The plan of Antoine Court
The programme for the reconstruction of the Reformed Church in France, put in place by Antoine Court from 1715, had several parts :
- Restoration of Church law and ecclesial organisation as they were before 1685,
- The Theological training of ministers within an academic framework.
Antoine Court did not manage the Lausanne Seminary, but he coordinated it. He was both a tutor and secretary, as well as link between the Seminary and Protestant Churches in France.
Establishing the Seminary
The Seminary was meant to replace the Reformed Academy, which had been closed even before the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes.
From 1726 to 1744, about forty students enrolled, two to four a time.
From 1745 to 1812, enrolment settled at about twelve to sixteen students a year, and the length of the course increased.
The teachers were lecturers from the Académie and ministers from Zurich, Bern and Geneva.
Synods sent ordinands to Lausanne secretly. In many provinces, before going to Lausanne, the student or ordinand was required to sign a document in which they promised both to return to their province and not renege on their original commitment.
At first, the studies were limited to one year, in view of the urgent need for ministers during Desert period.
From 1745, the course of study was increased to two years ; the subjects were Greek if possible, Philosophy and Theology.
After the Edict of Toleration was issued in 1787, demands on the ordinands increased and the courses lasted five years : two preparatory years devoted to the study of Grammar and Logic, then three years of Theology, Church History, Morals, Physics and Mathematics.
The teaching of Theology was influenced by the philosophy of the Enlightenment, giving “Reason” a greater place.
The ceremony of ordination
The ordinands could only exercise their ministry after they had been recognised in a religious ceremony, established in the Reformed Church Code since the 16th century : the ordination.
From 1730 onwards ordination could be celebrated in Lausanne, in any other foreign Reformed Church, or in France, provided at least three ministers were present.
Closing the Lausanne Seminary
The teaching activities of the Seminary came to an end with the opening of the Theological Faculty at Montauban (1808, the Empire Law).
On 18 April, 1812, a closing ceremony took place in Lausanne.
The Lausanne Theological Seminary (1726-1812)
- LASSERRE Claude, Le Séminaire de Lausanne, Bibliothèque historique vaudoise, Lausanne, 1997, n° 112
Antoine Court (1695-1760)
Antoine Court gave himself to the restoration and reorganisation of Protestantism in France after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685).
The Edict of Toleration (November 29th, 1787)
With this Edict, King Louis XVI granted the Protestants civil status. He secured their right to live in the kingdom without discrimination for religious reasons.
In the years following the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, a Prophetic Movement, quite alien to the Reformed tradition, stirred up Protestant peasants from the South of France and led to the War of the Camisards (Guerre des Camisards).
Pastors of the "Church of the Desert"
Following the revoking of the Edict of Nantes, Protestant pastors had to leave France. From 1715, encouraged by Antoine Court, a new group of pastors gradually emerged. The “Church of the Desert” pastors exercised their ministry in secret and at risk of their lives.
The Gibert brothers
The Gibert brothers exercised a pastoral ministry during the period of the “underground” church. They both had an eventful life that drove them from the “Desert” church to the Refuge.
Jean Jarousseau (1729-1819)
A pastor in the “Church of the Desert”, Jean Jarousseau exercised his ministry in Saintonge at the end of the Heroic Period and during the time called the Period of Tolerance. We know about him thanks to the biography written by his grandson, Eugène Pelletan.
Religion in the “Desert” period
After the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, French Protestants went into exile or abjured their religious faith. However, among those who abjured, some continued to practice in secret: they read the Bible in their families and held clandestine assemblies of the Desert. When discovered, this religious practice was severely repressed, and many were martyrs for their faith.