Fruits of Migration. Heterodox Italian migrants and Central European Culture 1550-1620

Department of History Studies (DiSSGeA), University of Padua
28.09.2017 - 29.09.2017
Alessandra Quaranta, Università degli Studi di Trento

International historiography has developed a profound awareness that individual and collective migrations for religious reasons, which invested Europe during the early modern period, generated material and cultural exchanges. In turn, the latter contributed to the shaping of new realities, beyond religious intolerance. However, the impact of Italian migrants in German territories from the point of view of the transmission of philosophical ideas, political languages and technical skills has not yet received sufficient attention. This was the starting point of the workshop that was held at the University of Padua on 28 and 29 September 2017: “Fruits of Migration. Heterodox Italian migrants and Central European Culture 1550-1620”. The workshop was based on precirculated papers, intending to improve the outcomes of an identically entitled collective volume in the series Intersections, Brill, edited by Cornel Zwierlein and Vincenzo Lavenia.

In his opening speech, VINCENZO LAVENIA (Macerata) stressed the fact that, although “Eretici italiani del Cinquecento” (1939) by Delio Cantimori, a pioneering investigation into Italian religionis causa migrations at the time of the Protestant Reformation, marked the beginning of a historiographic current which later proved to be extremely fertile, Italian exile experiences in Northern Europe were somewhat marginalised by 20th-century historical studies. In addition, limited coverage was given to German territories as a destination for Italian exiles, although some of them actually moved to those lands.

Today, following the opening of the Archives of the Holy Office (1998), with the studies carried out by Massimo Firpo on the Spanish theologian Juan de Valdés and his spiritualist movement, and Italian historians freeing themselves from abstract elements, such as the supposed cultural primacy of the Italian peninsula during the Renaissance, the atmosphere surrounding researches on Italian religious history in the 16th and 17th centuries has changed. Therefore, those who study cultural contacts in the modern age, particularly the ones brought about by migrations, cannot neglect the history of books nor the history of political information, nor the history of material exchange, nor the history of the transmission of philosophical, artistic and legal languages. In this perspective, CORNEL ZWIERLEIN (Erfurt) underlined how a large group of second- and third-generation Italian heretics found new positions within princely courts, universities and trading environments in Northern Europe. It is therefore fair to wonder what of the Italian Late Renaissance forms of literature, philosophy, political languages and technical skills these exiles transferred to Northern Europe. Leaving specifically theological issues to a side, which were dealt with by Italian theologians, the workshop participants rather attempted to seize the cultural impact that the Italian diaspora had on German territories.

The first section was dedicated to material exchanges accompanying migrations, which concerned mainly books. Through a complex network of channels, Italian forms of knowledge – philosophical, medical, legal and political – were transferred to German territories, where they found new interpretations. The first paper, discussed by MARCO CAVARZERE (Erlangen), illustrated the effects of the strategies adopted by the Roman Curia in order to limit the transmission of books which were considered dangerous both for the hierarchical structure of the Roman Catholic Church and for its cultural and philosophical vision. Rome had to plan diversified interventions according to the political and legal contexts in which it was acting, and its action led to different outcomes. On the one hand, in the multiconfessional territories of the German Empire, the book censorship imposed by the Congregation of the Index and by the Roman Inquisition encountered many difficulties. On the other hand, the Index exercised a relatively effective control over the Italian book market. This is proved by the death sentence passed on Pietro Longo (1588), who used to transfer forbidden books from Frankfurt to Venice. However, the coercive measures imposed by the Roman Curia did not prevent Germany from receiving innovative philosophical doctrines, such as the ones of Franciscus Patricius from Cres, an anti-Aristotelian philosopher, strongly opposed by the Catholic Church. The transmission of Patricius’s ideas beyond the Alps – as observed by MARGHERITA PALUMBO (an independent scholar) – was capillary, and was able to count on the transalpine circulation of his printed books in various Italian towns, on publishing initiatives by printers in German-speaking areas, and on the Frankfurt book fair. The heretic physician Girolamo Donzellini from Brescia was in close contact with Patricius. His experience, as well as the experience of two other physicians exiled to German-speaking territories Marcello Squarcialupi from Piombino (Lucca) and Taddeo Duni from the Canton of Ticino, were retraced by ALESSANDRA QUARANTA (Trento). The profound reasons and ultimate outcomes of the religionis causa exile of the above-mentioned physici cannot be understood without placing it in the wider context of the Respublica medicorum, the international community of medical practitioners. Starting from their exile experiences, the three physicians covered true and new paths of medical-scientific knowledge and built professional and friendship networks with influential German practitioners. In actual fact, social and professional relations were one of the most important instruments for Italians to pursue a career abroad. With a network of moral and material support, consisting of culturally prominent figures, Immanuel Tremellius – a Jew from Ferrara who converted to Christianity and sympathised for the sola fide doctrine of justification – managed to reach high professional levels, working in the best European universities. As emerged in the paper by KENNETH AUSTIN (Bristol), Tremellius offered an important contribution to Protestantism in Northern Europe: through his action, the Italian cultural milieu in which Beneficio di Cristo (1543) – a work connected with the Spanish movement of alumbradism – was developed was transmitted to Northern Europe. Italian cultural influence found its intermediaries not only among Italian scientists, but also among important German figures. On this matter, PAOLA MOLINO (Padua) observed that the political language used in the anonymous news-sheets circulating in Rome forged the political ideas of Wolfgang Zündelin, who adopted the Italian vocabulary and point of view to update his friend Joachim Camerarius the Elder on the evolution of the Italian political and confessional situation. Zündelin’s letters can be considered as a reinvention of news-sheets addressed to individuals rather than to a wide public. Italian religious uniformity, however, did not affect Zündelin’s Protestantism.

