The Protestant Reformation in Sixteenth-Century Italy

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

II
IN THE ARC OF THE THREE VENICES

THE CIRCULATION OF HERETICAL BOOKS IN FRIULI AND GORIZIA

BEGINNING IN THE 1520s, the entire area encompassed by the "Three Venices"1 ( Triveneto), from Trent to Trieste, was inundated by Lutheran propaganda imported by persons of every social class, ecclesiastics, schoolteachers, merchants, and artisans, both Italian and German.

Immediately after the Edict of Worms ( 16 May 1521) outlawed Luther, Archduke Ferdinand of Augsburg ordered the confiscation of heretical books in Trent, a principate of the Empire. Some years later Clement VII sent briefs to the prince- bishop of the city and to the nuncio in Venice, ordering the rooting out of Lutheran books in Trent, Brescia, and Verona, and granting authority to punish vendors and buyers. But in the next few years, from Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, a veritable flood of German and Latin Bibles, and works by Erasmus, Luther, and the principal reformers spilled over into all the border areas. In the 1540s other books were added to them, among which were Brucioli Bible, the Prediche of Ochino, Vergerio pamphlets, the Sommario della Santa Scrittura, the Beneficio di Cristo, and the Tragedia del libero arbitrio by Francesco Negri.

The role played by the printing press in the spread of Lutheran teachings assumed impressive proportions in the eastern zone of the Triveneto, Friuli, and Gorizia, where in noble palaces and in the homes of professional people large hordes of prohibited literature were discovered. These readings and the accompanying work of proselytization carried on by the new converts, who were able to confirm through actual visits to Germany or the bordering Austrian dominions, the liturgical and disciplinary changes introduced by the Lutherans, probably had a more lasting effect than the preaching from the pulpit about the salvation of the sinner through divine grace. As Luigi De Biasio has argued, to understand the gulf separating the people

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1
Comprising Venezia Euganea, Venezia Tridentina, Venezia Giulia. See Enciclopedia Italiana 35:78. [Trans. note.]

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