The Reformed Academies in the XVI th and XVIIth centuries

As early as 1565, the synods of the Reformed Churches undertook the training of pastors, encouraging churches to open colleges (a prerequisite for higher education) and universities or “academies” (after the model of the academy founded by Calvin in Geneva in 1559).

However, until the end of the sixteenth century there was only one Reformed Academy in the France : Nîmes. The future French pastors could also get their training at the Academy in Geneva or in three other Academies in places bordering France : Orthez, Orange and Sedan.


  • The Academies © Musée international de la Réforme, Genève
  • Pierre Viret (1511-1571)

1561 : the consistory decided that a theological college – inspired by the Geneva Academy – should be added to the art college (which had been started in 1539, based on the Jean Sturm College in Strasburg, 1538)

1664 : the Academy was banned while the college was taken over by the Jesuits

Famous teachers :

Theology :

  • Pierre Viret (from 1561 to 1562)
  • Jean de Serres (from 1579 to 1591) – who also taught Greek and philosophy
  • Jean Claude (from 1656 to 1661)

Philosophy :

  • David Dérodon (from 1654 to 1663)


  • Jeanne d'Albret, queen of Navarre © S.H.P.F.

1566 : Jeanne d’Albret, Queen of Navarre, founded a college with an Academy (Professors of Theology, Greek, Hebrew, Philosophy, Mathematics and Music).

1583 : Henri of Navarre changed its name to the Royal University of Bearn (granting degrees not only in theology, but also in science, law and medicine).

1620 : the Academy was closed down following the annexation of Bearn by France

Famous teachers :

Theology :

  • Pierre Viret ( in 1571)
  • Nicolas de Gallars (in 1579)
  • Lambert Daneau (from 1583 to 1593)


  • Dragonnade in Orange (1685)

1573 : Count Ludovic de Nassau added a college to the university in his Principality of Orange (the university had been open since 1365), and gave it the title Academy.

1686 : “dragonnades” in Orange and occupation of the town by French troops until 1697.

Famous professors :

  • Theology : Jean de Serres (from 1591 to 1597)
  • Greek : Alexandre Morus (from 1638 to 1649)
  • Philosophy : David Dérodon (from 1639 to 1654)


  • Minister Pierre du Moulin

1579 : a college was opened, an initiative of Françoise de Bourbon, the widow of Henri -Robert de la Marck)

1601 : the National Synod in Gergeau supported the turning of the college into an Academy (although the Principality of Sedan was only handed over to France in 1642, integration of the Church and the Academy into the synod network of the ERF happened earlier).

1681 : the Academy was closed down

Famous teachers :

Theology :

  • Pierre du Moulin (from 1621 to 1658)
  • Pierre Jurieu (from 1673 to 1681) who also taught Hebrew

Philosophy :

  • Pierre Bayle (from 1675 to 1681)

In 1596, the General Synod in Saumur decided to create two Reformed Academies that were funded by all the Provinces. Saumur was officially to be first but Montpellier and Montauban were actually the first.


1596 : the consistory in Montpellier set up a Theology School.

1609 : Chairs of Theology, Hebrew, Greek, and Philosophy were created.

1617 : the National Synod in Vitré decided the Universities of Nîmes and Montpellier should merge, which benefited the University of Nîmes.

Famous teachers :

Theology :

  • Jean Gigord (from 1595 to 1617)
  • Michel le Faucheur (from 1612 to 1617)

Greek, History and Rethoric :

  • Isaac Casaubon (from 1596 to 1599)


  • Puylaurens, Protestant Academy

1579 : a college was opened

1598-1600 : creating of the Academy, along with a library, on the premises of the college.

1600 : the appointing of two Professors of Theology, one Professor of Greek, one Professor of Hebrew, two Professors of Philosophy (the Chairs in Mathematics, Jurisprudence and Medicine remained vacant through lack of funds).

1659 : following a riot that pitted Catholic against Reformed students, the Academy was transferred to Puylaurens by a King’s Council decree.

1685 : the Academy of Puylaurens was closed down

Famous teachers :

Theology :

  • Daniel Chamier (from 1612 to 1621)
  • John Cameron (in 1624 and 1625)
  • Antoine Garissoles (from 1628 to 1651)


  • Philippe Duplessis-Mornay (1549-1623)

1599-1600 : creation of the Academy thanks to the support of Du Plessis-Mornay, with two Chairs of Theology, one each in Hebrew and Greek and two Chairs of Philosophy.

1635-1660 : period when the Academy had great influence. Several of its professors (Amyraut, Louis Cappel, La Place)) were quite outspoken compared to Reformed orthodoxy.

1685 : the Academy was closed down

Famous Professors :

Theology :

  • John Cameron (from 1618 to 1622)
  • Moïse Amyraut (from 1626 to 1664)
  • Louis Cappel (from 1626 to 1657)
  • Isaac d’Huisseau (from 1630 to 1670)
  • Josué de La Place (from 1631 to 1655)
  • Claude Pajon (from 1666 to 1667)

Hebrew :

  • Louis Cappel (from 1613 to 1657)
  • Jacques Cappel (from 1657 to1685)

Philosophy :

  • Josué de la Place (from 1621 to 1625)
  • Jean-Robert Chouet (from 1664 to 1669)

In 1620, the National Synod in Alès established the “General Statutes” that applied to all Academies. Each Academy provided courses in theology (one or two Professors in the Holy Scriptures, one for Doctrine) ; Hebrew, Greek, Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Mathematics. At the time, there were five colleges that had been promoted to Academies (besides Sedan) : the four mentioned above (Montpellier, Nîmes, Saumur, Sedan), and a more recent at Die.


1596 : creation of a college

1604 : creation of an Academy (Chairs in Theology, Hebrew, and two in Philosophy).

1684 : the Academy was closed down

Famous teachers :

Theology : David Eustache (from 1638 to 1641)

Philosophy : David Derodon (from 1634 to 1639)

When the Loudun Synod convened (1659-1660), the Reformed academic network seemed well-organised ; the Academies in Saumur, Sedan and Montauban were well thought of. From then on, royal policy strove to weaken the Reformed Church and, in particular, the Academies, by intensifying legal harassment. The Academies were so worried about their financial state, and mere survival, that they declined even before being officially banned by King’s Council decrees between 1681 and 1685.

Author: M. Carbonnier-Burkard


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