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La Réforme en France et en Italie

 | 
Philip Benedict
, 
Silvana Seidel Menchi
, 
Alain Tallon

Session IV. Élites et Réforme

Elites and Reform in Northern Italy

John Jeffries Martin

Texte intégral

Introduction

1Elites – princes and prelates, patricians and monarchs – played a major role in the Reformation. At times, as in the cases of Henry VIII, Frederick the Wise, Philipp of Hesse, and the magistrates of scores of German and Swiss cities, their roles have been interpreted as decisive. Cuius regio, eius religio. But what about Italy? There, socio-economic, political, and cultural forces, especially in the northern half of the peninsula, would seem not only to have made this region especially receptive to Protestantism but also to have drawn its leading nobles and citizens into the movement.

  • 1 On Venice, see J. J. Martin, Venice’s Hidden Enemies: Italian Heretics in a Renaissance City, 2nd e (...)
  • 2 E. Fasano Guarini, Geographies of Power: The Territorial State in Early Modern Italy, in J. J. Mart (...)
  • 3 Among the vast literature devoted to this topic, see S. Seidel Menchi, Le traduzioni italiane di Lu (...)

2In the sixteenth century northern Italy was the most urbanized region of Europe, and its towns and cities, teeming with merchants and highly-skilled artisans, constituted the sort of environment where, elsewhere on the continent, Protestantism had great traction. And, indeed, the scholarship of several generations of historians – working primarily in the rich archives of the Roman Inquisition in such localities as Venice, Modena, and Bologna – has made it clear that the new ideas of such thinkers as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, and others did find support, at least among some nobles, humanists, merchants, and artisans, in the northern Italian cities1. Furthermore, on the political level, northern Italy, fragmented into many small states, seemed to have more in common with Germany, where in many places the Reformation was successful, than it did with France or Spain, both large and increasingly centralized monarchies, which remained Catholic2. Finally, the ideas of the leading theologians of the era circulated widely in the region and were read with interest by many3.

  • 4 On this concept in Machiavelli, see the celebrated essay by J. H. Hexter, in his The Vision of Poli (...)
  • 5 T. Dandelet and J. A. Marino, Spain in Early Modern Italy: Politics and Society, Leiden, forthcomin (...)
  • 6 B. Hallman, Italian Cardinals, Reform, and the Church as Property, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1985.
  • 7 On the role of the cult of saints in civic religion, see the important article by E. Muir, The Virg (...)
  • 8 A. del Col and G. Paolin (ed.), L’Inquisizione romana in Italia nell’età moderna: archivi, problemi (...)

3Despite these apparently propitious conditions, however, the overwhelming majority of both the elites and popolani in Italy remained solidly within the Catholic Church. Given the notorious anti-clericalism of the era, the reasons for this are far from selfevident. Clearly many non-religious factors were involved. Above all, Italian political elites were faced with the matter of survival, and their primary preoccupation was stability, their ability, as Machiavelli had put it so eloquently in The Prince to «mantenere lo stato»4. Significantly, as Luther’s ideas were first making themselves known in Italy, virtually every northern Italian state – with the exception of the Republic of Venice – lay largely under the influence of Spain5. In such a climate the elites were, in general, loathe even to tolerate ideas that had triggered so much political upheaval and social unrest in Germany. And the only significant countervailing power to Spain was France, itself a Catholic state. Furthermore, most nobles in Italy also saw the existing institutions of the Catholic Church, from its abbacies and bishoprics, as potentially lucrative positions for members of their own families6. Diocesan structures in northern Italy, moreover, were almost always the perquisites of local elites and rarely a threat to the political autonomy of princes or magistrates. Finally, the religious culture of Renaissance Italy was also a factor, for Catholic traditions and devotions, perhaps especially those associated with the cult of saints, continued to offer a meaningful sense of individual, familial, and communal identity to most Italians, no matter what their position within the social hierarchies of the era7. As a consequence, the ruling groups in the northern Italian states, with the exception of Lucca, eventually even accepted what many must have seen as a potentially dangerous usurpation of sovereignty: the introduction of branches of the Roman Inquisition, reorganized by a decree of Pope Paul III in 1542 as a centralized and increasingly effective institution of repression, into their territories8.

  • 9 M. Firpo, Riforma protestante ed eresie nell’Italia del Cinquecento, Rome-Bari, 1993, p. 130.

4And yet – despite these factors that ensured among so many a continuing loyalty to Rome and to Catholicism – a significant, activist minority of nobles, clerical and lay, in northern Italy did support Protestant or philo-Protestant ideas. As Massimo Firpo has observed, Italy witnessed «the widespread involvement on the part of influential elites, clerical and lay, in various heterodox spiritualities», adding that these elites «were frequently tied through collusion or by loyalty with heretical groups and communities and that their influence branched out into all social strata, implanting their roots in a variegated popular world»9.

  • 10 For the basic bibliography for these cities, see Ibid., p. 184-189.

5But how do we explain the attraction of these ideas to Italian elites – keeping in mind that it was a small percentage of the total among whom the new ideas were «widespread»? On the most basic level, they were individuals who were exposed – either through the city or the court – to new religious ideas. Urban experience especially correlates strongly with support for Protestantism. This was true in Venice and all the major cities of the Republic: Udine, Padua, Rovigo, Vicenza, Verona, and Brescia. It was true as well not only in Florence but also in Siena and Lucca; in Genoa; in the Duchy of Milan, particularly in Cremona, but also in Como and in Milan itself; in the Duchy of Ferrara, particularly in Modena; in the Duchy of Mantua; and in Bologna and Faenza10. And this urban connection is not surprising. Cities served not only as commercial but also as major cultural centers. And the new religious ideas of the Reformation easily moved along the trade routes from France, Germany, and Switzerland into the towns and cities of Italy. Not surprisingly, many Italian nobles who supported the reform movement tended to belong to a world of highly sophisticated urban elites. They were often well-educated and cosmopolitan in outlook. They were, moreover, highly mobile, often traveling from city to city within northern Italy and even throughout Europe as a whole. Of course, since the overall percentage of Italian nobles who supported the reform movements was almost always a minority, their urban experience does not explain their religious beliefs, only the fact that were readily exposed to the new ideas. Other factors – their education, their reading, their patterns of sociability – were influential. So too were political factors. In sixteenth-century Italy many nobles saw their status reduced as political power was held by increasingly narrow circles of only the wealthiest urban families or, at the expense of republics, consolidated in the hands of ruling dynasties. In this climate, many men and women were open to spiritual questioning and perhaps especially inclined to embrace new ideas that placed more emphasis on faith and the individual than on works and participation in a church that, with its own hierarchies, often seemed both to reflect and to reinforce the more general drift in Italian society towards the concentration of power in fewer and fewer hands.

