Pietro Martire Vermigli

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Pietro Martire Vermigli (8 September 1499 – 12 November 1562), sometimes simply Peter Martyr, was an Italian theologian of the Reformation period.



He was born at Florence, the son of Stefano di Antonio Vermigli and Maria Fumantina, a moderately well-to-do family. The young couple originally christened their child Piero Mariano, though he took the name Peter Martyr when he entered the novitiate of the Augustinian Order after the 13th-century Dominican St. Peter Martyr. Educated in the Augustinian cloister at Fiesole, he was transferred in 1519 to the convent of St John of Verdara near Padua, where he graduated D.D. about 1527 and made the acquaintance of the future Cardinal Pole. From that year onwards he was employed as a public preacher at Brescia, Pisa, Venice and Rome; and in his intervals of leisure he mastered Greek and Hebrew. In 1530 he was elected prior of the Augustinian monastery at Spoleto, and in 1533 prior of the convent of St Peter ad Aram at Naples.

About this time, primarily through the influence of Juan de Valdes, he read Martin Bucer's commentaries on the Gospels and the Psalms and also Zwingli's De vera et falsa religione; and his Biblical studies began to affect his views. He was accused of erroneous doctrine, and the Spanish viceroy of Naples prohibited his preaching. The prohibition was removed on appeal to Rome, but in 1541 Vermigli was transferred to Lucca, where he again fell under suspicion. Summoned to appear before a chapter of his Order at Genoa, he fled in 1542 to Pisa and thence to another Italian reformer, Bernardino Ochino, at Florence. Ochino escaped to Geneva, and Vermigli to Zürich, thence to Basel, and finally to Strasbourg, where, with Bucer's support, he was appointed professor of theology and married his first wife, Catherine Dammartin of Metz.

Vermigli and Ochino were both invited to England by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer in 1547, and given a pension of forty marks by the government. In 1548 Vermigli was appointed Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford, in succession to Dr. Richard Smyth, and was incorporated D.D. In 1549 he took part in a great disputation on the Eucharist. He had abandoned Luther's doctrine of sacramental union and adopted the doctrine of a Real Presence conditioned by the faith of the recipient standard amongst Reformed theologians. Indeed, Vermigli appears to have profoundly affected the views of Cranmer and Ridley, and historians have proven definitively that Vermigli had a great deal of influence in the modifications of the Book of Common Prayer in 1552.

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