Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Les Registres Des Consistoires Des Eglises Réformées De France-XVIe-XVIIe Siècles: Un Inventaire

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Les Registres Des Consistoires Des Eglises Réformées De France-XVIe-XVIIe Siècles: Un Inventaire

Article excerpt

Les registres des consistoires des Eglises Réformées de France-XVIe-XVIIe siècles: Un inventaire. By Raymond A. Mentzer. [Archives des Eglises Réformées de France, No. IV; Travaux d'Humanisme et Renaissance, No. DXXVL] (Geneva: Librairie Droz. 2014. Pp. 170. $71.82. ISBN 978-2-600-01786-2.)

Over the past few decades, historians have increasingly come to realize that the registers of consistories, institutions created to promote morality and discipline among Reformed Protestants, are extremely rich sources that shed precious light on the piety, mores, and everyday life of common folk, both men and women, who for too long have been largely left out of the historical narrative of the Reformation. Raymond Mentzer, the dean of historians of French consistories, has provided a most valuable tool for scholars. He has painstakingly scoured archives, libraries, and private collections to provide this superb inventory of all known surviving registers of consistories from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Part 1 of this work consists of a lengthy and quite useful introduction, in which Mentzer discusses the origin, structure, and responsibilities of consistories. The prototype for these institutions was the consistory of Geneva, created by John Calvin and entrusted with enforcing Reformed morality. Calvinists placed great emphasis on discipline, and certain Reformed leaders went beyond Calvin and insisted that discipline was one of three marks of the true church (the other two being the right preaching of the gospel and the proper administration of the sacraments). Starting in the 1550s, consistories were established wherever Protestant communities developed in France. Presided over by a pastor, the consistories ordinarily met once a week and consisted of the pastors, elders, and deacons. Among the consistories' most important responsibilities was overseeing the worship service, with special attention paid to the celebration of communion or, as Calvinists preferred to call it, the Holy Supper, which was celebrated four times a year. Consistories determined who was worthy of receiving the Supper and excluded those who were poorly instructed in matters of the faith or had not repented of serious sins they had committed. Church finances and poor relief were also under the purview of consistories, which also oversaw lessons for instruction in the catechism for both children and adults. …

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