Franz Lambert was also known as Francois Lambert D’ Avignon. He was born in 1486, Avignon, France and died on April 18, 1530, Frankenberg, Prussia, now Poland. He was a Protestant convert from Roman Catholicism and leading Reformer in the German province of Hesse. The son of a papal official at Avignon, at 15 he entered the Franciscan monastery there. After 1517 he became an itinerant friar, travelling through France, Italy, and Switzerland. He left his cloister permanently in 1522 after reading some of Martin Luther’s writings, although he withheld commitment from both Luther and the Swiss Reformer Huldrych Zwingli (1484-1531).
After a meeting with Luther in Wittenberg, where he had gone to lecture, he returned to Strassburg in 1524 to preach Reformation doctrines to the French-speaking population. There he encountered the Reformer Jakob Sturn, who recommended him to the landgrave Philip of Hesse, the German prince most favourably inclined toward the Reformation. Encouraged by Philip, Lambert drafted Reformation ecclesiarum Hassiae (“The Reformation of the Churches of Hesse”), submitted by Philip to the synod at Homberg (1526). Lambert’s document called for democratic principles of congregational representation in church government, by which pastors were to be elected by their congregations. He believed he was expressing Luther’s views, including the abolition of bishoprics, but Luther and his adherents pronounced the plan as too democratic, and Philip abandoned it. Nevertheless, Lambert’s influence persisted in Hesse, where with Philip’s assent the Anabaptists, firm advocates of congregationalism were permitted to flourish. In 1527 Philip founded the University of Marburg and recognized Lambert’s service by appointing him head to the theological facility.