  • 11 H. G. Koenigsberger, Republics and Courts in Italian and European Culture in the Sixteenth and Seve (...)

6It was not only the urban elites or patricians who supported the reform movements. Some members of some of the most important courts of the region – Mantua, Ferrara, and Tuscany – also embraced aspects of the Protestant message. Like the cities, the courts too were important cultural centers where new ideas were received with great interest11. And finally, members of the clerical elite, especially those with humanist backgrounds and who were sensitive to some of the deeper religious needs of the era, were easily drawn into sympathy with the ideas of Luther and Calvin and, as we shall see, Juan de Valdés.

  • 12 D. Cantimori, Eretici italiani del Cinquecento: ricerche storiche, Florence, 1939, p. viii.
  • 13 See my Myths of Renaissance Individualism, New York, 2004, esp. ch. 2.

7Nonetheless, traditional social and political explanations only go so far. For those patricians, courtiers, and prelates who either became Protestant or philo-Protestant in the early and midsixteenth century, what appears to have been the most consistent factor in predisposing them to an interest in Protestantism was a certain spiritual restlessness, a dissatisfaction not only with the Old Church but also, at least in many cases, newer religious ideas. Cantimori famously described the Italian heretics as «rebels against any form of ecclesiastical organization»12. In my view, however, what was involved was less rebellion than an intense religious questioning that led many men and some women to drift from heresy to heresy, rarely satisfied with the new faiths they embraced, always searching, always asking questions, always talking with others searching and asking questions. What is striking about their experience was the degree to which their religious identities were never fixed. Many who as young men entered Catholic orders passed first to Valdesian and then to Calvinist and even at times to more radical, antitrinitarian beliefs13. This is not to claim that the political context was not important, but rather to stress that the underlying motivations for an interest in Protestant teachings were often individualistic and personal, as particular men and women found the ideas of Luther and other reformers helpful to them in lives that they experienced largely as spiritual journeys. This does not mean that they did not dream of a «Reformation» on a large scale. As is often the case with elites, they talked largely among themselves, knew commoners who supported their ideas, and were friends with individuals in other Italian cities who did as well. In short, they moved within circles that reinforced their hopes for far-reaching reforms. But, in reality, their numbers were so small and their own beliefs so fluid or malleable that they rarely either reflected or constituted a political program.

  • 14 The term «elites» is elastic and can cover many groups, from feudal overlords, urban patricians, an (...)

8But, even as a minority, there is no doubt that these elites – whether old or new nobles, courtiers or patricians, warriors or bishops – were in a position to play a particularly decisive role in the propagation of new religious ideas. In what follows I examine the role of the three major types of nobles – urban elites or patricians, prelates, and courtiers – in an attempt to identify some of the distinctive ways in which they supported the reform movements14. This approach, I believe, is useful in clarifying some of the ways in which elites within different sectors of Italian society both responded to the religious challenges of the period and acted to bring out reform within Italy. Nonetheless, the distinctions should not be exaggerated. Courtiers and urban patricians interacted with one another, and both of these groups had close ties to many reforming bishops and cardinals. A striking feature of the reform movement in Italy, at the elite as well as the popular level, was the mobility of its proponents who moved easily from city to city, and who found connections with fellow heretics, often across class lines, with relative ease. They offered each other mutual support; and they certainly, as we shall see, provided support to commoners: to professionals, to humanists, to preachers, to merchants, and to artisans.

The Prelates

9Even before Luther nailed the Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg in 1517, there were widespread initiatives underway for the reform of the Church in Italy. Consequently, while Luther and other early reformers such as Zwingli were condemned as heretics by Roman authorities, their ideas generated great interest in Italy where their texts, often openly and often in clandestine editions, circulated widely in literate circles from as early as 1518 on. Some religious – Francesco Negri is a good example – took the Lutheran message so seriously that they immediately went over to the Reformation. But Luther’s ideas also struck a chord among many prelates who were already asking difficult religious questions and were fully aware that the Catholic Church was in need of fundamental reform.

10Indeed, one of the most striking aspects of the Italian reform movement was the widespread support it garnered from many clergy at the highest levels of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. It is not that these individuals – bishops, cardinals, and leaders within religious orders – wished to break with Rome. Rather it is that they were deeply sympathetic with many of the spiritual dimensions of the Protestant message and, yet, at the same time convinced that it would be possible to propagate such doctrines as salvation by faith alone within a reformed Catholic Church. They responded in short to the spiritual content of Luther’s ideas but did not accept the inevitability of the institutional consequences that his teachings appeared to demand.

  • 15 E. Gleason, Gasparo Contarini: Venice, Rome, and Reform, Berkeley-Los Angeles, 1993.

11The Venetian Gasparo Contarini, a member of one of the leading patrician families in the city, played the major role in the effort to adopt Luther’s ideas to the Italian context. Even before Luther Contarini had come to view salvation as a gift from God and to see his own efforts to achieve salvation through his works as vanity. Reading Luther Contarini accepted the emphasis that the German reformer placed on faith15. Contarini, moreover, was only one of several aristocratic members of the clergy whom Paul III, who had become pope in 1534, appointed to hammer out a proposal for the reform of the church. These men, who became known as the spirituali, included the cardinals Jacopo Sadoleto and Reginald Pole as well as Gian Matteo Giberti, Gregorio Cortese, Tommaso Badia, and Federico Fregoso. They played a major role in drafting the Consilium de emendanda ecclesia in 1537 and they clearly believed that reform within the hierarchy was possible.

  • 16 M. Firpo, Tra alumbrados e «spirituali»: studi su Juan de Valdés e il Valdesianismo nella crisi rel (...)

12But the spirituali did not only draw on the ideas of Luther. Their spirituality and religious ideals were also largely informed by the teachings of Juan de Valdés, an exile from Spain who had taken up residence first in Rome in 1531 and then in Naples in 1535. Valdés – whose teachings and writings, mystical in orientation, with debts to both Erasmus and Luther – drew the interest of many of the leading aristocrats of the peninsula both for their emphasis on the importance of faith in Christ for one’s salvation and for their ability to accommodate this «Lutheran» idea within the structures of the Roman Catholic Church. But, unlike the Protestant reformers, Valdés placed the greatest emphasis on spiritual experience; in particular, he stressed the role of divine illumination in the believer for whom internal revelation would disclose the «secretos di Dios». What mattered in his view were not the external practices of the Church but rather the inward, personal, and even mystical experience of the believer who would grow increasingly confident of his or her salvation and for whom the external practices of Catholicism became less and less significant to the point where overthrowing them was not an issue16. And these ideas resonated with an Italian elite, including the «spirituali», at once attracted to the teachings of Erasmus and Luther but who believed that a reformation along the lines of the changes that had taken place in Germany, Switzerland, or even England was impossible in Italy. This does not mean that many of Valdés’s followers would not attempt to bring about doctrinal and institutional reform, only that these efforts to translate Valdesian spirituality into practice would often (not always) take place within the structures of the Roman Catholic Church.

