A summary history of Holy Trinity Church, Geneva
Our church in Geneva proudly traces its origins back to the Marian exiles, a group of Protestant refugees fleeing from persecution during the reign of Mary, the Tudor Catholic Queen of England, in the mid 16th century. Amongst their considerable achievements whilst they lived and worshipped in Geneva was to publish a book of Psalms in English and, in 1560, the Geneva Bible. Many returned to England to play an important role in the development of the Anglican Church under Queen Elizabeth I.
Since that time there has been a fairly continuous English-speaking Protestant presence in Geneva through each ensuing century until the present day. The worship has taken place in three principal locations, namely Calvin’s Auditoire, the Hospital Chapel (now the Palais de Justice in the Bourg de Four) and finally the present building, Holy Trinity Church, consecrated in 1853 on a site donated by the State of Geneva but whose construction was entirely financed by private subscription.
Holy Trinity continues to the present day to be entirely self-supporting financially. By contrast its congregation is now much more diverse. It can claim to be ecumenical in outlook and serve a truly global congregation. Above all the community has maintained its long tradition of a caring ministry to English-speaking people in the area.
Significant events in the history of the English Church in Geneva
Phase I: Auditoire de Calvin
1555 – Arrival of the Marian exiles. The Petit Conseil of the Ancient Republic put the Church of Sainte-Marie-la-Neuve (Auditoire) at their disposal for the celebration of their services in English according to the rites of the Geneva Reformed Church.
1556 – Election by the congregation of John Knox as Minister.
1559 – Departure of the majority of the exiles and presentation to the Petit Conseil of “Le Livre des Anglais” as a memorial of their stay in the City.
1560 – Geneva Bible published.
1685 – Permission granted for the first time for services to be celebrated in accordance with the Liturgy of the Church of England by the Rev. Gilbert Burnet.
Phase II: Hospital Chapel
1814 – The Council of State put the Old Hospital Chapel in the Bourg de Four at the disposal of the English community for their services.
1846 – Decision by the English community to build a church of their own.
Phase III: Holy Trinity Church
1851 – The Council of State grant a plot of land on which to build a church and foundation stone laid by Charles Sumner, Bishop of Winchester.
1852 – Regulations for the administration of the Church drawn up. Additional grant of land by the Council of State.
1853 – Consecration of Holy Trinity Church on 30th August by the Bishop of Winchester.
1884 – Presentation of East window by Mrs. Jephson.
1910 – Adoption of a new constitution by Holy Trinity in order to become a Society instead of a Foundation.
Phase IV: Expansion and Renovation
1958-81 – Installation of stained-glass windows designed by Jacques Wasem.
1966 – Construction of Parish hall.
1968 – Reconstruction of organ.
1976 – Renovation of Church interior.
1983 – Classification of building as an historic monument.
1983-85 – Complete renovation of Church and installation of new organ.
1990’s – Enlargement and modernization of kitchen. Installation of handicapped facilities.
2003-04 – 150th anniversary celebrations and exhibition of the history of the church at the Geneva State Archives The Welcoming City: English-Speaking Protestants from 1555 to the present day.
2015 – Tower clock renovation and organ updating.
Offord, Valerie Exhibition Catalogue (in French and English): The Welcoming City: English Speaking Protestants from 1555 to the present day Geneva State Archives 2003
Offord, Valerie and Holt, Ben Brochure: A Celebration and thanksgiving for Geneva’s welcome to the exiled Protestant communities 1555-2005 November 2005.**
Rowe, Barbara Stained Glass Windows of Holy Trinity Church Geneva 1986
Steel, Dyne (editor Offord, Valerie) The History of the English Church in Geneva 1986 (This publication is regrettably now out of print.)
- van Muyden