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The bull convening the first session of the council under the new pope in November 1550 was met with much more than indifference in France, as Henry II ordered all his bishops to Gallicanism and reform in the sixteenth century 27 remain in their dioceses rather than journey to Trent and to begin making preparations for a French national council of the Gallican church, over which the king himself would preside. Moreover, Henry cut off the flow of annates to Rome, revenue the papacy had been entitled to ever since the Concordat of Bologna.

But as already mentioned, ‘prereformers’ were not necessarily ‘proto-Protestants’, even though there were no clear-cut boundaries between them in the 1520s and 1530s, except in the eyes of the zealous theologians of the Sorbonne, where any deviation from its narrowly defined scholasticism was deemed heretical. Thus, Francis could quite easily reconcile his opposition to Protestantism with his support for humanist scholarship. After all, if his coronation oath required him to protect the Gallican church, this meant guarding it from ignorance as well as from heresy.

Nevertheless, ever since Karl Marx and Max Weber sparked off the debate nearly a century ago, historians have argued that the advent of Protestantism in the sixteenth century initiated a social as well as a religious reformation. Given the explicit fusion of ‘religion and society’ in the sixteenth century (see Introduction), this is hardly surprising. Henri Hauser was one of the first to take up the mantle of the social reformation at the turn of the twentieth century when he tied the cause of French Calvinism to the coat tails of the urban artisans and working classes: ‘It was not solely against doctrinal corruptions and against ecclesiastical abuses, but also against misery and iniquity that the lower classes rebelled’, he argued.

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France - Bordeaux, a city transformed


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