Francesco Spiera

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Francesco Spiera (1502 – December 27, 1548) was a Protestant Italian jurist. The manner of his death was the subject of numerous religious tracts.


He was born at Cittadella, 20 km north of Padua, then part of the Republic of Venice. Interest in Spiera is because Protestants of early modern period used his case as an example of the dreadful consequences of the sin against the Holy Ghost: he discerned evangelical truth, but denied and abjured it for external reasons.

Spiera had a respected position in his native town; and a fine house, in which ten children grew up, appeared to insure his happiness. Besides the Scriptures, there fell into his hands various evangelical writings, such as The Benefit of Christ's Death, Doctrine Old and New, and Summary of Sacred Scripture, which instilled in him doubts about Roman Catholic teachings, such as those on purgatory and veneration of the saints.

With others he was arraigned before the Inquisition at Venice; and his trial came off between May 24 and June 20, 1548. On the latter day in St. Mark's Spiera made solemn abjuration of his "errors," and subscribed the abjuration, which he then repeated on the following Sunday in Cittadella, after mass in the cathedral. On returning home, so he related it himself, "the Spirit," or the voice of his conscience, began to reproach him for having denied the truth. Amid grounds of comfort that either he or his friends advanced, and a state of despair that grew more and more hopeless, there began a terrible struggle within himself, which so affected him physically that he was taken to Padua to be treated by physicians. The treatment was in vain, and the conflict, which Pier Paolo Vergerio and others witnessed, ended in his death, shortly after his return to his home. That Spiera laid violent hands on himself is later invention.


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainJackson, Samuel Macauley, ed. (1914). "article name needed". New Schaff–Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (third ed.). London and New York: Funk and Wagnalls. 

Further reading[edit]

  • M. A. Overell, The Exploitation of Francesco Spiera, The Sixteenth Century Journal, Vol. 26, No. 3 (Autumn, 1995), pp. 619–637.