The Story of the Reformation through the Life of Peter Martyr Vermigli

As we approach the 497th anniversary of the Reformation, the few churches that still celebrate Reformation Day will be holding celebrations to commemorate Martin Luther, of course, and maybe John Calvin as well—perhaps one or two other Reformers key to their particular regional tradition. I can bet you there are precious few out there who will be celebrating the legacy of Peter Martyr Vermigli. And yet it is almost impossible to tell the story of the Reformation without Vermigli. Indeed, although we rightly hear a lot about goings-on in Wittenberg and in Geneva, much of the Reformation happened in the wide spaces between these two cities, and there was little of it in which Peter Martyr did not have a hand.

I. Early Life and Education

Peter Martyr Vermigli (named after an obscure medieval Italian saint and martyr, Peter of Verona) was born in 1499 in the great city of Florence, just as both the magnificence of the Renaissance and the appalling corruption of the Church were reaching their height. The infamous Alexander VI was on the papal throne in Rome, surrounded by a web of intrigue, adultery, and murder; while Michelangelo was just returning from Rome to Florence to begin work on his legendary David.

All was not well in Florence, however. Lorenzo the Magnificent, who had made the city the envy of the cultured world with his patronage of great Renaissance artists, had died in 1492, and his son, the aptly-named Piero the Unfortunate, ruled only two years before being deposed in a French invasion that threw north Italy into chaos. Into this chaos preached a charismatic and fiercely ascetic monk, Girolamo Savonarola. Read More