13While many of those who were drawn to this charismatic religious figure were representatives of some of the leading baronial and aristocratic families in the south of Italy – most notably Giulia Gonzaga – Valdés’s followers included individuals who would play major roles in the reform movements in the north of Italy as well; among them Marcantonio Flaminio, a humanist who had been born into a noble family from the Trevigiano, the Venetian patrician Vittore Soranzo, the future bishop of Bergamo, the Florentine nobleman Pietro Carnesecchi; and Bernardino Ochino of Siena, General of the Capuchin Order.

  • 17 D. Fenlon, Heresy and Obedience in Tridentine Italy: Cardinal Pole and the Counter-Reformation, Cam (...)
  • 18 S. Caponetto (ed.), Il Beneficio di Cristo, Florence, 1972.

14When Valdés died in 1541 his ideas were fostered above all at Viterbo in the house of the Englishman Cardinal Reginald Pole17. Marcantonio Flaminio brought together in Pole’s house a number of leading figures – prelates and nobles – who had been close to Valdés. There, largely under Pole’s leadership, they entered into intense discussions about the role of faith in salvation, about divine illumination, and about the possibility of a fundamental reform from within the Roman Church itself. At Viterbo, Flaminio edited, translated, and eventually saw to publication Valdés’s works. But the most important initiative was Flaminio’s role in polishing the masterpiece of the Italian Reform: the Beneficio di Cristo, which would be published anonymously in Venice in 1543 and which would become a bestseller and consequently a work of enormous influence in the development of the Italian reform18.

15The Beneficio di Cristo, clearly written and relatively brief, stressed the central role of faith in salvation. While largely Valdesian in its emphasis, the Beneficio nonetheless drew on Calvin and, as a result, expressed what was in the early 1540s the fundamental tension in the Italian reform movement. For, at this very moment, while some of Valdés’s followers, such as Ochino and Vermigli, were compelled to embrace Calvinism, for others the work, with its emphasis on the individual’s acceptance of Christ’s benefits and the centrality of personal experience, appeared to offer a way to accept the doctrine of salvation by faith alone and yet remain in the fold of the Roman Church. Only in retrospect would it become clear that those responsible for publishing it were walking a fine line between orthodoxy and heterodoxy. But at the time it was written the hope was that this text would offer a spiritual message in and of itself sufficient to enable Catholics to find peace in God’s love. Yet it was also clear that the book, with its debt to Calvinism, could equally well lead some readers to take a Protestant stance. Certainly, it was in this later vein that the text was condemned by the Church and placed on the Index in 1559.

  • 19 A. J. Schutte, Pier Paolo Vergerio: The Making of an Italian Reformer, Geneva, 1977.
  • 20 See Firpo’s essay on Soranzo in this volume.
  • 21 M. Firpo, Inquisizione romana e controriforma: studi sul cardinal Giovanni Morone e il suo processo (...)

16Because the spirituali operated at the highest levels of the Church, they were able to protect preachers, to circulate works like the Beneficio, and to offer spaces to the faithful to debate the important religious questions of the day. Many did so from within the framework of their dioceses. This was the case with Gian Matteo Giberti, bishop of Verona, Pier Paolo Vergerio, bishop of Capodistria, Giovanni Battista Vergerio, bishop of Pola, Giovanni Grimani, patriarch of Aquileia, Pietro Bonomo, bishop of Trieste, and Vittore Soranzo, bishop of Bergamo. Pier Paolo Vergerio came to the realization in 1549 that it was no longer possible for him to reconcile the Protestant message with Catholic structures and he fled to Switzerland19. But Soranzo remained convinced that change could come from within, and he was intent from the moment he was named bishop of Bergamo in 1544 to improve his diocese while at the same time teaching Lutheran ideas20. The fact that so many bishops were open to the Lutheran emphasis on faith played a significant role in fostering an atmosphere where others – courtiers, patricians, and commoners – would feel protected in their own discussions about religious questions. Even Giovanni Morone, the bishop of Modena, when he decided that he must bring a stop to the heresies circulating in his diocese, did so gently, through conversations with the leading heretics, trying to convince them that their own views on faith need not lead them to break with the Church21.

17And the influence of the spirituali reached even further. Many placed much hope in Pole’s and Morone’s participation in the Council of Trent. That their hopes were realistic is made clear by the fact that Pole himself was nearly elected pope in the conclave of 1549-50, losing the election by only one vote. And Morone chaired the last section of the Council of Trent in 1563. In short, there was an openness to certain Protestant ideas at the very highest levels of the Roman hierarchy as late as the early 1560s. Among the elites, therefore, the spirituali played a major role in creating an openness for discussions that were central to the reform movement in Italy. Their experience also reminds us that the lines between heterodoxy and orthodoxy had not yet been fixed. It was not until the mid-1560s that the more rigid party within the hierarchy would gain the upper hand and use their power to not only to intensify the repression of popular heresy but also to bring some of the leading spirituali – Morone and Carnesecchi – to trial.

The court elites

  • 22 I discuss the relationship of the courts to elite support for evangelical and other reform ideals i (...)

18But the ideas of Valdés, in particular, proved appealing not only to the prelates but also to courtiers for whom the emphasis on cultivating an internal spirituality resonated profoundly with the increasing emphasis that court culture placed on decorum, on the control of one’s emotions, and on the ability to create a certain distance between what one believed on the inside and what one said in public. For the ruling families of northern Italy did not only confront a period in which the very survival of their states was at stake, they also had to adapt their mores to the increasingly courtly nature of northern Italian culture at this time. If the great cities of northern Italy had been the centers of politics and culture down to the end of the fifteenth century, the court had come to play an increasingly important role in the political and cultural life of the sixteenth. Politics was now less and less a matter for popular debate and more and more a matter of guarded speech within the court itself. The popularity of Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier made it clear that one’s words were to be chosen carefully and that political speech was, in particular, reduced to a carefully-timed and often indirect moment of counsel to the prince. Within such a culture Valdesian ideas offered the possibility of a sense of detachment from this loss of the ability to act publicly on one’s beliefs. To the contrary, Valdés’s teachings stressed the internal illumination of the believer over his or her outward acts or even expressions. Decorum dictated that courtiers were to fit their remarks to the occasion. And evidence from the inquisitorial archives makes it clear that this ethos permeated the reform movement in Italy, contributing in no small way to its personal and tentative qualities22.

