Boundaries of Faith: Catholics and Protestants in the Diocese of Geneva

Jill Fehleison

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Drawing from a wealth of primary sources, including visitation records of bishops and other diocesan documents, Jill Fehleison contributes to our understanding of early modern Catholicism as it addressed the challenges of coexisting with Protestantism. (EMS 5)

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Description

Early Modern Studies, Vol. 5

At the political and religious crossroads where John Calvin and the Protestant Reformation had taken hold, the Catholic Diocese of Geneva struggled to convert their Protestant neighbors back to the Catholic Church while maintaining a tradition of piety and a firm disciplinary hand. This critical study examines the success of Catholic counter-reform in key rural villages and looks at the significant role played by Bishop François de Sales, who had the unusual challenge of dealing with the two political authorities of Savoy and France. Drawing from a wealth of primary sources, including visitation records of bishops and other diocesan documents, Jill Fehleison contributes to our understanding of early modern Catholicism as it addressed the challenges of coexisting with Protestantism.

Fehleison offers a rich and compelling account of the revitalization of religious conviction and devotion in the Catholic areas bordering the Reformed city-state of Geneva. Her analysis of the people, structures, and rituals associated with Catholic reform in the Diocese of Geneva is exceptional and accomplished. She carefully elucidates the gradual emergence of confessional identity and the “boundaries of faith” among both clergy and laity. In the process, the dynamics of early modern Catholicism emerge in vibrant and robust tones.

—Raymond A. Mentzer

Contents

Acknowledgments

Chapter 1 The Reformation and the Diocese of Geneva

Chapter 2 Understanding Boundaries
    Landscape of Catholic Reform

Chapter 3 Winning Converts
    The Mission in the Duchy of Chablais

Chapter 4 Shifting Borders
    Savoyards Become French

Chapter 5 Cleaning Houses
    Reform of the Clergy

Chapter 6 Defining Spaces
    Reform of the Laity

Chapter 7 Reform Ideals and Reality

Bibliography
About the Author

Index

Authors

Jill Fehleison received her PhD from Ohio State University in early modern European history. She is associate professor of history at Qunnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut.

Reviews

Boundaries of Faith: Catholics and Protestants in the Diocese of Geneva offers a fine survey of religious conviction and devotion in the Catholic areas bordering Geneva She combines a social analysis of these people and their customs with assessments of rituals associated with Catholic reform in the Diocese of Geneva, providing a scholarly, in-depth analysis perfect for any college-level Catholic history and spirituality collection.

Midwest Book Review, California Bookwatch

In Boundaries of Faith, Jill Fehleison explores the Catholic Reformation that sought to revitalize the church through the conversion of Protestants in the diocese of Geneva, the implementation of Council of Trent's recommended reforms, and the restoration of pre-Reformation boundaries in the formerly Catholic diocese. As Fehleison makes clear, such goals were complicated by secular and religious authorities, the shifting of political boundaries between Savoy and France, the poverty of parishioners that made support for the parish churches difficult, and the rugged topography of the region, which rendered frequent oversight impractical. Using ecclesiastical records and correspondence, Fehleison brings to life the complexities that made the complete reform of the region ultimately impossible.... The parishioner's simple faith, hardscrabble life, and enthusiastic embrace of spirituality (although not necessarily through practices endorsed by a visiting bishop) come through in Fehleison's book, enlivening her study as it comes to a close. Here, we glimpse the face of earnest, hardworking humanity, clinging stubbornly to life even as the world around them totters.

 —Sixteenth Century Journal

This is a carefully researched and well-written case study of the diocese during the Catholic Reformation...[r]arely is the Catholic Reformation treated so positively with such intelligence and verve.

Renaissance Quarterly, Summer 2011

Fehleison produces a vivid and intriguing picture of the process of Catholic reform and reconversion at the local level. Her book is exciting both for the information it presents and for the possibilities it suggests for future research on Catholics and Protestants in the region around Geneva.

H-France Review, Summer 2011

Jill Fehleison’s study of the Diocese of Geneva in the late-sixteenth and early-seventeenth centuries is a fine addition to a lengthy list of books examining the Catholic Reformation in French, German, Italian, and Spanish dioceses. However, the Diocese of Geneva presents a particularly interesting example of the reform program. Since its former seat was now the center of Calvinism, it was on the front lines of the battle against heresy. The diocese also crossed a national boundary between the Duchy of Savoy and France. Among its bishops was one of the most famous figures of the Catholic Reform—the future saint, François de Sales.

Catholic Historical Review, January 2012

This excellent book examines how three bishops in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries—Francis de Sales, his predecessor, and his successor in the diocese of Geneva—were successful and/or unsuccessful in promoting and restoring Catholicism.... The work also nicely complements other recent studies on how bishops received and implemented prescriptions of the Council of Trent for making bishops and parish priests effective agents of Catholic reform.

Religious Studies Review, December 2011

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