aA
aA
aA
History of the Christian Church, Volume VIII: Modern Christianity. The Swiss Reformation.
« Prev Protestantism in Chiavenna and the Valtellina,… Next »

§ 39. Protestantism in Chiavenna and the Valtellina, and its Suppression.

The Valtellina Massacre. George Jenatsch.


See literature in §§ 36 and 38, pp. 131 and 144 sq.


We pass now to the Italian dependencies of the Grisons, where Protestantism has had only a transient existence.

At Chiavenna the Reformed worship was introduced in 1544 by Agostino Mainardi, a former monk of Piedmont, under the protection of Hercules von Salis, governor of the province. He was succeeded by Jerome Zanchi (1516–1590), an Augustinian monk who had been converted by reading the works of the Reformers under the direction of Vermigli at Lucca, and became one of the most learned and acute champions of the Calvinistic system. He fled to the Grisons in 1551, and preached at Chiavenna. Two years later he accepted a call to a Hebrew professorship at Strassburg. There he got into a controversy with Marbach on the doctrine of predestination, which he defended with logical rigor. In 1563 he returned to Chiavenna as 245245    Schweizer, Centraldogmen der Ref. Kirche, I. 422 sqq.pastor. He had much trouble with restless Italian refugees and with the incipient heresy of Socinianism. In 1568 he left for Heidelberg, as professor of theology on the basis of the Palatinate Catechism, which in 1563 had been introduced under the pious Elector Frederick III. He prepared the way for Calvinistic scholasticism. A complete edition of his works appeared at Geneva, 1619, in three folio volumes.

Chiavenna had several other able pastors,—Simone Florillo, Scipione Lentulo of Naples, Ottaviano Meio of Lucca,

Small Protestant congregations were founded in the Valtellina, at Caspan (1546), Sondrio (the seat of government), Teglio, Tirano, and other towns. Dr. McCrie says: "Upon the whole, the number of Protestant churches to the south of the Alps appears to have exceeded twenty, which were all served, and continued till the end of the sixteenth century to be for the most part served, by exiles from Italy."

But Protestantism in Chiavenna, Bormio, and the Valtellina was at last swept out of existence. We must here anticipate a bloody page of the history of the seventeenth century.

Several causes combined for the destruction of Protestantism in Upper Italy. The Catholic natives were never friendly to the heretical refugees who settled among them, and called them banditi, which has the double meaning of exile and outlaw. They reproached the Grisons for receiving them after they had been expelled from other Christian countries. They were kept in a state of political vassalage, instead of being admitted to equal rights with the three leagues. The provincial governors were often oppressive, sold the subordinate offices to partisans, and enriched themselves at the expense of the inhabitants. The Protestants were distracted by internal feuds. The Roman Counter-Reformation was begun with great zeal and energy in Upper Italy and Switzerland by the saintly Cardinal Charles Borromeo, archbishop of Milan. Jesuits and Capuchins stirred up the hatred of the ignorant and superstitious people against the Protestant heretics. In the Grisons themselves the Roman Catholic party under the lead of the family of Planta, and the Protestants, headed by the family of Salis, strove for the mastery. The former aimed at the suppression of the Reformation in the leagues as well as the dependencies, and were suspected of treasonable conspiracy with Spain and Austria. The Protestant party held a court (Strafgericht, a sort of tribunal of inquisition) at Thusis in 1618, which included nine preachers, and condemned the conspirators. The aged Zambra, who in the torture confessed complicity with Spain, was beheaded; Nicolaus Rusca, an esteemed priest, leader of the Spanish Catholic interests in the Valtellina, called the hammer of the heretics, was cruelly tortured to death; Bishop John Flugi was deposed and outlawed; the brothers Rudolf and Pompeius Planta, the Knight Jacob Robustelli, and other influential Catholics were banished, and the property of the Plantas was confiscated.

These unrighteous measures created general indignation. The exiles fostered revenge, and were assured of Spanish aid. Robustelli returned, after his banishment, to the Valtellina, and organized a band of about three hundred desperate bandits from the Venetian and Milanese territories for the overthrow of the government of the Grisons and the extermination of Protestantism.

