An Account of the Persecutions in Italy, Under the Papacy
We shall now enter on an account of the persecutions in Italy, a country which has been, and still is,
The center of popery. The seat of the pontiff. The source of the various errors which have spread themselves over other countries, deluded the minds of thousands, and diffused the clouds of superstition and bigotry over the human understanding.
In pursuing our narrative we shall include the most remarkable persecutions which have happened, and the cruelties which have been practised,
By the immediate power of the pope. Through the power of the Inquisition. By the bigotry of the Italian princes.
In the twelfth century, the first persecutions under the papacy began in Italy, at the time that Adrian, an Englishman, was pope, being occasioned by the following circumstances:
A learned man, and an excellent orator of Brescia, named Arnold, came to Rome, and boldly preached against the corruptions and innovations which had crept into the Church. His discourses were so clear, consistent, and breathed forth such a pure spirit of piety, that the senators and many of the people highly approved of, and admired his doctrines.
This so greatly enraged Adrian that he commanded Arnold instantly to leave the city, as a heretic. Arnold, however, did not comply, for the senators and some of the principal people took his part, and resisted the authority of the pope.
Adrian now laid the city of Rome under an interdict, which caused the whole body of clergy to interpose; and, at length he persuaded the senators and people to give up the point, and suffer Arnold to be banished. This being agreed to, he received the sentence of exile, and retired to Germany, where he continued to preach against the pope, and to expose the gross errors of the Church of Rome.
Adrian, on this account, thirsted for his blood, and made several attempts to get him into his hands; but Arnold, for a long time, avoided every snare laid for him. At length, Frederic Barbarossa arriving at the imperial dignity, requested that the pope would crown him with his own hand. This Adrian complied with, and at the same time asked a favor of the emperor, which was, to put Arnold into his hands. The emperor very readily delivered up the unfortunate preacher, who soon fell a martyr to Adrian’s vengeance, being hanged, and his body burnt to ashes, at Apulia. The same fate attended several of his old friends and companions.
Encenas, a Spaniard, was sent to Rome, to be brought up in the Roman Catholic faith; but having conversed with some of the reformed, and having read several treatises which they put into his hands, he became a Protestant. This, at length, being known, one of his own relations informed against him, when he was burnt by order of the pope, and a conclave of cardinals. The brother of Encenas had been taken up much about the same time, for having a New Testament in the Spanish language in his possession; but before the time appointed for his execution, he found means to escape out of prison, and retired to Germany.
Faninus, a learned layman, by reading controversial books, became of the reformed religion. An information being exhibited against him to the pope, he was apprehended, and cast into prison. His wife, children, relations, and friends visited him in his confinement, and so far wrought upon his mind, that he renounced his faith, and obtained his release. But he was no sooner free from confinement than his mind felt the heaviest of chains; the weight of a guilty conscience. His horrors were so great that he found them insupportable, until he had returned from his apostasy, and declared himself fully convinced of the errors of the Church of Rome. To make amends for his falling off, he now openly and strenuously did all he could to make converts to Protestantism, and was pretty successful in his endeavors. These proceedings occasioned his second imprisonment, but he had his life offered him if he would recant again. This proposal he rejected with disdain, saying that he scorned life upon such terms. Being asked why he would obstinately persist in his opinions, and leave his wife and children in distress, he replied, “I shall not leave them in distress; I have recommended them to the care of an excellent trustee.” “What trustee?” said the person who had asked the question, with some surprise: to which Faninus answered, “Jesus Christ is the trustee I mean, and I think I could not commit them to the care of a better.” On the day of execution he appeared remarkably cheerful, which one observing, said, “It is strange you should appear so merry upon such an occasion, when Jesus Christ himself, just before his death, was in such agonies, that he sweated blood and water.” To which Faninus replied: “Christ sustained all manner of pangs and conflicts, with hell and death, on our accounts; and thus, by his sufferings, freed those who really believe in him from the fear of them.” He was then strangled, his body was burnt to ashes, and then scattered about by the wind.
Dominicus, a learned soldier, having read several controversial writings, became a zealous Protestant, and retiring to Placentia, he preached the Gospel in its utmost purity, to a very considerable congregation. One day, at the conclusion of his sermon, he said, “If the congregation will attend to-morrow, I will give them a description of Antichrist, and paint him out in his proper colors.”
A vast concourse of people attended the next day, but just as Dominicus was beginning his sermon, a civil magistrate went up to the pulpit, and took him into custody. He readily submitted; but as he went along with the magistrate, he made use of this expression: “I wonder the devil hath let me alone so long.” When he was brought to examination, this question was put to him: “Will you renounce your doctrines?” To which he replied: “My doctrines! I maintain no doctrines of my own; what I preach are the doctrines of Christ, and for those I will forfeit my blood, and even think myself happy to suffer for the sake of my Redeemer.” Every method was taken to make him recant for his faith, and embrace the errors of the Church of Rome; but when persuasions and menaces were found ineffectual, he was sentenced to death, and hanged in the market place.
