Christopher Hare.

Men and women of the Italian reformation, by Christopher Hare [pseud.] online

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many dangers, for we might easily have fallen over
a deep precipice. . . .'"

And again when he expresses his hope of a change :

*' When I think on the good grounds which Car-
nesecchi has to calculate on the favour and help which
present themselves to him, as also on the goodwill
and mildness which Popes are wont to show when they
begin their rule, I do not for a moment doubt but

^ Besides the cypher, in these letters the friends have often a cautious
way of speaking of themselves and each other, in the third person.


that he will be rehabilitated and honourably re-
instated unless a Bull have been issued against him. . . .
In the meanwhile this has not yet been published,
and would be so unjust that it is to be hoped that
his sucxjessor will not carry it out — unless he should
prove to be an Alessandrino [Michele Ghislieri, who
became Pope in 1566. Pius V] — from him or any
one like him, may God preserve us ! ""

Giulia Gonzaga was naturally saddened by the loss
of dear friends and the perils of others, and she
greatly valued Carnesecchi's words of hope and
comfort. Thus he writes in January 1559 :

** What a beautiful thing is friendship, especially
when it is born of noble hopes and aims, growing
in depth as the years pass on and the judgment
strengthens, while the ultimate end is the love of
God. This we can truly say has been the friendship
between these two, whom God has blessed, and
bestowed upon them the grace to live and die in one
mind, happy in the same holy desires ; although
Carnesecchi cannot blame himself for his desire to
leave this world some time before Donna Giulia, not
only because he was born before her, although at no
great interval . . . but that he might perhaps, by
God's mercy, be of some service to guide her across
the dread passage to the world above. . . . And in
this pious and honourable devotion to each other, I
repeat once more that they are an example of rare
friendship. . . /'

In the following March, Pietro Carnesecchi writes
concerning :


"... The singular benefits which he had received
through her from the holy doctrine and conversation
of Valdes, whom he first learnt to know through Donna
Giuha, ... for of himself he would never have gained
that profound belief and trust which had wrought
such a change in him. . . . He could not say enough
to commemorate the wonderful consolation and
strengthening which he had received from Donna
Giulia, since the beginning of his trials, and of her
wise advice which had ruled his conduct throughout
the fiery trials which he had endured.'"

In another letter he makes an interesting remark
about his belief :

"... We have agreed together about this equivocal
word * catholic/ because as the Signora and I believe,
the catholic religion is ours, and this being so, I
cannot declare that I hold the catholic religion false
and superstitious ; but that which is universally
preached, and especially by most of the Friars, is
rather philosophy than reHgion, and more scholastic
than scriptural, and against the doctrine of the early
Fathers. "'

This point is well stated by a well-known writer : ^

" Italian Reformers had become convinced of the
necessity of a return to the simple elements of Christi-
anity in creed and conduct. They considered a
thorough-going reform by the hierarchy of all Catholic
institutions to be indispensable. They leaned to
the essential tenets of the Reformation — notably the

^ Addington Symonds, ''Renaissance in Italy,"


doctrine of justification by faith, and salvation by
the merits of Christ, and also to the doctrine that
Scripture is the sole authority in matters of belief
and discipline. Thus . . . those who imbibed the
teaching of Valdes in Naples fell under the suspicion
of heterodoxy on these points. But it was charac-
teristic of the members of this school that . . . they
shrank with horror from the thought of encouraging
a schism, or of severing themselves from the com-
munion of Catholics. ""



Death of Paul IV — Revolt in Rome — The people storm the Inquisition,
set free the prisoners — Carnesecchi remains in Rome to have
his sentence reversed — Long anxious waiting — He goes to Florence
— On the accession of Pius V (Michele Ghislieri), Carnesecchi is
given up by Cosimo Duke of Florence — He is taken to Rome, and
sufiFers martyrdom — His trial by the Inquisition

We have now reached a moment of intense interest
and excitement, not only for Pietro Carnesecchi, but
for all those in Italy who had adopted the Reformed
doctrines. The wonderful vigour of the old monkish
Pope, Paul IV, began to give way, and in many
letters to Giulia Gonzaga, her friend gives voice to
the general feeling of suspense and anxiety ; thus he
says in one of June 24, 1559 :

" Vostra Signoria will have heard of the progress
of the Pope's illness, and of the judgments which
are passed : but I will not dwell upon more than to
pray you to have comfort and patience, trusting that
all will be well for the safety and liberation of D.
Bartolomeo and of Morone, and also of the restitution
of Carnesecchi. . . .'"

