FOX'S BOOK OF MARTYRS
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,
1. The center of popery.
2. The seat of the pontiff.
3. 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,
1. By the immediate power of the pope.
2. Through the power of the Inquisition.
3. 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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:
1. That they did not believe in the doctrines of the Church of Rome.
2. That they made no offerings or prayers for the dead.
3. That they did not go to Mass.
4. That they did not confess, and receive absolution.
5. 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
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
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
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
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
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
1. 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
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. That if the Waldenses of the valleys of Piedmont refused to comply with
these propositions, persecution should ensue, and certain death be their
To each of these propositions the Waldenses nobly replied in the following
manner, answering them respectively:
1. That no considerations whatever should make them renounce their
2. That they would never consent to commit their best and most respectable
friends, to the custody and discretion of their worst and most inveterate
3. That they valued the approbation of the King of kings, who reigns in
heaven, more than any temporal authority.
4. 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
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
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
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
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
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.