Galeacius, a Protestant gentleman, who resided near the castle of St. Angelo, was apprehended on account of his faith. Great endeavors being used by his friends he recanted, and subscribed to several of the superstitious doctrines propogated by the Church of Rome. Becoming, however, sensible of his error, he publicly renounced his recantation. Being apprehended for this, he was condemned to be burnt, and agreeable to the order was chained to a stake, where he was left several hours before the fire was put to the fagots, in order that his wife, relations, and friends, who surrounded him, might induce him to give up his opinions. Galeacius, however, retained his constancy of mind, and entreated the executioner to put fire to the wood that was to burn him. This at length he did, and Galeacius was soon consumed in the flames, which burnt with amazing rapidity and deprived him of sensation in a few minutes.
Soon after this gentleman’s death, a great number of Protestants were put to death in various parts of Italy, on account of their faith, giving a sure proof of their sincerity in their martyrdoms.
An Account of the Persecutions of Calabria
In the fourteenth century, many of the Waldenses of Pragela and Dauphiny, emigrated to Calabria, and settling some waste lands, by the permission of the nobles of that country, they soon, by the most industrious cultivation, made several wild and barren spots appear with all the beauties of verdure and fertility.
The Calabrian lords were highly pleased with their new subjects and tenants, as they were honest, quiet, and industrious; but the priests of the country exhibited several negative complaints against them; for not being able to accuse them of anythying bad which they did do, they founded accusations on what they did not do, and charged them,
With not being Roman Catholics.
With not making any of their boys priests.
With not making any of their girls nuns.
With not going to Mass.
With not giving wax tapers to their priests as offerings.
With not going on pilgrimages.
With not bowing to images.
The Calabrian lords, however, quieted the priests, by telling them that these people were extremely harmless; that they gave no offence to the Roman Catholics, and cheerfully paid the tithes to the priests, whose revenues were considerably increased by their coming into the country, and who, of consequence, ought to be the last persons to complain of them.
Things went on tolerably well after this for a few years, during which the Waldenses formed themselves into two corporate towns, annexing several villages to the jurisdiction of them. At length they sent to Geneva for two clergymen; one to preach in each town, as they determined to make a public profession of their faith. Intelligence of this affair being carried to the pope, Pius the Fourth, he determined to exterminate them from Calabria.
To this end he sent Cardinal Alexandrino, a man of very violent temper and a furious bigot, together with two monks, to Calabria, where they were to act as inquisitors. These authorized persons came to St. Xist, one of the towns built by the Waldenses, and having assembled the people, told them that they should receive no injury, if they would accept of preachers appointed by the pope; but if they would not, they should be deprived both of their properties and lives; and that their intentions might be known, Mass should be publicly said that afternoon, at which they were ordered to attend.
The people of St. Xist, instead of attending Mass, fled into the woods, with their families, and thus disappointed the cardinal and his coadjutors. The cardinal then proceeded to La Garde, the other town belonging to the Waldenses, where, not to be served as he had been at St. Xist, he ordered the gates to be locked, and all avenues guarded. The same proposals were then made to the inhabitants of La Garde, as had previously been offered to those of St. Xist, but with this additional piece of artifice: the cardinal assured them that the inhabitants of St. Xist had immediately come into his proposals, and agreed that the pope should appoint them preachers. This falsehood succeeded; for the people of La Garde, thinking what the cardinal had told them to be the truth, said they would exactly follow the example of their brethren at St. Xist.
The cardinal, having gained his point by deluding the people of one town, sent for troops of soldiers, with a view to murder those of the other. He, accordingly, despatched the soldiers into the woods, to hunt down the inhabitants of St. Xist like wild beasts, and gave them strict orders to spare neither age nor sex, but to kill all they came near. The troops entered the woods, and many fell a prey to their ferocity, before the Waldenses were properly apprised of their design. At length, however, they determined to sell their lives as dear as possible, when several conflicts happened, in which the half-armed Waldenses performed prodigies of valor, and many were slain on both sides. The greatest part of the troops being killed in the different rencontres, the rest were compelled to retreat, which so enraged the cardinal that he wrote to the viceroy of Naples for reinforcements.
The viceroy immediately ordered a proclamation to be made thorughout all the Neapolitan territories, that all outlaws, deserters, and other proscribed persons should be surely pardoned for their respective offences, on condition of making a campaign against the inhabitants of St. Xist, and continuing under arms until those people were exterminated.
Many persons of desperate fortunes came in upon this proclamation, and being formed into light companies, were sent to scour the woods, and put to death all they could meet with of the reformed religion. The viceroy himself likewise joined the cardinal, at the head of a body of regular forces; and, in conjunction, they did all they could to harass the poor people in the woods. Some they caught and hanged up upon trees, cut down boughs and burnt them, or ripped them open and left their bodies to be devoured by wild beasts, or birds of prey. Many they shot at a distance, but the greatest number they hunted down by way of sport. A few hid themselves in caves, but famine destroyed them in their retreat; and thus all these poor people perished, by various means, to glut the bigoted malice of their merciless persecutors.
The inhabitants of St. Xist were no sooner exterminated, than those of La Garde engaged the attention of the cardinal and viceroy.
It was offered, that if they should embrace the Roman Catholic persuasion, themselves and families should not be injured, but their houses and properties should be restored, and none would be permitted to molest them; but, on the contrary, if they refused this mercy, (as it was termed) the utmost extremities would be used, and the most cruel deaths the certain consequence of their noncompliance.
