- Predicazione e Inquisizione nell’Italia del Cinquecento: Ippolito Chizzola tra eresia e controversia antiprotestante by Giorgio Caravale
Ippolito Chizzola (1521–65) got his hands dirty in the religious and political turmoil of sixteenth-century Italy. Chizzola was a minor figure in the broad circle of elite religious reformers and political manipulators in Rome and northern Italy in the postTridentine period. His success as a renowned preacher and writer came only after accusations of heterodoxy, an Inquisition trial, and an apparently heartfelt recantation. Chizzola’s careers as a close associate of well-known religious doubters, as an enthusiastic anti-Protestant polemicist, and later as a spy and factotum for Duke Cosimo I Medici bring us close to his powerful contemporaries and show us the inner workings of sixteenth-century institutions. Giorgio Caravale, in this thorough and informed report, has given Chizzola his first in-depth study.
Chizzola spent his youth in the monastery of San Salvatore in Sant’Afra in Brescia, where he grew close to his older confrere, Celso Martinengo (later a Protestant supporter); they were both influenced by Peter Martyr Vermigli. Caravale convincingly shows, in the first three chapters, how interest in heterodoxy was a natural aspect of conversation and study in Chizzola’s intellectual circles in Brescia and its environs. He traces the rhetorical techniques of dissimulation that characterized a network of Protestant sympathizers and inspired inquisitors to insist on ever more explicit declarations of orthodoxy.
The middle section of the book examines the documentation for Chizzola’s heresy trial. His views on confession veered dangerously close to those of Desiderius Erasmus. Chizzola, like Erasmus, emphasized the need for internal readiness before confession, and relied on evasion and ambiguity, as had many other intellectuals in Italy distantly inspired by Martin Luther. The trial took place during the very months when the Tridentine decree on confession was being elaborated, after which point preachers were ordered to preach explicitly anti-Protestant doctrine. Whereas some of his companions chose heresy and exile, Chizzola, to their surprise, undertook a radical aboutface, devoting the rest of his life to vehement anti-Protestant preaching and writing.
The final chapters of the book examine Chizzola’s activities after the trial, when he became an informer for Cosimo I in Rome under Pope Pius IV through various struggles between the papacy and the College of Cardinals, and through Cosimo’s attempts in the early 1560s to influence the outcome of the election of the Holy Roman Emperor. [End Page 791]
Caravale has reconstructed Chizzola’s trial in its entirety, allowing us to see his intellectual and political evolution. Caravale’s ability to situate Chizzola’s trial within broader Tridentine concerns and the growth of the Inquisition is very valuable. He has also helpfully included, in two appendices, the documents relating to Chizzola’s Inquisition trial and fifty-four unedited letters sent or received by Chizzola, primarily between himself and Cosimo I or Ercole Gonzaga. These appendices constitute about 40 percent of the book and will be useful for the growing number of Inquisition scholars and for those studying the Medici political sphere.
The book’s strict focus on Chizzola’s trial and his later political activities has left some issues unaddressed. Caravale devotes relatively little attention to the text and content of Chizzola’s written work. Chizzola’s sermons and treatises raise important questions about shifting definitions of orthodoxy within Catholicism. Although a historian and not a literary scholar, Caravale might have paid some attention to Chizzola’s use of the vernacular and its implications for the religious significance of the laity; these were urgent concerns in Chizzola’s circles. A review of previous scholarship and a complete bibliography of Chizzola’s work would also have been helpful. But Caravale’s meticulous scholarship and prodigious archival discoveries have paved the way for other scholars to pursue these themes.