The Protestant Reformation in Sixteenth-Century Italy

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

2
THE IMAGE OF LUTHER AND THE ORIGINS OF THE ITALIAN REFORMATION

THE LUTHER "AFFAIR"

NOT LONG AFTER the nailing of the Ninety-Five Theses to the castle church door at Wittenberg, news of the monk who had rebelled against pope, church, and traditional theology crossed Germany's borders and began to spread throughout Europe. Luther's booklets and pamphlets produced at Wittenberg in 1519 were soon joined by an edition of his Latin works printed by Johannes Froben, the publisher friend of Erasmus. Their refutation by orthodox writers followed at an ever-increasing pace. By frequently reproducing substantial portions of the works they were attacking, they inadvertently helped to propagate their teachings. Luther now found himself embroiled in a bitter controversy, and the "Luther affair" quickly ceased being a concern only for papal diplomacy and theology to become the object of popular curiosity and then of discussion and debate involving persons able to read Latin: school teachers, men of letters, jurists, notaries, physicians, and members of such educated families as the Buonvisi of Lucca and the Panciatichi of Florence.

As the scandal widened, after the daring professor of Scripture burned a papal bull and books of canon law ( 10 December 1520) in the presence of his colleagues and applauding students, his fame also spread among the lower classes everywhere in western Europe. The diffusion of Luther's works in Italy followed rapidly. The efforts of the bookseller Francesco Minizio Calvo of Como, who struck an agreement with Froben for the distribution of the reformer's works, are well known.1 But soon they also began to be printed in Venice. Even though only one of these, the Appellatio adconcilium

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1
See the biographical sketch by F. Barberi DBI 17:38-40.

-11-

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