Notwithstanding the promises on one side, and menaces on the other, these worthy people unanimously refused to renounce their religion, or embrace the errors of popery. This exasperated the cardinal and viceroy so much, that thirty of them were ordered to be put immediately to the rack, as a terror to the rest.
Those who were put to the rack were treated with such severity that several died under the tortures; one Charlin, in particular, was so cruelly used that his belly burst, his bowels came out, and he expired in the greatest agonies. These barbarities, however, did not answer the purposes for which they were intended; for those who remained alive after the rack, and those who had not felt the rack, remained equally constant in their faith, and boldly declared that no tortures of body, or terrors of mind, should ever induce them to renounce their God, or worship images.
Several were then, by the cardinal’s order, stripped stark naked, and whipped to death iron rods; and some were hacked to pieces with large knives; others were thrown down from the top of a large tower, and many were covered over with pitch, and burnt alive.
One of the monks who attended the cardinal, being naturally of a savage and cruel disposition, requested of him that he might shed some of the blood of these poor people with his own hands; when his request being granted, the barbarous man took a large sharp knife, and cut the throats of fourscore men, women, and children, with as little remorse as a butcher would have killed so many sheep. Every one of these bodies were then ordered to be quartered, the quarters placed upon stakes, and then fixed in different parts of the country, within a circuit of thirty miles.
The four principal men of La Garde were hanged, and the clergyman was thrown from the top of his church steeple. He was terribly mangled, but not quite killed by the fall; at which time the viceroy passing by, said, “Is the dog yet living? Take him up, and give him to the hogs,” when, brutal as this sentence may appear, it was executed accordingly.
Sixty women were racked so violently, that the cords pierced their arms and legs close to the bone; when, being remanded to prison, their wounds mortified, and they died in the most miserable manner. Many others were put to death by various cruel means; and if any Roman Catholic, more compassionate than the rest, interceded for any of the reformed, he was immediately apprehended, and shared the same fate as a favorer of heretics.
The viceroy being obliged to march back to Naples, on some affairs of moment which required his presence, and the cardinal being recalled to Rome, the marquis of Butane was ordered to put the finishing stroke to what they had begun; which he at length effected, by acting with such barbarous rigor, that there was not a single person of the reformed religion left living in all Calabria.
Thus were a great number of inoffensive and harmless people deprived of their possessions, robbed of their property, driven from their homes, and at length murdered by various means, only because they would not sacrifice their consciences to the superstitions of others, embrace idolatrous doctrines which they abhorred, and accept of teachers whom they could not believe.
Tyranny is of three kinds, viz., that which enslaves the person, that which seizes the property, and that which prescribes and dictates to the mind. The two first sorts may be termed civil tyranny, and have been practiced by arbitrary sovereigns in all ages, who have delighted in tormenting the persons, and stealing the properties of their unhappy subjects. But the third sort, viz., prescribing and dictating to the mind, may be called ecclesiastical tyranny: and this is the worst kind of tyranny, as it includes the other two sorts; for the Romish clergy not only do torture the body and seize the effects of those they persecute, but take the lives, torment the minds, and, if possible, would tyrannize over the souls of the unhappy victims.
Account of the Persecutions in the Valleys of Piedmont
Many of the Waldenses, to avoid the persecutions to which they were continually subjected in France, went and settled in the valleys of Piedmont, where they increased exceedingly, and flourished very much for a considerable time.
Though they were harmless in their behavior, inoffensive in their conversation, and paid tithes to the Roman clergy, yet the latter could not be contented, but wished to give them some distrubance: they, accordingly, complained to the archbishop of Turin that the Waldenses of the valleys of Piedmont were heretics, for these reasons:
That they did not believe in the doctrines of the Church of Rome. That they made no offerings or prayers for the dead. That they did not go to Mass. That they did not confess, and receive absolution. That they did not believe in purgatory, or pay money to get the souls of their friends out of it.
Upon these charges the archbishop ordered a persecution to be commenced, and many fell martyrs to the superstitious rage of the priests and monks.
At Turin, one of the reformed had his bowels torn out, and put in a basin before his face, where they remained in his view until he expired. At Revel, Catelin Girard being at the stake, desired the executioner to give him a stone; which he refused, thinking that he meant to throw it at somebody; but Girard assuring him that he had no such design, the executioner complied, when Girard, looking earnestly at the stone, said, “When it is in the power of a man to eat and digest this solid stone, the religion for which I am about to suffer shall have an end, and not before.” He then threw the stone on the ground, and submitted cheerfully to the flames. A great many more of the reformed were oppressed, or put to death, by various means, until the patience of the Waldenses being tired out, they flew to arms in their own defence, and formed themselves into regular bodies.
Exasperated at this, the bishop of Turin procured a number of troops, and sent against them; but in most of the skirmishes and engagements the Waldenses were successful, which partly arose from their being better acquainted with the passes of the valleys of Piedmont than their adversaries, and partly from the desperation with which they fought; for they well knew, if they were taken, they should not be considered as prisoners of war, but tortured to death as heretics.
