The Faculty of Protestant theology in Paris
Protestant theology had never been taught in Paris, not even at the time of the Edict of Nantes. The transfer of the Strasburg universities to Paris, in the years that followed the defeat in Sedan in 1870, was highly symbolical of a fully gained, blooming Protestant identity.
Strasburg comes to Paris
In July1877, the periodical “Revue Chrétienne” wrote : “June 1, 1877 will remain a happy day in the history of French Protestantism. The former Strasburg theological faculty, transferred to Paris in keeping with a decree dating back to March 27 of this year, was officially opened and classes began that day in the buildings of the former Rollin secondary school in Lhomond Street. The opening ceremony, attended by over 200 people, was presided over by Mr. Mourier, the superintendent of the Paris school district” (Le 1er Juin 1877 restera une date heureuse dans l’histoire du protestantisme français. L’ancienne faculté de théologie de Strasbourg, transférée à Paris par le décret du 27mars dernier, a été officiellement installée et a ouvert ses cours ce jour-là, dans les bâtiments de l’ancien collège Rollin, rue Lhomond. La séance à laquelle assistaient plus de 200 personnes, était présidée par M. Mourier, le recteur de l’académie de Paris). . For the first time in the history of France, Protestant theology is taught in Paris and, moreover, with state support. (A. Encrevé).
The lapse of time between the ratification of the treaty of Frankfurt on Mai 10, 1871 -causing the loss of Alsace and part of Lorraine – and the creation of this faculty in Paris accounted, according to many, for the deep divisions at the time within the French Protestant Church, opposing orthodox and liberals in both the Reformed and the Lutheran Churches and likewise in the Free Churches (cf. Le temps des divisions). On the one hand, the Montauban Faculty whose very orthodox views worried the liberals, could not, on its own, train all the French Reformed pastors. On the other hand, the transfer of the predominantly liberal Strasburg Faculty to Paris was likely to turn the Paris Faculty into a large, predominantly liberal Reformed and Lutheran school. This the orthodox Protestants could not accept and they went so far as to suggest the transfer of the Montauban Faculty to Paris.
The “schism” of the 1872 synod, the fall of Thiers, the rise to power of the Moral Order supporters hostile to Protestantism, delayed the decisions. Some Protestants, and more particularly Edmond de Pressencé, organized the theological training in Paris without State aid : a Free School for Religious Sciences, organized on the model of the Free School for Political Sciences, was created and gave the professors from Strasburg the opportunity to resume teaching in Paris. It remained open for three years.
It was not until W. Waddington, a Protestant, was appointed Minister of Public Education (from March 9, 1875 to May 16, 1877) that a solution to the problem was found. The decree of March 27, 1877 made it clear that the mixed School of Protestant theology, until then based in Strasburg, was transferred to Paris. Such a decision satisfied the Lutherans, the liberal Reformed Church and the Free Churchmen. However, in the face of the disgruntled reaction of the orthodox Reformed Church, the transfer of the School of Montauban was envisaged but required legal endorsement. In fact, the School remained in Montauban until 1919 and was then transferred to Montpellier where A. Sabatier, E. Ménégoz, J. Réville were the most outstanding professors.
The Faculty of Protestant theology in Paris
Faculté de théologie de paris
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- ENCREVÉ André, "La fondation de la faculté de théologie protestante à Paris", Études théologiques et religieuses, Institut Protestant de Théologie, Montpellier, 1977, Tome 52, p. 337-370
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Auguste Sabatier (1839-1901)
Eugène Ménégoz (1838-1921)