Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Juan De Valdés and the Italian Reformation

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Juan De Valdés and the Italian Reformation

Article excerpt

Juan de Valdés and the Italian Reformation. By Massimo Firpo. Translated by Richard Bates. [Catholic Christendom, 1300-1700.] (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing. 2015. Pp. xvi, 261. $119.95. ISBN 978-1-4724-3977-2.)

The late Gordon Kinder once called the alumbrados of Castile "the goose that laid the golden eggs." Massimo Firpo's recent work shows just how far those eggs circulated throughout Reformation Europe. The book is a combination of two earlier articles in Italian that have been translated, updated, and expanded. Its major contribution is distinguishing Valdés's own religious doctrines from the dual and contradictor)' "Valdesian" heresies after his death in 1541. In so doing, Firpo provides a detailed account of how the leaders for religious compromise within the hierarchy of the Church, and some of the most radical reformation sects, all drew upon Valdés's alumbrado heritage.

Given the significance placed on the alumbrados, the analysis of them is rather thin. Their spiritual individualism, their intense rivalry, and their warped representation via Inquisition trial documentation, makes deconstruction of any systematic theology extremely difficult. Nonetheless, recent scholarship has increasingly emphasized their influence on Valdés's religious thought.

The second chapter somewhat abruptly switches from Valdés to the penetration of Protestant doctrines into Italy from the north setting up the heart of the study: Valdés's spirituali circle in Naples and its connections to other spirituali, including powerful cardinals influential in the ecclesiastical hierarchy before and during the Council of Trent. Insightfully, Firpo traces a complex and interwoven grid of communication that he believes peaked in power in the late 1540s after Valdés's death. The most thought-provoking part of the work is his closely reasoned argument that the demise of the Valdesian movement for internal reform resulted in part from radical Valdesian successors. In 1542, just a few months after Valdés's death, the Papal Inquistion targeted Valdesians, fearing their influence at the top of the church hierarchy. …

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