Faith of the Huguenots
Huguenots were French Christians (Catholics) who initially transferred their faith to the Reformed Church, created by Martin Luther. Martin Luther was a German Monk who, in 1517 broke away and published his Ninety Five Theses in which he rejected several key teachings of the Catholic Church. The Huguenots’ spiritual leader was John Calvin (1509 – 1564), a French theologian who led the second generation of the Protestant Reformation. Fleeing for his life, he settled in Geneva and with a group of likeminded thinkers and grew the Reformed faith. His followers were Calvinists.
Reformed Christians believe that God predestined some people to be saved and others were predestined to eternal damnation. This choice by God to save some is held to be unconditional and not based on any characteristic or action on the part of the person chosen.
Pictured above is the Reformation Wall in the grounds of the University of Geneva, founded by John Calvin in 1559. The wall was built in 1909 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Calvin’s birth. The five metre high statues depict Calivinsim’s key proponents:
William Farell 1489-1565
John Calvin 1509 – 1564
Theodore Beza 1519-1605
John Knox 1513 – 1572
In the 16th century the Reformation happened. A new type of Christianity was born. People who chose to follow this new Christianity were called Protestants. Now there were Catholics and Protestants.
In France, the Protestants were called Huguenots (hyu-ga-nos). The Huguenots were forced to pray in secret so that the Catholics couldn’t stop them. They found quiet places in the forest or in the mountain caves to pray. People could only go to these secret meetings if they had a special coin, called a ‘mereaux’ (ma-row). These small metal discs were given to the faithful after they had been examined as evidence that they were entitled to take communion.
On the mereaux coin, the Protestants engraved a small picture. It was a picture of Jesus Christ, with his staff in his left hand and a trumpet in his right hand. There are also fig trees in the picture, and sheep at his feet.
When the Protestants travelled around the country, they showed their mereaux coin to prove who they were. This is how they found Protestant friends who would give them food and a place to stay. The mereaux coin was very important because it helped the Protestants to stay safe.