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Time Line of Key Events In the Life of John Calvin (1509-1564)

John Calvin’s Early Years: Birth and Preparation (1509-1531)

  • 1509 — Born July 10, 1509 in Noyon, France (2nd of six children).
  • 1513 — John’s mother, Jeanne, dies and his Father remarries (exact dates are uncertain).
  • 1521 — On May 19th receives benefice from the altar of Gesine in the cathedral of Noyon.
  • 1523 — Sent by his Father in August to study at the University of Paris.
  • 1528 — Finishes Bachelor of Arts from the College de Montaigu early in 1528.
  • 1528 — Sent by his Father to the University of Orleans to study Law.
  • 1529 — Moves to the University of Bourges to study law under Alciat.
  • 1531 — On May 26th his Father dies, allowing him to return to Paris to study theology.
  • In Paris: His Theological Turning-Point (1531-1533)
  • 1531 — Student at College de France in Greek, Hebrew, and Theology.
  • 1532 — Returns briefly in May to Orleans and graduates with the Juris Doctorate.
  • 1532 — Possibly experiences a “sudden conversion” (the exact date is uncertain).
  • 1533 — On November 1st Nicolas Cop preaches inaugural address as Rector & flees Paris.
  • 1533 — Following this Calvin is associated with the fugitive Cop & flees Paris.

In Flight: On the Road as a Fugitive (1534)

  • 1534 — Calvin’s Wartburg: Louis du Tillet’s library in Angouleme—during the winter months he lays the foundations for the Institutes of the Christian Religion.
  • 1534 — On May 4th he returns to Noyon & resigns his benefices formally breaking with Roman Catholicism (imprisoned for a short time?).
  • 1534 — “Affair of the Placards”; on the night of October 17-18th with ensuing persecution.
  • In Basle: Writing the Immortal “Institutes” (1535-1536)
  • 1535 — In January he is safely dwelling in Protestant Basle with Oswald Myconius.
  • 1536 — Lead by Guillame Farel, on March 21st Geneva decides for the Reformation.
  • 1536 — In March Calvin publishes Institutes of the Christian Religion in Basle.

In Geneva: The First Reformation (1536-1538)

  • 1536 — Calvin detours to Geneva in July—he plans to stay just one night, but is strongly persuaded by Guillame Farel to remain in Protestant Geneva as a co-worker.
  • 1536 — On September 5th he is hired as a “sacarum literarum doctor” by the City Council
  • 1536 — on November 10th the Genevan Confession is adopted by the City Council.
  • 1537 — In January a Protestant Statement of Faith is presented to the City Council.
  • 1538 — After much dissension Calvin, Farel, & Coralt are banished on April 25th.
  • In Strasbourg: Pastor, Teacher, Writer (1538-1541)
  • 1538 — In the spring he flees through Berne, Zurich, and finally settles in Strasbourg.
  • 1539 — Replies to Bishop Jacopo Sadolet’s letter to Geneva in August.
  • 1540 — In March he publishes Commentary on the Epistle of the Romans in Strasbourg.
  • 1540 — On August 6th he marries the widow Idelette de Bure.

Back to Geneva: The Years of Struggle (1541-1548)

  • 1541 — After many overtures Calvin returns to Geneva on September 13th.
  • 1541 — On November 20th the “Ordannances ecclesiastiques” are established in Geneva.
  • 1542 — Birth and death (July 28th) of John and Idelette Calvin’s son—Jacques.
  • 1543 — The establishment of the “Libertines” (enfants de Geneve) in Geneva.
  • 1543 — Plague in Geneva; the City Council votes to spare Calvin from “plague duty”.
  • 1543 — In December a conflict with Sebastian Castellio erupts over his qualifications for ministry in Geneva—he was not accepted and leaves Geneva.
  • 1544 — On May 30th Sebastian Castellio returns and interrupts the Congregation (the weekly Pastor’s Bible study) over the question of ministerial qualifications.
  • 1545 — On April 8th Pierre Ameaux sentenced to public repentance for libeling Calvin.
  • 1546 — On January 24th publishes Commentary on the Epistle of 1 Corinthians in Geneva.
  • 1546 — In February Michael Servetus begins correspondence with John Calvin on a multitude of theological subjects—later printed in a heretical book. (1553)
  • 1546 — Problems with the wife of Ami Perrin over public dancing.
  • 1546 — On August 1st publishes Commentary on the Epistle of 2 Corinthians in Geneva.
  • 1547 — On June 27th a threatening letter was found attached to the pulpit at St. Pierre.
  • 1547 — After a confession the guilty author, Jacques Gruet, is beheaded on July 26th.
  • 1548 — On February 1st publishes Commentary on the Epistles of Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, & Colossians in Geneva 1548 on July 25th publishes Commentary on the Epistles of 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy.

In the Crucible: Severe Trials in Geneva (1549-1555)

  • 1549 — Ami Perrin, leader of the Libertines, is chosen as the first Syndic in February,
  • 1549 — On March 29th, Idelette, Calvin’s wife dies after a brief illness.
  • 1550 — Publishes Institutes of the Christian Religion (4th edition) in Geneva.
  • 1553 — In January Michael Servetus’s Christianismi restitutio is printed anonymously.
  • 1553 — Michael Servetus attends worship in Geneva on August 13th and is arrested.
  • 1553 — On September 3rd a crisis at the Lord’s Supper is narrowly averted when steadfastly refuses to serve any who have been excommunicated.
  • 1553 — Michael Servetus is executed by burning at Geneva on October 27th.
  • 1555 — On January 24th the City Council adopts the “Ordannances ecclesiastiques”.
  • 1555 — A public riot instigated by the “Libertines” on May 16th fails and the key leaders are arrested or flee the city.

In Geneva: The Years of Triumph (1555-1564)

  • 1555 — On August 1st publishes Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels in Geneva.
  • 1557 — On July 22nd publishes Commentary on the Psalms in Geneva.
  • 1559 — Founding of the Genevan Academy, June 5th, with Theodore Beza as Rector.
  • 1559 — On August 1st Calvin publishes Institutes of the Christian Religion (5th edition)
  • 1560 — Publication of the Geneva Bible with notes written under Calvin’s supervision.
  • 1564 — February 6th, Calvin’s last appearance in the pulpit of St. Pierre’s Cathedral.
  • 1564 — The death of John Calvin at Geneva, May 27th.
  • 1564 — Theodore Beza writes Life of Calvin & posthumously publishes Calvin’s Commentary on Joshua.