The Protestant Reformation in Sixteenth-Century Italy

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

15
THE SCANDAL OF MODENA AND MANTUA

THE BOLOGNA-FERRARA-MODENA TRIANGLE

THE IMPORTANCE OF MARTIN BUCER'S LETTERS of 1541 addressed to the Italian "brethren" of Bologna, Modena, Ferrara and Venice, which circulated among them clandestinely, has been mentioned (chap. 4). Present-day Emilia was the center from which the Strasbourg reformer's program radiated. It received a hearing in the universities, at Bologna in the circle of Achille Bocchi; in Ferrara in the company of the Erasmian philosopher Vincenzo Maggi; and at Modena among the literati of the academy headed by Giovanni Grillenzoni. It was not Giovanni Angelo Odoni and Bartolomeo Fonzio alone, two who returned to Italy after a long sojourn in Strasbourg, who took the lead in the discussions and controversies that disturbed the religious peace in these central Italian cities. The circulation of evangelical ideas between these centers depended on their geographical proximity and on the activities of certain key figures: the Minorites Fonzio, Fra Paolo Ricci, alias Camillo Renato, Giovanni Buzio of Montalcino, and the Augustinian Giulio della Rovere, tried after Lent 1538. In spite of the suspicions they had aroused and the inquests initiated against them by ecclesiastical authorities, they moved easily among the convents of their orders or found protection and friendship in influential families, as was the case with della Rovere, who, after the scandal provoked by his sermons, hid in the Bolognese home of the physician Prospero Calani, personally above reproach.

In these cities belonging to the states of the church or to the Este family, a variety of messages of religious protest can be identified, from Bucer's in the 1530s to the Valdesian of Bartolomeo della Pergola, from the original and corrosive program of Fonzio, which departed from the teachings of Luther and Bucer and aspired to the creation of a church of the poor, to the radical doctrines of Paolo Ricci (Renato). Alongside these subversive currents, the prophecies of Giorgio Siculo made inroads at Bologna in the Spanish College, and at Ferrara in the convent of the Benedictines. They would persist long after the death of the seer himself. In this climate of competing and intersecting theological currents it is difficult to identify a common thread,

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