  • 23 S. Pagano, Il processo di Endimio Calandra e l’Inquisizione a Mantova nel 1567-1568, Vatican City, (...)

19The Mantuan court had a particularly direct connection to Valdesian spirituality. Not only was Ercole Gonzaga a leading figure in the more moderate wing of the Church, he also became, because of the minority of his nephew, the effective ruler of the Duchy in 1540. Gonzaga certainly did not wish to see Protestantism take root in Mantua, but he was personally drawn to the new ideas; he was supportive of preachers whose ideas were decidedly philo-Protestant; and he collected (with the permission of Clement VII and Paul III) numerous heretical titles for his library. And while Ercole did clamp down on artisans and popolani who had embraced Protestant ideas, he did not discourage theological discussions among the elites, members of the local noble families or favored courtiers. His nephew Guglielmo, who became duke in 1550, also tried to protect great notables from the Inquisition, but Pius V dispatched not only Camillo Campeggi but also Carlo Borromeo to Mantua in 1567-8. The repression was severe and touched all levels of Mantuan society, possibly including members of the ducal family, Silvio Lanzoni of Mirandola, and the ducal secretary Endimio Calandra23. Significantly, the Mantuan court was in many ways a nursery for the heretical ideas that Calandra would foster in Venice.

  • 24 S. Caponetto, Motivi di riforma e Inquisizione nel ducato di Urbino nella prima metà del Cinquecent (...)
  • 25 M. Firpo, Gli affreschi di Pontormo a San Lorenzo: Eresia, politica e cultura nella Firenze di Cosi (...)

20Like Mantua, the Duchy of Urbino also fostered an interest in Protestant ideas, primarily through the Duchess Eleanora Gonzaga delle Rovere (Ercole’s sister). Eleanora showed a deep attention to the reform ideas of such figures as Antonio Brucioli and Federico Fregoso24. In the Medici court in Florence as well, a palpable concern in the ideas of Valdés in particular made themselves felt and drew the interest of such figures as Benedetto Varchi and Caterina Cibo, the former duchess of Camerino. Even Duke Cosimo displayed an interest in the new ideas, at least as long as they were cultivated privately as they were exquisitely when Cosimo oversaw Jacopo Pontormo’s work on the frescoes in the ducal chapel of San Lorenzo in which the artist offered a pictorial translation of Valdés’s ideas that would, in all likelihood, have been understood only by those already familiar with his teachings25.

  • 26 B. Fontana, Renata di Francia duchessa di Ferrara, Rome, 1888-99; cf. Charmarie Jenkins Blaisdell, (...)
  • 27 J.-C. Margolin, Une princesse d’inspiration érasmienne: Marguerite de France, duchesse de Berry, pu (...)

21And yet there were courts that fostered explicitly Protestant ideas. This was particularly true at Ferrara where the duchess Renée was herself French. Not only were her ties with Calvin close – in 1536, in the same year he published the first edition of the Institutes, he himself had visited her court in disguise – but, as a member of the French royal family, she was often protected by the papacy which under the pontificate of Paul III had increasingly adopted an anti-Habsburg policy. The result was that the Este court, despite Duke Ercole II’s unwavering support of Catholicism, served as a major center of the propagation of Calvinist ideas in northern Italy, and that Renée was often (though not always) able to obtain protection for Calvinists in the region, to whom she provided not only financial support from her «secret» account but also lodging and protection at the Estense court26. Renée received prominent Protestant visitors from France and Germany, maintained a household that included both French and Italian evangelicals, sought to protect the heretic Fanino Fanini of Faenza from execution, and attended services in the Reformed fashion in her quarters. Her royal status as sister-in-law to François I undoubtedly protected her, and her relative freedom to support individual reformers in Italy did much to foster the reform movement throughout northern Italy, since her contacts reached from Lucca to Venice and north into the Grisons. The court of Savoy played a similar but less decisive role, again largely because of the marriage of a member of the French royal family who also had sympathies with Calvin into the Court. Even though Marguerite of Savoy’s primary role was gaining her husband’s protection in 1561 for the Waldesians (since 1532 part of the Reformed communion) this act alone provided encouragement to the Italian heretics, especially those with close ties to Calvinism27.

The urban elites

22It was through the intersection of the spiritual sentiments of both the «spirituali» and many leading figures within the northern Italian courts with the elites of the cities and towns of the region that the new ideas of the Reformation had their greatest influence on Italian society. For the urban elites constituted a kind of bridge between the refined and often highly prudential religious discussions of the former with the more variegated and open conversations that took place within urban culture.

  • 28 On Lucca, see Adorni-Braccesi, «Una città infetta»: la repubblica di Lucca nella crisi religiosa de (...)
  • 29 On Modena, S. Peyronel Rambaldi, Speranze e crisi nel Cinquecento modenese... cit. n. 1; on Vicenza (...)
  • 30 B. Moeller, Imperial Cities and the Reformation, Durham (N.C.), 1982.
  • 31 Historians of the Italian Reformation have been reluctant to adopt social historical approaches to (...)

23That many patricians would have embraced Protestant ideas has often been seen as offering those members of the urban elite who had traditionally exercised some role in the governance of the towns and cities of the region a set of ideals that intersected in profound ways with their political sympathies and their desire, often republican in sentiment, to preserve a measure of political autonomy in a world in which the courts were gaining greater and greater power. We certainly see something of this pattern in an increasingly-oligarchic Venice as well as the Tuscan cities of Lucca, Siena, Florence all of which had strong republican traditions and which either came under the rule of the Medici in the sixteenth century (Florence and then Siena) or feared doing so (Lucca)28. Yet even in cities with no strong republican traditions, many members of the elites supported reform. Modena, Bologna, Vicenza, and Cremona were also conspicuous for the widespread involvement of their elites in the new religious ideas. In neither Modena, for example, where several prominent families such as the Rangoni, the Caradini, the Sadoleto, and the Molza were supportive of Protestant ideas or in Vicenza where the leading houses of the city – namely the Trissino, the Thiene, the Pellizzari, and the Pigafetta – gave their support to Calvinist doctrine is there any clear evidence that the motives were political29. Thus, while it is tempting to interpret the appeal of the ideas of the Reformation in Italy within the framework that Bernd Moeller famously offered for the imperial cities of Germany – that is, in viewing Protestantism as offering a message that reinforced old communal values (Genossenschaft) against the growing concentration of power in the hands of the wealthy (Herrschaft), the Italian situation was never so clearly articulated. To the contrary, in Italy – as I have suggested above – the appeal of Protestant ideas appears to have attracted individuals who were extremely restless about religious questions. In Italy, men and women did not divide into Protestant or Catholic camps30. Correlating their religious ideals with their social and political experience is, therefore, extremely difficult if not, at our present stage of knowledge, impossible31.

