Paleario, Aonio (or, as his name was originally written, Aonio degli Pagliari), one of the most noted of Italian characters in the Reformation period, and a martyr to the Protestant cause, was born at Veroli, in the Campagna di Roma, and descended of noble and ancient families by both his parents. He spent his youth in retirement until death robbed him suddenly of his parents, when a friend of his father, Martelli by name, cared for Aonio and guided his education. The bishop of the diocese, Ennio Philonardi, also interested himself in the precocious youth, and paid attention to the formation of his character and the development of his talents. Paleario applied himself early to the Greek and Latin languages, in which he made great progress, and then proceeded to philosophy and divinity. The desire he had for knowledge prompted him in his seventeenth year to go abroad, and,, after travelling through the greater part of Italy, seeking ever the acquaintance and teachings of the most famous professors in every place he visited, he settled for student's work at Rome, where he continued for six years, till that city was taken by Charles V, when the disorders committed by the troops of that prince leaving no hopes of enjoying tranquillity, obliged Paleario to depart (1523). He had at this time a great inclination to travel into France, Germany, and even as far as Greece; but the narrowness of his fortune would not admit of this, and he contented himself with a visit to the different parts of his native country. He made prolonged stays at Siena, Florence, Ferrara, Padua, and Bologna everywhere gathering new stores of learning, and having intercourse with the most illustrious men. He returned again to Rome, but in 1527 left it for Siena, upon which he now determined as his permanent abode, induced to settle there by the pleasantness of the situation and the sprightliness and sagacity of the inhabitants; and accordingly he sold his estate at Veroli, and purchased a country-house in the neighborhood of Siena, called, Ceciniana, because it formerly belonged to Cecina, one of Cicero's clients. Here he entered likewise into matrimony with a young woman of whom he was passionately fond all his life after. She bore him four children, two boys and two girls. In 1534 Paleario was made professor of ancient languages and philosophy, and a great number of pupils gathered about him, when his career was suddenly disturbed by a quarrel with one of his colleagues, who grew impatient at seeing his own reputation eclipsed by the superior lustre of Paleario. Having studied the Scriptures and read the writings of the German Reformers, his lectures on moral philosophy were distinguished from those of his colleague by a liberal tone of thinking. This, although gratifying to the students, was offensive to the professor, who obstinately adhered to the old ideas. Cardinal Sadolet, in the name of his friends, set before Paleario the danger of giving way to novelties, and advised him, in consideration of the times, to confine himself to the safer task of clothing the peripatetic ideas in elegant language. This prudential advice was not altogether congenial to the candid mind of Paleario, and the devotion which he felt for truth. The freedom with which he. censured, vain pretenders to learning and religion irritated a class of men who scrupled at no means to oppress and ruin an adversary, and who eagerly seized the opportunity to fasten on him the charge of heresy. His private conduct was watched, and expressions which:had dropped from him in the unsuspecting confidence of private conversation were circulated to his prejudice. But Paleario gave the greatest offence by a book which he wrote on the benefit of the death of Christ, II Beneficio di Christo (1542); a synopsis of its contents, with selections, is given by Dr. Hurst in his Martyrs to the Tract Cause (N.Y. 1872, 12mo), p. 68-80. The little book, which is throughout enriched with quotations from the Holy Scriptures and the Church fathers — Augustine, Origen, Basil, Hilary, Ambrose, Irenaeus, and St.Bernard — excited much attention, not only in Italy, but elsewhere, for it was translated into several foreign languages, and obtained a circulation that is remarkable. Paul Vergerius reports that during the six years following its appearance forty thousand copies were printed and sold in Venice alone. What wonder that the enemies of the Gospel were also attentive to this work, and made every effort to suppress it and to ruin its author? They soon came upon his track. His opponents in Siena conspired against him while he was on a visit to Rome, and indicted him for heresy. On hearing this he quickly returned, in order to defend himself. Most of his judges were passionately embittered against him.
