Month's object 2015


Gaspard de Coligny, Letter to his wife Jacqueline d’Entremont, 18th August, 1572.
Loan from the Historical Museum of the Reformation, Geneva.

This manuscript, displayed in one of the rooms of the MIR, is a powerful reminder of the history of France and the 16th-century Wars of Religion.  In this letter from Paris, dated 18 August 1572, Gaspard de Coligny, the head of the Protestant party, tells his wife Jacqueline d'Entremonts about the wedding of Henri de Navarre (the future King Henri IV) to Marguerite de Valois, and the planned festivities to celebrate their nuptials.

This exceptional document is one of the last letters written by Admiral de Coligny.  A few days later, on 22 August, an attempt on his life left him wounded.  Shortly afterwards, on the night of 24-25 August 1572, he was assassinated during the massacre of St Bartholomew's Day.
The letter concludes with this poignant request:  "Send me news of how our little one fares". Jacqueline d’Entremonts was pregnant at the time with a girl, Béatrice, born several months after her father's death.

Samantha Reichenbach, curator


Luther Bible, Wittenberg, 1550. International Museum of the Reformation, Geneva.

Luther Bible, Wittenberg, 1550. Frontispiece engraving. International Museum of the Reformation, Geneva.

This Luther Bible, published in Wittenberg in 1550 (the first edition appeared in 1534), recently joined the Museum’s collection. This large volume has an especially fine period binding, beautifully decorated with a great variety of motifs.

The frontispiece engraving represents scenes from the Old and New Testaments in a composition designed to establish a contrast between the two. The visual plane is divided by a tree at the centre. On the left, the Law is depicted as it appears in the Old Testament; for example, Adam and Eve are shown eating the fruit of the tree of life after being tempted by the serpent.

In opposition to the severity of the Law, the Gospel brings hope, as illustrated by the flowering boughs that spring from the tree trunk on the right, or New Testament, side. The resurrected Christ overcomes death and the devil. Thus Christ is victorious over the diabolical beast in contrast to Adam and Eve, who are vanquished by the serpent.

This composition – one of the most effective doctrinal images to issue from the school of Lukas Cranach the Elder – became one of the most popular themes of the Reformation. It may have been directly inspired by Luther’s lecture on the topic of the Law and the Gospel. Hence, it became an obvious choice for illustrations of several editions of the Bible, including the title page of Luther's translation of the Bible that appears in this volume.

Samantha Reichenbach, Curator


Clay bust of Jan Hus in a wooden box, late-19th or early-20th century. Geneva, International Museum of the Reformation.

Six hundred years ago, on July 6th 1415, the Czech theologian Jan Hus was burned at the stake for heresy. His execution unleashed a revolt in Bohemia, which was followed, between 1420 and 1434, by a series of armed conflicts opposing followers of Jan Hus (known as Hussites) to the nobility and the Catholic church.

This terracotta bust of Hus is kept in a small wooden snuffbox. The paper label on the underside of the lid indicates that it was made using clay and wood from the place were the theologian was burned. Although this information cannot be verified, it offers additional testimony of the admiration that Jan Hus inspired as an important precursor of the Reformation, an emblematic figure of Czech national identity, and a symbol of the struggle against the domination of the Holy Roman Empire.

Samantha Reichenbach, Curator


Bernard Dominicé, Silver pocket watch with alarm, circa 1680. Geneva, International Museum of the Reformation.

This watch illustrates the extremely varied contribution of the French Huguenots who came to Geneva at the time of the Wars of Religion in France (in the fields of theology, philosophy, industry, goldsmithery and fine arts). This silver pocket watch was created by the master watchmaker Bernard Dominicé (1651–1727), the great-grandson of a Huguenot refugee. The openwork case is designed to allow the sound of the alarm to be heard. Decorated with delicate animal and floral motifs, it is a particularly beautiful example of the watchmaker’s art.

       Samantha Reichenbach, Curator

Location: International Museum of the Reformation, Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, Refuge and Desert Room