Negri, Francesco (1500-1564)

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Francesco Negri (1500-1564), of Bassano, Italy, humanist and reformer, by some erroneously called an Anabaptist because of his temporary support of the position of Camillo Renato on the sacraments at Chiavenna in the 1540s, entered a Benedictine cloister at Padua in 1521. Influenced by Lutheran writings, he fled the monastery in 1525, and in 1529 was in Strasbourg, where he attended the lectures of Capito and Bucer. He visited Venice, Padua, and Brescia in 1530, then returned to Strasbourg. In 1531 when he requested that he be permitted to work for the Reformation in the Italian-speaking parts of Switzerland, Capito recommended him to Zwingli as an able and learned man. He went to Tirano (then under the jurisdiction of the Rhaetian Leagues) as a teacher in 1531, and in 1538 moved to Chiavenna where he taught classical languages. He helped found the evangelical community there, and was on good terms with Bullinger and other Swiss leaders. During this time he wrote a Catechism and in 1546 published his Tragedia del libero arbitrio in which he bitterly attacked the Catholic Church. Although placed on the Index in 1548, this work was widely read by Italians and went into several later editions. Negri helped many Italian fugitives from the Roman Inquisition to make fresh starts in the Leagues. In 1547 when Camillo Renato became involved in a dispute with Agostino Mainardi, pastor of the church at Chiavenna, Negri sided with the former on the interpretation of the origin of the sacraments (although personalities were also in question) and thereby received the epithet "Anabaptist," which was likewise applied incorrectly to Renato. However, Negri accepted the verdict of a special synod which supported Mainardi's position and in the second edition of the Libero arbitrio (1550) included an orthodox confession which contained a specific disavowal of Anabaptism. He had no objection to infant baptism in principle (he had his child baptized in 1548, although there was some difficulty over the precise form to be used). The radical evangelical leader in north Italy, Pietro Manelfi, reported Negri's presence at the council in Venice in September 1550 where Christological questions were discussed, but there is no other evidence for this. In 1550 Negri published the narratives of the martyrdom of some Italians and in the ensuing years was in contact with the ex-bishop Pierpaolo Vergerio who was wrongly accused of Anabaptism by some contemporaries. By 1556 Negri had settled once again in Tirano but he continued to maintain close contacts with Chiavenna, and in fact undertook a tutoring assignment there in 1560. He visited Poland in 1562 or 1563 and died of the plague at Kraków in 1564.


Bullingers Korrespondenz mit den Graubundnem, ed. T. Schiess. Quellen zur Schweizer Geschichte; XXIII-XXV. Basel, 1904-1906.

Church, F. C. The Italian Reformers, 1534-1564. New York, 1932.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. III, 203.

Zonta, G. "Francesco Negri l'eretico e la sua tragedia 'II Libero Arbitrio'." Giornale storico della letteratura italiana 67 (1916): 265-324.

Author(s) Henry A DeWind
Date Published 1957

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DeWind, Henry A. "Negri, Francesco (1500-1564)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 20 Oct 2020.,_Francesco_(1500-1564)&oldid=145925.

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DeWind, Henry A. (1957). Negri, Francesco (1500-1564). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 20 October 2020, from,_Francesco_(1500-1564)&oldid=145925.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 820-821. All rights reserved.

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