  • 32 S. Adorni-Braccesi, «Una città infetta»... cit. n. 28, p. xii.
  • 33 P. McNair, Peter Martyr Vermigli in Italy: An Anatomy of Apostasy, Oxford, 1972.
  • 34 S. Adorni-Braccesi, «Una città infetta»... cit. n. 28, p. 287.

24Nonetheless, it is true that in the case of Lucca there were strong affinities between support for the reform movement on the one hand and the political identity of the city on the other. In Lucca the patriciate gave widespread support to the reform movement. As Simonetta Adorni-Braccesi has shown in her meticulous reconstruction of the reform movement in this city, of the 400 residents of Lucca who were suspected of heresy in the sixteenth century, approximately 130 belonged to the city’s patriciate32. If the Venetian patriciate continued to find in the city’s own Catholic traditions – traditions that were largely independent of the papacy – a valuable source of autonomy and identity, in Lucca the teachings of Valdés and then of Calvin appear to have resonated with the city’s republican experience. While several patricians had expressed interest in Reformation ideas in the 1530s, it was the arrival in the city of Pietro Martire Vermigli, a brilliant humanist and preacher, as prior of San Frediano that marked the beginning large scale interest on the part of the patriciate in ideas about reform. In Lucca many noble families such as the Arnolfini and the Balbani saw many of their members go over to the Reformation, much as Vermigli did himself when he fled Italy in August 154233. Other patrician families included the Micheli, the Mei, the Trenta, the Calandrini, the Diodati, the Gigli, and the Liena who, together with a number of merchants and professionals came to constitute a religious community that was, in all its respects, an embryonic church in the reformed tradition: the so-called Ecclesia Lucensis. Indeed, almost all the major families in the city were represented in the reform movement. Despite the fact Lucca presents an example of strong solidarities within the heretical community, its local elites remained relatively cautious in the propagation of their beliefs, relying largely on the teachings of such humanists as Aonio Paleario and Celio Secondo Curione both of whom translated Protestant works into Italian34. And they were able to keep their community relatively intact until 1549 when repression intensified.

  • 35 On Siena, V. Marchetti, Gruppi ereticali... cit. n. 28; on Florence, P. Simoncelli, Evangelismo ita (...)
  • 36 F. Ambrosini, Storie di patrizi e di eresia nella Venezia del ‘500, Milan, 1999, p. 94-96.

25Unlike Lucca, Siena, and Florence, where significant sectors of the patriciate also supported the reform movement, in Venice elite support for Protestantism involved only a small number of individual patricians35. In Venice, again in contrast to the Tuscan republics, no patrician family in its entirety embraced the reformed ideas of the period and only a handful of individual patricians were supporters, and these individuals appear to have had little influence on the religious beliefs of their peers whose religiosity was deeply embedded in a Venetian Catholic culture that connected this religious tradition both to the stability and the identity of the state. Nonetheless a handful of individual patricians were Protestant. Among these the most outspoken and active was Andrea Da Ponte, the brother of the future doge Niccolò Da Ponte. Before fleeing Venice for Geneva in 1560, Andrea had discussed, at his own home in the parish of San Vio and elsewhere, his beliefs with other nobles sympathetic to Protestant ideas: Francesco Emo, Agostino Tieopolo, Carlo Corner, Marcantonio Da Canal, Alvise Malipiero, Vicenzo Sanudo as well as the Brescian nobleman Giovanni Andrea Ugoni36. Andrea was undoubtedly the Venetian patrician most committed to Calvinism. He lent Calvin’s Institutes and the Beneficio di Cristo to others to read; he buttonholed his fellow patricians on the floor of the Great Council; and he organized charity for the poor who shared his ideas and even provided financial assistance to individuals who, convicted of heresy, had been imprisoned. Other patrician heretics appear to have acted in much the same way. Within the Venetian patriciate, the pattern was one of friendship, shared reading, and discussion both among patricians combined with similar discussions and readings with wealthy commoners and humanists.

  • 37 M. Firpo and D. Marcatto (ed.), I processi inquisitoriali di Pietro Carnesecchi (1557-1567), Vatica (...)
  • 38 A. Stella, Utopie e velleità insurrezionali dei filpotestanti italiani, 1545-1547, in Bibliothèque (...)

26While relatively few Venetian nobles were openly supportive of Protestant ideas, a significant number of elite heretics from other towns and cities in northern Italy, who resided at least for a while in Venice, appear to have played an more aggressive role in attempting to convince others of their beliefs. The most prominent of these were Alessandro Trissino from Vicenza, Endimio Calandra from Mantua, and Pietro Carnesecchi from Florence. Trissino lived in Venice for twenty-four years and was active in propagating his own ideas among the patriciate. The Mantuan courtier Calandra also had extensive contacts with the «fratelli» in Venice, as did the Florentine Carnesecchi37. The boldest outsider of all, however, was Baldassarre Altieri, secretary to the English ambassador to Venice. Together with Guido Giannetti and Ludovico Dall’Armi, he hatched a wild scheme, requiring Venetian cooperation, for an insurrection in the Romagna timed to make it impossible for pontifical forces to come to the aid of the Emperor Charles V in his crusade against Protestantism. Like Vergerio, who had also written to the Venetian government in hopes that the city rulers would embrace Protestantism, Altieri and his co-conspirators hoped for a return to the true Gospel and, like the Lucchese gonfalonier Francesco Burlamacchi, who had planned and then attempted a similar insurrection in Tuscany the previous year (though with no apparent connections to Protestantism), they dreamt of simpler times and of a revival of Italian republicanism38.

  • 39 M. Firpo, Artisti, gioiellieri, eretici: il mondo di Lorenzo Lotto tra Riforma e Controriforma, Bar (...)

27Yet, in the end, what is remarkable in the case of Venice is the vitality of the reform movement at the popular level despite the absence of widespread elite support. The critical role in Venice appears to have come from preachers and humanists and from a particularly sophisticated clustering of artisans, such as the goldsmiths and jewelers in the Ruga degli Orefici, who adopted Protestant ideas without significant support from the local patriciate or other nobles residing in the city39. There were several other prominent popular groups as well. In Venice, the reform movement was vital also because of the city’s commercial importance and its extensive ties with Germany, not to mention the fact that many heretics from other locations in northern Italy made their way to Venice, believing it to be relatively tolerant (as it was) towards those who held Protestant beliefs, as long as they did not openly declare them.