This is the infamous "Valtellina Massacre (Veltliner Mord) of July, 1620. It may be called an imitation of the Sicilian Vespers, and of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew. It was the fiendish work of religious fanaticism combined with political discontent. The tragedy began in the silence of the night, from July 18th to 19th, by the murder of sixty defenceless adult Protestants of Tirano; the Podesta Enderlin was shot down in the street, mutilated, and thrown into the Adda; Anton von Salis took refuge in the house of a Catholic friend, but was sought out and killed; the head of the Protestant minister, Anton Bassa of Poschiavo, was posted on the pulpit of the church. The murderers proceeded to Teglio, and shot down about the same number of persons in the church, together with the minister, who was wounded in the pulpit, and exhorted the hearers to persevere; a number of women and children, who had taken refuge in the tower of the church, were burnt. The priest of Teglio took part in the bloody business, carrying the cross in the left, and the sword in the right hand. At Sondrio, the massacre raged for three days. Seventy-one Protestants, by their determined stand, were permitted to escape to the Engadin, but one hundred and forty fell victims to the bandits; a butcher boasted of having murdered eighteen persons. Not even the dead were spared; their bodies were exhumed, burnt, thrown into the water, or exposed to wild beasts. Paula Baretta, a noble Venetian lady of eighty years, who had left a nunnery for her religious conviction, was shamefully maltreated and delivered to the Inquisition at Milan, where a year afterward she suffered death at the stake. Anna of Libo fled with a child of two years in her arms; she was overtaken and promised release on condition of abjuring her faith. She refused, saying, "You may kill the body, but not the soul;" she pressed her child to her bosom, and received the death-blow. When the people saw the stream of blood on the market-place before the chief church, they exclaimed: "This is the revenge for our murdered arch-priest Rusca!" He was henceforth revered as a holy martyr. At Morbegno the Catholics behaved well, and aided the Protestants in making their escape. The fugitives were kindly received in the Grisons and other parts of Switzerland. From the Valtellina Robustelli proceeded to Poschiavo, burnt the town of Brusio, and continued there the butchery of Protestants till he was checked.246246    Moderate Catholic historians dare not defend this massacre, any more than that of St. Bartholomew, but explain it as a terrible Nemesis and desperate self-vindication against the oppressions of the commissioners of the Grisons. So Fetz, who says (l.c. p. 113): "Die besonnenen Katholiken haben diese schauerliche Selbsthülfe, wodurch viele Unschuldige als Opfer der Rache gefallen, niemals gebilligt, andererseits konnten und können billig denkende Protestanten das arge Treiben der Prädicanten und reformirten Machthaber im Veltlin und Umgebung ebensowenig gutheissen, denn dieses arge Treiben war die erste und letzte Ursache der verzweifelten Selbsthülfe." But Italian Catholic writers (as Cantù) call it sacro macelio, a sacred slaughter!

The Valtellina declared itself independent and elected the Knight Robustelli military chief. The canons of the Council of Trent were proclaimed, papal indulgences introduced, the evangelical churches and cemeteries reconsecrated for Catholic use, the corpses of Protestants dug up, burnt, and cast into the river. Addresses were sent to the Pope and the kings of Spain and France, explaining and excusing the foul deeds by which the rebels claimed to have saved the Roman religion and achieved political freedom from intolerable tyranny.

Now began the long and bloody conflicts for the recovery of the lost province, in which several foreign powers took part. The question of the Valtellina (like the Eastern question in modern times) became a European question, and was involved in the Thirty Years’ War. Spain, in possession of Milan, wished to join hands with Austria across the Alpine passes of the Grisons; while France and Venice had a political motive to keep them closed. Austrian and Spanish troops conquered and occupied the Valtellina and the three leagues, expelled the Protestant preachers, and inflicted unspeakable misery upon the people. France, no less Catholic under the lead of Cardinal Richelieu, but jealous of the house of Habsburg, came to the support of the Protestants in the Grisons, as well as the Swedes in the north, and sent an army under the command of the noble Huguenot Duke Henri de Rohan, who defeated the Austrians and Spaniards, and conquered the Valtellina (1635).

The Grisons with French aid recovered the Valtellina by the stipulation of Chiavenna, 1636, which guaranteed to the three leagues all the rights of sovereignty, but on condition of tolerating no other religion in that province but the Roman Catholic. Rohan, who had the best intentions for the Grisons, desired to save Protestant interests, but Catholic France would not agree. He died in 1638, and was buried at Geneva.

The Valtellina continued to be governed by bailiffs till 1797. It is now a part of the kingdom of Italy, and enjoys the religious freedom guaranteed by the constitution of 1848.247247    The statuto fondamentale of Sardinia, which in 1870 was extended over all Italy, declares the Roman Catholic Church to be the state religion, but grants toleration to all other forms of worship. The Waldenses have recently established preaching stations at Chiavenna and other places of Upper Italy.

In this wild episode of the Thirty Years’ War, a Protestant preacher, Colonel Georg Jenatsch, plays a prominent figure as a romantic hero. He was born at Samaden in the Upper Engadin, 1590, studied for the Protestant ministry at Zürich, successively served the congregations at Scharans and at Berbenno in the Valtellina, and narrowly escaped the massacre at Sondrio by making his flight through dangerous mountain passes. He was an eloquent speaker, an ardent patriot, a shrewd politician, and a brave soldier, but ambitious, violent, unscrupulous, extravagant, and unprincipled. He took part in the cruel decision of the court of Thusis (1618), and killed Pompeius Planta with an axe (1621). He served as guide and counsellor of the Duke de Rohan, and by his knowledge, pluck, and energy, materially aided him in the defeat of Austria. Being disappointed in his ambition, he turned traitor to France, joined the Austrian party and the Roman Church (1635), but educated his children in the Protestant religion. He was murdered at a banquet in Coire (1639) by an unknown person in revenge for the murder of Pompeius Planta. He is buried in the Catholic church, near the bishop’s palace. A Capuchin monk delivered the funeral oration.248248    He is the hero of a drama by Arnold von Salis, and of a classical novel by the Swiss poet, Conrad Ferdinand Meyer (Jürg Jenatsch. Leipzig. 3d ed. 1882). A full biography of Jenatsch by Dr. E. Haffter is announced.



« Prev Protestantism in Chiavenna and the Valtellina,… Next »

Advertisements


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |