The Protestant Reformation in Sixteenth-Century Italy

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

19
MEDITERRANEAN CALVINISM: SPANISH SICILY AND SARDINIA

THE VUDESIAN BACKDROP

CALVINISM MADE SIGNIFICANT INROADS in the Spanish viceroyalty of Sicily from the mid-sixteenth century forward,1 and Valdesianism appears to have paved the way. At present, research has not yielded the documents to verify the influence exercised by the sojourn there of Benedetto Fontanini, nor whether his Beneficio di Cristo circulated in manuscript in the Benedictine convents he visited. We have already mentioned that the bishop of Catania, Nicola Maria Caracciolo, possessed a copy of the printed edition, as well as Ochino's sermons and some works by Valdés. Discoursing about the Scriptures with Gian Francesco Alois, who had gone to see him sometime before 1547, he read some passages from it. We have also noted that Lorenzo Romano was accustomed, in the course of his lessons, to explicate the Beneficio as well as Melanchthon Loci communes. But the great proselytizer of the doctrine of justification by faith alone, both Lutheran and Valdesian, was Bernardino Ochino. In a population that succumbed easily to enthusiastic fervor and was preoccupied, even when it did not allow anything to transpire, with human destiny and the afterlife, the words of the fiery Capuchin must have struck a profound chord during his 1540 Lenten preaching in Palermo. His flight to Geneva, barely two years later, reverberated broadly, especially among his fellow Franciscans.

In the early 1540s, perhaps as a consequence of these influences, a number of educated and well-born Sicilians crossed the straits of Messina to Naples, Rome, Ferrara, Modena, and Venice and entered into contact with groups sympathetic to the new ideas. Many returned home laden with prohibited books to report on what they had learned; others, who had become fully imbued with Protestant doctrines, actively proselytized their beliefs. The deposition made before the Inquisition by the

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1
For the Protestant Reformation in Sicily, I refer the reader to my "Bartolomeo Spadafora e la Riforma protestante in Sicilia." The page references are of its reprinting in my Studi sulla Riforma, 15- 139.

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