. It did not kill him, but he did suffer problems from it for the rest of his life. Soon, Viret journeyed back to France. There he served and preached in many different congregations from Paris to Orleans. Eventually he settled down in Montpellier where the region became Reformed mainly through his preaching. In 1565, Viret was warned in an anonymous note to flee, and he did so just before the Romanist army took over his area. Viret then served for a short time in Navarre where he had taken refuge. He would not be able to avoid capture forever, and he was taken in by the Romanists with 11 other ministers. Seven of those ministers were executed, but so many Romanists came forward to speak of the love and kindness showed by Viret that the magistrate let him live. He continued preaching for the Reformation, but in 1571 he died as his body finally gave out.

Viret may well have been the most popular preacher in all of the Reformation. He Reformed Lausanne, and had a major role in Reforming Vaud and Geneva. He also of course played a very important role in France even being elected President of the National Synod of the French Reformed Church. Thousands followed his preaching. Riots broke out sometimes as people tried to disrupt his preaching. He was poisoned. He lost two wives and multiple kids to the plague, but nothing shattered his devotion to the cause of Christ. He preached it everywhere he went. Viret is sometimes associated with Calvin since they worked together in Geneva, but Viret was not someone Calvin trained. Viret in fact had a Zwinglian view of the Lord’s Supper, and was more beloved than Calvin in Geneva. I read somewhere (but I cannot find it now) that Viret was paid more than Calvin despite Calvin being the head pastor in Geneva. Viret is truly an example of someone on the front lines of the Reformation. He felt the call to be a missionary preacher, and that is what he did his entire life. Let us not forget the work of this brave man, nor his legacy of undaunted courage for Christ.


Andrea Powell said...

Interesting. Thanks, Lee. I find it interesting that Farel was instrumental in calling Viret into the ministry. He must have been a persuasive man, for it was he who pressed Calvin into the ministry, too.

JamesL said...

Would you happen to know any books about Pierre Viret? I'd like to see more stuff anout him and Farel. Thanks for the article!