A centre for ecclesiastical reform
The bishop of Meaux, Guillaume Briçonnet, sympathized with Erasmus and Lefèvre d’Etaples’ideas about reform in the Church as soon as 1518. He was protected by Marguerite of Angoulême and reformed his diocese, restoring ecclesiastical discipline and developping the art of preaching. In 1521, he called on the services of Lefèvre d’Etaples, who came to Meaux with a group of friends and disciples. They were theologians and humanists – (one of whom was Guillaume Farel). He founded the “Cenacle of Meaux”, a group of people who reflected on the reform of the Church in the light of the Bible.
In 1524 Lefèvre finished the French translation of the New Testament. This caused a frenzy of excitement in Meaux and was instrumental in spreading Luther’s ideas. It was condemned and burned. Briçonnet again came into conflict with the Church, became afraid and submitted to the authorities. The “Cenacle of Meaux” began to split up in 1523 and was finally disbanded in 1525.
Due to the “Cenacle of Meaux”, many people were converted to Luther’s ideas, notably some of the wool carders.
- VEISSIERE M., L’évêque Guillaume Briçonnet (1470-1534), Contribution à la connaissance de la réforme catholique à la veille du Concile de Trente, Société d'histoire et d'archéologie, Provins, 1986
Jacques Lefèvre d'Etaples (1450-1537)
Jacques Lefèvre d’Etaples was a theologian who founded the “Cenacle of Meaux” and was the first to translate the Bible into French.
Guillaume Farel (1489-1565)
Farel was the reformer of French-speaking Switzerland, precisely in the Neuchâtel area. He was a preacher but also an organiser and author of a liturgy in French.
Marguerite d'Angoulême (1492-1549)
Marguerite d’Angoulême was a literary person who, while fostering new ideas, was at the very centre of the cultural and spiritual life of her time.
Martin Luther, translator of the Bible
As early as 1517 Martin Luther started translating the Psalms into German. In 1521, when he was imprisoned in Wartburg, he set about translating the New Testament. This great undertaking was an immediate success. Martin Luther continued with his translation of the books of the Old Testament. The translation of the whole Bible was completed in 1534. This version, though it has been revised, is still used in German speaking countries.
16th century translations of the Bible into Latin and French
During the 16th century, numerous translations of the Bible were made into Latin and French.
Humanism and translations of the Bible into the vernacular
The 16th century was a turning point in the history of the Bible ; it was widely distributed due to the invention of printing. Humanism advocated a return to the original manuscripts in Greek or Latin for classical literature, and also to the original Hebrew or Greek texts for the Bible. As the Bible was translated into the vernacular, it became accessible to more and more people.
Michel de l'Hospital (1505-1573)
Michel de l’Hospital was a Catholic lawyer, who was called on by Catherine de Médicis to try to establish the peaceful coexistence of Catholics and Protestants. However he failed in his attempt.
Erasmus was one of the main figures of 16th century Humanism ; he was cultured, tolerant and ahead of his time because he was European in outlook. He prepared the first critical edition of the New Testament in Greek, which appeared in 1516.
Appearance of the Reformation in France
In the early 16th century the Church had already been in a moral and political crisis they could not overcome for two centuries. In the context of the Renaissance, humanism appeared, as printing ensured the spread of writings. Against this background Luther’s ideas flowed into France. In 1521 Lefèvre d’Étaples founded the Meaux Circle, a reflection group promoting preaching of Scripture in parishes. Reformed Churches appeared and soon organised themselves.