An Account of the Persecutions in Italy, Under the Papacy (13/35)
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.”