At last arrives the news of the Pope's death, but
while he was still in the last agony, the populace rose
in fierce revolt and wild joy at being free from the

10 289


cruel persecutor. This was on August 18, 1559.
The story is graphically told by Alfred von Reumont.^

" In the Capitol, a decree was set forth by which
the prisons were to be opened ; then the wild masses
spread themselves throughout the city. They first
stormed the building of the Inquisition, they threw
all its documents out of the windows, and they
plundered the apartments of Cardinal GhisHeri, he
being the highest resident authority ; they did the
same to the other officials, personally maltreating
them ; they set fire to and burned part of the palace
down. The news of the Pope's death having spread,
they hurried to Santa Maria sopra Minerva, they set
free those who were imprisoned there, and would
have burnt down that convent and have thrown
the monks out of the windows, had they not been
prevented by Giuliano Cesarini. The other prisons,
the Torre Savella, the Tor di Nona, and that of the
Senators, were also broken open ; they set at liberty
four hundred prisoners, of whom . . . But they did
worse the day after the Pope's death. ...

" Some months before, a statue had been erected
to Paul IV in the Capitol. This statue now became
the object on which the people vented their fury. . . .
When the rejoicing attained its height on the third
day, the Sunday, all the inscriptions and arms of the
Caraffa were smashed and obliterated.''

Carnesecchi wrote to Giulia Gonzaga on September
2, 1559 :

" Vostra Signoria will have heard how the Holy

1 *' History of the City of Rome," vol. iii. part 2, p. 542.


Inquisition has died the same death which it was
accustomed to inflict upon others — that of fire. This
certainly remains a notable thing, from which it
appears that the judgments of that Office were not
pleasing to the Divine Clemency, and we trust that
in the future there will be less rigour and severity
than in the past/'

He then goes on to speak of the results of the
Pope's death, on September 9 :

" I have rejoiced at the departure of the Pope for
all respects, public and private ; but above all, I
am most deeply thankful from having heard that if
he had not passed away so soon, he would have
given the death- stroke to Donna GiuHa. ... in all
that happened we believe that we see the mercy of
God, Who permitted this in order to save Donna
Giulia and, for the love of her, all her friends and

After this we have an account of the Conclave,
when it seemed quite likely at first that either Cardinal
Morone might be elected, or Cardinal Gonzaga of
Mantua, who was a great friend of the Countess of
Fondi. Carnesecchi, believing in the justice of his
cause, had travelled to Rome to have his condemnation
by the Inquisition set aside. The College of Cardinals
had already set Morone free, and decided that the
process against him was null and void, false and
iniquitous ; and as such it was condemned to be
burnt. With regard to Morone, Pietro is very frank
for he writes : " Should Morone become Pope, we
could wish him to lay aside one fault which he


showed when lie voted for Paul IV ; his faint-

In the end the choice fell upon Cardinal Giovanni
Angelo Medici ; not one of the famous family at
Florence, but a Milanese of insignificant birth. He
took the name of Pius IV, and was in every way a
great contrast to the fiery dominant man who had
preceded him. This amiable, kindly disposed prelate
only wished to live at peace with all men, and ap-
parently for this reason, Carnesecchi found great
difficulty in persuading him to reopen the trial.
Meantime, Pietro was advised to live in complete
seclusion, and only to go out at night. Indeed he
was almost a prisoner in the Cloister of the Servites,
St. Marcellus, on the Corso. The revision of his
process dragged on wearily from week to week and
from month to month. Even Morone who was in
favour with Pius IV, scarcely dared to speak in his

On August 31, 1560, he wrote that he no longer
looked for his liberation from men, nor from the
Pope, but from God only. The Cardinal of Trent,
who had been appointed an Inquisitor, visited him
in his convent in September ; and in October, Cardinal
Seripando who was also one of his friends, went to
see him. Next the Duke Cosimo of Florence and his
wife came to Rome, and appear to have used their
influence in his favour. But on December 5, 1560,
Carnesecchi writes in despair :

" There is no progress ! The fault lies with the
Inquisitors, partly because they will not judge as
right and duty dictate. ... God, pardon them who
sin through ignorance ; but the others convert. . . ,


