Geneva was the city where John Calvin
first implemented his protestant
reforms and was the template for all Calvinist
reformers. It had been subject to the Bishop
of Geneva but by 15th century the Dukes of Savoy
had secured a hold over the Bishopric
. As a whole it was part of the Swiss Confederation
which was by name part of the Holy Roman Empire
Geneva was a reformed city before Calvin arrived and so he was introducing the second wave of reform. This meant he was able to instigate more wide ranging social reforms as he did not have to gain original acceptance of a completely new faith as Luther had to do in Germany.
Geneva's early reformation:
1511 - The Bishop/Duke sought to reduce the liberties of Geneva.
1525-26 - Geneva obtained friendship and support from the cantons of Berne and Fribourg. This put pressure on the Bishop/Duke alliance.
1527 - The Bishop fled the city.
1532 - In January the first protestant preaching is performed in Geneva under the sponsorship of the canton of Berne.
1533 - May-July there are riots. The bishop loses political control due to both religious and political upheaval.
1534 - The Bishopric of Geneva is declared vacant. In March reformers are granted use of city churches.
1536 - Savoy withdraws its involvement from Geneva. By this date Geneva had effectively won its freedom. The city council forbade priests from celebrating the mass and Calvin and Farel were both now involved in introducing the second wave of Protestantism to Geneva.
Geneva was then controlled by four syndics who were elected every year by a general assembly of males in Geneva. Executive power rested with the small council know as 'Messiers de Geneve'.
It consisted of 24 men led by the four syndics
Included a treasurer and two secretaries
Met three times each week
Conducted foreign affairs
Ran finances and the mint
Supervised city regulations
Supervised death sentences
Dispensed Justice in civil and criminal cases
There were two legislative bodies emanating from the small council. The Council of 200 met once a month. It passed laws, granted pardon
s and elected the 25 members of the small council. The General Council consisted of all male citizens in Geneva. They met twice a year. In November they fixed wine prices and elected judges. In January they elected the four syndic
Geneva had a large fluctuating refugee population. These were mostly religious refugees fleeing from France and Italy. This meant that there was much support for new religious ideas. However many Genevans resented the power of the large refugee contingent and this is partly what led to Calvin's expulsion in 1538.