"They are heartless and complaining men," said he in his defence, "who seek to declare the most innocent action a crime; so that one dares not venture to praise, unpunished, the glory of Christ, who is the Author of all happiness, the King of all nations and peoples. The fact that I have written a book this year, in the Tuscan language, wherein I praise the benefits which have accrued to the human race through the death of Christ, is made the ground of a criminal charge against me. Can one think of anything more hateful? I have said that once he in whom the Godhead dwelt bodily has shed his blood for our redemption, and that we should have no more doubt as to the mercy of God, but enjoy perfect peace and rest. Supported by the most unquestionable authority of antiquity, the Holy Scriptures, and the Church fathers, I have maintained that whoever directs his eyes to Jesus Christ the crucified, confides in his promises, and places his hopes in him alone, will receive from him the forgiveness of his sills and redemption from all evil, because he cannot disappoint our hopes. And yet these things have appeared to those twelve jurymen — who no longer deserve the name of men — so horrible and fearful that they have all declared with one voice that the author must be condemned to be burned! If I must suffer this penalty — for I regard my writing much more a confession than an invective — then, senators, no better fortune could befall me! In my opinion, at a time like ours no Christian should die in his bed! Accused, imprisoned, scourged, hanged, sewn up in a sack, thrown to the wild beasts, or roasted in the flames — what does it matter, if only by such a death the glorious truth comes evermore to light?" In the course of his address Paleario turned to his accusers, disclosed to them their wickedness, and proclaimed the whole course of his life. In referring to his circumstances, he said:
"My only temporal happiness consists in living among my books. A woollen rug as a protection against the cold, a piece of linen to wipe away the sweat from my brow, a bed to rest on, and a simple bench to sit upon these are all I need. And do thou, O Christ, merciful Lord, preserve and increase those gifts which I have from thee! Thou hast kindled in me a disdain of all earthly goods, and the firm determination to speak in conformity with the truth, and not according to my own mind and my own will. Do thou add to these favors piety, temperance, and self-denial, and adorn me with all the virtues which are pleasing to thee and thy children!" Paleario's eloquent defence, in which boldness and candor were tempered by prudence and address, triumphed over the violence and intrigues of his adversaries. He was declared free from the charges of his accusers. He was, however, obliged soon after to quit Siena, as his opponents had by his acquittal become only the more embittered; but, though he changed the place of his residence, he did not escape from the odium which he had incurred; and we shall afterwards find him enduring that martyrdom which he early anticipated, and for which it appears to have been his object all along to prepare his thoughts. On quitting the Sienese, about the year 1543, he embraced an invitation from the senate of Lucca, where he taught the Latin classics, and acted as orator to the republic on solemn occasions. To this place he was followed by Marco Blaterone, one of his former adversaries, a sciolist who possessed that volubility. of tongue which captivates the vulgar ear, and whose ignorance and loquacity had been severely chastised, but not corrected, by the satirical pen of Aretino. Lucca at that time abounded with men of enlightened and honorable minds; and the eloquence of Paleario, sustained by the lofty bearing of his spirit, enabled him easily to triumph over his unworthy rival, who, disgraced and driven from the city, sought his revenge through the Dominicans at Rome. But by means of his friends in the conclave, Paleario counteracted at that time the informations of his accuser. About 1553 a very warm invitation came to him from the officials of Milan to remove to that place and become a professor of eloquence. The handsome stipend which was proffered him induced the Reformer to reply favorably; and when he had settled at Milan he hoped for no further change until his final departure to the heavenly Jerusalem. But the heresy-hunting Inquisitors, together with his enemies, had determined otherwise. For some ten years there had been daily persecutions, imprisonments, and death punishment for many a soul devoted to the new cause, then steadily gaining adherents in Italy. Paleario's friends feared for him, but he quieted them with the assurance that he knew of no danger. Upon the accession of Pius V., whom all regarded as the death-messenger to Reformed doctrines in Italy, when Paleario's friends had succeeded in obtaining his. consent for removal to Bologna, he was suddenly arrested in 1568, and by pontifical authority his case, now over twenty years settled, was ordered for a rehearing at Rome. During his trial he was imprisoned in the Torre di Nona, the most wretched of the three prisons of the Inquisition at Rome. His book on the benefit of