At length, Philip VII, duke of Savoy, and supreme lord of Piedmont, determined to interpose his authority, and stop these bloody wars, which so greatly disturbed his dominions. He was not willing to disoblige the pope, or affront the archbishop of Turin; nevertheless, he sent them both messages, importing that he could not any longer tamely see his dominions overrun with troops, who were directed by priests instead of officers, and commanded by prelates instead of generals; nor would he suffer his country to be depopulated, while he himself had not been even consulted upon the occasion.
The priests, finding the resolution of the duke, did all they could to prejudice his mind against the Waldenses; but the duke told them, that though he was unacquainted with the religious tenets of these people, yet he had always found them quiet, faithful, and obedient, and therefore he determined they should be no longer persecuted.
The priests now had recourse to the most palpable and absurd falsehoods: they assured the duke that he was mistaken in the Waldenses for they were a wicked set of people, and highly addicted to intemperance, uncleanness, blasphemy, adultery, incest, and many other abominable crimes; and that they were even monsters in nature, for their children were born with black throats, with four rows of teeth, and bodies all over hairy.
The duke was not so devoid of common sense as to give credit to what the priests said, though they affirmed in the most solemn manner the truth of their assertions. He, however, sent twelve very learned and sensible gentlemen into the Piedmontese valleys, to examine into the real character of the inhabitants.
These gentlemen, after travelling through all their towns and villages, and conversing with people of every rank among the Waldenses returned to the duke, and gave him the most favorable account of these people; affirming, before the faces of the priests who vilified them, that they were harmless, inoffensive, loyal, friendly, industrious, and pious: that they abhorred the crimes of which they were accused; and that, should an individual, through his depravity, fall into any of those crimes, he would, by their laws, be punished in the most exemplary manner. “With respect to the children,” the gentlemen said, “the priests had told the most gross and ridiculous falsities, for they were neither born with black throats, teeth in their mouths, nor hair on their bodies, but were as fine children as could be seen. And to convince your highness of what we have said, (continued one of the gentlemen) we have brought twelve of the principal male inhabitants, who are come to ask pardon in the name of the rest, for having taken up arms without your leave, though even in their own defence, and to preserve their lives from their merciless enemies. And we have likewise brought several women, with children of various ages, that your highness may have an opportunity of personally examining them as much as you please.”
The duke, after accepting the apology of the twelve delegates, conversing with the women, and examining the children, graciously dismissed them. He then commanded the priests, who had attempted to mislead him, immediately to leave the court; and gave strict orders, that the persecution should cease throughout his dominions.
The Waldenses had enjoyed peace many years, when Philip, the seventh duke of Savoy, died, and his successor happened to be a very bigoted papist. About the same time, some of the principal Waldenses proposed that their clergy should preach in public, that every one might know the purity of their doctrines: for hitherto they had preached only in private, and to such congregations as they well knew to consist of none but persons of the reformed religion.
On hearing these proceedings, the new duke was greatly exasperated, and sent a considerable body of troops into the valleys, swearing that if the people would not change their religion, he would have them flayed alive. The commander of the troops soon found the impracticability of conquering them with the number of men he had with him, he, therefore, sent word to the duke that the idea of subjugating the Waldenses, with so small a force, was ridiculous; that those people were better acquainted with the country than any that were with him; that they had secured all the passes, were well armed, and resolutely determined to defend themselves; and, with respect to flaying them alive, he said, that every skin belonging to those people would cost him the lives of a dozen of his subjects.
Terrified at this information, the duke withdrew the troops, determining to act not by force, but by stratagem. He therefore ordered rewards for the taking of any of the Waldenses, who might be found straying from their places of security; and these, when taken, were either flayed alive, or burnt.
The Waldenses had hitherto only had the New Testament and a few books of the Old, in the Waldensian tongue; but they determined now to have the sacred writings complete in their own language. They, therefore, employed a Swiss printer to furnish them with a complete edition of the Old and New Testaments in the Waldensian tongue, which he did for the consideration of fifteen hundred crowns of gold, paid him by those pious people.
Pope Paul the third, a bigoted papist, ascending the pontifical chair, immediately solicited the parliament of Turin to persecute the Waldenses, as the most pernicious of all heretics.
The parliament readily agreed, when several were suddenly apprehended and burnt by their order. Among these was Bartholomew Hector, a bookseller and stationer of Turin, who was brought up a Roman Catholic, but having read some treatises written by the reformed clergy, was fully convinced of the errors of the Church of Rome; yet his mind was, for some time, wavering, and he hardly knew what persuasion to embrace.
At length, however, he fully embraced the reformed religion, and was apprehended, as we have already mentioned, and burnt by order of the parliament of Turin.
A consultation was now held by the parliament of Turin, in which it was agreed to send deputies to the valleys of Piedmont, with the following propositions:
That if the Waldenses would come to the bosom of the Church of Rome, and embrace the Roman Catholic religion, they should enjoy their houses, properties, and lands, and live with their families, without the least molestation. That to prove their obedience, they should send twelve of their principal persons, with all their ministers and schoolmasters, to Turin, to be dealt with at discretion. That the pope, the king of France, and the duke of Savoy, approved of, and authorized the proceedings of the parliament of Turin, upon this occasion. That if the Waldenses of the valleys of Piedmont refused to comply with these propositions, persecution should ensue, and certain death be their portion.
