family, which was intimately associated with the history of the town.
Calvi was founded in the 13th century and in 1278 passed into the hands of the Genoese. From that date it was remarkable for its adherence to their side, especially in 1553 when it repulsed two attacks of the united forces of the French and Turks. In recognition thereof the Genoese senate caused the words Civitas Calvi semper fidelis to be carved on the chief gate of the city, which still preserves the inscription. In 1794 Calvi was captured by the English, but it was retaken by the Corsicans in the following year.
CALVIN, JOHN (1509-1564), Swiss divine and reformer, was born at Noyon, in Picardy, on the 10th of July 1509. His father, Gérard Cauvin or Calvin, was a notary-apostolic and procurator-fiscal for the lordship of Noyon, besides holding certain ecclesiastical offices in connexion with that diocese. The name of his mother was Jeanne le Franc; she was the daughter of an innkeeper at Cambrai, who afterwards came to reside at Noyon. Gérard Cauvin was esteemed as a man of considerable sagacity and prudence, and his wife was a godly and attractive lady. She bore him five sons, of whom John was the second. By a second wife there were two daughters.
Of Calvin’s early years only a few notices remain. His father destined him from the first for an ecclesiastical career, and paid for his education in the household of the noble family of Hangest de Montmor. In May 1521 he was appointed to a chaplaincy attached to the altar of La Gésine in the cathedral of Noyon, and received the tonsure. The actual duties of the office were in such cases carried out by ordained and older men for a fraction of the stipend. The plague having visited Noyon, the young Hangests were sent to Paris in August 1523, and Calvin accompanied them, being enabled to do so by the income received from his benefice. He lived with his uncle and attended as an out-student the Collège de la Marche, at that time under the regency of Mathurin Cordier, a man of character, learning and repute as a teacher, who in later days followed his pupil to Switzerland, taught at Neuchâtel, and died in Geneva in 1564. In dedicating to him his Commentary on the First Epistle to the Thessalonians, as “eximiae pietatis et doctrinae viro,” he declares that so had he been aided by his instruction that whatever subsequent progress he had made he only regarded as received from him, and “this,” he adds, “I wish to testify to posterity that if any utility accrue to any from my writings they may acknowledge it as having in part flowed from thee.” From the Collège de la Marche he removed to the Collège de Montaigu, where the atmosphere was more ecclesiastical and where he had for instructor a Spaniard who is described as a man of learning and to whom Calvin was indebted for some sound training in dialectics and the scholastic philosophy. He speedily outstripped all his competitors in grammatical studies, and by his skill and acumen as a student of philosophy, and in the college disputations gave fruitful promise of that consummate excellence as a reasoner in the department of speculative truth which he afterwards displayed. Among his friends were the Hangests (especially Claude), Nicolas and Michel Cop, sons of the king’s Swiss physician, and his own kinsman Pierre Robert, better known as Olivétan. Such friendships testify both to the worth and the attractiveness of his character, and contradict the old legend that he was an unsociable misanthrope. Pleased with his success, the canons at Noyon gave him the curacy of St Martin de Marteville in September 1527. After holding this preferment for nearly two years, he exchanged it in July 1529 for the cure of Pont L’Évêque, a village near to Noyon, and the place to which his father originally belonged. He appears to have been not a little elated by his early promotion, and although not ordained, he preached several sermons to the people. But though the career of ecclesiastical preferment was thus early opened to him, Calvin was destined not to become a priest. A change came over the mind both of his father and himself respecting his future career. Gérard Cauvin began to suspect that he had not chosen the most lucrative profession for his son, and that the law offered to a youth of his talents and industry a more promising sphere. He was also now out of favour with the cathedral chapter at Noyon. It is said also that John himself, on the advice of his relative, Pierre Robert Olivétan, the first translator of the Bible into French, had begun to study the Scriptures and to dissent from the Roman worship. At any rate he readily complied with his father’s suggestion, and removed from Paris to Orleans (March 1528) in order to study law under Pierre Taisan de l’Etoile, the most distinguished jurisconsult of his day. The university atmosphere here was less ascetic than at Paris, but Calvin’s ardour knew no slackening, and such was his progress in legal knowledge that he was frequently called upon to lecture, in the absence of one or other of the regular staff. Other studies, however, besides those of law occupied him while in this city, and moved by the humanistic spirit of the age he eagerly developed his classical knowledge. “By protracted vigils,” says Beza, “he secured indeed a solid erudition and an excellent memory; but it is probable he at the same time sowed the seeds of that disease (dyspepsia) which occasioned him various illnesses in after life, and at last brought upon him premature death.” His friends here were Melchior Wolmar, a German schoolmaster and a man of exemplary scholarship and character, François Daniel, Francois de Connam and Nicolas Duchemin; to these his earliest letters were written.
From Orleans Calvin went to Bourges in the autumn of 1529 to continue his studies under the brilliant Italian, Andrea Alciati (1492-1550), whom Francis I. had invited into France and settled as a professor of law in that university. His friend Daniel went with him, and Wolmar followed a year later. By Wolmar Calvin was taught Greek, and introduced to the study of the New Testament in the original, a service which he gratefully acknowledges in one of his printed works. The conversation of Wolmar may also have been of use to him in his consideration of the doctrines of the Reformation, which were now beginning to be widely diffused through France. Twelve years had elapsed since Luther had published his theses against indulgences—twelve years of intense excitement and anxious discussion, not in Germany only, but in almost all the adjacent countries. In France there had not been as yet any overt revolt against the Church of Rome, but multitudes were in sympathy with any attempt to improve the church by education, by purer morals, by better preaching and by a return to the primitive and uncorrupted faith. Though we cannot with Beza regard Calvin at this time as a centre of Protestant activity, he may well have preached at Lignières as a reformatory Catholic of the school of Erasmus. Calvin’s own record of his “conversion” is so scanty and devoid of chronological data that it is extremely difficult to trace his religious development with any certainty. But it seems probable that at least up to 1532 he was far more concerned about classical scholarship than about religion.
His residence at Bourges was cut short by the death of his father in May 1531. Immediately after this event he went to Paris, where the “new learning” was now at length ousting the medieval scholasticism from the university. He lodged in the Collège Fortet, reading Greek with Pierre Danès and beginning Hebrew with François Vatable. It was at this time (April 1532) that Calvin issued his first publication, a commentary in Latin on Seneca’s tract De Clementia. This book he published at his own cost, and dedicated to Claude Hangest, abbot of St Éloi, a member of the de Montmor family, with whom Calvin had been
- The family name of Calvin seems to have been written indifferently Cauvin, Chauve, Chauvin, Calvus, Calvinus. In the contemporary notices of Gerard and his family, in the capitular registers of the cathedral at Noyon, the name is always spelt Cauuin. The anagram of Calvin is Alcuin, and this in its Latinized form Alcuinus appears in two editions of his Institutio as that of the author (Audin, Vie de Calvin, i. 520). The syndics of Geneva address him in a letter written in 1540, and still preserved, as “Docteur Caulvin.” In his letters written in French he usually signs himself “Jean Calvin.” He affected the title of “Maître,” for what reason is not known.
- Pierre de Montaigu refounded this institution in 1388. Erasmus and Ignatius Loyola also studied here.
- Calv. Praef. ad Comment. in Psalmos.
- Jo. Calvini Vita, sub init.
- Epist. Ded., Comment in Ep. II. ad Corinthios praefix.