Wars of religion and the Inquisition

 Guerre di religione e Inquisizione   DCM-002
04 February 2023

Gigliola Fragnito is a historian and has dealt extensively with the relations between religion, culture and power in the early modern age.

In her latest book Il condottiero eretico - Gian Galeazzo Sanseverino prigioniero dell’Inquisizione [The Heretic Leader - Gian Galeazzo Sanseverino Prisoner of the Inquisition] (ed. Il Mulino) she recounts an event that occurred in the years of the Wars of Religion, which is only partially known about. The event is that of the Count of Caiazzo and Colorno, who “for more than twenty years in the service of the French monarchy and militant in the royal army against the Huguenots, during a brief stay in the Parma feud, in December 1570, was arrested, transferred to the Roman prisons of the Inquisition and tried for alleged adherence to Calvinism”.  This was the time of Pius V’s papacy.

The author relies on the trial details preserved in the Archive of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and a wealth of largely unpublished documentation.

The leader was freed on September 19,1571, when “he could finally, after kissing the feet of His Holiness, leave Rome to return to serve the French monarchy”.

This all happened less than a year after imprisonment, at a time when the Holy Office used to take years to issue a sentence. Fragnito emphasises “the anger of the royalty transmitted to Pius V” but also “the far from karst disagreement between the pontiff and the Congregation. There were constant derogations to inquisitorial decrees in favour of the prisoner that provoked it. The pope would have even authorised to go to the thermal waters of Abano or Acqui to treat wounds sustained on the battlefield, if the inquisitors had not objected”.