To each of these propositions the Waldenses nobly replied in the following manner, answering them respectively:
That no considerations whatever should make them renounce their religion. That they would never consent to commit their best and most respectable friends, to the custody and discretion of their worst and most inveterate enemies. That they valued the approbation of the King of kings, who reigns in heaven, more than any temporal authority. That their souls were more precious than their bodies.
These pointed and spirited replies greatly exasperated the parliament of Turin; they continued, with more avidity than ever, to kidnap such Waldenses as did not act with proper precaution, who were sure to suffer the most cruel deaths. Among these, it unfortunately happened, that they got hold of Jeffery Varnagle, minister of Angrogne, whom they committed to the flames as a heretic.
They then solicited a considerable body of troops of the king of France, in order to exterminate the reformed entirely from the valleys of Piedmont; but just as the troops were going to march, the Protestant princes of Germany interposed, and threatened to send troops to assist the Waldenses, if they should be attacked. The king of France, not caring to enter into a war, remanded the troops, and sent word to the parliament of Turin that he could not spare any troops at present to act in Piedmont. The members of the parliament were greatly vexed at this disappointment, and the persecution gradually ceased, for as they could only put to death such of the reformed as they caught by chance, and as the Waldenses daily grew more cautious, their cruelty was obliged to subside, for want of objects on whom to exercise it.
After the Waldenses had enjoyed a few years tranquillity, they were again disturbed by the following means: the pope’s nuncio coming to Turin to the duke of Savoy upon business, told that prince he was astonished he had not yet either rooted out the Waldenses from the valleys of Piedmont entirely, or compelled them to enter into the bosom of the Church of Rome. That he could not help looking upon such conduct with a suspicious eye, and that he really thought him a favorer of those heretics, and should report the affair accordingly to his holiness the pope.
Stung by this reflection, and unwilling to be misrepresented to the pope, the duke determined to act with the greatest severity, in order to show his zeal, and to make amends for former neglect by future cruelty. He, accordingly, issued express orders for all the Waldenses to attend Mass regularly on pain of death. This they absolutely refused to do, on which he entered the Piedmontese valleys, with a formidable body of troops, and began a most furious persecution, in which great numbers were hanged, drowned, ripped open, tied to trees, and pierced with prongs, thrown from precipices, burnt, stabbed, racked to death, crucified with their heads downwards, worried by dogs, etc.
Those who fled had their goods plundered, and their houses burnt to the ground: they were particularly cruel when they caught a minister or a schoolmaster, whom they put to such exquisite tortures, as are almost incredible to conceive. If any whom they took seemed wavering in their faith, they did not put them to death, but sent them to the galleys, to be made converts by dint of hardships.
The most cruel persecutors, upon this occasion, that attended the duke, were three in number, viz. 1. Thomas Incomel, an apostate, for he was brought up in the reformed religion, but renounced his faith, embraced the errors of popery, and turned monk. He was a great libertine, given to unnatural crimes, and sordidly solicitous for plunder of the Waldenses. 2. Corbis, a man of a very ferocious and cruel nature, whose business was to examine the prisoners. 3. The provost of justice, who was very anxious for the execution of the Waldenses, as every execution put money in his pocket.
These three persons were unmerciful to the last degree; and wherever they came, the blood of the innocent was sure to flow. Exclusive of the cruelties exercised by the duke, by these three persons, and the army, in their different marches, many local barbarities were committed. At Pignerol, a town in the valleys, was a monastery, the monks of which, finding they might injure the reformed with impunity, began to plunder the houses and pull down the churches of the Waldenses. Not meeting with any opposition, they seized upon the persons of those unhappy people, murdering the men, confining the women, and putting the children to Roman Catholic nurses.
The Roman Catholic inhabitants of the valley of St. Martin, likewise, did all they could to torment the neighboring Waldenses: they destroyed their churches, burnt their houses, seized their properties, stole their cattle, converted their lands to their own use, committed their ministers to the flames, and drove the Waldenses to the woods, where they had nothing to subsist on but wild fruits, roots, the bark of trees, etc.
Some Roman Catholic ruffians having seized a minister as he was going to preach, determined to take him to a convenient place, and burn him. His parishioners having intelligence of this affair, the men armed themselves, pursued the ruffians, and seemed determined to rescue their minister; which the ruffians no sooner perceived than they stabbed the poor gentleman, and leaving him weltering in his blood, made a precipitate retreat. The astonished parishioners did all they could to recover him, but in vain: for the weapon had touched the vital parts, and he expired as they were carrying him home.