The second section focused on the transfer of religious content. MICHELE CAMAIONI (Rome) talked about Bernardino Ochino, a Capuchin friar originally from Siena. His sermons and doctrinal treatises were soon translated into several languages and used by Protestants as a means of religious propaganda at different times and in different European contexts. Ochino, who was in Augsburg from August 1545 to January 1547, obtained the patronage of the German trade oligarchy, on behalf of which he carried out an intense preaching activity, insisting on the sola fide doctrine of justification. Marcantonio Flaminio’s religious poetry was also characterised by wide circulation. GIOVANNI FERRONI (London) showed how the Italian reformer, considered as the most authoritative and reliable continuator of Juan de Valdés’s theological thought, became one of the most representative voices of the Italian Reformation, serving as a bridge between reformed Northern Europe and the Southern cradle of Humanism. All his philosophical, poetic and religious works, which were the fruit of the Middle and Late Renaissance literary and spiritual experience, mainly circulated in France, Switzerland, the Flanders and Germany. “Narrationes de Flaminio” (1571) allowed Flaminio’s religious poetry to circulate in German territories and represented the first attempt to carry out a critical evaluation of his biography, faith and work. Unlike Ochino and Flaminio’s cases, however, there is no certainty about the confessional position of all the Italians who emigrated, and who contributed to the European cultural climate. The doctrinal convictions of Jacopo Strada – an architect at the service of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II of Habsburg – still remain rather ambiguous. DIRK JACOB JANSEN (Gotha) demonstrated that, on the one hand, Strada nurtured professional relations with many Protestants and provided some Italian exiles with material and financial support, but on the other hand there is no documentary evidence proving his allegiance to Protestant doctrines or his refusal of Catholic ones.

In the light of what has been said, it not surprising that the first mention of Niccolò Machiavelli beyond the Alps is to be found in a letter written to Erasmus in 1535 by the exile Angelo Odoni, who was in Strasbourg at the time. From 1560, the Latin translation work carried out by another Italian religious refugee, Silvestro Tegli, allowed Machiavelli’s political thought to start spreading across the Central-European Republic of scholars. However, as underlined by CORNEL ZWIERLEIN, between 1535 and the 1560s, the first traces of Machiavelli’s reception in Northern Europe were due to a quadrangular connection: the first translations from Italian into French, their subsequent spread to the Netherlands and their impact on the German Empire. In German territories, some of the most influential political figures, like Lazarus von Schwendi, showed an active reception of Machiavelli, and various texts written in German started to emulate his method for providing governors with political advice. Francesco Guicciardini’s political aphorisms, known as “Ricordi”, also widely circulated across Europe, just like Machiavelli’s. The first edition of “Ricordi” was edited by the Florentine exile Jacopo Corbinelli and published in Paris in 1576. MARIA ELENA SEVERINI’s paper (Florence) showed that the approach adopted by Corbinelli, who reorganised the collection into a sort of manual for daily political practice, offered a paradigm that was later imitated and modulated by the other editors according to their specific intentions. A reception process was triggered, in parallel with the proliferation of the editions based on Corbinelli’s, when the 1582 Venetian edition of “Ricordi” was translated into Latin and started to circulate in the German academic environment, stimulating the debate on man’s political abilities: the art of dissimulation, the ability to exercise power reconciling it with the unpredictability of reality, and caution. Political and legal influences also went in the opposite direction: from German to Italian territories. While retracing the stages of the German reflection around the so-called freie Reichstädte, i.e. towns directly subjected to imperial jurisdiction, LUCIA BIANCHIN’s paper (Trento) evoked the “Epistula de statu reipublicae Norimbergensis” written by jurist Christoph Gottlieb von Scheurl on the constitution of Nuremberg, one of the most important freie Städte of the Empire. From mid-15th century, the Italian version of the “Epistula” was included in some of the legal-constitutional treatises published in Venice. The “Epistula” was fundamental for the history of Nuremberg and the subsequent revision of the town’s regulations.