As to Seripando, he cannot be relied upon for he does
not take his seat at the tribunal ; he is sick, and
would willingly act the truant, for he well knows the
difficulties, and has not the courage to meet them

However at last, on December 13, Pietro was
admitted to the presence of the Pope, who had
decided to withdraw the process from the tribunal,
and to deliver judgment himself. The plaintiff
appears to have been a little doubtful as to the
wisdom of this, but he was more hopeful when he
wrote on the following January :

** I have had so much to do and consider in giving
my answers to my — shall I call them judges or
opponents ? — that I have scarcely found time to
eat and to sleep ; still less to write about my affairs
which encountered such a storm that at times I feared
shipwreck. But now I trust that all is well, and
that I am so near the haven as to be in safety.
My storms sprang from my refusal to deny the
favourable opinions which I hold of Valdes and of
Galeazzo Caraccioli. . . .'*

At last, after eighteen months of anxiety and
suffering, he was able to write, on May 8, 1561 :

** All has been considered ... by these my illustrious
and most reverend Lords Cardinals, and has ended
well ... as the enclosed document proves . . . which
I beg you to send to Monsignor Mario (Galeota,
Archbishop of Sorrento) ... in order that he may
now rejoice over my liberation. . , /'


Pietro Carnesecchi remained in Rome until October,
when lie went to Naples to salute the Countess of
Fondi and his other friends. He lodged with the
monks of San Giovanni, who were commanded by
Cardinal Seripando to make him welcome, but they
treated him with suspicion and dislike, as a heretic.
During the next few years, he travelled much, and
it is one of the accusations made in his final judgment
that '* he occupied himself with heretics in Rome,
in Naples, in Florence, in Venice and other parts of
Italy, supporting suspected persons with counsel
and with money."'

The last letter cited in these proceedings of the
Inquisition was one written to Giulia Gonzaga in
November 1563, from the Abbey of Casal Nuovo.

*' Be not surprised at my great activity or wanton-
ness, when you contemplate me rushing like Caesar
with such rapidity through Italy. ... I feel more
robust than ever ; it appears to be God's will to
compensate me here on earth for the sicknesses and
other afflictions which, sent by Him, I have patiently

In spite of all their warnings from abroad, those
friends of Carnesecchi who had fled to Geneva, could
not persuade him to leave his native land. Yet he
was full of anxious thought for Giulia, whom he
persuaded, in 1564, to send to him at Venice the
writings of Valdes which she had, lest the possession
of them should place her in danger. He appears to
have had some foreboding of the dark hour which
was drawing near.

Early in December of 1565, the mild and peace-loving


Pope Pius IV — who had achieved for the Church so
great a success at the Council of Trent, by his wise
diplomacy — passed away, to the deep regret of all
moderate churchmen. His nephew Carlo Borromeo,
the sainted Archbishop of Milan, had been a source
of strength to a Pope who had opened a new era
for the Church and who was able to pass on a sceptre
of undisputed authority to his successors. The Pope
elected by the Conclave was the inexorable Dominican
inquisitor of Paul IV, Michele GhisUeri, Cardinal of
Alexandria, who took the title of Pius V. Now
began an era of active hostiHty against Protestantism ;
fierce persecution of all suspected heretics in Italy,
and by the firm alliance with Philip II of Spain,
attacks upon the Huguenots in France, the Pro-
testants in Flanders, and the EngHsh throne.

Three months after the accession of Pius V, Car-
nesecchi had lost his '* revered queen, "" Giulia Gon-
zaga, who died at Naples on April 19, 1566 ; and in
the midst of his deep sorrow at this bereavement, he
must have thanked God that his beloved lady was
saved from the evil to come.

As for his own fate, he realized the imminence of
his danger now that his most bitter enemy had
attained supreme power. He sought protection at
the Court of his friend Duke Cosimo at Florence.
One day that summer, he was sitting as a guest at
the table of the Duke, when the friar TomasoManrique,
Master of the Papal palace, was announced, as come
on a special mission and desiring an interview.
Manrique produced a letter dated June 20, 1566, in
which after greeting Cosimo with the Apostolic
Benediction, he was called upon to dehver over
Carnesecchi into the hands of the Inquisition. The


Duke, who was probably prepared for the summons,
at once commanded his friend and guest to rise from
the table and surrender himself to the Papal mes-
senger. This shameful act of treachery on the part
of Cosimo found its full reward later when Pius V
bestowed upon him the crowning honour of his life ;
the long coveted title of " Grand Duke " of Tuscany.