The monks of Pignerol having a great inclination to get the minister of a town in the valleys, called St. Germain, into their power, hired a band of ruffians for the purpose of apprehending him. These fellows were conducted by a treacherous person, who had formerly been a servant to the clergyman, and who perfectly well knew a secret way to the house, by which he could lead them without alarming the neighborhood. The guide knocked at the door, and being asked who was there, answered in his own name. The clergyman, not expecting any injury from a person on whom he had heaped favors, immediately opened the door; but perceiving the ruffians, he started back, and fled to a back door; but they rushed in, followed, and seized him. Having murdered all his family, they made him proceed towards Pignerol, goading him all the way with pikes, lances, swords, etc. He was kept a considerable time in prison, and then fastened to the stake to be burnt; when two women of the Waldenses, who had renounced their religion to save their lives, were ordered to carry fagots to the stake to burn him; and as they laid them down, to say, “Take these, thou wicked heretic, in recompense for the pernicious doctrines thou hast taught us.” These words they both repeated to him; to which he calmly replied, “I formerly taught you well, but you have since learned ill.” The fire was then put to the fagots, and he was speedily consumed, calling upon the name of the Lord as long as his voice permitted.
As the troops of ruffians, belonging to the monks, did great mischief about the town of St. Germain, murdering and plundering many of the inhabitants, the reformed of Lucerne and Angrogne, sent some bands of armed men to the assistance of their brethren of St. Germain. These bodies of armed men frequently attacked the ruffians, and often put them to the rout, which so terrified the monks, that they left the monastery of Pignerol for some time, until they could procure a body of regular troops to guard them.
The duke not thinking himself so successful as he at first imagined he should be, greatly augmented his forces; he ordered the bands of ruffians, belonging to the monks, to join him, and commanded that a general jail-delivery should take place, provided the persons released would bear arms, and form themselves into light companies, to assist in the extermination of the Waldenses.
The Waldenses, being informed of the proceedings, secured as much of their properties as they could, and quitted the valleys, retired to the rocks and caves among the Alps; for it is to be understood that the valleys of Piedmont are situated at the foot of those prodigious mountains called the Alps, or the Alpine hills.
The army now began to plunder and burn the towns and villages wherever they came; but the troops could not force the passes to the Alps, which were gallantly defended by the Waldenses, who always repulsed their enemies: but if any fell into the hands of the troops, they were sure to be treated with the most barbarous severity.
A soldier having caught one of the Waldenses, bit his right ear off, saying, “I will carry this member of that wicked heretic with me into my own country, and preserve it as a rarity.” He then stabbed the man and threw him into a ditch.
A party of the troops found a venerable man, upwards of a hundred years of age, together with his granddaughter, a maiden, of about eighteen, in a cave. They butchered the poor old man in the most inhuman manner, and then attempted to ravish the girl, when she started away and fled from them; but they pursuing her, she threw herself from a precipice and perished.
The Waldenses, in order the more effectually to be able to repel force by force, entered into a league with the Protestant powers of Germany, and with the reformed of Dauphiny and Pragela. These were respectively to furnish bodies of troops; and the Waldenses determined, when thus reinforced, to quit the mountains of the Alps, (where they must soon have perished, as the winter was coming on,) and to force the duke’s army to evacuate their native valleys.
The duke of Savoy was now tired of the war; it had cost him great fatigue and anxiety of mind, a vast number of men, and very considerable sums of money. It had been much more tedious and bloody than he expected, as well as more expensive than he could at first have imagined, for he thought the plunder would have dischanged the expenses of the expedition; but in this he was mistaken, for the pope’s nuncio, the bishops, monks, and other ecclesiastics, who attended the army and encouraged the war, sunk the greatest part of the wealth that was taken under various pretences. For these reasons, and the death of his duchess, of which he had just received intelligence, and fearing that the Waldenses, by the treaties they had entered into, would become more powerful than ever, he determined to return to Turin with his army, and to make peace with the Waldenses.
This resolution he executed, though greatly against the will of the ecclesiastics, who were the chief gainers, and the best pleased with revenge. Before the articles of peace could be ratified, the duke himself died, soon after his return to Turin; but on his deathbed he strictly enjoined his son to perform what he intended, and to be as favorable as possible to the Waldenses.
The duke’s son, Charles Emmanuel, succeeded to the dominions of Savoy, and gave a full ratification of peace to the Waldenses, according to the last injunctions of his father, though the ecclesiastics did all they could to persuade him to the contrary.
An Account of the Persecutions in Venice
While the state of Venice was free from inquisitors, a great number of Protestants fixed their residence there, and many converts were made by the purity of the doctrines they professed, and the inoffensiveness of the conversation they used.
The pope being informed of the great increase of Protestantism, in the year 1542 sent inquisitors to Venice to make an inquiry into the matter, and apprehend such as they might deem obnoxious persons. Hence a severe persecution began, and many worthy persons were martyred for serving God with purity, and scorning the trappings of idolatry.
Various were the modes by which the Protestants were deprived of life; but one particular method, which was first invented upon this occasion, we shall describe; as soon as sentence was passed, the prisoner had an iron chain which ran through a great stone fastened to his body. He was then laid flat upon a plank, with his face upwards, and rowed between two boats to a certain distance at sea, when the two boats separated, and he was sunk to the bottom by the weight of the stone.
If any denied the jurisdiction of the inquisitors at Venice, they were sent to Rome, where, being committed purposely to damp prisons, and never called to a hearing, their flesh mortified, and they died miserably in jail.
