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  • Pierre Viret et la diffusion de la Réforme: Pensée, action, contextes religieux ed. by Karine Crousaz and Daniela Solfaroli Camillocci
  • Raymond A. Mentzer
Pierre Viret et la diffusion de la Réforme: Pensée, action, contextes religieux. Edited by Karine Crousaz and Daniela Solfaroli Camillocci. (Lausanne: Éditions Antipodes. 2014. Pp. 421. €37,00 paperback. ISBN 978-2-88901-054-7.)

Although hardly forgotten, Pierre Viret is among the less appreciated early leaders of the Reformed movement. Born in the Pays de Vaud around 1511, he studied at Paris before returning to his native land. After a short-lived, turbulent stint ministering in and around the Vaud, he joined Guillaume Farel at Geneva in 1534 and two years later moved to Lausanne where he assisted in that city’s reform and eventually became chief pastor. Viret remained at Lausanne until 1559. Then, following a bitter quarrel with the municipal magistrates over control of church discipline, he moved briefly to Geneva before going to southern France. He served churches at Lyon, Nîmes, and Pau during the decisive decade of the 1560s, dying at Pau in 1571.

The collection of eighteen essays at hand had its origins in a conference held at Lausanne in 2011 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Viret’s birth. The editors and contributors, whose ranks include both established and younger scholars, seek to revise approaches to and appreciation of Viret along three principal axes. To begin, Viret ought to be valued as a reformer in his own right and not simply as a popularizer of John Calvin’s understandings. Second, Viret was an international figure; his interests and activities reached well beyond local Swiss cantons. Finally, Viret was a prolific author whose entire oeuvre—not merely one or two works—warrants [End Page 651] close study. The present volume’s re-evaluation of these issues divides roughly into two parts. The first nine chapters consider Viret’s theological views and literary output; the remainder examines his reforming endeavors in the Swiss and French orbits.

Olivier Millet opens the discussion with an illuminating essay on Viret’s surviving sermons and his writings on homiletics. Lee Palmer Wandel follows with a close analysis of his distinctive conceptualization of the Eucharist. The crucial issues surrounding Viret’s anti-Nicodemism and his advocacy of resistance to the tyrant are the subject of Carlos Eire’s chapter. Reaching beyond Christian circles, Karine Crousaz—one of the volume’s coeditors—elaborates upon Viret’s unique views on Islam and the Turks. The role of Viret as church historian is the subject of essays by Olivier Pot, Frédéric Amsler, and Irena Backus. This section concludes with chapters by George Besse on Viret’s first spiritual writings and by Pierre Dubuis on his comparison of the nature of animals with human behavioral traits.

The next nine essays begin with Michael Bruening’s perceptive observations on the new information that has emerged from his recent edition of Viret’s previously unpublished letters. Continuing in this vein, Jean-François Gilmont details Viret’s relationship with his publishers. A wonderful portrait of Viret as pastor, preacher, and public disputant emerges from the essays of James J. Blackeley, Geneviève Gross, and Olivier Laberthe. Claire Mountengou Barats explores Viret’s views and accomplishments in the realm of social welfare, whereas Christian Moser offers a close reading of his epistolary exchange with the Zurich reformer Heinrich Bullinger. Finally, collection coeditor Daniela Salfaroli Camillocci and Philippe Chareyre propose fresh insights into Viret’s time at Lyon and in Béarn.

Altogether, these contributions on Viret as theologian and controversialist, preacher and pastoral organizer help better locate him in the age of the Reformation. They correct some mischaracterizations by earlier scholars, establish Viret as an historical figure eminently worthy of study, and suggest future possibilities for the advance of our knowledge of this largely unheralded figure.

Raymond A. Mentzer
University of Iowa


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