Pietro Carnesecchi made a final attempt to protect
his friends by sending word to his household that
all his books and papers should be destroyed. The
only suspected works found were said to be Flaminio's
Apology for the *' Benefizio " and a manuscript,
dedicated to Giuha Gonzaga, entitled : ** Meditations
and Prayers on St. Paul's Epistles to the Romans.''
As for the numerous letters which had passed
between himself and the Countess of Fondi, a great
number must have been seized by the Inquisition, as
they were made to furnish leading evidence for the
condemnation of the accused.

Carnesecchi was taken a captive to Rome and
lodged in the prison of the Holy Office. Then
followed a long series of terribly wearisome and
trying examinations, and when these failed to obtain
evidence against his friends, the rack was freely
employed, but still without avail. The prisoner
wrote from his dungeon to Morone, to the Cardinal
of Trent, to the Abbot of San Soluto and to
Bartolomeo Concino ; but the letters were seized,
and only served with the judges of that dread
tribunal, to enhance his guilt. One pathetic sen-
tence was : " They would fain have me say of
the living and the dead, things which I do not
know and which they are so eager to hear.''

Through fifteen long months of imprisonment and


frequent torture, these awful examinations continued,
until at length, on August 16, 1567, sentence was
delivered by the tribunal of the Inquisition, and
published in Santa Maria sopra Minerva. The con-
demned man was then handed over to ** the secular
arm/' and led away to the most terrible and pesti-
lential prison in Rome, the Tor di Nona, near the
Porte St. Angelo, from which he was only to be
deHvered by a cruel death, inflicted with all the
infamy of a pubHc execution. For a month and more
Carnesecchi awaited death in the unspeakable horrors
of his dungeon, while no efforts were neglected to
induce him to recant. One Capuchin friar who came
to persuade him to save his life by denying his Faith,
was so much moved by his eloquent words, that he
dared not listen and departed in tears. In con-
sideration of his having been at one time a Papal
Protonotary, he was granted the favour of the
scaffold rather than the gallows, before his body should
be committed to the flames.

It was in the early morning of October 3, 1567,
that was enacted the final scene of this tragedy, and
it may be truly said that the martyr's faithful hfe
was crowned by his death. Carnesecchi was borne to
the Ponte St. Angelo, amidst the execrations and
curses of the fanatical rabble which crowded round
him, but he retained his courage and composure to
the last. They clothed him in a ** sanbenito," the
garment of heresy, painted over with flames and
devils, but he had insisted that he would at least
appear in clean linen, and he wore a white shirt, and
had a white handkerchief in his hand. He was first
beheaded, then burnt in the flames of the Inquisition,
and his ashes were cast into the Tiber. With him


suffered a Friar, Giulio Maresio, of the city of Cividale,
of the Order of Minor Friars.

The Inquisition had condemned on the same
occasion, fifteen other living heretics, who were
condemned to imprisonment for life or to the galleys.

The full account of the great Trial of Carnesecchi
is probably the most interesting and most instructive
of all the Records of the Roman Inquisition. It is
of special importance to us, apart from the accused
man himself, for he was but the figure-head, and the
real process was a cold-blooded arraignment of his
living friends, and above all of the illustrious dead.

In the roll-call of that heroic company of men
and women, we find the most honoured names,
revered by all the world — of those who through good
report and evil, had striven for the Reformation of the
Church, and had led the way by the example of their
saintly lives. Yet all the time, they had been secretly
watched and suspected by the Inquisition ; some
had been tried and condemned while others had only
escaped by forsaking all that made life dear to them,
and seeking a refuge as exiles in a foreign land. But
at the time of Carnesecchi's Trial, in 1566, most of
them had passed away in faith and hope — mercifully
spared the cruel ordeal and the flames of the *' Holy
Office."' To the familiars of the Inquisition, the
pursuit of heresy ceased not with the grave ; the
sacred memory of the dead was to be stained with
infamy, their glory blotted out with shameful con-
demnation. We see them pass before us in doomed
procession. First the earnest prelates and laymen
eager for the Church's reformation, who met for
prayer and meditation in the " Oratory of Divine
Love '' at Rome, led by Carafia, who as Pope Paul IV,


was the first to betray them. We have followed the
progress of Reform from city to city, the pious
company who gathered round Cardinal Pole and
Vittoria Colonna at Viterbo, those who formed a
devoted circle with Contarini in Venice, or sat at the
feet of Valdes in Naples, not to mention the groups
at Ferrara, at Florence and elsewhere.

