Reform of the Church, Prophesy and Apocalypse in Mattia da Salò

Costanzo Cargnoni OFM Cap

Translated by Patrick Colbourne OFM Cap

Translator’s note: This translation is based on RIFORMA DELLA CHIESA, PROFEZIA E APOCALISSE IN MATTIA DA SALÒ by P. Costanzo Cargnoni OFM Cap in Extractus et Commentario LAURENTIANUM 26-23 (1985).

Table of Contents

In this brief study of Sviluppi della riforma cappuccino nella storiografia dei primi cronisti [1] we have taken the opportunity to revisit Mattia da Salὸ’s “mysterious” commentary on “The Apocalypse” that was written in the closing years of his life and which is probably the most important work for a full understanding of the historical and spiritual vision that he absorbed from prophetic teachings.

It is no mystery that Bellintani felt sympathetic towards Joachimism and the Franciscan Spirituals. For quite some time the attention of scholars has focused on this.[2] Indeed, one of the more recent contributions states that among Capuchin chroniclers “Bellintani shows himself to be the most consistent and obvious heirs of Clareno. However, we believe, that this is the case with all Franciscan literature from the fourteenth century onward.”[3]

However, judgements such as this were based on a quick glance at just one of Bellintani’s works, namely his Capuchin Chronicle which bears the title Historia capuccina che tratta dell’ultima et perfetta riforma della religione di S. Francesco de’ frati minori osservanti detti Capuccini,[4] without undertaking an extensive scrutiny of the author’s works, of his life experience and of his unique circumstances.

Because he was an expert in adapting currant ways of thought, an astute observer of contemporary events and an avid reader of theological works, Bellintani perused them critically and retained them in his prodigious memory,[5] investing them with images, Biblical concepts and reflections that subsequently broke forth in his peaching. Therefore, he is one of those people who knows how to capture and communicate the spirit of the day with the same theological perspective as Scotus and Bonaventure, since he had a deep understanding of the Bible, was a tenacious scholar, tireless preacher, diplomat and gifted preacher, a man of affairs, a traveller and promoter of the Capuchin Reform especially in France, Switzerland and Bohemia, founder of devotional, popular Confraternities, especially through the practice of the Forty Hours, and a prolific writer of spiritual and mystical publications.

We shall indicate the context of what led up to this important approach within the environment of Franciscan and Capuchin history in order to analyse the genesis and development of the reformist ideas and prophetic insights proposed by Mattia da Salὸ and, finally, conclude with a tentative reconstruction of some important concepts that it contained and their historical and theological significance.

1. Historical and spiritual concepts that lead to this kind of approach

Examples of reformist and prophetic-apocalyptic tendencies were present already in the Capuchin chronicles of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries especially in the use of visions, miracles, revelations and prophesies that oscillated between charisma and apologetic. It would be an interesting study to investigate the material that contains a lively spiritual tone, with its many variations, as it thrived in other religious institutions and other reform movements that developed at the same time as the Capuchin reform.[6] In fact it was an ancient tradition handed down throughout the Franciscan Order following the controversy over poverty, the idealism of the Spirituals and the influence of Joachimism. The subject is well known and it is sufficient to just mention it here.[7]

In any case, when we consider the whole picture, it is noteworthy how the emphases on reform and scriptural exegesis became so important following the Council of Trent, especially during the last ten years of the sixteenth century, particularly from the eighties onwards. It progressed from a Franciscan tendency towards reform that was predominantly linked to the spiritualistic teaching of Pietro di Giovanni Olivi, on through Ubertino da Casale and most of all Angelo Clareno, who were the instruments of struggle and defence within the Franciscan Order that resisted the Observants while linking the Capuchin Reform to the reform of the Church as undertaken by Trent, making the Capuchin Order become one of the main dynamic and active factors in the environment of the Counter Reformation.

As A. Chastel had demonstrated, the entire sixteenth century is filled with prophetic and apocalyptic sentiments that are characterised by restlessness and ferment.[8] We see this after 1527, the year in which “the Sack of Rome” took place, which was the cause of the rebirth of eschatological prophesy, for example in the dreams of renewal and the proclamation of an “Angelic Pope” that was proposed by Guillaume Postel, as well as the Babylon of the prophesies and the Apocalypse as proclaimed by Bishop G. Stafileo in an address to the Tribunal of the Sacred Rota, on 15 May 1528 and to the whole of contemporary Rome that had been so shockingly humiliated.[9] We have found 56 authors and 133 publications that were based on astrological threats and predictions for the years 1520-1530. People were obsessed particularly with the end of the world and the destruction of Rome and of the Papacy.[10]

Out of this there rose a strong attraction to contrition and penance. Under great pressure Clement VII appeared once more in public wearing a long beard that represented all of these things. Bearded hermits who wear sandals began to wander around carrying a cross. Outspoken preachers of penance who spoke in apocalyptic terms that resembled the prophetic language of Savonarola became a feature of the fifteenth century. In fact, already during the height of the popularity of the ideals of humanism proposals of an apocalyptic-eschatological nature and messianic expectation were in circulation. They foresaw evil, tribulations and suffering while predicting the advent of the Antichrist and the persecution of the Church until the spiritual reign of the purified Church would come about.

The chronicles of the Italian cities testify to how this outlook was similar to the outlook of the middle and lower classes who experienced a troubled state of mind with respect to religion and eschatology especially during the last two decades of the fifteenth century. There was a strong belief in miracles, prophesies, revelations, prodigies, threating signs, mysterious apparitions, visions and mystical novelties. In such an environment many old Joachimist controversies and the tenets of the Spirituals inspired hermitical movements and prophetic fantasies that pointed to the advent of the Antichrist. C. Vasoli wrote:

In 1405 or 1406 a penitent arrived in Siena who had a scroll in his hand on which was written: “Behold I am coming soon and quickly, be prepared”, and he announced the end of the world, the Last Judgement, destruction and ruin before the reformation (renewal). After him other hermits, who were dressed in sackcloth, passed through the cities and villages of Tuscany preaching penance. It would seem that their power of persuasion was so strong as to induce one chronicler, Sigismono Tizio, who was both a Churchman and a writer, to write a book about the end of the world, because he was convinced that the Antichrist was already at the door and, in any event, would arrive before 1600.[11]

This prophetic and visionary revival often took on political inferences that caused unrest and opposition to the point of provoking the intervention of the ecclesiastical authorities. This happened in Florence in1514 where the Vicar General and the Metropolitan Council opposed the prophesies about the reform of the Church and the coming of the new age.[12] This occurred especially on 19 December 1516 during the eleventh session of the Fifth Lateran Council in which all Diocesan and Religious priests were forbidden to preach before they had been approved by their superiors and anyone could be excommunicated if he dared to speak about future tribulations, the coming of the Antichrist, the proximity of the final judgement or fabricated divine revelations.[13]

There were events, personages and a frame of mind that led to an attitude and to a state of fear concerning the Protestant reform and this contributed to igniting an apocalyptic vision and also to popularising this vision by quoting symbols taken from the Apocalypse when criticising the Pope and Rome.[14]

Against this background it is significant that the early Capuchin chroniclers, specially Colpetrazzo and Bellintani himself, highlighted the phenomenon of hermits who were preachers and adopted an apocalyptic approach and described the events as a preparation for and consequence of the “Sack of Rome” while referring to the famous sermon of Francesco da Montepulciano in 1513 and to the fiery Brandano.[15]

It is no accident that Mattia da Bascio appeared in one of the stories as being caught up in a prophetic “vision” wearing the same garb as a penitential preacher, “dressed in a habit that was rough and patched, with a pointed hood on his head, barefoot and with a crucifix in his hand.”[16] Soon after this various Capuchins, after having obtained the Papal Bull of approval from Clement VII, in 1528, and soon after the shock of the sack of Rome, dispersed through the various regions of Italy. It was like a sudden explosion of hermits, who were unkept and austere, wearing a beard as a sign of the reform of morals and personal commitment as a consequence of having experienced a terrible shock.[17]

The first period of Capuchin preaching can easily be compared to the preaching of the hermits and it often adopted a prophetic tone.[18] However, in the use of an eschatological approach similar to that proposed by Savonarola we can immediately sense an enthusiastic program for the moral and spiritual renewal of the faithful through the reception of the Sacraments, the exercise of vocal and mental prayer while becoming actively involved in social problems while serving the Church in providing catechesis, a simple but strong proclamation of the Gospel of the Crucified Christ and by making use of the exercises of popular piety such as the Forty Hours and devotions to the Virgin and the Saints.[19]

In the context of the environment that prevailed during the first decade of their reform movement certain apocalyptic and eschatological ideas appeared among the Capuchin friars. They were taken either from Franciscan prophesies produced by the Spirituals or Pseudo-Joachinist writings. They were used to defend their program for the renewal of the Church in line with the preaching of Vincenzo Ferrer, St Bernardine and Tomitano or with the writings of St Bridgid, St Antonio da Firenze, Hildegard, Caterina da Siena and Blessed Amedeo Menez de Silva.[20] It is very significant that all of this material was originally collected and used by Bellintani in his Historia Capuccina.[21] These circumstances which characterise the Capuchin Reform perfectly and explain its objective were overlooked by Reeves and thus she lost an opportunity for a deeper understanding of the prophetic literature of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.[22]

Nevertheless, in the Capuchin environment, excluding the first difficult years when the friars were seeking to comfort and encourage themselves by referring to Franciscan prophesies, we do not see any particular emphasis on prophetic or apocalyptic themes. The prophesies that were mentioned by Colpetrazzo as being spoken by Francesco da Jesi were only used to defend the Reform and were not expounded in terms of the Apocalypse. It is certain that Ripanti appears in the Capuchin chronicles as the main figure in making use of prophesies about the Order.[23] It was he who persuaded the Spanish contemplative Br Giovanni de Medina Sidonnia to relate revelations on the fate of the Order following the apostasy of Ochino, insights that had been experienced during a long period of prayer in Montepulciano, Fossombrone and the Carcerelle of Assisi over “three periods of time.” The first occurred in the month of September 1543, the second was in December close to the feast of Christmas of the same year, the third in the month of April during the Easter Season in 1544 until 12 July. The text of these “consoling” revelations circulated among the friars in manuscript form in many versions and editions and found a place in the early Capuchin chronicles.[24]

One cannot deny that a spirit of prophecy was typically strong among the early friars. We are surrounded by very contemplative and holy men. In any case what Bernardino da Colpetrazzo wrote is significant:

Thus, we can see clearly that the Order was bound to grow and that at various times there would arise men who were holy and who would promote various reforms and who would be powerfully lifted up on high. This would not happen throughout the Order but in parts of it until the full reform was achieved which we Capuchins hope was our reform as it possessed the spirit of our Founder rather than that of leading saints, as was the case with all the other reforms that occurred from the outset. This reform, however, according to this prophesy, will take place in the end just as we desired it would. We also say that this is the real reform because in the style of dress and in every way, it will resemble what it was like at the beginning of the Order when it was founded by St Francis. Although many reforms have risen up, they have returned to the ways of nature and failed in a short space of time. However, this last reform will be miraculously supported by God and will endure until the coming of the Antichrist just as most holy men at the beginning of our Order had often thought it would. No other reform will arise for according to the Abbot Joachim if another reform were to arise it would be that of Canaanites. It would dress in sackcloth and live more perfectly than our Order and any other Order but it would only last a short amount of time.[25]

Here he summarised just a few of the works of the Spirituals such as Ugo di Digne and Angelo Clareno together with the magical name of the Abbot Joachim.

2. The origin of the prophetic and apocalyptic ideas of Mattia da Salὸ (1561-1589)

Colpetrazzo was writing in the last two decades of the sixteenth century in an environment that was very different to that of Francesco da Jesi. However, it is possible that when he said the Capuchin reform ought to last “till the coming of the Antichrist, as I often heard from very holy men at the beginning of our Order,” that he is referring most of all to Ripanti, who had been his teacher and to the prophesies of Giovanni Zuazo. It is still true that just as Ripanti took the Franciscan prophesies and applied them to the Capuchins, Mattia da Salὸ brought together a large collection of prophetic and apocalyptic traditions and not only applied them to the Capuchin Reform but also to the History of the Church and to contemporary events in which he had become involved because of the offices he held in the Order.