Elites and popular reform

  • 40 S. Seidel Menchi, Italy, in B. Scribner, R. Porter, and M. Teich (ed.), The Reformation in National (...)

28By the early 1540s, the Italian reform movement entered what Silvana Seidel Menchi has aptly described as its most public and optimistic phase, with the ideas of Luther and Calvin now garnering popular support. As she has noted, with specific reference to the cities of northern and central Italy, in the period from 1540 to 1555, «[d]ocumentation from Venice, Modena, Imola, Bologna, Genoa and Siena reveals the existence during the period 1542-1555 of some forty dynamic and flexible groups working in the open to spread the Protestant message»40.

29In this essay I have attempted to offer an overview of the ways that the northern Italian elites contributed to this phase of the Italian reform movement. What appears to have been decisive in generating a relatively robust popular movement in the towns and cities for reform was the intersection of the patronage and protection that a clerical elite, many of whose members were themselves committed to reform, with the religious interests of court and urban elites alike. That is, the deeply spiritual concerns of the followers of Valdés led them to keep open the question of Lutheran and Calvinist ideas about salvation – especially before the Council of Trent repudiated Luther’s doctrine of salvation by faith alone in its session of 1547. Courtiers tended to take this openness as permission to continue the theological discussions at least in the refined atmosphere of their private worlds. By contrast the urban elites seized on this relatively open atmosphere for debate, entered themselves into theological debate and discussion, and fashioned the new ideas to correspond more closely with their own experience. It was the urban elites especially who transformed the message into a genuine hope for Reformation. And it was they who acted most directly in conveying the new ideas to commoners: to artisans, merchants, and professionals in the Italian cities and towns. It is no wonder in this world of mixed messages – whether to remain loyal to Rome or to Geneva – that the Italian reform movement assumed its defining characteristics: innovative, at times bold and outspoken, but also frequently clandestine and a marked tendency to embrace the new religious ideas at the personal rather than the political level.

  • 41 That the distribution of heretical texts reached commoners on a vast level is clear from S. Seidel (...)
  • 42 A. J. Schutte, The Lettere Volgari and the Crisis of Evangelism in Italy, in Renaissance Quarterly, (...)

30On a more concrete level, the elites contributed decisively to this popular phase of the Italian reform movement in several ways. First, they played a major role in the circulation of heretical titles, from the quiet financing by a Venetian patrician of an Italian translation of Luther’s An den christlichen Adel deutscher Nation, to the instrumentation of the Beneficio di Cristo as a major form of propaganda, to the seemingly endless stream of books and pamphlets that Italian refugees such as Negri, Vergerio, and Curione sent back to their countrymen41. Secondly, they protected preachers who shared the Protestant message from pulpits throughout Italy. Thirdly, they supported teachers and humanists who quietly taught the new ideas, at times having their students comment, for example, on Calvin’s Institutes. Fourthly, they protected heretics in various ways, even at times offering financial support. Fifthly, they communicated not only within their immediate contexts but across the peninsula through their letters, constituting not so much a local but rather a regional or even a «national» movement42.

  • 43 On some of the barriers and possibilities of retrieving conversations from the early modern period, (...)

31But the most effective mode of propaganda and support was undoubtedly the one that is most difficult to trace: conversation43. For, while nobles often engaged in discussions exclusively with other members of the elite, we cannot overemphasize the frequent contacts that elite reformers established with popolani: with professionals, merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans. Italian urban life, in particular – despite the growing aristocratization of society in general – remained a sphere in which sociability across class or status lines was not uncommon. We must imagine the actions of the Italian elites therefore as taking place on a capillary level, through hundreds or even thousands of quiet conversations, as men of some influence sought to persuade others of their convictions. And in a few rare cases – in Lucca and Cremona most especially but also to some degree in Ferrara – the religious conversations gradually took on the form of embryonic churches in which the Reformed faith was celebrated in keeping with Calvinist teachings, ceremonies that deepened the bonds among those who, in the earliest stages, had been sympathetic to these new ideas.

  • 44 Martin, Venice’s Hidden Enemies... cit. n. 1, p. 76.

32A final complicating factor in understanding the role of the elites in the propagation of heretical ideas is the question of the «direction of influence». It is tempting to see the major channels of intellectual influence as coming from the top down. Yet, in northern Italy, the very vitality of urban life, with large concentrations of literate artisans and merchants, ensured a reciprocal process, especially given the ease with which Lutheran German students and merchants came to trade and study in Padua and Venice and with which Calvinist merchants from both France and Switzerland transacted business in Lucca. As a result the reform movement in Italy may have been facilitated by the elites, but it also percolated up from commoners who had been exposed to the new ideas on their own, through their travel, their business, their reading. But about the process through which ideas moved in northern Italy in this period we still know very little. Yet it does seem likely that those who brought nobles and commoners together were more often than not middling professionals – physicians, lawyers, apothecaries, printers, and humanists – who did much to help establish connections up and down the social hierarchy and, as in the case of Teofilo Panarelli in Venice, to bridge the gap between nobles and commoners in the cultivation of Protestant ideas. Curiosity brought men and women of different social standing together. In a memorial prepared for the Venetian Inquisition in 1561, for example, Girolamo Donzellino looked back on the 1540s with a certain nostalgia. To Donzellino, Padua, Rome, and Venice had been places that, since they were so full of people and visitors, of various social standing, and especially of writers [provided him with a special opportunity in those years] to make many friends and get to know many people. And he conveyed something of the flavor of the discussions of those times. «Now, our own age is so curious about religious questions», he continued, «that we are neither satisfied with nor able to settle down into the beliefs of our elders, and this is especially true of those of us who are well educated and interested in books – we are constantly seeking out the new teachings». Another humanist concurred: in Rome in 1567 at a trial that led to his execution, Carnesecchi spoke frankly of the conversazione continua that he had held in the Venice of the 1540s with others, like Vergerio and Altieri, who shared his views44.

33Early modern Italy was still largely a face-to-face society. Its nobles were not, by and large, isolated from other social groups. In northern Italy, with its advanced urban culture, the role of the elites could never have been an entirely one-way affair; it was always dynamic. What is certain, however, is that the ideas of Luther, Calvin, and Valdés animated discussions not only in the botteghe of weavers, cobblers, and printers but also in episcopal and ducal palaces. In such a context, prelates, courtiers, and patricians played a decisive role in enabling the propagation of heretical ideas in northern Italy throughout much of the sixteenth century, at least until the late 1560s. In 1567 Carnesecchi, after a long trial, was decapitated in at the Piazza Ponte Sant’Angelo in Rome, his body then burned even as a downpour slowed the fire into which his corpse had been thrown.

