The Protestant Reformation in Sixteenth-Century Italy

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

16
OM ERASMUS TO CALVIN: LUCCA,
FLORENCE, AND SIENA

ERASMIANISM IN TUSCANY

PAST STUDIES OF TUSCANY'S RECEPTION of Protestant ideas neglected the preparatory role of Erasmianism, although Silvana Seidel Menchi has done much recently to correct this omission. The "Lutheran" Erasmus was appropriated in this region, which was the cradle of Renaissance culture, more warmly than anywhere else in Italy. It was not difficult to discern the influence of Florentine humanism in the Dutchman's works. The spiritual Christianity of the Enchiridion militis Christiani bears its unmistakable stamp.

From 1518 to 1520 the Florentine printing establishment of the Giunti turned out the writings of Erasmus, producing ten different pieces collected in five volumes. Almost a half century later, in November 1564 at Siena, an inquisitorial search of the bookshop owned by Antonio Zenoli turned up 119 prohibited books, of which 27 were Erasmian titles, including the Praise of Folly, the Paraphrase of the Pauline epistles, the Treatise on Preparation for Death, the Querela Pacis, together with two copies of the pseudo-Erasmian Declaration on the Ten Commandments. A further search of other booksellers in the city, two years later, brought to light other Erasmian works, including the Adages.1

One of the more curious attempts to juxtapose Erasmus to Luther occurred in Bartolomeo Cerretani Storia in dialogo della mutatione di Firenze. The author imagined a meeting in Modena of the governor, Francesco Guicciardini, in his residence, with Giovanni Rucellai and two young Florentine Savonarolans (Piagnoni), Lorenzo and Girolamo, who had just returned from a trip around Europe. They had visited Erasmus, of whom they sketched a brief profile, which might have served as the epigraph for Hans Holbein's famous portrait:

He lives happily in the tranquillity of his studies...scorning property, ambition, temporal and spiritual greatness.... He is a man of great intellect and

____________________
1
S. Seidel Menchi, Erasmo in Italia, 34, 343.

-270-

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