From 1561, after he had just been ordained a priest, he began to preach in Foligno, until 1570 remaining in Umbria and (from 1568) moving around Naples. Later he was called to the Province of Milan and thus came into contact with Charles Borromeo.[26] In 1575 he was sent to France as Commissary General “to implant the Capuchin Order” and he remained there until 1578. After that he began preaching again in various Italian cities. In 1591 he visited Switzerland as Commissary General and in 1602 he was sent to Bohemia by St Lawrence of Brindisi where he remained for three years.[27]

In the list of his sermons we note a progressive increase in the use of Biblical and prophetic teachings. Thus, in1579 during the festivities in Bergamo after Vespers he delivered “a lecture on the Psalms.” [28] In 1584 in the Cathedral at Perugia he preached on “the four animals in the vision of Ezekiel” linking the Gospel of the day to the Prophet:

What was said in the Gospel is confirmed in Ezekiel. Thus Rinaldo, who was the principal teacher of law in Perugia and who was amazed at this, said to his pupils on the morning of the Feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin that occurred on a Saturday – I want us to consider what the Preacher said about Ezekiel this morning … The priest began his introduction with these words: – This morning let us do what the Lord commanded through Ezekiel: Likewise, the people of the land shall worship at the entrance to the gateway before the Lord on the Sabbaths and the New Moons. (Ezek 46:3) – and he followed this up by showing that the gate was the Virgin Mary who was conceived without Original Sin. Considering this as today is Saturday it is suitable for us to offer praise etc. and link the words of the Gospel: Blessed is the womb that bore you to the words of Ezekiel which left everyone in amazement. [29]

Once again in 1585 “after Easter he returned to teach and to preach in Perugia throughout the year until the Epiphany. During this year he used the first two chapters of Genesis which speak about the six days of the creation of the world.”[30]

At the General Chapter in 1587 when Girolamo da Polizzi was elected General, Bellintani was appointed to write the chronicles of the Order in place of Bernardino da Colpetrazzo who, because of his age, could not complete the work. In a short space of time he completed the first book where he maintained the thesis that in all probability the Capuchin Reform would be the last (“the ultimate and perfect”) which had been announced by means of revelations and prophesies beginning from Joachim of Fiore on through the Spiritual Franciscans in the fifteenth century as well as by other saints.[31]

It was precisely from these years on that he showed a liking for prophesy, continual meditation on the meaning of the history of the world and of the Church that was stimulated by his reading prophetic and apocalyptic texts such as the Hitoria septem tribulationum by A. Clareno, the Arbor vitae crucifixae Jesu by Ubertino da Casale, the prophesies of Giovanni di Roquetaillade (de Rupescissa), the De conformitate by Bartolomeo da Pisa, the Croniche by Marco da Lisbona, the Rivelazioni of St Bridgit, the prophetic meditations of Dionysius the Carthusian, the writings of Joachim of Fiore, the Lectura super Apocalypsim by Pietro di Giovanni Olivi, even if he did not have direct access to the last work mentioned but knew it only through the works of Ubertino and Clareno.[32]

At this point the modern reader probably might ask: how was it that Bellintani did not recognise the one-dimensional nature of these prophetic and apocalyptic texts? The response comes from the facts themselves. He did not take the master’s word literally. He rather absorbed the concept, meditated on it and applied it in a particular way and because he possessed a great memory and imagination, he experienced an absorbing love for the Church and the Order. They were readings that helped him to develop a method for interpreting history, or better still, what was almost the same as history and for stimulating his brilliant mind. He had the temperament of a radical “Franciscan spiritual” who was continually absorbed in prayer and meditation. He read the events of human history in the light of what had been laid down by God’s providence without losing the ideal of rebuilding a new Christian res publica the prophetic proof of which would be the reformation of the Franciscan way of life brought about in the Capuchin Reform which was approved by the Council of Trent. This was an outstanding sign of the reform of the universal Church.

When he returned to the Province in 1570 as “the General Lector in the area around Abadia outside Brescia many students who had been with him in Naples, as well as some from other Provinces, accompanied him.”[33] When he taught them, he passed on these prophesies as Fr Maurice de la Morra subsequently related. He also encouraged his companions in the mission in Vallase: “Je voy accomplice en nous une revelation au R. P. Mathias Bellantini de Salὸ, homme de vie exemplary, grand contemplative et fervent prédicateur, de la bouche duquel je l’ay apprise, l’hors que j’étudyoy en la s.te theologie, iceluy etant mon lecteur.”[34] Prophesy or revelation was a Capuchin method of expressing the vision of St Francis supporting the Lateran which was tumbling down. This story appeared also in the Historia Capuccina.[35]

When Bellintani is speaking about another prophesy which was attributed to Giovanni di Roquetaillade, he says that, during the time when Mario da Mercato Saraceno was the General (1567-1573), Fr. Paolo da Milano made a copy of a prophetical text from an ancient codex that was given to him by an old farmer who lived in the hills of Cannobio. The prophesy referred to “the great struggle that would take place between the Eagle and the Cock and how the Cock would come close in the twenty fifty year and the Eagle would go back to its nest and fly up to heaven.” It also referred to:

The great devastation that would be brought about by the Great Turk who would be the mystical Antichrist who appeared to have arrived in Rome and that two friars from the Reformed Franciscans who were dressed in sackcloth would be the mystical Enoch and the mystical Elias and would preach to him and convert him. The younger of these should have been Pope and they would visit the Church on foot and reform it, especially the Order of St Francis. They would be at odds with secular leaders, but the Angel of the Lord, who would accompany them, would defend them.[36]

Bellintani said that Fr Paolo “took this prophesy from Brescia, where the house of studies was situated in 1570 … and I obtained it from the hands of Fr Paolo who said that he had obtained it in that way and in that place.”[37]

Therefore, Mattia da Salὸ was very interested in these prophesies and he collected them and wrote them down. In the same place he speaks about another prophesy by a certain Frate Agostino da Foligno that was proclaimed while he was at prayer with his brother who was a Franciscan tertiary at the time of Bernardino da Feltre. The prophesy sounds like this:

Dear Brother, you are to see great things. You will see a Florentine Pope. Woe to Rome at that time! At that time St Francis will rise again […]. This reform has to last until the end of the world; the youngest man will become Pope. You should be prepared for the great tribulation that you have to suffer.

After that the tertiary brother fell sick and while they were questing two Capuchins came to visit him. They were Br Bartolomeo da Spello and Br Ruffino da Burgo, a cleric. They related the same prophesy to the sick man. Behold the Angel Messenger. Applying this to himself Bellintani wrote: “I heard this from Br Ruffino who heard it from Terzaruolo and I asked him to write it down.”[38]

When he wrote these things in December 1587-1589, Mattia da Salὸ was just one of the many people who were taking up apocalyptic themes. Restricting ourselves to the Capuchin environment it is interesting that at Chioggia in June 1589 a Capuchin preacher, Valentino di Trieste, was questioned about certain expressions he had used un his sermons that referred to the arrival of the Antichrist. In order to defend himself he explained the meaning of his words in a letter to the Bishop:

What I said […] was that if God allowed it, the Antichrist would come and using gifts and signs would attempt to turn people back, even the elect, to his way of acting and to despising God. I said: “when this is allowed.” By saying this I meant that when he did this God would have permitted him to do it. I said “signs” because when he does this, he will not be making use of miracles or supernatural phenomenon but false signs and prodigies, secundum operationem Satanae, as the Apostle said to the Thessalonians in chapter two. Had I used the term miracle it would not have exposed their false idea of what was really miraculous.

In the same way he will try to drag the elect down into disrespecting God. I wanted to make it clear that he would attempt to have even the elect insult God by deceiving them as the evangelist St Matthew said in chapter 24 and St Mark in chapter 12 where the Saviour discusses the way the Antichrist operates. St Paul said the same to the Thessalonians uti supra [2 Thess 2:4]. He said: Qui adversatur et extollitur supra omne quod dicitur Deus aut quod colitur, ita ut in templo Dei sedeat, ostendens se tamquam sit Deus.[39]

3. Preparation and publication of the “Commentari sull’Apocalisse” (1594-1597)

Towards the end of June 1594 Mattia da Salὸ was again at work on his Historia Capuccina.[40] From his correspondence we come to know about some of his intense meditation as when he describes the environment in the Roman Curia as “the Roman furnace and ornament of Babylon.”[41] However, he did not succeed in concentrating solidly on the work because he suffered from headache and disturbances of vision for several weeks. An unknown contemporary has called this illness “vertigo.”[42] In his letters Bellintani also refers to the Turkish danger that appears to be very close for Italy and which was contained in many prophesies that were circulating at the time, as the means God was using to purify and reform the Church. However, for various reasons he was not really convinced about it being imminent and he could not explain this at the time because of “the disturbance in my head.” He looked forward to a “true reform of the majority of abuses” as the only way of renewal in the Church, and the way to endure all the tribulations that were coming. Because of this he continues to pray “for the Church”.[43]

These thoughts are like little seeds that flower in the deep garden bed of the spirit that filled his meditation on the evils of the world of his day, on the decadence of conduct even in religious and ecclesiastical environments as well as in the environment at court. Such solitary meditation was strengthened by the fact that during these months which were interspersed with the composition of the Historia Cappucina, he decided to write a commentary on the Apocalypse. This is the first mention of a work that was destined to grow and to have a troubled history. This is what Bellintani wrote from the friary in Salὸ on 25 February 1594 to O. Mancini who was his friend and spiritual child:

