Brès, Guy de (1522-1567)

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Guy de Brès, (Guido de Bray, or de Brez), one of the most important Reformed leaders in the Reformation in Belgium, was born in 1522 at Bergen in Henegau. His pious mother, a Catholic, instilled love and honor for the church into his mind, and he was always a deeply religious man even after he changed his attitude toward the church. During his apprenticeship with a glass painter he came in contact with Protestants, and through constant study of the Bible he was led to leave the Catholic Church between the ages of 18 and 25, and joined the Reformed Church.

When persecution reached Bergen in 1548, he fled to England, returned in 1552 and settled in Rijssel (Lille) in France, where he preached zealously for four years. In 1556 he fled to Ghent, then to Frankfurt, and finally to Switzerland to continue his theological studies in Geneva and Lausanne. In 1559 he returned to Belgium, and stayed in relative concealment at Doornik and from there visited Rijssel, Valenciennes, Bergen, and Antwerp. Then persecution reached Doornik in 1561, and de Brès fled to Sedan, where he entered the service of Henri Robert de la Marck, lord of Bouillon, where he stayed until 1566. In that year the consistory of Antwerp called him to preach; he had scarcely arrived there when Valenciennes requested his service as preacher; he accepted the latter. After the iconoclasm of 24 August 1566 he preached in the Groote Kerk to a large audience. But in December General Noircarmes began a siege of the city, and took it 23 March 1567. For a while de Brès managed to remain hidden with the other preachers and eventually to escape; but he was overtaken and after repeated trials condemned to death by hanging. He was executed 31 May 1567.

De Brès was very close to Calvin in his views, and in addition to his other writings, his formulation of the Dutch Reformed creed (1561) was of lasting influence on his countrymen. Nevertheless he was broad-minded enough to cooperate in achieving Prince William's pet project, namely, the unification of Lutherans and Reformed. So much the more remarkable is his aversion to the Anabaptists, with whom he disputed several times, for instance at Frankfurt, and whom he violently attacked in his book, La Racine, Source et fondement des Anabaptistes . . . , published in 1565. It was published in Dutch translation in 1570 with the title, De Wortel, den oorspronck ende het fundament der Weederdooperen oft Herdooperen van onsen tijde. Met overvloedige wederlegginghe der sonderlincste argumenten, door de welcke sij ghewoon zijn de gemeijnte onses Heeren J. C. te beroeren ende den eenvuldige te verleyden. Besides the edition of 1570, there are editions of the Dutch translation in 1585 ( Mennonite Historical Library (Goshen, IN)) and 1608 and a copy of the original French edition extant, evidence that de Brès was widely read. Bakhuizen van den Brink, a competent historian, makes this comment: "It is true he zealously promoted the eradication of the Mennonites; but he was born and reared in a community where they were regarded with aversion and where public opinion considered them the descendants of those publicans and bogeys who have traditionally been branded as archheretics." An English edition was published in 1668 at Cambridge, Massachusetts, under the title, Rise, Spring, and Foundation of the Anabaptists.


Dankbaar, W. F. Hoogtepunten uit het nederl. Calvinisme in de 16e eeuw. Haarlem, 1946: Chap. I, 5-40; "De gemeenten onder het kruis en het levenswerk van Guido de Bres."

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 268.

Langeraad, L. A. van. Guido de Bray, zijn leven en werken. Zierikzee, 1884.

Visscher, H. and L. A. van Langeraad. Het protestantsche vaderland: biographisch woordenboek van protestantsche godgeleerden in Nederland, 8 vols. Utrecht, 1903-1918: v. 1, 594-603;

Author(s) Jacob Loosjes
Date Published 1953

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MLA style

Loosjes, Jacob. "Brès, Guy de (1522-1567)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 24 Mar 2019.,_Guy_de_(1522-1567)&oldid=144884.

APA style

Loosjes, Jacob. (1953). Brès, Guy de (1522-1567). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 March 2019, from,_Guy_de_(1522-1567)&oldid=144884.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p. 428. All rights reserved.

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