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Peter Martyr

07. August 2017

Columns, Gentle Reformation,

  —Jared Olivetti

Historians agree that the Reformation’s impact on Italy was small enough to be called a failure. Yet Italy had great impact on the Reformation, not least through Peter Martyr Vermigli.

Piero Mariano was born in 1500 in Florence, where he was brought up learning Latin within a liberal education. At 16, he joined the Augustinians and studied under their tutelage, learning biblical languages and visiting various Italian universities. During this time, he took the name Peter Martyr after a 13th Century martyred friar.

After being elected as one of the few public preachers in the monasteries (1526), he read Ulrich Zwingli’s True and False Religion and some of Martin Bucer’s commentaries on Scripture.1 His Protestant ideas developed under the surface as he continued to serve the church. As he preached and taught on Scripture, he increasingly revealed the doctrines of the Reformation to others. Because of powerful friends, he remained safe for a while. In 1542, however, Pope Paul III established the Holy Office of the Inquisition. After this revival of the Roman Inquisition, Martyr saw his options were extremely limited and he escaped across the Alps, reaching Zurich by September.2 This was not paranoia. He was pursued and threatened throughout his life by Roman church ...

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