Gherlandi, Giulio (ca. 1520-1562)

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Giulio Gherlandi (Guirlando, also Julius Klemprer), an Anabaptist martyr, born ca. 1520 at Spresiano near Treviso in Venetian territory, Italy, was intended by his Catholic father for the priesthood but fell into evil ways. He was troubled in conscience at the contradiction between his Christian pretensions and the actual character of his life, and his reading of Matthew 7:15-16 led him to break with the Roman Church. Around 1549-1551 he joined that group of evangelicals in Venetia who are commonly called Anabaptists but who at that time were veering in the direction of anti-Trinitarianism. He was baptized by Nicolo of Alessandria, a member of the anti-Trinitarian community in Treviso, and later he baptized several persons himself.

When the renegade Pietro Manelfi exposed the evangelical movement to the Inquisition in 1551, leading to its near-destruction, Gherlandi left the radicals and looked about for more compatible society. With Francesco della Sega (or Saga) he learned about the Hutterites sometime in the 1550s and was admitted to the brotherhood at Pausram, Moravia. He was not required to be rebaptized. In Moravia he engaged in his craft of making lanterns, but soon asked for and was granted permission to bring word of the Hutterites to his former associates in north Italy.

In March 1559 Gherlandi went to Italy bearing a letter from Sega to a fellow believer in Vicenza, as well as a general letter of introduction from the Moravian brotherhood to the Italian evangelicals. This letter explains the occasion of the trap, i.e., to make known the nature of the Hutterite community to other Italians, but stipulates that only those Italians would be welcomed as new members whose minds were not contaminated with false doctrines about the nature of Christ, the resurrection from the dead, angels, devils, or other matters (obvious references to the doctrines approved by the Venetian council of 1550; see Manelfi). The letter also contains a statement of the Hutterite articles of belief. Gherlandi also bore a list of names of more than one hundred Italians living in over 60 localities in north Italy and the Grisons.

On 21 March 1559 he came to official attention because he refused to swear to port authorities near Venice that he had no disease. He was soon released and we find him a few days later in Treviso publicly criticizing the Roman Church. This led to his arrest and examination at Treviso and transfer to prison in Venice, from which he managed to escape and return to Moravia. He was in Italy again at Christmas of 1560, and in October 1561 was captured once again at Treviso and imprisoned more securely in Venice.

From his prison he wrote on 4 or 14 October 1561, a letter (never delivered, and now in the archives of Venice) to Leonhard Lanzenstiel, bishop of the Moravian Hutterite community. This document explains his predicament, but shows a courageous spirit and a firmness in the faith that testify to the genuinenes of his religious conviction: "Do not for a moment doubt that there will be given to me in that hour, according to the true divine promise, wisdom, against which all the adversaries shall not be able to resist." A few days later (23 October) Gherlandi prepared a comprehensive confession of faith in which he explained the circumstances surrounding his departure from Catholicism and his joining of the Hutterites, and described the beliefs and practices of the latter. He closed with these moving words: "That is my simple confession. I ask that it be accepted with indulgence, for I am no orator, writer, or historian but only a poor lantern-maker—I am however not truly poor, since I am indeed content with my fate." On 16 November 1561, Gherlandi was examined by three theologians, who, after lively discussions, concluded that the prisoner remained "obstinate in the crime of heresy." The issue between the two parties rested squarely on the question of authority of the church, with Gherlandi holding steadily to the Scriptures. During the ensuing several months he was left to languish in the prison but occupied himself with efforts to convert his fellow prisoners. When admonished by a priest concerning this he refused to beg pardon from the court, saying, "To God alone ought I to bend the knee and not to worldly men" (19 September 1562). During this same month Gherlandi was joined in his prison by his old associate Sega; the renewed contact strengthened both in their faith.

On 15 October 1562 the court sentenced Gherlandi to be drowned; it informed him of his fate on 23 October, and he was executed soon thereafter. His last word was a greeting to the Hutterite community which Sega managed to record in a letter that paid glowing tribute to Gherlandi's splendid martyr example.


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Author(s) Henry A DeWind
Date Published 1956

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MLA style

DeWind, Henry A. "Gherlandi, Giulio (ca. 1520-1562)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 20 Apr 2021.,_Giulio_(ca._1520-1562)&oldid=144155.

APA style

DeWind, Henry A. (1956). Gherlandi, Giulio (ca. 1520-1562). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 20 April 2021, from,_Giulio_(ca._1520-1562)&oldid=144155.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp. 513-514. All rights reserved.

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