Saturday March 2nd 2024 : Open 10am - 5pm


Report from Jean Calvin to the authorities on the suicide of Jean Vachat

Share this page on social networks:
Prepare your visit Ticketing Future event

Next free guided tour

Every last Sunday of the month, MIR offers a guided tour! Next date: March 17, 2024 Discover ...

All events

Here is a document in the handwriting of John Calvin, dated January 23, 1545, reporting to the Geneva authorities an event that occurred the day before.

On January 22, 1545 in Geneva, an unfortunate man named Jean Vachat stabbed himself twice in the stomach. Calvin recounts having been called to the bedside of the dying man and having, not without remonstrating with him, questioned the latter on the reasons for his action, encouraged Vachat to repent, to surrender to the grace of God, as well as to accept the care of a surgeon. Jean Vachat died the same day as a result of his injury.

This is the only handwritten document by Calvin addressing the issue of suicide, a serious act relevant to criminal justice since considered, at the time, as a crime against the individual, society and God. The police lieutenant in charge of the case refused, moreover – and in accordance with the customs of the time, that Jean Vachat be buried with a Christian burial.

This letter is exceptional in that it shows the human side of John Calvin finding himself faced with the reality of despair, of man facing the suffering of another individual. We thus discover another face of the reformer, not without contrast with the image of Calvin generally described as a man of great severity.

John Calvin (1509-1564)
Report to the authorities on the suicide of Jean Vachat, January 23, 1545

© International Museum of the Reformation (MIR), Geneva

Return to collection