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Lyon and the Jesuits, as Told by their Books: Case 5: Religious History

This guide is a student project produced by History Department intern Cora Kim, Fall Semester, 2019.

Jesuits and Religious History in Lyon

The Jesuit order was deeply involved in religious conflict during and after the Reformation, particularly active in counter-Reformation efforts and campaigning against Jansenism.  Except for a brief period starting in 1562 when Lyon was taken over by Protestants, Catholicism was the predominant religion in Lyon and after their arrival in 1561 the Jesuit order held a strong influence.  Presiding over the Collège de la Trinité and driving the publishing industry in Lyon, they left a strong intellectual mark and were held in high regard.  Lyon experienced much religious upheaval which can be followed through the lens of the theological publications of Lyon’s Jesuits.

Fr. Cajetan's commentary


Cajetan, Tommaso de Vio. 1556. Epistolae Pauli Et Aliorum Apostolorum... Lugduni: Apud Gasparem à Portonarijs.

This work on the New Testament Epistles of Paul and the book of Acts was published in 1556 and appeared during the Council of Trent and a period of significant religious upheaval.  Notice its quality vellum binding.


Rules of the Society of Jesus


———. 1607. Regulae Societatis Jesu. Lugduni: Ex typographia Iacobi Roussin.

This book of rules for the Society of Jesus was published in 1607 after Catholics had regained dominance of Lyon.  The only book published in Lyon that is about the Jesuit order itself, it is quite small and bound in vellum.

Attack on Jansenism

Champs, Etienne Agard de. 1711. Tradition De L'Eglise Catholique... Lyon: André Molin.

This attack on Jansenism was written by a French Jesuit in French and therefore likely directed at the public.  Its binding reveals it to be a later book.

Fr. Tirini's commentary

Tirinus, Jacobus. 1734. R.P. Jacobi Tirini Antuerpiani, È Societate Jesu... Lugduni: Sumptibus Deville Fratrum, & Ludov. Chalmette.

This work of biblical commentary, published in 1734, is a distinctly ecclesiastical work because although it is written in Latin, the king’s privilege and other publishing information are written in French.  The church’s academic tradition clearly carried on even as French became the dominant language.

Commentary on Nicolas de Lyra

Nicholas, Santa Maria Pablo de and Mathias Döring. 1528. Hoc in Aureo Opere Optimo Cuique... Lugduni: Impressa in aed. Iacobi mareschal.

This commentary on the Bible, published in 1528, is the earliest book from Lyon in Gonzaga’s collection and was published before the founding of the Jesuits as well as the Council of Trent; note its elaborate frontispiece.

Lettres Edifiantes


Jesuits. 1819. Lettres Édifiantes Et Curieuses, Écrites Des Missions Étrangères. Lyon: Chez J. Vernarel.

Jesuits described their foreign missions, such as this one to China, in the Lettres Édifiantes of which an 1819 volume is shown here.  It is the newest book on exhibit and the only one published after the French Revolution: all of the other books contain a “privilege du roi”.