With scarcely an exception, of these the living and
the dead were alike arraigned and condemned by
that fearful tribunal of Inquisitors, and Pietro
Carnesecchi was made the scapegoat for them all.
Here was the real tragedy of those fifteen long months
of martyrdom which he endured in body and spirit,
when day by day, and hour by hour, he was tortured
by subtle and deceptive questions, and entrapped in
every way by astute men of fatal inquisitorial ex-
perience and talent. Moreover, by means of spies
and the seizing of all private letters and papers, the
Inquisition had already the most intimate knowledge
of all that Carnesecchi and his friends had ever said
or written. This could naturally be distorted to
mean anything they wished to prove.

This is no mere general statement, but can be
proved beyond a doubt by the extraordinary chance
which has revealed the most secret Records of the
Roman Inquisition, in the case of this supremely
interesting Trial of Carnesecchi. * From these Records,
we have already seen how he was questioned at
interminable length wath regard to Vittoria Colonna,
Marchese di Pescara, and when this great lady had
been convicted of heresy, Carnesecchi was further
tortured to make him betray every one who had been
in communication with her. No one was sacred from
^ See note at the end of the book.


this Tribunal. The Countess of Fondi, Giulia Gonzaga,
whom he revered as a saint and was proud to call
** his Queen/' was accused of holding false doctrines,
and he was driven to despair by being entangled into
dangerous admissions with regard to her opinions.

It is true that the case of Giulia Gonzaga was
already pre-doomed, for on the accession of Pius V
(Michele Ghislieri) in 1566 he had come into posses-
sion of a chest containing a great number of her
letters to Carnesecchi and others. On reading these
papers, the Pope had declared that " if he had seen
these before her death, he would have taken good
care to burn her alive.''


Amongst other treasures which Napoleon I carried away from
Rome between 1810 and 1813, was an immense quantity of the most
secret Archives of the Vatican, no less than 45,818 volumes. The
conqueror proposed at that time to make Paris a central depot for the
archives of Europe. It was not until July 1817, that Louis XVIII
restored to Pius VII what was thought to be the whole of these valuable
documents. But in 1846, the Duke of Manchester bought a number
of Papal documents for £600, and these were examined in Ireland by
the Rev. Richard Gibbings, who was amazed to discover that amongst
these papers were the original MSS. of the Roman Inquisition, contain-
ing the whole of the "Trial of Pietro Carnesecchi, sometime Secretary
to Pope Clement VII and ApostoHc Protonotary."

These were ultimately placed in the Trinity College, Dublin. Here a
German scholar, Professor Karl Benrath, of Bonn, who had been engaged
for years on the study of the ItaUan Reformation, found these records
in 1876, and put in order the fifty-seven bound volumes and twelve
unbound ones. He discovered that fourteen volumes of the collection
contained original Records of the Roman Inquisition, being the final
judgments in the trials of Italian heretics, between December 16, 1564,
and the year 1679 (and a detailed account of the whole conduct of the
most typical of all, the Trial of Carnesecchi).

In a collection of the Archives of the Dandini Family, bought by
Count Giacomo Manzini in 1860, are documents which corroborate the
whole of the account given in the Records of the Inquisition of Car-
nesecchi's Trial.


Agostini, A. : Pietro Carneseccki e il movimento Valdesiano.

Florence, 1899.
Alberi, Eugenic : Vita di Caterina dei Medici. Firenze, 1838.
Archivio secreto del Vaticano.
Archivio di Stato in Modena.
Aubigne, Merle d' : Histoire de la Reformation en Europe au

temps de Calvin.
Auton, Jean d' : Histoire de Louis XII. Paris, 1625.
Baguenault de Puchesse, F. : Histoire du Concile de T rente.
Bala, Pietro : Storia di Clemente VII.
Beccatelli, Lodovico : Vita del Cardinale Gasparo Contarini.

Venice, 1563.
Bembo, Pietro : Opere. Milano, 1810.

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