An Account Of Several Remarkable Individuals Who Were Martyred In Different Parts Of Italy On Account Of Their Religion
John Mollius was born at Rome, of reputable parents. At twelve years of
age they placed him in the monastery of Gray Friars, where he made such
a rapid progress in arts, sciences, and languages, that at eighteen
years of age he was permitted to take priest's orders.
He was then sent to Ferrara, where, after pursuing his studies six years
longer, he was made theological reader in the university of that city.
He now, unhappily, exerted his great talents to disguise the gospel
truths, and to varnish over the errors of the church of Rome. After some
years residence in Ferrara, he removed to the university of Bononia,
where he became a professor. Having read some treatises written by
ministers of the reformed religion, he grew fully sensible of the errors
of popery, and soon became a zealous protestant in his heart.
He now determined to expound, accordingly to the purity of the gospel,
St. Paul's epistle to the Romans, in a regular course of sermons. The
concourse of people that continually attended his preaching was
surprising, but when the priests found the tenor of his doctrines, they
despatched an account of the affair to Rome; when the pope sent a monk,
named Cornelius, to Bononia, to expound the same epistle, according to
the tenets of the church of Rome. The people, however, found such a
disparity between the two preachers, that the audience of Mollius
increased, and Cornelius was forced to preach to empty benches.
Cornelius wrote an account of his bad success to the pope, who
immediately sent an order to apprehend Mollius, who was seized upon
accordingly, and kept in close confinement. The bishop of Bononia sent
him word that he must recant, or be burnt; but he appealed to Rome, and
was removed thither.
At Rome he begged to have a public trial, but that the pope absolutely
denied him, and commanded him to give an account of his opinions in
writing, which he did under the following heads:
Original sin. Free-will. The infallibility of the church of Rome. The
infallibility of the pope. Justification by faith. Purgatory.
Transubstantiation. Mass. Auricular confession. Prayers for the dead.
The host. Prayers for saints. Going on pilgrimages. Extreme unction.
Performing service in an unknown tongue, &c. &c.
All these he confirmed from scripture authority. The pope, upon this
occasion, for political reasons, spared him for the present, but soon
after had him apprehended, and put to death; he being first hanged, and
his body burnt to ashes, A. D. 1553.
The year after, Francis Gamba, a Lombard, of the protestant persuasion,
was apprehended, and condemned to death by the senate of Milan. At the
place of execution, a monk presented a cross to him, to whom he said, My
mind is so full of the real merits and goodness of Christ, that I want
not a piece of senseless stick to put me in mind of him. For this
expression his tongue was bored through, and he was afterwards burnt.
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 endeavours
ineffectual, he ordered him to be burnt, which sentence was executed
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 Bovellus, 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 practised 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 till 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, 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.
The pope then passed this sentence upon him.
1. That he should be led by the executioner, naked to the middle,
through the streets of Rome.
2. That he should wear the image of the devil upon his head.
3. That his breeches should be painted with the representation of
4. That he should have his right hand cut off.
5. That after having been carried about thus in procession, he should be
When he heard this sentence pronounced, he implored God to give him
strength and fortitude to go through it. As he passed through the
streets he was greatly derided by the people, to whom he said some
severe things respecting the Romish superstition. But a cardinal, who
attended the procession, overhearing him, ordered him to be gagged.
When he came to the church door, where he trampled on the host, the
hangman cut off his right hand, and fixed it on a pole. Then two
tormentors, with flaming torches, scorched and burnt his flesh all the
rest of the way. At the place of execution he kissed the chains that
were to bind him to the stake. A monk presenting the figure of a saint
to him, he struck it aside, and then being chained to the stake, fire
was put to the fagots, and he was soon burnt to ashes.
A little after the last mentioned execution, a venerable old man, who
had long been a prisoner in the inquisition, was condemned to be burnt,
and brought out for execution. When he was fastened to the stake, a
priest held a crucifix to him, on which he said "If you do not take that
idol from my sight, you will constrain me to spit upon it." The priest
rebuked him for this with great severity; but he bade him remember the
first and second commandments, and refrain from idolatry, as God himself
had commanded. He was then gagged, that he should not speak any more,
and fire being put to the fagots, he suffered martyrdom in the flames.