The Protestant Reformation in Sixteenth-Century Italy

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

20
"ECCLESIA PEREGRINORUM"

OLIMPIA MORATO

ARTURO PASCAL, in his studies on the emigration to Geneva from Lucca, Messina, and Piedmont, called attention to the narrowness of research on the Italian Reformation when limited to names and episodes contained in the few inquisitorial trials that have come down to us--few in respect to the mass of documents accumulated by the Roman Holy Office and its provincial tribunals from 1542 to the end of the seventeenth century. The fact is confirmed merely by noting the almost total absence in inquisitorial inventories of names of persons who found refuge beyond the Alps. Valdo Vinay coined the felicitous phrase "ecclesia peregrinorum" to designate the dispersal throughout Europe of Italians who fled their homeland, causa religionis.1

Small groups of dissidents rebelling against the rigid orthodoxy they encountered in the Italian exiles' churches in the Grisons, Geneva, Zurich, and London generated disturbances and provoked conflicts with their pastors and consistories that led to expulsions and condemnations. But the core of the emigrés remained intact. Even though inexperienced in their new faith, they remained staunchly committed. After the great persecution in Italy during the triennium from 1567 to 1570, which produced hundreds of condemnations from Piedmont to Sicily, many persons who intellectually and sentimentally had been outside of the church for years, came to realize that their Nicodemite practices could not go on indefinitely. They had two choices: the risky and adventurous prospect of flight, or a return to the traditional religion, realizing that a struggle against the Church of Rome in their homeland would be of no avail.

Already in October 1551, Olimpia Morato ( 1526-55), hearing the news of the martyrdom of the "poor Fanin," wrote to Curione from Schweinfurt that she would rather travel to the ends of the earth than return to Italy where the Antichrist "has so much power that it grows pitiless," not even heeding the requests of princes.2 In this

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1
V. Vinay, La Riforma protestante, 2d ed. ( Brescia: Paideia, 1982), 399ff.

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