Socinus, Laelius (1525-1562) and Faustus Socinus (1539-1604)

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Socinus (Sozzini), the name of two well-known Unitarian theologians, Laelius (Lelio) and Faustus (Fausto). Laelius Socinus (born 1525 at Siena, Italy; died 1562 at Zürich, Switzerland) was a jurist with a broad theological interest; he turned away from Roman Catholicism, but did not definitively embrace Protestantism. In 1546 he stayed in Venice, where he came into contact with an Evangelical group. He also visited Basel, where he met a number of humanist scholars, including Sebastian Castellio. He also conferred with some of the great Reformers, visiting Calvin (1548) and Melanchthon (1550). After 1550 he lived mostly at Zürich, but he traveled also in France, England, and Poland. Laelius Socinus, doubting and criticizing the official doctrines of the churches, Catholic as well as Lutheran and Calvinist—he seems not to have been aware of the Mennonites—wrote against the Sacraments and taught a vague anti-Trinitarianism in unclear and covert terms.

Faustus Socinus (born 1539 at Siena, died 31 May 1604, near Cracow in Poland) systematically worked out the views of his uncle. He studied at Lyons, France, and other universities. In 1562-1574 he lived at Florence, Italy, at the court of Francesco de Medici, a liberal man renowned for his interest in science and arts. In 1574-1578 he lived at Basel, devoting himself to the study of theology. In 1578 he came to Transylvania to combat Frans Davidis and his followers, called Nonadorantes, who taught that Jesus was not worthy of worship. In 1579 he moved to Poland, where he remained until his death, building up his doctrine of Unitarianism (see Socinianism). He had to combat numerous heterodox groups, Nonadorantes, Arians, Chiliasts, and also Calvinism and Roman Catholicism. After a long and severe struggle his views were fully accepted at the synod of Rakov (Poland) in 1603. Socinus drew up a confession, Catechesis, which was not quite finished when he died; it was completed by his closest co-workers and published first in 1605 at Racov, and is therefore called the Racovian catechism. The theological, exegetical, and ethical works of Faustus Socinus were published in Bibliotheca Fratrum Polonorum 2 vv. (Amsterdam, 1656). It is interesting to note that Faustus never actually became a member of the Polish Brethren, since he did not accept rebaptism as required, nor was he their founder.


Cory, David M. Faustus Socinus. Boston, 1932.

Wilbur, E. M. A History of Unitarianism: Socinianism and Its Antecedents. Cambridge, 1946.

Author(s) Nanne van der Zijpp
Date Published 1959

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MLA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. "Socinus, Laelius (1525-1562) and Faustus Socinus (1539-1604)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 29 Nov 2021.,_Laelius_(1525-1562)_and_Faustus_Socinus_(1539-1604)&oldid=109469.

APA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. (1959). Socinus, Laelius (1525-1562) and Faustus Socinus (1539-1604). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 29 November 2021, from,_Laelius_(1525-1562)_and_Faustus_Socinus_(1539-1604)&oldid=109469.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 569. All rights reserved.

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