Infant Baptism in Reformation Geneva: The Shaping of a Community, 1536–1564, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Infant Baptism in Reformation Geneva

The Shaping of a Community, 1536–1564, 1st Edition

By Karen E. Spierling


272 pages

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Hardback: 9780754634904
pub: 2005-02-09
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This book examines the beliefs, practices and arguments surrounding the ritual of infant baptism and the raising of children in Geneva during the period of John Calvin's tenure as leader of the Reformed Church, 1536-1564. It focuses particularly on the years from 1541 onward, after Calvin's return to Geneva and the formation of the Consistory. The work is based on sources housed primarily in the Genevan State Archives, including the registers of the Consistory and the City Council. While the time period of the study may be limited, the approach is broad, encompassing issues of theology, church ritual and practices, the histories of family and children, and the power struggles involved in transforming not simply a church institution but the entire community surrounding it. The overarching argument presented is that the ordinances and practices surrounding baptism present a framework for relations among child, parents, godparents, church and city. The design of the baptismal ceremony, including liturgy, participants and location, provided a blueprint of the reformers' vision of a well ordered community. To comprehend fully the development and spread of Calvinism, it is necessary to understand the context of its origins and how the ideas of Calvin and his Reformed colleagues were received in Geneva before they were disseminated throughout Europe and the world. In a broad sense this project explores the tensions among church leaders, city authorities, parents, relatives and neighbours regarding the upbringing of children in Reformed Geneva. More specifically, it studies the practice of infant baptism as manifested in the baptism ceremony in Geneva, the ongoing practices of Catholic baptism in neighbouring areas, and the similarities and tensions between these two rituals.


'This is an excellent study for anyone interested in the development of Reformed Protestant theology in a practical setting.' The Journal of Ecclesiastical History 'This is an excellent study for anyone interested in the impact of practical issues of society, culture and politics on the formation not only of theological views but also on the implementation of that theology in practice.' History 'This work should be read by students of Early Modern history and the theology of the time.' Colloquium ’In Infant Baptism in Reformation Geneva, Karen Spierling successfully negotiates the boundaries of a number of historiographical traditions and concerns, and presents a handsomely produced volume… Generally, this is a reliable and valuable study providing a good analysis of a number of archival data regarding baptismal issues and infractions that presented a not trivial challenge to the consolidation of Reformation Geneva.’ Sixteenth Century Journal ’This is fascinating study that adds greatly to the understanding of the practice of infant baptism in Calvin's Geneva…’ Calvin Theological Journal

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction: infant baptism and the definition of community; Infant baptism in the 16th century: doctrine and liturgy; Catholic baptismal traditions in reformed Geneva; Godparents: a tradition reformed; Baptising illegitimate children; Raising children in reformed Geneva; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Dr Karen E. Spierling is Assistant Professor of Early Modern Europe in the Department of History, University of Louisville, USA.

About the Series

St Andrews Studies in Reformation History

With the publication of its 100th book in 2012, the St Andrews Studies in Reformation Studies series celebrated an impressive publishing achievement. Since its establishment in 1995 the series has consistently offered high-quality, innovative and thought-provoking research in the field of early modern religious history. By encouraging authors to adopt a broad and inclusive interpretation of ’Reformation’, the resultant publications have done much to help shape current interdisciplinary interpretations of early-modern religion, expanding attention far beyond narrow theological concerns. Each title within the series has added to a body of international research showing how the ripples of the Reformation spread to virtually every corner of European society, both Protestant and Catholic, and often beyond. From family life, education, literature, music, art and philosophy, to political theory, international relations, economics, colonial ventures, science and military matters, there were few aspects of life that remained untouched in some way by the spirit of religious reform. As well as widening conceptions of the Reformation, the series has for the last fifteen years provided a publishing outlet for work, much of it by new and up-and-coming scholars who might otherwise have struggled to find an international platform for their work. Alongside these monographs, a complementary selection of edited volumes, critical editions of important primary sources, bibliographical studies and new translations of influential Reformation works previously unavailable to English speaking scholars, adds further depth to the topic. By offering this rich mix of approaches and topics, the St Andrews series continues to offer scholars an unparalleled platform for the publication of international scholarship in a dynamic and often controversial area of historical study.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General