Christ's death, his commendations of Ochino (q.v.), his defence of himself before the senators of Siena, and the suspicions which he had incurred during his residence at that place and at Lucca, were all revived against him. After the whole had been collected and sifted, the charge at last resolved itself into the four following articles: that he denied purgatory; disapproved of burying the dead in churches, preferring the ancient Roman method of sepulture without the walls of cities; ridiculed the monastic life; and appeared to ascribe justification solely to confidence in the mercy of God forgiving our sins through Jesus Christ. For holding these opinions he was condemned, after an imprisonment of two years, to be suspended on a gibbet and his body to be given to the flames; and the sentence was executed on July 3, 1570, in the seventieth year of his age. A minute, which professes to be an official document of the Dominicans who attended him in his last moments, but which has neither names nor signatures, states that Paleario died confessed and contrite; but the two letters which he wrote to his family on the day of his death are witnesses against this statement. If he did not openly express himself in them,, lest they might thereby fail to reach their destination, there is yet seen all through them the same Gospel spirit which had always characterized him. They also afford a negative proof that the report of his recantation was unfounded; for if he had really changed his sentiments, would he not have felt anxious to acquaint his family with the fact? or, if the change was feigned, would not the monks have insisted on his using the language of a penitent when they granted him permission to write? Paleario had before his apprehension taken care to, secure his writings against the risk of suppression by committing them to the care of friends whom he could trust; and their repeated publication in Protestant countries has saved them from those mutilations to which the works of so many of his countrymen have been subjected. From his letters it appears that Paleario enjoyed the friendship and correspondence of the most celebrated persons of that time both in the Church and in the republic of letters. Among the former were cardinals Sadolet, Bembo, Pole, Maffei, Badia, Filonardo, and Sfondrati; and among the latter Flaminio, Riccio, Alciati, Vittorio, Lampridio, and Buonamici. His poem on the immortality of the soul, entitled De immortalitate animoe, libri tres (1636, 16mo), was received with applause by the learned. Of his orations, it is, perhaps, no high praise to say that they placed him above all the moderns who obtained the name of Ciceronians, from their studious imitation of the style of the Roman orator; they are certainly written with elegance and spirit. His letter on the Council of Trent, addressed to the Reformers, and his testimony and pleading against the Roman pontiffs (Actio in ponifices Romanos et eorum asseclas, ad imperatoremn Rom. reges et principes Christiance reipublicce sunmmos (Ecumenici concilii prcesides, cum de consilio Tridentino habendo deliberatretur, drawn up with a design to get it presented by the emperor's ambassadors to the Council of Trent, is a regular plan in defence of the Protestants, and was published at Leipsic in 1606; see Acta Eaudita for Jan. 1696, p. 44), evince a knowledge of the Scriptures, soundness in the faith, candor, and fervent zeal worthy of a Reformer and confessor of the truth. In the composition of his tract on the benefit of the death of Christ, it is said that cardinal Pole had a large part, that Flaminio (q.v.) wrote a defence of it, and that activity in, circulating it formed one of the charges on which cardinal Morone (q.v.) was imprisoned and Carnesecchi committed to the flames. No wonder that of such a man M'Crie writes: "When we take into consideration his talents, his zeal, the utility of his writings, and the sufferings which he endured, Paleario must be viewed as one of the greatest ornaments of the Reformed cause in Italy." The works of Paleario, entitled Opera, ad illam editionem quam ipse auctor recensuerat et auxerat excusa, nunc novis accessionibus locupletata, were brought out at Amsterdam in 1696, and were reprinted at Jena in 1728. The tract on the benefit of the death of Christ fared no better than its author. The Inquisition hunted for the book with such success that nearly every copy was brought into its hands and burned. For three hundred years nothing was known of it save what history reported. In 1843, however, a copy of the Italian edition was discovered in the University of Cambridge, in England, which was brought out, with the French translation of 1552 and the English of 1548, by Churchill Babington at Cambridge, and, with a German translation by Tischendorf, at Leipsic in 1856. See Young, Life and Times of Paleario (Lond. 1860, 2 vols. 8vo); Blackburn, Aonio Paleario and his Friends, with a revised edition of The Benefit of Christ's Death (Philadelphia Presbyt. Board, 1867); Gurlitt, Leben des A. Paleario (Hamb. 1805); Bonnet, A. Palleario et la Ref. de l'Italie (Paris, 1863); M'Crie, Hist. of the Ref. in Italy, p. 131 sq., 278 sq., Jahrb. deutsch. Theol. 1870, 3, 419.