An Account Of The Persecutions In Venice
While the state of Venice was free from inquisitors, a great number of
protestants fixed their residence there, and many converts were made by
the purity of the doctrines they professed, and the inoffensiveness of
the conversation they used.
The pope being informed of the great increase of protestantism, in the
year 1512 sent inquisitors to Venice to make an inquiry into the matter,
and apprehend such as they might deem obnoxious persons. Hence a severe
persecution began, and many worthy persons were martyred for serving God
with purity, and scorning the trappings of idolatry.
Various were the modes by which the protestants were deprived of life;
but one particular method, which was first invented upon this occasion,
we shall describe; as soon as sentence was passed, the prisoner had an
iron chain which ran through a great stone fastened to his body. He was
then laid flat upon a plank, with his face upwards, and rowed between
two boats to a certain distance at sea, when the two boats separated,
and he was sunk to the bottom by the weight of the stone.
If any denied the jurisdiction of the inquisitors at Venice, they were
sent to Rome, where, being committed purposely to damp prisons, and
never called to a hearing, their flesh mortified, and they died
miserably in jail.
A citizen of Venice, Anthony Ricetti, being apprehended as a
protestant, was sentenced to be drowned in the manner we have already
described. A few days previous to the time appointed for his execution,
his son went to see him, and begged him to recant, that his wife might
be saved, and himself not left fatherless. To which the father replied,
a good christian is bound to relinquish not only goods and children, but
life itself, for the glory of his Redeemer: therefore I am resolved to
sacrifice every thing in this transitory world, for the sake of
salvation in a world that will last to eternity. The lords of Venice
likewise sent him word, that if he would embrace the Roman catholic
religion, they would not only give him his life, but redeem a
considerable estate which he had mortgaged, and freely present him with
it. This, however, he absolutely refused to comply with, sending word to
the nobles that he valued his soul beyond all other considerations; and
being told that a fellow-prisoner, named Francis Sega, had recanted, he
answered, if he has forsaken God, I pity him; but I shall continue
steadfast in my duty. Finding all endeavours to persuade him to renounce
his faith ineffectual, he was executed according to his sentence, dying
cheerfully, and recommending his soul fervently to the Almighty.
What Ricetti had been told concerning the apostacy of Francis Sega, was
absolutely false, for he had never offered to recant, but steadfastly
persisted in his faith, and was executed, a few days after Ricetti, in
the very same manner.
Francis Spinola, a protestant gentleman of very great learning, being
apprehended by order of the inquisitors, was carried before their
tribunal. A treatise on the Lord's supper was then put into his hands
and he was asked if he knew the author of it. To which he replied, I
confess myself to be the author of it, and at the same time solemnly
affirm, that there is not a line in it but what is authorized by, and
consonant to, the holy scriptures. On this confession he was committed
close prisoner to a dungeon for several days.
Being brought to a second examination, he charged the pope's legate, and
the inquisitors, with being merciless barbarians, and then represented
the superstitions and idolatries practised by the church of Rome in so
glaring a light, that not being able to refute his arguments, they sent
him back to his dungeon, to make him repent of what he had said.
On his third examination, they asked him if he would recant his errors!
To which he answered, that the doctrines he maintained were not
erroneous, being purely the same as those which Christ and his apostles
had taught, and which were handed down to us in the sacred writings. The
inquisitors then sentenced him to be drowned, which was executed in the
manner already described. He went to meet death with the utmost
serenity, seemed to wish for dissolution, and declaring, that the
prolongation of his life did but tend to retard that real happiness
which could only be expected in the world to come.
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