Tiziano (16th century)
Tiziano (Titianus or Titiano, first name unknown), Italian "spiritual reformer" and "Anabaptist," appeared briefly upon the historical stage in the mid-16th century. The dates of his birth and death are unknown. He was at one time on the staff of a cardinal in Rome and there he first learned of Lutheran teachings. He then traveled to Geneva and other places where the Reformation had taken hold, including Graubünden (Grisons) and Chiavenna. He made contact with the radical circle surrounding Camillo Renato in 1547 or 1548 and soon became an active proponent of their spiritualizing tenets. His agitations brought him a sizable following and consequent official scrutiny by the authorities at Chur, who had him imprisoned and questioned about his beliefs. He answered in ambiguous language, claiming to be guided only by the Holy Spirit. Fear of capital punishment moved him, however, to sign a confession prepared by Philip Gallicius, pastor at Chur. This confession (which we must remember was intended by Gallicius to constitute a complete recantation and may therefore represent other heresies then current besides Tiziano's own beliefs) implies that Tiziano had denied the Trinity and the divine nature of Christ, had suspected the veracity of Scripture, had placed the authority of the Spirit above that of the Bible, had rejected infant baptism, and had claimed that Christians could not hold magistracies. Tiziano, after signing the statement, was flogged and expelled from Graubünden.
He now returned to Italy and continued to work for his special beliefs. In 1548 or 1549 he met the former priest and current Lutheran Pietro Manelfi in Florence and acquainted him with his own views. According to Manelfi's account these included adult baptism; Christians cannot hold magistracies; Scripture only is the basis of Christian doctrine; the Roman Catholic is no true church. There is no mention of anti-Trinitarian teachings. Some months later Tiziano baptized Manelfi at Ferrara. Soon afterwards at Vicenza anti-Trinitarian and Christological questions came to the fore, requiring the calling of a synod at Venice for the establishment of orthodoxy.
Manelfi clearly believed Tiziano responsible for the introduction of "Anabaptist" teachings into Italy and for much of their spread there. He also believed that Tiziano had absorbed the doctrines of the "old Anabaptists." It is at present impossible to disentangle the contributions of Servetus and Camillo Renato (through Tiziano) to the situation that then existed, or to determine what if any part was played by the northern Täufer. Careful study of Manelfi's testimony establishes only the likelihood that Manelfi was postulating connections, which probably did not exist, between the Täufer and his own sect.
Tiziano was present at the Venetian synod in the autumn of 1550, having himself summoned delegates thereto from Switzerland and Graubünden. Of his part in the deliberations we know nothing, but we may assume that he played a leading role, in view both of the anti-Trinitarian character of the conclusions of the synod and of his selection by the group to be an "apostolic bishop" entrusted with the task of carrying tidings of their conclusions to member congregations. Henceforth we lose sight of Tiziano, save for a reference by Manelfi to his apostatizing and subsequent flight from the designs of the podesta and bishop of Padua in Lenten season 1551. We may assume that he was a casualty of the persecution of his sect that followed upon Manelfi's revelations to the Inquisition in the autumn of 1551.
It is, however, possible that Tiziano is identical with one Lorenzo Tizzano (spelling variants are common in the documents) who was involved in the circle of radical reformers surrounding Juan Valdes at Naples. Tizzano recounted his life and activities in a confession prepared for the Inquisition at Venice late in 1553. From it we have the following information: At an early age he entered a monastery of the order of Monte Oliveto and after six years there left, with his superior's permission, to be a secular priest. He served as a chaplain in several localities for a number of years. About ten years after leaving the monastery Tizzano heard about Juan Valdes and his circle in Naples and came under its influence. Members of the circle, including Tizzano, had held opinions which he classified in 1553 as "Lutheran," "Anabaptist," and "diabolical" heresies. In the later 1540's Tizzano moved to Padua and took up the study of medicine while living with his father. Fearful that he might be exposed to the authorities by a man there who had known his views in Naples, Tizzano changed his name to Benedetto Florio. Four or five years after he had arrived in Padua (this would be around 1551) some Lutherans were arrested at the house in which he lived. Fearing a similar fate and troubled in conscience, he traveled to Venice, Ferrara, and Genoa, intending to take ship to Naples. Unable to arrange such passage, he returned to Padua and, overcome by restlessness of spirit, presented himself to the Inquisitor and confessed his identity and his heresies. The Inquisitor arranged for his transfer to Venice in October 1553. There he was imprisoned and ordered to prepare the confession from which we have drawn this information.
Unless Manelfi mistook Tizzano for Tiziano in describing the experience of the latter at Padua in 1551, it is tempting to see an identification between the two figures, for in 1553 Tizzano admitted having begun to doubt his beliefs at Padua two years earlier and having left to avoid arrest. Tizzano's chaplaincy may also have included service with a cardinal. In other respects, however, the two biographies fail to coincide sufficiently to permit a positive identification.
At the time Tizzano was imprisoned at Venice, a request for instructions was sent by the Venetian Inquisitor to Rome. Tizzano was questioned further in 1555 about topics mentioned in the long-delayed reply. They brought to light contacts Tizzano had had with various individuals connected with both the Neapolitan and northern radical movements but they add nothing to our knowledge of his former views. His later fate is unknown.
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Trechsel, F. Die protestantische Antitrinitarier vor Faustus Socin, Book II, Lelio Sozzini und die Antitrinitarier seiner Zeit. Heidelberg, 1844: 82-83.
Wilbur, E. M. A History of Unitarianism: Socinianism and its Antecedents. Cambridge, Mass., 1947.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 729-730. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: DeWind, Henry. "Tiziano (16th century)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 23 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/T624.html.
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