I recently returned to my home, Adelaide, from an amazing two-month experience with family in Europe. Switzerland was one of my favourite places to visit as it has an overwhelming Christian heritage; from Switzerland’s National Anthem which exclaims,
“When the morning skies grow red
And O’er their radiance shed,
Thou, O Lord, appeareth in their light.
When the Alps glow bright with splendour,
Pray to God, to Him surrender,
For you feel and understand…
That he dwelleth in this land…”
…to their flag containing the white cross representing the Christian faith, to the numerous monuments and museums dedicated to the Protestant Reformation that took place in the country.
One of the monuments in Switzerland that I was quite astonished by was the Reformation Wall in Geneva as seen in the picture above. The impressive monument is basically a giant wall approximately 9 metres high and 100 metres wide and in the centre are the statues of four men who were luminaries to Geneva. Behind the statues is engraved “Post Tenebras Luz” which means, “after darkness, light.”
Starting from the left side, the four men are William Farel, John Calvin, Theodore Beza and John Knox. It was astounding to see how many tourists these monuments attracted but quite sad to know that most of these tourists would just see these four men as an interesting part of Swiss history that is no longer relevant to our “progressive” time. They would no longer know what exactly it was that these men fought for and how important their message was, and still is, to every part of the world.
Why are these four men so important to Switzerland that they were given their own monument?
William Farel (1489-1565)
William Farel was known as a fiery preacher and as the “Elijah” of the Alps because of his boldness and fearlessness.
A famous quote by Farel when he seized the church of La Madeleine and St. Peter’s Cathedral:
“I have been baptized in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. I go about preaching Christ, why He died for our sins and rose again for our justification. Whoever believers in Him will be saved; unbelievers will be lost. I am bound to preach to all who will hear. I am ready to dispute with you.”
While Farel’s explosive and confrontational style prompted many people to destroy superstitious religious images, statues and more from their homes and even churches across Geneva, he often offended priests and bishops who had him kicked out of the city, beaten, arrested and left for dead on numerous occasions.
John Calvin (1509-1564)
The Reformation Wall of Geneva was specifically built for John Calvin’s 400th birthday!
Calvin is known to be one of the most articulate writers and conveyers of the gospel. He is known as Luther and Zwingli’s predecessor and taught Christians that we are no longer condemned by the Law of God as in the Old Testament, but the Law of God is an example of what our moral behaviour should be. He testified that we are not justified by our works but are justified by our faith in Jesus.
Although Calvin was exiled from Geneva for three years, he was later made an important spiritual and political leader.
A famous quote by John Calvin:
“A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God’s truth is attacked and yet would remain silent.”
I absolutely love this quote and believe it to be relevant and convicting of all Christians today!
Theodore Beza (1519–1605)
Theodore Beza was John Calvin’s successor in Geneva and later continued in France. Like Calvin, Beza also studied law. However, he was also well known for his talent in writing Latin poems in France.
Initially, Beza was not a Christian, but after falling seriously ill he received salvation and relocated to Geneva to join Calvin and Farel in the reformation movement. Theodore was especially known for bringing important reforms to Swiss politics and educational institutions.
John Knox (c.1513–1572)
Knox found himself evangelising in a country that was sentencing preachers of the gospel to slavery and death due to laws against the protestant faith.
Knox was quite vocal about the idolatry occurring in the Catholic church – particularly the glorification of the virgin Mary as if she was God. During this time, Knox was captured by the French and sent to be a galley slave, a place where he was “tormented” and “afflicted.” The rowers of these ships were kept chained to the oars and were whipped if they were not pulling their weight.
After 10 months as a slave, Knox was brought back to England where he was honoured with the role of Royal Chaplain. However, not long after Queen “bloody” Mary rose to power, she reinstated Catholicism as the primary religion and had Knox exiled. After this, Knox joined Calvin in Geneva spreading the gospel.
All four of these men were persecuted for their faith. However, this did not stop them from fervently spreading the gospel all around Europe; whether this was their home town or places in which they fled due to exile. These men were brought together in Geneva through their faith, and their unity achieved great exploits for the city of Geneva which are still remembered by many today.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…”
Romans Chapter 1 verse 16
Their lives are also a testament to a verse found in Daniel Chapter 11 verse 32:
“But they who know their God will do great exploits.”
Mary Iengo is a medical student at Flinders University and leader at her local church. She lives with her family in Adelaide and has a passion for the political arena. Mary aims to write from a personal and practical stance to share the love of God and see people live for him.