VIS­IT­ING GENEVA

In the foot­steps of the Re­for­ma­tion

Timeless Travels Magazine - - SWITZERLAND - by FIONA RICHARDS

Do you know why watches are so im­por­tant in Geneva? It’s all be­cause of the Re­for­ma­tion. John Calvin, one of the lead­ing lights of the Re­for­ma­tion move­ment, banned the wear­ing of jew­ellery as he thought this to be too os­ten­ta­tious for their pared back re­li­gious move­ment. But watches were con­sid­ered an es­sen­tial item for work and so they man­aged to avoid be­ing black­listed. So watch­mak­ing be­came a trea­sured pro­fes­sion in the city, with for­mer jewellers spe­cial­is­ing in them – and over time the watches be­came more and more em­bel­lished with dec­o­ra­tion.

The Re­for­ma­tion be­gan in Europe as a re­ac­tion to the ex­cesses of Catholi­cism. In 1517, Martin Luther pub­lished a book called Nine­tyFive The­ses, which crit­i­cised the sale of in­dul­gences (i.e. buy­ing your way to heaven) and in­sisted that the Pope did not have any au­thor­ity over pur­ga­tory. Luther be­lieved that only faith, not good deeds, could bring sal­va­tion. Due to the in­ven­tion of Guten­berg’s print­ing press, his ideas were able to spread rapidly through­out Europe, and also spurned other re­for­ma­tion move­ments, the largest of th­ese be­ing the Luthe­ri­ans and Calvin­ists.

Wil­liam Farel is known as the founder of the Re­for­ma­tion in Geneva and also for per­suad­ing John Calvin in May 1536 to stay in the city for two years to or­gan­ise the new church. John Knox was also in­flu­enced by Calvin whilst liv­ing in ex­ile in Geneva. S

But the change in re­li­gion was much more than just that, for those liv­ing in Geneva: the Re­for­ma­tion was syn­ony­mous with rev­o­lu­tion. By re­nounc­ing the Catholic faith, the Gen­evese also broke with their ruler, the Bishop of Geneva, to be­come an in­de­pen­dent repub­lic. This de­ci­sion shaped the des­tiny of the city for cen­turies to fol­low. John Calvin not only or­gan­ised the new church in the city, he also fash­ioned the small repub­lic into one of the cen­tres of Chris­tian­ity.

2017 marks the 500th an­niver­sary of the Re­for­ma­tion and Geneva’s im­por­tant part in this his­toric move­ment. Tra­di­tion­ally known mostly for its ski­ing, watches and choco­late, the city of Geneva has much more to of­fer and this is a per­fect ex­cuse to visit and dis­cover this his­tory of the city. There are 10 main sites to visit on the Re­for­ma­tion trail, and they can eas­ily be reached on foot as the city is com­pact and easy to get around. The trams, how­ever, are an eas­ier way to get to the old, hil­lier part of the city if you pre­fer!

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