1523: Jean Valliere, the first Protestant burnt in France

On this date in 1523, a Norman hermit named Jean Vallière was burned at the stake at a Paris pig market, while the books of the humanistic nobleman Louis de Berquin were burned in front of Notre Dame by the Paris parlement.

Berquin would follow Valliere’s fate ere that first decade of Lutheranism was out, but the obscurity who died on this date seems to have been an Augustinian preacher whose zany idea that Jesus was the son of Joseph and not God would have been no more welcomed by Luther than by Rome.

Friend and foe alike tended to project onto Luther any old subversive project that wanted either the imprimatur of theological credibility or the brand of the heresiarch and his “pestilential doctrine full of execrable errors.” (That’s how the Sorbonne condemned Luther in 1521.)

In this case, guilt by association was intended to intimidate with Valliere’s example scholars like Berquin. A most particular threat was a clique of reform-oriented intellectuals at Meaux under the leadership of Jacques Lefevre d’Etaples; d’Etaples that very year of 1523 completed a French translation of the New Testament.

These folk in Meaux persisted only under the personal protection of the French King Francis I and his reformist sister Marguerite of Navarre. Their project of reform within the church never really took, and neither did the Meaux circle commit itself to martyrdom for the new faith(s). But Marguerite of Navarre’s grandson would be the man to settle this century’s French Wars of Religion by conquering as a Huguenot, converting to Catholicism, and ruling illustriously as Henri IV.

One thought on “1523: Jean Valliere, the first Protestant burnt in France”

  1. Your info on Jean Vallière (Aug. 8, 1523) may be in error. The Jeopardy TV show of March 20, 2015 indicated he was “considered” the first French Huguenot to be martyred, but the book The Huguenots by Geoffrey Treasure (2013), page 67 says: “In 1523 the Augustinian monk Jean Vallière was burned in Paris for *having read and commented on Luther’s works.*” I suspect your source of info for his “zany idea that Jesus was the son of Joseph and not God” is likely from erring Catholic historians. You may want to consider revising this entry on your informative website.

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