The Colloquy at
Poissy was a religious conference which took place in
Poissy, France, in 1561. Its object was to effect a reconciliation
Catholics and Protestants (Huguenots) of France.
The conference was opened on 9 September in the refectory of the
convent of Poissy, the French king (aged 11) himself being present.
It broke up inconclusively a month later, on 9 October, by which point
the divide between the doctrines appeared irreconcilable.
4 Further conferences
King Charles IX (1561)
Calvinist faction in
France was strong and vocal, under the
guidance of several princes of the royal blood and members of the
higher nobility. The spread of Protestantism and the application of
its fundamental principle of private judgment produced far-reaching
differences in belief. To heal these and so bring about unity, a
conference was held at
Weimar in 1560, between the Lutherans Viktor
Striegel (1524–69) and Flacius, on free will.
Poissy conference was arranged by Catherine de' Medici, the
Florentine Catholic queen-mother and regent during the minority of her
son, Charles IX of France, with the support of the Chancellor
Michel de l'Hôpital
Michel de l'Hôpital and the lieutenant-general of the kingdom,
Anthony of Navarre. The heads of the Catholic party had attempted to
frustrate any form of negotiation.
Disaffection towards the
Holy See had paralysed French Catholic
activity. The Council of Trent, a general council, was in session
under the presidency of Pope Pius IV, but voices were heard even among
the French bishops, advocating the convocation of a separate national
synod. Instead, Catherine and her advisers chose a religious
conference under the direction of the civil power. The Pope tried to
prevent, what under the circumstances had to be construed by Catholics
as, the defiance of his ecclesiastical authority.
The Pope sent as papal legate Ippolito d'Este, known as the Cardinal
of Ferrara, with James Laynez, the second
General superior of the
Jesuits, as his adviser, to dissuade the regent and the bishops. But
the affair had gone too far. At the conference, six French Cardinals
and thirty-eight archbishops and bishops, with a host of minor
prelates and doctors, spent a month in discussions with the
Theodore Beza from
Geneva and Peter Martyr Vermigli
Zürich appeared at the colloquy; the German theologians to whom
invitations had been despatched only arrived in
Paris after the
discussion was broken off. Beza was assisted by Nicolas des
Gallars, who wrote a report of the conference, for Edmund Grindal,
then bishop of London where de Gallars currently had a church.
On 9 September the representatives of the rival denominations began
their pleadings. The proceedings were opened by a speech of Chancellor
L'Hôpital, who emphasized the right and duty of the monarch to
provide for the needs of the Church. Even should a general council be
in session, a colloquy between Frenchmen convened by the king was the
better way of settling religious disputes; for a general council,
being mostly composed of foreigners, was deemed incapable of
understanding the wishes and the needs of France.
The spokesman of the
Reformed Church was Beza, who, in the first
session, gave a lengthy exposition of its tenets. Beza's speech
explained the principles of the Reformed understanding of the
Eucharist; it was later revised and emended, and published in France.
He excited such repugnance by his pronouncements on the Communion that
he was interrupted by Cardinal François de Tournon.
Charles, Cardinal of Lorraine
Charles, Cardinal of Lorraine replied in the second session (16
September). On the motion, however, of Ippolito d'Este, the legate,
exception was taken to the further conduct of the negotiations in full
conclave; and a committee of twenty-four representatives, twelve from
each party, was appointed ostensibly to facilitate a satisfactory
decision. On the Catholic side there existed little wish for
The Jesuit Laynez then claimed that the divinely appointed judge of
the religious controversies was the Pope, not the Court of France.
The acrimony with which he opposed the Protestants at least clarified
Catharine appointed a smaller committee of five
Calvinists and five
Roman Catholics. Their task was to devise a formula on which the two
churches might unite with regard to the question of the Eucharist. The
Cardinal of Lorraine had asked whether the
Calvinists were prepared to
sign the Confession of Augsburg, a matter of dissension between them
and the Lutheran Protestants. The committee drafted a vague formula
which could be interpreted in a Catholic or a Calvinistic sense, and
was consequently condemned by both parties. The assemblage of
prelates refused assent, and the
Calvinists would not commit
themselves to the Lutheran Confession.
Subsequently there were meetings at
Altenburg (20 October 1568 – 9
March 1569) between the
Jena theologians and those from Wittenberg, on
free will and justification; and at
Montbéliard (1586) between
Beza and the
Tübingen theologians, on predestination. The Roman
Catholic Church continued the
Council of Trent
Council of Trent until 1565, and issued
its own statements on the
Eucharist and many other points of
contention raised by various Protestant churches.
^ a b c d e f g h i One or more of the preceding
sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public
domain: Mirbt, Carl (1911). "Poissy, Colloquy of". In Chisholm,
Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica. 21 (11th ed.). Cambridge University
Press. p. 897.
^ a b c d e f g h One or more of the preceding sentences
incorporates text from a publication now in the public
domain: Loughlin, James Francis (1909). "Religious Discussions".
In Herbermann, Charles. Catholic Encyclopedia. 5. New York: Robert
^ Olson, J. E. (2007). "Nicolas Des Gallars and the Colloquy of
Poissy: The Neglected Participation of a Pastor of the London Stranger
Church in an Ecumenical Council". Proceedings of the Huguenot Society
of Great Britain and Ireland. 28 (5): 664–83.
^ Gwynn, Robin D. (1985). Huguenot Heritage: The History and
Contribution of the
Huguenots in Britain. Boston: Routledge &
Kegan Paul. p. 65. ISBN 0-7102-0420-5.
^ Benedetto, Robert (2008). The New Westminster Dictionary Of Church
History: The Early, Medieval, and Reformation Eras. Louisville:
Westminster John Knox Press. p. 525.
^ Jacobs, Henry Eyster, "
Altenburg Conference", Lutheran Cyclopedia,
p. 10 .
Nugent, Donald (1974). Ecumenism in the Age of the Reformation: The
Colloquy of Poissy. Cambridge MA USA: Harvard University Press.
Ruble, Alphonse baron de (1889). Le colloque de Poissy
(septembre-octobre 1561) (in French). Paris: H. Champion.
Sutherland, N. M. (1984). "7. The Cardinal of Lorraine and the
Colloque of Poissy, 1561: A Reassessment". Princes, Politics and
Religion, 1547-1589. London: Hambledon Press. pp. 113–138.