  • 45 J. O’Malley, Trent and All That: Renaming Catholicism in the Early Modern Era, Cambridge (Mass.), 2 (...)

34Yet, given the numerous studies of historians in recent years, it is no longer clear that the «failure» of the reform movement in Italy was the result of the repressive measures of the Inquisition alone. One the one hand, a far more nuanced image of the relation of the elites and the popular classes to the religious life of the peninsula has emerged. Early modern Italian Catholicism was itself dynamic. Lay participation in confraternities was high; noble families still sought places in convents for their younger daughters; elites hoped that their sons would find careers in the Church; the devotion to the cult of saints was as powerful as ever; and Italian elites, in both the city and the court, largely defined themselves and the destiny of their states through their close association to Catholic traditions45.

35But it seems that political conditions were even more decisive in ensuring the loyalty of the northern Italian elites to the Roman Church. The clearest example was, of course, the Papal States themselves in which the pope was also the prince, and it was virtually impossible to find leverage outside the politico-religious institutions of this ecclesiastical principality to support the new religious movements of the period. But even in the many duchies and republics to the north of Rome, elites in general would not have had the means to offer political support to the reform movement even had they wished to do so. Their own families were invested in Catholic institutions; bishops did not pose a threat to civic or princely autonomy; and magistrates and princes alike, as we have seen, recognized that the very survival of their states depended in no small measure on not alienating either France or Spain, both Catholic powers. In the end, this explains why so many of the elite supporters of the Italian reform movement were attracted to Valdesianism and to working within the structures of the Roman Church to achieve their spiritual goals. They had no place to stand outside the Church or outside political structures to offer a meaningful alternative. The elite support for the new religious ideas of the period undoubtedly gave various popular proponents of the reform fleeting hope for a Reformation in Venice or in Lucca, but, in the end, the elites were either forced to accept the status quo and view religious renewal as a profoundly personal quest or, if compelled by their beliefs, to leave Italy altogether.

  • 46 M. Bloch, Feudal Society, trans. L. Manyon, 2 vols., I, Chicago, 1961, p. 59. The great and now cla (...)

36Finally, while scholars of the Italian reform movement have brilliantly brought to life numerous aspects of the actions of the reformers themselves, disclosing a world of heretics, often with welldefined networks of preachers and printers that crisscrossed northern Italy, we still know very little about the social and political contexts in which these movements emerged and even flourished. It is not that social or political history can explain religious choices. But a more comprehensive effort on the part of students of the Italian reform movements – especially now that the Inquisitorial sources have been so carefully studied – to examine the interplay of social and political forces with the religious impulses of the period would go a long way in clarifying the factors that, in the end, blocked even the substantial effort of so many reformers to propagate their ideas. When one thinks of those places in Europe where the Reformation was successful, the Reformation was always the outgrowth of multiple forces and not merely religious ideas. Ideas – even deeply felt religious commitments – may constitute one factor in the making of a Reformation, but Luther needed his Duke Frederick just as the French Huguenots needed their noble patrons, especially the Prince of Condé. It is time, in the study of the Italian reform, to break down some of the walls that continue to divide those scholars who focus on the history of the territorial state in the early modern period from those who study the Italian reform movements. As Marc Bloch wrote now more than a half century ago: «For though the artificial conception of man’s activities which prompts us to carve up the creature of flesh and blood into the phantoms homo œconomicus, philosophicus, juridicus» – and we might add religiosus – «is doubtless necessary, it is tolerable only if we refuse to be deceived by it»46.

Notes

1 On Venice, see J. J. Martin, Venice’s Hidden Enemies: Italian Heretics in a Renaissance City, 2nd ed., Baltimore, 2003; on Modena, S. Peyronel Rambaldi, Speranze e crisi nel Cinquecento modenese: tensioni religiose e vita cittadina ai tempi di Giovanni Morone, Milan, 1979; on Bologna, A. Rotondò, Per la storia dell’eresia a Bologna nel secolo xvi, in Rinascimento, 13, 1962, p. 107-154, G. Dall’Olio, Eretici e inquisitori nella Bologna del Cinquecento, Bologna, 1999.

2 E. Fasano Guarini, Geographies of Power: The Territorial State in Early Modern Italy, in J. J. Martin (ed.), The Renaissance: Italy and Abroad, London, 2003, p. 89-103.

3 Among the vast literature devoted to this topic, see S. Seidel Menchi, Le traduzioni italiane di Lutero nella prima metà del Cinquecento, in Rinascimento, 17, 1977, p. 31-108.

4 On this concept in Machiavelli, see the celebrated essay by J. H. Hexter, in his The Vision of Politics on the Eve of the Reformation: More, Machiavelli, Seyssel, New York, 1973.

5 T. Dandelet and J. A. Marino, Spain in Early Modern Italy: Politics and Society, Leiden, forthcoming.

6 B. Hallman, Italian Cardinals, Reform, and the Church as Property, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1985.

7 On the role of the cult of saints in civic religion, see the important article by E. Muir, The Virgin on the Street Corner: The Place of the Sacred in Italian Cities, in S. Ozment (ed.), Religion and Culture in the Renaissance and Reformation, Kirksville (Mo.), 1988.

8 A. del Col and G. Paolin (ed.), L’Inquisizione romana in Italia nell’età moderna: archivi, problemi di metodo e nuove ricerche, Udine, 1991; the essay by S. Adorni-Braccesi offers an important account of the Lucchese government’s response to the request for the establishment of a branch of the Holy Office in that city.

9 M. Firpo, Riforma protestante ed eresie nell’Italia del Cinquecento, Rome-Bari, 1993, p. 130.

10 For the basic bibliography for these cities, see Ibid., p. 184-189.

11 H. G. Koenigsberger, Republics and Courts in Italian and European Culture in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, in Past and Present, 83, 1979, p. 32-56.

12 D. Cantimori, Eretici italiani del Cinquecento: ricerche storiche, Florence, 1939, p. viii.

13 See my Myths of Renaissance Individualism, New York, 2004, esp. ch. 2.

14 The term «elites» is elastic and can cover many groups, from feudal overlords, urban patricians, and cardinals to humanists and merchants and even skilled artisans. In this essay, I deliberately restrict my discussion to individuals of noble status, recognizing that the term «noble» was itself a fluid category in early modern Italy. For a concise overview of the shifting meanings of the term noble, see R. Goldthwaite, Wealth and the Demand for Art in Italy, 1300-1600, Baltimore, 1993, p. 199-203. An exemplary study of Italian elites is P. Burke, Culture and Society in Renaissance Italy, 1420-1540, New York, 1972, in which the author not only examines the social history of what he calls the «creative elite», but also the general structures of Renaissance society. His observation of 1972 is still true today: «Until more systematic studies have been made, any account of the social hierarchy must remain impressionistic». (p. 244).

