Four hundred years after the birth of the reformer John Calvin, Geneva, Switzerland seeks to honor her famous theologian by holding a competition for a monument to recognize the reformers. As a result, John Knox, another reformer, will be honored. Seventy-two entries are considered from around the world. The winning design is submitted by the Swiss architects Charles Dubois, Alphonse Laverrière, Eugène Monod, and Jean Taillens.
Their concept is a wall with statues and reliefs depicting major reformers and a number of reformation events and documents. At center are large images of four prominent Calvinists: Theodore Beza, John Calvin, William Farel, and John Knox.
Two French sculptors execute the work at the University of Geneva, founded centuries before by Calvin. Beside Knox’s figure the artists engrave words frequently attributed to him: “Un homme avec Dieu est toujours dans la majorite”—A man with God is always in the majority.
John Knox appears on the wall because he was a prominent Calvinist, the reformer of Scotland, and founder of its Presbyterian church.
Knox first came to notice as a companion of the martyred reformer, George Wishart, who was burned at the stake by Scotland’s corrupt Cardinal Beaton. In revenge, some Scots nobles murdered Beaton. These men pressured Knox to become their chaplain. When the murderers were captured, Knox was captured too, and was enslaved in the French galleys. He almost died during his stint at the oar, but survived to study with Calvin in Geneva and to pastor Scottish exiles.
Later he served in the Church of England and eventually returned to Scotland, where he preached vehemently against the corrupt religious and political establishment. Often it seemed he stood alone, and fickle public opinion was by turns for him and against him.
His stern and unyielding nature and often harsh words did not create an endearing image. Nonetheless, this champion of reformed Christianity triumphed over all opposition and left an indelible stamp on the church of his native land. Words more appropriate than those on the Swiss monument can hardly have been chosen.
Dig a Little Deeper
- “A man with God is always in the majority. John Knox.”New York Timeshttp://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B0DE7DB133FF936A15753C1A961948260 .
- Andrews, Robert. Concise Columbia Dictionary of Quotations. Columbia University Press, 1989.
- Boreham, F. W. “John Knox’s Text” in Life Verses, vol 1. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel, 1995.
- Federer, William Joseph. America’s God and Country; Encyclopedia of Quotations. Amerisearch, Inc. 1996. p. 356.
- “John Knox” and “David Beaton” in The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton, 1914.
- “John Knox, the Reformer of Scotland.” http://www.prca.org/books/portraits/knox2.htm
- Knox, John. The History of the Reformation of Religion within the Realm of Scotland; edited for popular use by C. J. Guthrie. London: A. and C. Black, 1905.
- MacGregor, Geddes. The thundering Scot; a portrait of John Knox. Philadelphia, Westminster Press, 1957.
- “Reformation Wall.” Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reformation_Wall
- Reid, William Stanford. Trumpeter of God; a biography of John Knox. New York, Scribner, 1974.
- Scots Confession; A. D. 1560 – John Knox. http://www.creeds.net/Scots/scots.htm.
- Whitley, Elizabeth. Plain Mr. Knox. London: Skeffington, 1960.