Morata, Olympia Fulvia

Morata, Olympia Fulvia an Italian lady of great genius and learning, noted for her piety and faithful service to Italian Protestantism, and spoken of by the biographer of the duchess Renee as " a woman whose history may be pondered in silent compassion, yet in silent admiration — a saint so tried in life, so blessed in death," was born at Ferrara in 1526. Her father, preceptor to the young princes of Ferrara, sons of Alphonso I, observing her genius, took great pains in cultivating it; and when Olympia was called to court for the purpose of instructing the princess Anna d'Este, daughter of the duchess of Ferrara, and of herself studying belleslettres with the princess of Ferrara, under the tutelage of her father, she astonished the Italians by declaiming in Latin and Greek, explaining the paradoxes of Cicero, and answering any question that was put to her. The example of Renee de France, duchess of Ferrara, who was much interested in the religious controversies of the times, had a great influence upon Olympia's mind. Men like Jamet, Marot, Peter Martyr, Lalio Giraldi, and Celius Calcagnilli were received at court, and formed a select circle. Calvin, who went in disguise from France to Italy to see her, brought her over to his opinions, and her court became the refuge of all those suspected of heresy. Peregrino Morata, Olympia's father, became himself converted, but Olympia showed little inclination as yet for a devout, religious life. Her whole mind was taken up with her own literary works and the court gayeties. "If Olympia," says Young, the biographer of Paleario, "learned anything at court of true religion, she also found much to distract her attention. The extreme precocity of her talents had early called forth her reasoning and reflective powers, but she herself owns that at this time she did not duly relish the sacred Scriptures. They were to her a holy, but a sealed book; her intellect revelled with greater delight in the mazes of human learning and philosophy." She wrote several essays at this time, the best known of which is a eulogy on Mucius Scaevola. But the year 1548 brought a decided change. Her friend, the princess Anna of Ferrara, married and went to Lorraine, and shortly afterwards her father died. His death, and the ill-health of her mother, withdrew her from court, and she devoted herself to household affairs, the education of three sisters and a brother, and especially to spiritual contemplation and devotion. In communing with her own heart she began to perceive her need, and from that moment resolved to live and die a follower of the Gospel. In this her hour of greatest happiness she made the acquaintance of a young German named Andrew Grunthler, who had studied medicine, and taken his doctor's degree at Ferrara. He was a Protestant, and the day when she was married to him (in 1549) she followed her father's example and embraced Protestantism. Her husband, unprepared to depart at once with his bride, advanced to Germany to prepare the way for her, and over a year elapsed before he was ready to return for her. Together with her little brother and her husband she now left for Germany. They went to Schweinfurt, in Franconia, which was soon after besieged and burned, and they barely escaped with their lives. They suffered many hardships in consequence, until Grunthler in 1554 received a call to Heidelberg as professor of medicine. Now at last it was hoped that better days had come for poor Olympia, but the fearful hardships she had suffered during the siege of Schweinfurt had undermined her health. In December 1554, she was taken sick, and never left her bed again. She died October 26, 1555. A few months later her husband and brother died also. Several of her works were burned at Schweinfurt, but the remainder were collected and published at Basle in 1558 by Ccelius Secundus Curio. They consist of orations, dialogues, letters, and translations, and are known as Olympiae Fulviae Morate, mulieris omnium eruditissimae Latina et Graeca, quae haberi potuerunt, monumenta (Basle, 1558). They are distinguished for a deep religious conviction and great refinement of language and thought. See Bonnet, Vie d'Olympie Morata (Paris, 1850; in English, Life of O. Morata, with a Historical Sketch of the Ref. in Italy [Edinb. 1854, 18mo]); Turnbull, O. Morata, her Life and Times (Bost. 1846, 12mo); Mrs. Smith, Life, Times, and Writings of O. Morata; Some Memorials of Renee of France, Duchess of Fertara (2d ed. Lond. 1859,12mo), page 62 sq.; Trollope, Decade of Italian Women, volume 2; Colquhoun, Life in Italy and France in the Olden Time; Young, Life and Times of Paleario, 2:90 sq.; M'Crie, Hist. of the Ref. in Italy, page 54; Littell's Living Age, March 13, 1852, page 510. (J.H.W.)

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