15 E. Gleason, Gasparo Contarini: Venice, Rome, and Reform, Berkeley-Los Angeles, 1993.

16 M. Firpo, Tra alumbrados e «spirituali»: studi su Juan de Valdés e il Valdesianismo nella crisi religiosa del ‘500 italiano, Florence, 1990.

17 D. Fenlon, Heresy and Obedience in Tridentine Italy: Cardinal Pole and the Counter-Reformation, Cambridge, 1972.

18 S. Caponetto (ed.), Il Beneficio di Cristo, Florence, 1972.

19 A. J. Schutte, Pier Paolo Vergerio: The Making of an Italian Reformer, Geneva, 1977.

20 See Firpo’s essay on Soranzo in this volume.

21 M. Firpo, Inquisizione romana e controriforma: studi sul cardinal Giovanni Morone e il suo processo d’eresia, Bologna, 1992, esp. ch. 1.

22 I discuss the relationship of the courts to elite support for evangelical and other reform ideals in Myths of Renaissance Individualism, p. 55-61.

23 S. Pagano, Il processo di Endimio Calandra e l’Inquisizione a Mantova nel 1567-1568, Vatican City, 1991.

24 S. Caponetto, Motivi di riforma e Inquisizione nel ducato di Urbino nella prima metà del Cinquecento, in S. Caponetto, Studi sulla Riforma in Italia, Florence, 1987.

25 M. Firpo, Gli affreschi di Pontormo a San Lorenzo: Eresia, politica e cultura nella Firenze di Cosimo, I, Turin, 1997.

26 B. Fontana, Renata di Francia duchessa di Ferrara, Rome, 1888-99; cf. Charmarie Jenkins Blaisdell, Politics and Heresy in Ferrara, in Sixteenth Century Journal, 6, 1975, p. 67-93.

27 J.-C. Margolin, Une princesse d’inspiration érasmienne: Marguerite de France, duchesse de Berry, puis de Savoie, in Louis Terraux (ed.), Culture et pouvoir au temps de l’humanisme et de la Renaissance, Geneva, 1978.

28 On Lucca, see Adorni-Braccesi, «Una città infetta»: la repubblica di Lucca nella crisi religiosa del Cinquecento, Florence 1994; on Siena, V. Marchetti, Gruppi ereticali senesi nel Cinquecento, Florence, 1975; and on Florence, P. Simoncelli, Evangelismo italiano del Cinquecento: questione religiosa e nicodemismo politico, Rome, 1979.

29 On Modena, S. Peyronel Rambaldi, Speranze e crisi nel Cinquecento modenese... cit. n. 1; on Vicenza, A. Olivieri, Riforma ed eresia a Vicenza nel Cinquecento, Rome, 1972; on Cremona F. Chabod, Lo Stato e la vita religiosa a Milano nell’epoca di Carlo V, Turin, 1971, p. 315-319 and 357-361 on the ecclesia cremonensis.

30 B. Moeller, Imperial Cities and the Reformation, Durham (N.C.), 1982.

31 Historians of the Italian Reformation have been reluctant to adopt social historical approaches to the field. This is largely due to the sources which invite the exploration of individual lives and cases rather than to a consideration of the larger political and social structures in which the religious movements unfolded. Nonetheless more social historical analyses is a desideratum and should be pursued.

32 S. Adorni-Braccesi, «Una città infetta»... cit. n. 28, p. xii.

33 P. McNair, Peter Martyr Vermigli in Italy: An Anatomy of Apostasy, Oxford, 1972.

34 S. Adorni-Braccesi, «Una città infetta»... cit. n. 28, p. 287.

35 On Siena, V. Marchetti, Gruppi ereticali... cit. n. 28; on Florence, P. Simoncelli, Evangelismo italiano... cit. n. 28.

36 F. Ambrosini, Storie di patrizi e di eresia nella Venezia del ‘500, Milan, 1999, p. 94-96.

37 M. Firpo and D. Marcatto (ed.), I processi inquisitoriali di Pietro Carnesecchi (1557-1567), Vatican City, 1998, I, p. 532-523.

38 A. Stella, Utopie e velleità insurrezionali dei filpotestanti italiani, 1545-1547, in Bibliothèque d’Humanisme et Renaissance, 27, 1965, p. 133-182.

39 M. Firpo, Artisti, gioiellieri, eretici: il mondo di Lorenzo Lotto tra Riforma e Controriforma, Bari, 2001.

40 S. Seidel Menchi, Italy, in B. Scribner, R. Porter, and M. Teich (ed.), The Reformation in National Context, Cambridge, 1994, p. 189.

41 That the distribution of heretical texts reached commoners on a vast level is clear from S. Seidel Menchi, Erasmo in Italia, Turin, 1990.

42 A. J. Schutte, The Lettere Volgari and the Crisis of Evangelism in Italy, in Renaissance Quarterly, 28, 1975, p. 639-688.

43 On some of the barriers and possibilities of retrieving conversations from the early modern period, see R. Darnton, An Early Information Society, in American Historical Review, 105, 2000, p. 1-35.

44 Martin, Venice’s Hidden Enemies... cit. n. 1, p. 76.

45 J. O’Malley, Trent and All That: Renaming Catholicism in the Early Modern Era, Cambridge (Mass.), 2002 and W. V. Hudon, Religion and Society in Early Modern Italy – Old Questions, New Insights, in American Historical Review, 101, 1996, p. 783-804 both offer useful overviews of the recent scholarship on religion in sixteenth century Italy. See also R. Delph, M. F. Fontaine and J. J. Martin, Heresy, Culture, and Religion in Early Modern Italy: Contexts and Constestations forthcoming, for an effort to reframe the relationship of the Italian heresies to the broader culture.

46 M. Bloch, Feudal Society, trans. L. Manyon, 2 vols., I, Chicago, 1961, p. 59. The great and now classic work of Chabod, Lo Stato e la vita religiosa a Milano nell’epoca di Carlo V, remains, within the historiography of the Italian reform movement, the exception that proves the rule. Thankfully, there are signs that some of the barriers between political and religious history are coming down: see R. Bizzocchi, Church, Religion, and the State in the Early Modern Period, in The Journal of Modern History, supplement: The Origins of the State in Italy, 67, 1995, p. 152-165.

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