The Protestant Reformation in Sixteenth-Century Italy

By Salvatore Caponetto; Anne C. Tedeschi et al. | Go to book overview

TRANSLATORS' PREFACE

IT IS A PLEASURE TO PRESENT IN ENGLISH TRANSLATION this welcome survey of a subject, the Italian Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century, that justifiably has received increasing critical attention in both Europe and America. The work is the culmination of a lifetime of research and writing by Salvatore Caponetto, but by no means the final contribution from this distinguished scholar's prolific pen. It is hard to imagine anyone better prepared to offer a synthesis of the Italian Reformation than Caponetto, an emeritus professor of history at the University of Florence. Caponetto's career began auspiciously, when, as a neophyte in the field, his first modestly presented investigations on the influential booklet, the Beneficio di Cristo, compelled that giant of Italian culture, Benedetto Croce, to retract in print a mistaken attribution Croce had previously made. Since that time, more than a half century ago, Caponetto's contributions have ranged over multiple aspects of the Italian Reformation. He has produced full-length studies of such a key reformer as Aonio Paleario and edited one of his writings never published before; clarified the circumstances of the clandestine translations into the Italian vernacular of influential works by northern reformers; investigated the progress of Reformation currents in his native Sicily and followed the fortunes of the leading proselytizers and converts to Geneva and other transalpine cities of refuge; identified the appropriation of Lutheran and Erasmian concepts in the thought of such literary figures as Francesco Berni and Ludovico Castelvetro; and produced a massive critical edition of the Beneficio in a splendid volume containing all its sixteenth-century versions and translations.

A lifetime of research is woven into the fabric of Caponetto The Protestant Reformation. The account begins with the Italian situation on the eve of the great religious upheaval and the fertile ground on which Luther's message fell. Attention is paid to the spread of the new religious ideas through the book trade, the influence of Juan de Valdés, and the preaching activity of early Italian champions of the new ideas. The Beneficio, the most celebrated booklet of the Italian Reformation, comes in for its share of obligatory attention. Various modern interpretations of this little work, first published in 1543, have dubbed it, in turn, the quintessential expression of Valdesian spirituality, a weaving together of passages from the writings of northern reformers, and finally, an expression of Benedictine--Pelagian spirituality.

Much emphasis is placed on the inroads made by Protestant currents in various Italian centers from the Veneto and the Friuli in the north to Sicily in the south. The successes of Calvinism, among the Waldensians in Piedmont, at the court of the French Duchess Renée at Ferrara, and in the Republic of Lucca, which witnessed a mass exodus of its leading families to Geneva, receive separate chapters. So extensive

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