I'm sitting in the cathedral where Viret preached the gospel in the 1560s. It's a sturdy 14th century edifice (1364) originally part of the monastery of St Benoit. Viret who was Swiss was commissioned in Geneva to come to France and proclaim the true gospel of Jesus Christ, and to do so when it was becoming increasingly dangerous., So much so it is not an exaggeration to say that such a commission was almost certainly to end in the martyrdom of the pastor sent. Huguenots had been martyred and massacred already, at Vassy, at Sens, and in various outbreaks in Paris (the first martyr in Paris in 1512). This grand structure has high ribbed vaulting, a wider feeling nave than many cathedral I have been in. It has Four matching square towers and an odd covered west entrance that was connected to the university and the medical faculty, one of the most famous in Europe then and now. It is twice as long to day as it was in Viret's day, the east end added in the 18th century. Since it was originally a monastic chapel, its north side was an extensive covered cloister, today an inner court to the medical college.
Imagine with me slight, frail Viret stepping into the pulpit (no original pulpit exists today) and opening his Oliveten French Bible (translated by Calvin's cousin) and preaching the all sufficiency of Jesus and his atoning sacrifice and righteousness for sinners. This would have been in the height of the Renaissance, and in the academic capital of the university that surrounds the cathedral. His preaching of the grace of Christ sparked a revival in this city that extended to almost the entire medical faculty, the greatest scientific minds of the day, now converted to Christ by the power of the gospel. It would have been thrilling to have been here on that day and the days following.
Lionel and I went into the medical college and found memorials to professors from the days when he preached here, likely a number of them his converts.
In the third war of religion in France, 1567-1568, royal RC dragoons seized twelve Huguenot pastors, including Viret. They were held in the dungeon of the nearby fort, then seven of them were led out and executed, perhaps by beheading or burning. Viret and four others were temporarily spared, some attribute this to the respect given to the gracious pastor even by his enemies. Meanwhile, a commando corp of the Huguenot army made a daring rescue attempt... Read what happens in THE HAMMER OF THE HUGUENOTS (working title) that I'm writing here in France--even as you read this, in fact.