The Protestant Reformation in Sixteenth-Century Italy

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

waged that favored the Reformation cause, the bearer of a simple and comprehensible message for villagers who had been abandoned by a neglectful clergy. The local reformers, now assisted by eager and cultivated exiles from Italy, founded evangelical communities in all the major centers and adjacent villages.

In certain respects, these communities were, along with the Waldensian valleys and the valleys in the Saluzzo and Turin regions, a great organizational laboratory of Protestant life for both the exiles and the local inhabitants. It was not an easy task to inculcate the basic principles of the Reformation and their social consequences, and not made easier by the controversies fomented by Camillo Renato and the Anabaptists. Nevertheless, the religious refugees made an enormous contribution. It is enough to see who were the pastors in Sondrio, Chiavenna, Poschivao, Teglio, and Piur, persons who came from almost every region of Italy. The names of the Neapolitan Scipione Lentolo and of the two Lucchese, Scipione Calandrini and Ottavio Mei, stand out. But notable efforts were also made by laypeople, such as Ulisse Martinengo and his mother Laura Gavardi, the widow of Count Alessandro Martinengo. Laura, dubbed "a rotten heretic," scandalized the Catholic population of Sondrio by "holding forth in the public square, a vernacular Bible in her hand...reading from it like a doctor." Such behavior "was totally foreign to the mental universe" of the exasperated archpriest Scotti, who wrote about it in June 1570 to Charles Borromeo. He expressed the hope that the countess could be forced to go away, "to where everybody is a Lutheran."22Ulisse Martinengo lived in various places in the Valtellina, including Chiavenna and Sondrio, where he gave both spiritual and economic support to new converts. His faith had matured in Geneva where he had lived for a time, perhaps in Bezds own house.

It is impossible to consider the history of the Italian Reformation without taking into account its more-than-half-century association with the Valtellina, a bond that would be smashed only by the "Holy Slaughter" ( Sacro Macello) of 1620.


BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE

The works by E Chabod and A. Pastore cited in the notes encompass the bibliography on the subject.

____________________
22
A. Pastore, Nella Valtellina, 105.

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