A citizen of Venice, Anthony Ricetti, being apprehended as a Protestant, was sentenced to be drowned in the manner we have already described. A few days previous to the time appointed for his execution, his son went to see him, and begged him to recant, that his life might be saved, and himself not left fatherless. To which the father replied, “A good Christian is bound to relinquish not only goods and children, but life itself, for the glory of his Redeemer: therefore I am resolved to sacrifice every thing in this transitory world, for the sake of salvation in a world that will last to eternity.”
The lords of Venice likewise sent him word, that if he would embrace the Roman Catholic religion, they would not only give him his life, but redeem a considerable estate which he had mortgaged, and freely present him with it. This, however, he absolutely refused to comply with, sending word to the nobles that he valued his soul beyond all other considerations; and being told that a fellow-prisoner, named Francis Sega, had recanted, he answered, “If he has forsaken God, I pity him; but I shall continue steadfast in my duty.” Finding all endeavors to persuade him to renounce his faith ineffectual, he was executed according to his sentence, dying cheerfully, and recommending his soul fervently to the Almighty.
What Ricetti had been told concerning the apostasy of Francis Sega, was absolutely false, for he had never offered to recant, but steadfastly persisted in his faith, and was executed, a few days after Ricetti, in the very same manner.
Francis Spinola, a Protestant gentleman of very great learning, being apprehended by order of the inquisitors, was carried before their tribunal. A treatise on the Lord’s Supper was then put into his hands and he was asked if he knew the author of it. To which he replied, “I confess myself to be the author of it, and at the same time solemnly affirm, that there is not a line in it but what is authorized by, and consonant to, the holy Scriptures.” On this confession he was committed close prisoner to a dungeon for several days.
Being brought to a second examination, he charged the pope’s legate, and the inquisitors, with being merciless barbarians, and then represented the superstitions and idolatries practised by the Church of Rome in so glaring a light, that not being able to refute his arguments, they sent him back to his dungeon, to make him repent of what he had said.
On his third examination, they asked him if he would recant his error. To which he answered that the doctrines he maintained were not erroneous, being purely the same as those which Christ and his apostles had taught, and which were handed down to us in the sacred writings. The inquisitors then sentenced him to be drowned, which was executed in the manner already described. He went to meet death with the utmost serenity, seemed to wish for dissolution, and declaring that the prolongation of his life did but tend to retard that real happiness which could only be expected in the world to come.
An Account of Several Remarkable Individuals, Who Were Martyred in Different Parts of Italy, on Account of Their Religion
John Mollius was born at Rome, of reputable parents. At twelve years of age they placed him in the monastery of Gray Friars, where he made such a rapid progress in arts, sciences, and languages that at eighteen years of age he was permitted to take priest’s orders.
He was then sent to Ferrara, where, after pursuing his studies six years longer, he was made theological reader in the university of that city. He now, unhappily, exerted his great talents to disguise the Gospel truths, and to varnish over the error of the Church of Rome. After some years residence in Ferrara, he removed to the university of Behonia, where he became a professor. Having read some treatises written by ministers of the reformed religion, he grew fully sensible of the errors of popery, and soon became a zealous Protestant in his heart.
He now determined to expound, accordingly to the purity of the Gospel, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, in a regular course of sermons. The concourse of people that continually attended his preaching was surprising, but when the priests found the tenor of his doctrines, they despatched an account of the affair to Rome; when the pope sent a monk, named Cornelius, to Bononia, to expound the same epistle, according to the tenets of the Church of Rome. The people, however, found such a disparity between the two preachers that the audience of Mollius increased, and Cornelius was forced to preach to empty benches.
Cornelius wrote an account of his bad success to the pope, who immediately sent an order to apprehend Mollius, who was seized upon accordingly, and kept in close confinement. The bishop of Bononia sent him word that he must recant, or be burnt; but he appealed to Rome, and was removed thither.
At Rome he begged to have a public trial, but that the pope absolutely denied him, and commanded him to give an account of his opinions, in writing, which he did under the following heads:
Original sin. Free-will. The infallibility of the church of Rome. The infallibility of the pope. Justification by faith. Purgatory. Transubstantiation. Mass. Auricular confession. Prayers for the dead. The host. Prayers for saints. Going on pilgrimages. Extreme unction. Performing services in an unknown tongue, etc., etc.
All these he confirmed from Scripture authority. The pope, upon this occasion, for political reasons, spared him for the present, but soon after had him apprehended, and put to death, he being first hanged, and his body burnt to ashes, A.D. 1553.
The year after, Francis Gamba, a Lombard, of the Protestant persuasion, was apprehended, and condemned to death by the senate of Milan. At the place of execution, a monk presented a cross to him, to whom he said, “My mind is so full of the real merits and goodness of Christ that I want not a piece of senseless stick to put me in mind of Him.” For this expression his tongue was bored through, and he was afterward burnt.
A.D. 1555, Algerius, a student in the university of Padua, and a man of great learning, having embraced the reformed religion, did all he could to convert others. For these proceedings he was accused of heresy to the pope, and being apprehended, was committed to the prison at Venice.
The pope, being informed of Algerius’s great learning, and surprising natural abilities, thought it would be of infinite service to the Church of Rome if he could induce him to forsake the Protestant cause. He, therefore, sent for him to Rome, and tried, by the most profane promises, to win him to his purpose. But finding his endeavors ineffectual, he ordered him to be burnt, which sentence was executed accordingly.
