Institutes of the Christian Religion

From Censorpedia

Date: 1542 1543 1557

Region: Europe

Subject: Religious

Medium: Literature Religious


Artists: John Calvin, Michael Servetus, Albert Pighius

Confronting Bodies: Sorbonne, French parlement (high court), John Calvin,

Dates of Action: 1542, 1543, 1557

Location: France, Geneva

Description of Artwork: John Calvin's book Institutes of the Christian Religion, which was censored in France, is widely considered the most important book of the Protestant reformation.

Works by two other theologians were censored by Calvin. One of them is Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God in which Albert Pighius speaks out against Calvin's doctrine of predestination. The other theoligian is Michael Servetus who rejected the ideas of the Holy Trinity and of infant baptism.


The Incident: Although Calvin's work won him recognition in Geneva,where he was the pastor of a parish, in France his works were regarded as heretical. In 1534 the "Affair of the Placards" in France, which targeted reformers, led to one of Calvin's brothers being burned at the stake. After this he went into self-exile, but his works remained censored in France. In 1542 the French parlement (high court) banned his book as being heretical and in 1543 it was banned by the theology faculty of the Sorbonne. Calvin himself also censored, and believed very much in the importance of censorship. He is famous for saying "We muzzle dogs. Should we leave men free to open their mouths as they please?"


Once ensconced in Geneva, Calvin had the Petit Council, Geneva's ruling body, decree that no one could speak out against his book or against the doctrine of predestination. In 1553 he had Michael Servetus, a theologian that disagreed with some of his views, arrested and then burned alive at the stake.

Results of Incident: In France, the authorities were not able to prevent the book from being printed, and it was still widely circulated.

Source: Censorship: A World Encyclopedia