Guido de Bres
Guido de Bres (also known as Guido de Bray, Guy de Bray and Guido de Brès, 1522 – 31 May 1567) was a Walloon pastor and theologian, a student of John Calvin and Theodore Beza in Geneva. He was born in Mons, County of Hainaut, Southern Netherlands, and martyred at Valenciennes, aged 45. De Bres compiled and published the Walloon Confession of Faith known as the Belgic Confession (1561) (Confessio Belgica) still in use today in Belgium and the Netherlands. It is also used by many Reformed Churches all over the world.
Guido de Bres was born in Mons, today in southwestern Belgium. His father was formerly known as Jean Du Beguinage (alternatively: Jan le Béguinage) was an itinerant blauschilder [lit. blue painter] which is indicative of the tin-glazed process, a precursor to Delftware, introduced into the Netherlands by Guido de Savino in 1512 at Antwerp. Jean changed his name to that of De Bres when he settled in Mons and with his wife bore five children: Jehan, Jherome, Christoffel, Guy and daughter Mailette. Rehalenbeck suggests one other son, Michel.
De Bres was brought up by his mother, a devout Roman Catholic until the end of her days. The names of Guy's mother are unknown other than that of De Bres. Guy was a Roman Catholic and was very strong in that faith by all accounts. Not much is known of Guy's early life other than he followed his brother Jehan into school at the appropriate age and after a basic education followed his father in learning the craft of blauschilder.
The De Bres family were known for their skills in glass painting, and young Guido was trained in this art before moving to England. In his teenage years, he became a follower of the Protestant religion as taught by Martin Luther. Later he converted to Calvinism. He met and studied under John Calvin at the academy of Geneva where Calvin taught.
Guy was converted between the age of 18 and 25. It is almost certain he became familiar with the Reformed faith through printed works. On 22 September 1540 a proclamation banned a large number of books: by Erasmus in Latin, Melanchthon, Eobanus Hessus and others, as well as the New Testament, the Gospels, the Epistles, and the Prophetical books of the Bible in French and Flemish. These books were deemed heretical by the Roman Catholic Church authorities. In 1543 books were burned in the marketplace of Lille: La Doctrines des Enfants (a Lutheran catechism), also Lamentations of Jesus Christ, La Sant Otraison and a book by a Flemish priest entitled: Letters Institution 2.
In 1548, while Guy was still in Mons, he forged a friendship with an English couple: Mr. Nicholas and his wife. Mr Nicholas, his friend and two wives were caught by the authorities and charged with subversion of the Roman Catholic faith. They were imprisoned together with a number of Protestants from that area. Guy then fled to England, during the reign of Edward VI. On 4 November 1547 the English parliament had decided to allow the two elements used in the communion to be enjoyed by all people. Guy probably kept company with a number of refugees from continental Europe: Tremellius, Valérand Poullain, Martin Bucer, John a Lasco, Jan Utenhove, Marten de Klyne (Marten Micron or Micronius), Wouter Deelen, François Perucel de la Rivière and others. Whilst in England Guy attended the church of John a Lasco, and in 1551 he also became familiar with a Lasco's London Confession. The largest group of refugees came from the Low Countries. John a Lasco served as superintendent to a number of foreign congregations including the Dutch. A Lasco was a Polish nobleman with Zwinglian tendencies.(1551). Guy left England in 1552 before Mary, Queen of England came to the throne.
De Bres went to Germany and later moved back to Geneva. Around 1559 he returned to the Low Countries, but now as a travelling Calvinist preacher. From 1559 to 1561 he served as the resident minister in Tournai. In 1561 De Bres authored the Belgic Confession. This confession was meant for the Spanish Government to show them that the Calvinists weren't a radical Anabaptist sectarian movement, but demanded a Reformation in the biblical sense of the Roman Catholic Church. The text is strongly influenced by Calvin's "Institutes of the Christian Religion" and the creed of the French Huguenots. The creed was printed by Jean Crespin in Geneva. On the night of November 1, 1561, De Bres threw his creed over the castle wall of Tournai, where Margaret of Parma, governor of the Netherlands stayed, to bring the confession to the attention of the Spanish government.
In 1565 De Bres was arrested for his Calvinist beliefs. He was tried before the Spanish Inquisition, received the death penalty and was hanged at Valenciennes. He died a martyr's death in front of a large crowd after making a final statement of his beliefs. He was pushed off the scaffold by the hangman whilst addressing the crowd. Twelve days before his death he wrote a still-circulating letter to his wife showing his trust in God.
De Bres wrote a number of books. The Belgic Confession is part of the Three Forms of Unity, a set of official statements of doctrine used by churches with roots in the continental Reformed tradition. Its text is still in wide use in particular among confessionally Reformed churches.
- L.A. van Langeraad, Guido de Bray Zijn Leven en Werken, Zierikzee: S.Ochtman en Zoon 1884 p.9, 13
- Channu, Pierre, ed. (1989), The Reformation, Guild, p. 209
- Frossart, CH. L (1857), L'Église sous la croix pendant la domination espaynole [The church under the cross during the Spanish domination] (in French), Paris: Lille, pp. 163–71.
- Crespin, J; Goulart, S (1582), Histoire des Martyrs, persecutez et mis a mort la verite de l’Evangile, depsis le temps des Apostres iusques a l’an 1574 [History of the Martirs, persecuted and killed for the truth of the Gospel, since the time of the Apostles until the year 1574] (in French), Geneva: Eustache Vignon, f0. 197, v0. a-109 v0. b.
- Dalton, Joh (1881), A. Lasco, Gotha, S.325 ff.
- Humble musings.
- Works by Guido de Bres at Post-Reformation Digital Library
- Biographical and bibliographical data, Leiden University Bibliothèque Wallonne
- Last letter of De Brès to his mother of 19 May 1567 in modern Dutch