Vergerius, Peter Paul (the Younger)
Vergerius, Peter Paul (The Younger)
an Italian jurist, priest, and Reformer, ranks as one of the most noteworthy personages produced by the 16th century. He was born of noble parents in 1498, at Capo d'Istria, and was educated for the law at Padua. After graduation and the subsequent practice of his profession in different Italian cities, he went to Rome, and was appointed, under pope Clement VII, papal nuncio to Germany, for the purpose of preventing the convoking of a national council. A similar mission was entrusted to him by Paul III, in connection with which he had interviews with Luther and the elector John Frederick. His services were rewarded with the dignity of titulary bishop of Madrusium, in Croatia, and afterwards, in 1536, with the bishopric of his native town. The curious feature is mentioned in this connection that Vergerius spent ten years in Capo d'Istria before he obtained consecration to the priesthood and the episcopacy; and no light is thrown upon his occupations or the mode of administering his diocese during that period. In 1540 he visited Worms and took part in the colloquy there held, delivering, during its progress (Jan. 1, 1541), a pacific address in the interests of a general, and against the holding of a national, council, which was censured at Rome as being too conciliatory. He at once returned home, and entered on the study of the writings of the Lutherans, in order that by refuting them he might demonstrate the soundness of his Own orthodoxy; but he was himself converted by their arguments, and his brother Giovanni Battista, bishop of Pola, came to share his views. Both prelates now began to labor zealously for Christ, instructing the people publicly and in private, and urging them to lead godly lives. In Capo d'Istria, particularly, reforms in the monastic institution were energetically prosecuted; superstitions like the invoking of the aid of St. Rochus against pestilence, and of St. Anthony against erysipelas, were condemned; and traditional beliefs like the legends of St. George and St. Christopher were declared to be mythical. The consequence was that an investigation of the diocese was undertaken by a papal commission in 1545, and that the brothers Vergerius were cited before the legate Della Casa, patriarch of Aquileia. They protested and appealed to the Council of Trent, then just opened, and Peter Paul placed himself under the protection of cardinal Gonzaga of Mantua; but afterwards visited Trent, where his request to be permitted to speak in his defense was not allowed. A commission found him guilty of heresy. Soon afterwards he went to Padua, and visited the unhappy apostate Francis Spiera (q.v.) repeatedly, with the result to himself that he was confirmed in his devotion to the Gospel. He handed an apology to the suffragan of Padua, Dec. 13, 1548, in which, while not explicitly corn ceding his adherence to the Reformation, he yet declares that the truth must be defended despite every inquisition. He then went to Basle. His brother had previously died, probably of poison.
The earliest-field of Protestant labor for Vergerius was the villages in the Veltlin, in the Grisons, and he became pastor of the little village of Vicosoprano. His powerful sermons, in some instances, led the people to instantaneously abolish the mass and destroy their images. The field was not, however, commensurate with his desires, and his situation became unpleasant. He was obliged to take part in negotiations with the adherents of Servetus and Socinus among the immigrants from Italy; the region where he labored was predominantly and immovably on the side of Rome; he was dissatisfied with the established form of government in the Zwinglian churches, and incurred the charge of ambitious meddling, and also excited strong feeling by his advocacy of the Calvinian doctrine of the Lord's supper. In, 1553 a synod framed a confession for the Grisons, and directed that all who would not subscribe to its tenets should be excluded from fellowship in the Church; and, though Vergerius had been the successful means of winning eight congregations from Rome to the Gospel, he was obliged to leave the country. He found a refuge with duke Christopher at Tübingen, and in a few months returned to his late home with the title of counselor to that patron, after which he definitely established himself at Tübingen in: September, 1553. Thenceforward he lived in privacy, except when employed in some bold missionary enterprise to un-reclaimed countries. Poland was his favorite field, and was much indebted to him on account of his earnest evangelical labors. He also visited king Maximilian at Vienna in 1558, and presented him with practical evangelical writings, and was successful in inclining him to favor the Reformation. He revisited the Grisons on both evangelical and diplomatic missions, being especially influential in preparing for a renewal of the treaty between that canton and France. In addition to such labors, he occupied himself with the writing of numerous works polemical, didactic, and exegetical. Among other works, he published the Bohemian confession of 1535; and, at about the same time, he showed inclination to connect himself with the Bohemian Church, having written in 1561 to its senior, in Little Poland, for admission to its fellowship. He was, however, deterred from consummating the arrangement by, an unwillingness to make so important a change at the advanced age he had now reached. His motive had been the growing intolerance of the Lutheran Church, which denied. peace and comfort to all who held the milder Melancthonian views. His request to be sent to the colloquy of Poissy in 1561, as the delegate of the German churches, was denied by the duke, because the Council of Trent would grant no safe-conduct unless Vergerius should recognize the Romish Church. The greatest fault of Vergerius was a disposition to participate in every undertaking and to assert his own authority. He thus excited much opposition against himself. Many of his coreligionists of early times, as Della Casa and others, were guilty of unworthy assaults upon him; but many of the most prominent personages of the Papal Church gave' him an excellent reputation. He died at Tübingen Oct. 4,1565, and Andrea delivered a panegyric over his remains. See Sixt, P. P. Vergeius,: etc. (Brunswick, 1855); and Herzog, Real-Encyklop. s.v.