The Lausanne Academy and the Origin of the Reformed Academy Model


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The Lausanne Academy and the Origin of the Reformed Academy Model
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in L’università e la riforma protestante, Studi e ricerche nel quinto centenario delle tesi luterane, a cura di Simona Negruzzo, p. 201-211
Crousaz Karine
Il Mulino
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"This paper will, first, look at the birth of the Reformed academy model and, second, consider the place of religion in Lausanne Academy’s curriculum. It is primarily based on my study of the origins and development of Lausanne Academy. My reconsideration of the evidence shows that the traditional explanations of the origins of the Reformed Academy model need to be revised to consider the crucial role of the Lausanne Academy. Influenced by diverse educational models, including the Strasbourg Gymnasium, the trilingual colleges, and Renaissance humanism, the Lausanne Academy invented a new model of Reformed education that would be copied in Geneva and around the Reformed world. Moreover, my work shows that the Lausanne Academy was far more than an institution for training Reformed pastors. With deep roots in the ideals of the Renaissance, the Academy developed a classically humanist curriculum.
Until very recently, the question of the genesis of the Reformed academy model was resolved in one of two ways.
First, Swiss historians, except for the Genevan historians, followed the theory developed in the 1970s by Ulrich Im Hof, Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Bern. According to Im Hof, the model of Reformed institutions of higher education (in French « Hautes École » or in German « Hohen Schulen ») was created in Zurich with the Prophezey, an institution dedicated to the study of biblical exegesis developed by Zwingli and his colleagues starting in 1525. This model was then adopted in Bern in 1528, before being implemented in Lausanne in 1537, one year after the Bernese conquered this city and the Pays de Vaud. From there, it was transmitted to Geneva in 1559, when the Genevan Academy was founded.
Second, the other historians, especially those who have studied the Genevan Academy, presented a different version of the birth of the Reformed academy model. According to them, the model was invented by Calvin for Geneva. The Reformer essentially based his ideas on his Strasbourg experience and took the broad outlines of the gymnasium created by Johannes Sturm.
In summary, historians posited either a Strasbourg-Geneva line or a transmission of the model from Zurich to Bern, from Bern to Lausanne, and finally from Lausanne to Geneva.
However, when one looks closely at the history of these institutions and at their structures, particularly at the curricula they offered, one realizes that neither of the two explanations is sufficient. Im Hof’s theory does not work because the curriculum in Lausanne was very different from Zurich’s Prophezey, which was based on biblical exegesis. Likewise, the Genevan theory, according to which Calvin created the Academy using Strasbourg as his model presents as many difficulties. The Genevan structure, with a lower level divided into seven progressive classes and an upper level with courses divided among the four chairs of Greek, Hebrew, Liberal Arts and Theology, is quite different from the structure of Strasbourg. Above all, the Strasbourg-Geneva theory completely ignores the fact that the Genevan curriculum is almost identical to that of Lausanne, which also comprised seven classes at the lower level, and the same four chairs at the higher level. It also does not take into account the fact that in 1559, the Genevan Academy was founded with professors who, for the most part, had been teaching for years in Lausanne, such as Geneva’s first rector, Theodore Beza, who had been the Greek professor in Lausanne for ten years.
A close comparison of the curricula of Lausanne, Geneva, Zurich, and Strasbourg, and of other institutions of higher learning during the sixteenth century can only lead to the conclusion that the Academy of Geneva was the sister, or more precisely the daughter, of the Academy of Lausanne, where a new academic model, different from those in Strasbourg and Zurich, had been created.
We are now going to look more closely at the way this new model of Reformed academies was born in Lausanne and examine its sources. [...]" (NB: la version française de cet article sera accessible en ligne sur le site de la section d'histoire de l'UNIL)
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