Mollius or Mollio, Giovanni

Mollius or Mollio, Giovanni a distinguished Italian martyr in the Protestant cause, was a native of Montalcino, in the territory of Siena, and the descendant of a very respectable family. He was born near the opening of the 16th century. When only twelve years of age he was placed in the monastery of Gray Friars, where he made rapid progress in arts, sciences, and languages. He entered the order of Minorites while yet a youth, and took priest's orders when only eighteen. Every minute was improved in study of polite letters and theology, and he came soon to be noted for his learning and industry. After having pursued his studies six years longer at Ferrara, he was made theological lecturer in the university of that city. He subsequently lectured at the universities of Brescia, Milan, and Pavia, and was appointed professor of theology in the University of Bologna about 1533. There, on reading several treatises of the Reformers, he became at heart a zealous Protestant, and began to expound in its purity the Epistle' to the Romans. Immense crowds soon attended his lectures, and, the report coming to Rome, he was seized by order of the pope, and, being denied a public trial, gave an account of his opinions in writing, confirming them by scriptural authority. Mollius defended himself with such ability and address that the judges appointed by Paul III to try the case were forced to acquit him, in the way of declaring that the sentiments which he had maintained were true, although they were such as could not be publicly taught at that time without prejudice to the apostolical see. He was therefore sent back to Bologna, with an admonition to abstain for the future from explaining the same doctrine (i.e., justification by faith). But continuing to expound the epistles of Paul as formerly, and with still greater applause from his hearers — even the monks of different convents, many of the nobility, and individuals of episcopal orders, attending them — cardinal Campeggio procured an order from the pope to remove him from the university (Pontaleon, Rerum in Eccl. Gest. lib. 9, fol. 263). Mollius did not remain idle when relieved of his duties at the university, but continued his studies, and grew in strength among his fellows, He finally became lecturer to the monastery of St. Lorenzo at Naples. But even here he was persecuted; and in 1542 the opposition grew so decided that he was frequently in great danger. He was several times imprisoned, but always escaped until the time of the accession of pope Julius III, when he was hunted down at Ravenna, and transported to Rome. On September 5, 1553, a public assembly of the Inquisition was held with great pomp, and Mollius was brought before that body, attended by six cardinals and their episcopal assessors. All the prisoners brought forward in this session recanted and performed penance except Mollius and another, a native of Perugio named Tisserano, who refused to do violence to their conscience. When the articles of accusation against Mollius were ready, permission was given him to speak. He defended the doctrines which he had taught respecting justification, the merit of good works, auricular confession, and the sacraments; pronounced the power claimed by the pope and his clergy to be usurped and antichristian; and addressed his judges in a strain of bold and fervid invective, which silenced and chained them to their seats, at the same time that it cut them to the quick; and when he had finished his address, he threw the flaming torch which he held in his hand on the ground and extinguished it, thus showing to his accusers that he would rather extinguish life than suffer them to force a lie from him. Of course mercy to such a criminal was not within the gift of Rome, and he was consequently condemned, together with his companion, to instant death. They were at once conveyed to the place of execution, first hung, and then burned to ashes. See Hist. des Martyrs, pages 264, 265; Gerdesius, Ital. Reform. pages 103; M'Crie, Ref: in Italy, pages 95, 124, 261; Young, Life of Paleario, 2:113 sq. Fox, Book of Martyrs, page 184, gives Mollius's history inaccurately. (J.H.W.)

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