The last paper, by NEIL TARRANT (Edinburgh), offered a reflection around Italian liberal historiography in the 20th century, represented by Delio Cantimori, Benedetto Croce and Luigi Firpo. With due distinction, the three historians conveyed the idea that Italians who had sought refuge beyond the Alps, and experienced religious intolerance, promoted the values of freedom of conscience, opening the door to the values of the Enlightenment. The three historians therefore set the exiles’ experiences in a deterministic perspective of prefiguration of later values. This historiographic attitude, however, can induce to associate modern values exclusively with the community of exiles, as well as to a misleading interpretation of the thought of some of those exiles. Furthermore, Cantimori, Croce and Firpo’s studies disregarded exiles who gave important contributions to art, music and science.

The workshop provided a broad interpretation of Italian migrations in the 16th century, enhancing the cultural and material interactions deriving from those migrations and highlighting both the peculiarity of each experience and their significant overall impact on later developments of 17th-century “Italianate” Baroque culture. In some cases, like with Tremellius and Flaminio, the authors’ fortune and their contribution to the Reformation would have been less significant without the interaction with the German-speaking world. Not all Italian exiles found in Protestant doctrines a safe answer to the religious crisis brought about by the Reformation, nor did their exile always reflect their expectations. The workshop opened new paths of research, which, in the future, will have to concentrate on the role of Italian and German cultural mediators, on book circulation – which cannot be reduced to the history of Roman censorship – and, above all, on the possible transmigration of specifically Italian contents of knowledge.

Conference Overview:

Paola Molino

Vincenzo Lavenia, Cornel Zwierlein

Books and Materiality of Contacts

Marco Cavarzere (FAU Erlangen): An Interrupted Dialogue? Book Circulation between Italy and Protestant Germany.
Paola Molino (Università di Padova): “Fallaci con faccia tanto del verisimile”: sources and language of the news between the Holy Roman Empire and the Italian States.
Margherita Palumbo (Indipendent scholar): Books on the run. The migration of the Italian philosophy.
Alessandra Quaranta (Università di Trento): Exile Experiences “religionis causa” and Transmission of Medical Knowledge between Italy and German-speaking Territories in the second Half of the16th Century.

Literature and Theology

Michele Camaioni (Università Roma III / Universität Tübingen): Bernardino Ochino and German Reformation. The Augsburg’s Sermons and Flugschriften of an Italian Heretic (1543-1560 ca.).
Giovanni Ferroni (UCL London): Marcantonio Flaminio’s German Readers.
Dirk Jacob Jansen (Forschungszentrum Gotha / Universität Erfurt): “La mia casa è casa per hogni sorte d’huomini”: Jacopo Strada’s Contacts with Italian Heterodox Exiles.

History and Law

Cornel Zwierlein (MWK Erfurt / Ruhr Universität Bochum): French-Dutch connections: the transalpine reception of Machiavelli.
Lucia Bianchin (Università di Trento): Between Italy and Germany. City-States in Early Modern Legal Literature.
Maria Elena Severini (Istituto Nazionale di Studi sul Rinascimento): The diffusion of Francesco Guicciardini’s “Ricordi” in Germany between 16th and 17th century.
Neil Tarrant (University of Edinburgh): On the origins of Enlightenment: the Fruits of Migration in the Italian liberal historiographical tradition.


Discussants: Chiara Petrolini, Gábor Almási

Tagungsbericht: Fruits of Migration. Heterodox Italian migrants and Central European Culture 1550-1620, 28.09.2017 – 29.09.2017 Padua, in: H-Soz-Kult, 07.12.2017, <>.