After his studies at Paris University,
he began an ecclesiastic career but at the age of thirty-five, with a highly
developed taste for literature and a vocation for education, he left the
priesthood to go into teaching.
Through his acquaintance with the Estienne family, he learnt about the Reformist doctrines and was himself
converted around 1528. Implicated
in the Placards affair (8 October 1534), he was accused of heresy and summoned
to appear before the Parliament. In
order to escape persecution, he left Paris and taught literature at Nevers, then
religious unrest increasing in the provinces, he fled to Geneva where he put his
talents to work by teaching children. His aim was to combine piety with the
elegance of literature.
His principle was to respect antiquity,
whilst keeping new horizons in mind.
Calvin gave him the task of organising
public education, together with Théodore de Bèze.
He established the Laws of the Academy, which
remains to this day the basis of our public education system.
He drew up the programme of secondary education and, so,
participated in the creation of secondary schools, his name thus heading the
long list of teachers who have contributed to Geneva's reputation.
He left two main pedagogic works: 1) De corrupti sermonis emendatione, which
proposes a reform in the teaching of Latin and 2)
a collection of papers which present the application of his methods. This last work, published in Latin in 1564, was to be
translated into French by Chapuys and published first in Lyons in 1576, then in Geneva in 1659 by A.S. de Tournes.
Similarly to most renowned refugees,
welcomed with honour in Geneva, he rendered homage to the city where one can
live in peace, thanks to the "felicitous administration"
and the "very prudent