We’re big on “Reformed Irenicism” around here. Do we have it now? Maybe, I dunno. Did we have it before? Yes, at least sometimes. We can catch a glimpse of what it looked like in the 16th century in the case of one of its most significant sons, the Italian Protestant Peter Martyr Vermigli. Herewith some notes on Vermigli’s career and connections from Marvin W. Anderson’s entry on him in vol. 3 of the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation.
- Vermigli began as an Augustinian Canon and “entered the University of Padua in 1518 to study Aristotle.” From there he moved around a bit, and “[w]hile residing in Rome between May 1536 and April 1537, he may have assisted in the remarkable reform proposals that Gasparo Contarini (1483-1542) and others presented to Pope Paul III in 1537.” Josiah Simler, a contemporary of Vermigli, notes that the two conversed daily about religious topics.
- Vermigli became prior of San Frediano at Lucca in 1541, but shortly after was forced to flee because of the Inquisition (1542). “Girolamo Zanchi…and the Hebraist Emanueli Tremelli would join him in exile.”
- In October of that year Vermigli went from Basel to Strasbourg, whither he had been invited by Martin Bucer. There, he occupied the chair of divinity formerly held by Wolfgang Capito.
- In 1548, Vermigli left for England, whither he had been invited by Thomas Cranmer in 1547 and became Regius Professor at Christ Church, Oxford. While in England, he aided in the composition of the 1552 Book of Common Prayer. “The British Library contains a copy of the Oxford Disputatio [on the Eucharist] (1549) with marginal notes in King Edward VI‘s own hand.” After the death of Edward VI in 1553, Vermigli returned to Strasbourg, and in 1556 departed for Zurich.
- “While in Zurich Vermigli was often invited by John Calvin to pastor the Genevan Italian congregation and to lecture for him.”
- The published version of Vermigli’s 1558 lectures on Romans were dedicated to Queen Elizabeth I.
- In 1559, Vermigli wrote a work against Gardiner “at Cranmer‘s personal request.”
- At Zurich, he lectured on the books of Samuel, “which Theodore de Beze and Heinrich Bullinger used in manuscript.”
- In 1561, Vermigli wrote a treatise on the two natures of Christ whose preface was written to John Jewel. In that same year, “he attended with Beze the Colloquy of Poissy.”
- The next year he “contributed a preface to Jewel‘s influential Apologia ecclesiae anglicanae.”
- When he died in Zurich on November 12, 1562, Conrad Gessner and Heinrich Bullinger were present.
Think about that list for a second.
No, really: think about it.
None of this, incidentally, means that Vermigli was a latitudinarian, as his disputes with Stephen Gardiner and Johannes Brenz demonstrate. The fact that he drew the lines differently from many in the modern world does not make him an indifferentist.