Geneva Servetus Conference


By Peter Hughes

Servetiana List

I have just returned from the ICUU (International Council of Unitarians and Universalists) conference "Commemorating Servetus," held at Geneva Switzerland, October 24-27. October 27 was the 450th anniversary of the burning of Servetus. We marked the occasion by gathering at the site of the execution at Champel, which was then just outside of Geneva but is now a neighbourhood park, and held a short service there. We then walked to the expiatory monument erected by the Genevans in 1903 where we heard a speech by a representative of the Geneva Reformed church.

The conference was held at the Centre Internationale Reforme John Knox on the north side of Geneva. There were about 30 participants, from Great Britain, the United States, Hungary, Romania (Transylvania), Germany, and elsewhere in Europe. There were lectures by Rev Clifford Reed, Rev Andrew Hill, Dr Elek Rezi, and myself. The topics of these addresses complemented each other well, exploring the life and theology of Servetus, and our Servetian and Calvinist heritages. I am told that the texts will soon be published in both English and Hungarian.

Sunday worship was led by Rev Richard Boeke and held at Chapelle des Crets, the local Reform church. Rev Reed then led a tour of old Geneva, taking us to the La Madelaine Church where Servetus was apprehended, the site of the old prison where he was incarcerated, and the old city hall where he was condemned. We also looked at the St. Pierre Cathedral, where Calvin preached during his tenure in Geneva, and at the imposing (almost frightening) Reformer monuments in the city park.

I greatly appreciate meeting many people I had only or chiefly known before through internet communication and others whom I had not met before but with whom I hope to keep in touch. Organizers and participants were very accommodating and helpful in making sure that I was able to get around in Geneva, pushing my wheelchair over cobbled streets and up and down the steep slopes of that hilly town and hauling me in and out of buses.

Much interest was expressed in the reprint of Bainton's Hunted Heretic that the UUHS has undertaken to produce. I also shared with the group the news that Servetus' magnum opus, Christianity Restored, has been translated into English and will be available in the near future.