Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Mentzer, Raymond A.
First Committee Member
Second Committee Member
Pesantubbee, Michelene E.
Third Committee Member
Berman, Constance H.
Fourth Committee Member
Spierling, Karen E.
Although the eruption of religious dissent in Germany touched off by Martin Luther in 1517 began as a theological disagreement, the ensuring years would reveal that these religious ideas had important social consequences. They set into motion a process of reordering society and forming of confessional identities that had significant implications for the nuclear family. Reflecting John Calvin's assertion that "every individual Family ought to be a Little Church of Christ," Reformed Protestants sought to transform nuclear families into spiritual communities, creating domestic microcosms of the larger church.
This project examines the religious formation of families among the French Reformed (Huguenot) Churches, demonstrating that this was a cultural offensive as much as it was a religious one. Huguenot leaders wanted far more than their congregants to attend church: this programme transformed the roles and responsibilities of family members, shaped the activities and routines of the household, circumscribed and defined the appropriate associations of family members, and reorganized the family schedule. This study illuminates the Huguenots' conception of a "holy household" by analyzing the four primary characteristics of these godly families - ordered, educational, pure, and pious - and describes how they were conceived of and implemented in Reformed communities across early modern France.
In order to provide a comprehensive understanding of the French Reformed family, this dissertation bridges the divide between intellectual history and social history. There was no greater intellectual source for French Protestantism than John Calvin and Geneva: Calvin was one of the primary theologians influencing the development of Protestantism in France, and the Genevan Church served as an advisor and template for many of the Huguenot churches. Accordingly, each chapter examines in depth the theological underpinnings of this effort, analyzing Calvin's sermons, commentaries, Institutes of the Christian Religion, and written correspondence with leaders of the Huguenot churches. This investigation, in turn, provides an understanding of the religious sources for this new emphasis holy family and domestic piety in France, without which it would be impossible to fully appreciate.
To balance these prescriptive sources, I analyze descriptive records to understand how the actual reform of the family was carried out on the local level. In particular, my research relies extensively on church discipline records (consistory registers) from churches throughout France: Albenc (1606-1682), Archiac (1600-1637), Blois (1574-1579), Coutras (1582-1584), Die (1639-1686), Le Mans (1560-1561), Mussidan (1593-1599), Nîmes (1561-1564), Pont-de-Camares (1574-1579), Rochechouart (1596-1635), and Saint-Gervais (1564-1568). These records reveal the complex and messy manner of this reform, which was often marked by contestation and negotiation. Throughout, I compare these records to Genevan discipline records to compare and contrast how Calvin's own church instituted this familial reform in the Genevan context. My project, in sum, reveals the heretofore overlooked religious role and significance of the family and home in Reformed churches of early modern France.
Early modern Europe, Family, France, Reformation, Reformed Church (Calvinist), Religious history
xiii, 273 pages
Includes bibliographical references (pages 251-273).
Copyright 2013 Ezra Lincoln Plank
Plank, Ezra Lincoln. "Creating perfect families: French Reformed Churches and family formation, 1559-1685." PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) thesis, University of Iowa, 2013.