A.D. 1559, John Alloysius, being sent from Geneva to preach in Calabria, was there apprehended as a Protestant, carried to Rome, and burnt by order of the pope; and James Bovelius, for the same reason, was burnt at Messina.
A.D. 1560, Pope Pius the Fourth, ordered all the Protestants to be severely persecuted throughout the Italian states, when great numbers of every age, sex, and condition, suffered martyrdom. Concerning the cruelties practiced upon this occasion, a learned and humane Roman Catholic thus spoke of them, in a letter to a noble lord:
“I cannot, my lord, forbear disclosing my sentiments, with respect to the persecution now carrying on: I think it cruel and unnecessary; I tremble at the manner of putting to death, as it resembles more the slaughter of calves and sheep, than the execution of human beings. I will relate to your lordship a dreadful scene, of which I was myself an eye witness: seventy Protestants were cooped up in one filthy dungeon together; the executioner went in among them, picked out one from among the rest, blindfolded him, led him out to an open place before the prison, and cut his throat with the greatest composure. He then calmly walked into the prison again, bloody as he was, and with the knife in his hand selected another, and despatched him in the same manner; and this, my lord, he repeated until the whole number were put to death. I leave it to your lordship’s feelings to judge of my sensations upon this occasion; my tears now wash the paper upon which I give you the recital. Another thing I must mention–the patience with which they met death: they seemed all resignation and piety, fervently praying to God, and cheerfully encountering their fate. I cannot reflect without shuddering, how the executioner held the bloody knife between his teeth; what a dreadful figure he appeared, all covered with blood, and with what unconcern he executed his barbarous office.”
A young Englishman who happened to be at Rome, was one day passing by a church, when the procession of the host was just coming out. A bishop carried the host, which the young man perceiving, he snatched it from him, threw it upon the ground, and trampled it under his feet, crying out, “Ye wretched idolaters, who neglect the true God, to adore a morsel of bread.” This action so provoked the people that they would have torn him to pieces on the spot; but the priests persuaded them to let him abide by the sentence of the pope.
When the affair was represented to the pope, he was so greatly exasperated that he ordered the prisoner to be burnt immediately; but a cardinal dissuaded him from this hasty sentence, saying that it was better to punish him by slow degrees, and to torture him, that they might find out if he had been instigated by any particular person to commit so atrocious an act.
This being approved, he was tortured with the most exemplary severity, notwithstanding which they could only get these words from him, “It was the will of God that I should do as I did.”
The pope then passed this sentence upon him.
That he should be led by the executioner, naked to the middle, through the streets of Rome. That he should wear the image of the devil upon his head. That his breeches should be painted with the representation of flames. That he should have his right hand cut off. That after having been carried about thus in procession, he should be burnt.
When he heard this sentence pronounced, he implored God to give him strength and fortitude to go through it. As he passed through the streets he was greatly derided by the people, to whom he said some severe things respecting the Romish superstition. But a cardinal, who attended the procession, overhearing him, ordered him to be gagged.
When he came to the church door, where he trampled on the host, the hangman cut off his right hand, and fixed it on a pole. Then two tormentors, with flaming torches, scorched and burnt his flesh all the rest of the way. At the place of execution he kissed the chains that were to bind him to the stake. A monk presenting the figure of a saint to him, he struck it aside, and then being chained to the stake, fire was put to the fagots, and he was soon burnt to ashes.
A little after the last-mentioned execution, a venerable old man, who had long been a prisoner in the Inquisition, was condemned to be burnt, and brought out for execution. When he was fastened to the stake, a priest held a crucifix to him, on which he said, “If you do not take that idol from my sight, you will constrain me to spit upon it.” The priest rebuked him for this with great severity; but he bade him remember the First and Second Commandments, and refrain from idolatry, as God himself had commanded. He was then gagged, that he should not speak any more, and fire being put to the fagots, he suffered martyrdom in the flames.
An Account of the Persecutions in the Marquisate of Saluces
The Marquisate of Saluces, on the south side of the valleys of Piedmont, was in A.D. 1561, principally inhabited by Protestants, when the marquis, who was proprietor of it, began a persecution against them at the instigation of the pope. He began by banishing the ministers, and if any of them refused to leave their flocks, they were sure to be imprisoned, and severely tortured; however, he did not proceed so far as to put any to death.
Soon after the marquisate fell into the possession of the duke of Savoy, who sent circular letters to all the towns and villages, that he expected the people should all conform to go to Mass. The inhabitants of Saluces, upon receiving this letter, returned a general epistle, in answer.
The duke, after reading the letter, did not interrupt the Protestants for some time; but, at length, he sent them word that they must either conform to the Mass, or leave his dominions in fifteen days. The Protestants, upon this unexpected edict, sent a deputy to the duke to obtain its revocation, or at least to have it moderated. But their remonstrances were in vain, and they were given to understand that the edict was absolute.
Some were weak anough to go to Mass, in order to avoid banishment, and preserve their property; others removed, with all their effects, to different countries; and many neglected the time so long that they were obliged to abandon all they were worth, and leave the marquisate in haste. Those, who unhappily stayed bheind, were seized, plundered, and put to death.