Your Reverence, in order to take the opportunity to discuss with you all that is happening to me, and considering that I am still unwell, I propose, both so that I will not remain idle, and because I fear that I will not be able to do anything more while I am alive, to send you a few of my thoughts on the Apocalypse in the belief that God granted them to me so that I could publish them to the world. Therefore, so as not to become more exhausted and to limit myself to my own thoughts, I have gradually briefly committed everything to writing. In the end, when I began and wanted to explain the subject of that book the pen led me to compose a tract on the Kingdom of Christ, which is the real subject of that book. This led me to begin writing our Chronical. Now that I have finished the tract I shall return to the Chronical and when that is finished, I shall return to the Apocalypse amplifying it and adjusting its structure. If I am not misled by self-love, I think that I have discovered the objective, the order and the meaning of that very holy book which I regard as the key to Sacred Scripture which cannot be understood properly unless we have a full knowledge and understanding of this book. I believe that God has fed me with this pasture as a sure sign of putting me at rest. This being the case, I think that, when this is finished, I will take up the most obscure Prophets when I can.[44]

This is a precious testimony that reveals the real sentiments and motives of Bellintani’s prophetic and apocalyptic spirituality. He sees the signs of God’s will in the events of daily life. In spite of failing health that did not allow him to work with his former intensity, he carefully considered developing a commentary on St John’s Apocalypse in order not to be idle. He did so without thinking about consulting any other commentary that would have involved a great deal of work and effort. He said that he just wanted to express his “thoughts”. He felt obliged and impelled to share these “thoughts” with others, to “spread them to the world”. He considered the obligation to share with others to be a gift from God for which he would have to render an account. Because of this he did not allow the occasion to slip past because he was uncertain whether “there was nothing more that he could do while alive.” He calmly made a “brief” summary of his commentary on every chapter of the prophetic book, and, at the end, almost by way of a revision, he focused his attention on the basic theme of the Apocalypse, the “subject of the book”, as he put it, and there emerged a “treatise on the Kingdom of Christ”. Indeed, he thought, without being presumptuous, that he had discovered “the objective, the order and the meaning of that very holy book.” He saw the Apocalypse as “the key to Sacred Scripture” which, however, required a deep and complete knowledge of Scripture. This was the most outstanding insight of the many insights enjoyed by Mattia da Salὸ. It was noted even by his contemporaries. His predictions and his whole frame of thought was enclosed in Sacred Scripture so that it looked like a miracle.[45]

With respect to his technique what is important to us is the statement: “Now that I have finished the tract I shall return to the Chronical and when that is finished, I shall return to the Apocalypse amplifying it and adjusting its structure.” In other words, he is saying that the Historia Cappuccina that had been written while he was full of “thoughts” about the Apocalypse could disclose, at least in part, some of the “thoughts” that we will come across in the future.

In the end what this demonstrates is that he has a new important study project. When he had finished the Apocalypse Mattia da Salὸ intended to comment on “the most obscure prophets” yielding to a passion for apocalyptic prophesy that aroused him from within. Because of this his letters continued to state what would promote the reform of the Church and he interpreted contemporary history only in the light of religious prophesy. This is what he wrote from Salὸ on 19 April 1595:

Count Gerolamo di Lodrone was here on Sunday on his way to the Todeschi with the intention of coming back. Like the old sturdy soldier that he is, he was amazed at how the entire Church is asleep when it ought to be awake. There are many things that cause disturbances just as it never rains without there being clouds so when sin takes grace away human prudence is also lost and the individual finds himself in trouble. However, because we have a most wise Master who can see everything of the good and the bad, distinguishing one from the other, we may be remain safe quia nulla nocet adversitas ubi nulla domunatus iniquitas.[46]

More than anything he wanted the Roman Curia to be the model for the reform of the entire Church, because if the head was holy the entire body would be holy. In saying this he was repeating what had already been expressed by Catholic reformers before Trent in the Consilium de emendanda Ecclesisia in 1537 and, before that, in the libellous ad Leonem X.[47] In fact, on 3 October 1595 he wrote in another letter:

Is there anyone who does not know that when sanctity is really in control it will rule the entire earth, just as it is not the arms or any other part of the body but the head that controls the sensations and movement of the lower parts. Thus, it is here that the Enemy activates all his skill and uses all his strength to put to work what is evil and establish his reign as far as that is possible. If he did not wait for Christ to come to him, but went to attack Christ in the desert, he still continues to wage battle wherever Christ is dwelling so that there can be grave danger anywhere if the citizens of the place do not have control by uniting themselves to Christ in holiness and Christian living. The situation will then be that they will find the rivers that flow with good moral advice and lead to good order and the statutes of the faith, if the foundation of faith maintains the building it will resist the rain and make it strong and thus support all the parts of the body of Christ so that each can perform what it should perform. For now, I do not want to say anymore except to say lift your head above the waves quickly and find help so that you will survive. If you want to stay alive you need to keep your head up continually while you have the strength to reach the shore since the ocean is the place for fish not for men except for those who are on board a ship who usually have not only their head but their entire body above the water. Love the land and not the water and you will be safer.[48]

The illness that Bellintani suffered in those months did not prevent him from revising the Commentari sull’Apocalisse. This information comes from a letter to Cardinal Frederico Borromeo that was written on 7 January 1598 in which he also presented an interesting description of the work which adds to the earlier ideas that he presented to O. Mancini three years before. The work remained unpublished because of the need to “revise the sermons to be preached in Milan that were to be published.” This was the volume Delli dolori di Christo Sig. nostro. Prediche otto , con alter quattro d’altre meterir, tutte predicate nel Duomo di Milano l’anno 1591.[49] Printing this book and the preparation for the Lenten Course in the Cathedral at Brescia in 1598 kept him occupied. In the letter he wrote to Borromeo he said “in regard to putting the final touches on the commentaries: I had little time to act before they were printed although one was partially revised.” Then he outlines the plan of his work:

Whether he is recounting what he has observed or describing how must it has inspired him he develops it all around one concept. The book is divided into two parts, with the second beginning at the end of chapter eleven where, when the heavens open, he sees the ark of the covenant and then the woman and the dragon. Here he speaks about the body in the same way as he spoke about the head in the first part. Both have their martyrs. Like the Lamb which is sacrificed in the morning and the evening they too produce flowers. Therefore, with regard to the first Holy Innocents he sings “pro Christo infantes occisi sunt: with regard to the later ones he prays: Deus pro cuius Ecclesia gloriosus Pontifex Thomas gladius impiorum occubuit. We have already gathered ripe fruit and tasted the evening offering and are now looking forward to a plentiful harvest. These belong to a woman who flees in fright and gives way to the dragon and she and her people are taken to a special place because God has prepared another place for her in the desert where he will give her the proper food so that she will not be hungry. He will himself feed her in a heaven full of the glow of grandeur. Thus, sixty armed strong beings will guard Solomon’s soft bed and they will not lack the power to protect it. A male child will come from the woman’s womb. He will hold a sceptre not made of gold but iron which will be much stronger than that which was beautiful. He will cast aside Ahasuerus’s golden rod and take up the sword of David. Adjicimus ergo opera tenebrarum et induamur arms lucis, unusquisque suam propriam virtutem et vocationem. We shall be like the blooming flowers in the song if we keep ourselves holy and long to inherit virtue even though heirs do not lack persecutors just like Isola wept and Cielo rejoiced.

So, my most illustrious Monsignor, we read, we see, we touch and we hope. Time is in God’s hands, what is beneath that is in our hands. Nescimus si quando Dominus domus veniat. However, we know clearly that ignis ante ipsum praecedet. Woe to him who allows the smoke that comes before the fire to blind him because the fire will take him by surprise. May God protect us. I pray that just as Thomas touched the wounds of Christ with his hands, from on high Christ will make us worthy of being heirs. […] Salὸ 7 January 1598.[50]

This piece is an example of Bellintani’s preferred tone and style. It contains the typical historical and spiritual inferences as well as the veiled allusion to real events that made his discourse inspirational. Thus, one comes to realise that his commentary on the Apocalypse was divided into two parts: the first part went up to chapter eleven inclusively, that is from the vision of the woman and the dragon leading into the second part. Thus, the twenty-two chapters were cut in half exactly with the first part dealing with the head of the Church and the second part dealing with the body of the Church. Bellintani says that each part had its own martyrs. The Lamb was sacrificed in the morning and in the evening. By this he meant that the Church was continually alive and fruitful suffering persecution and repeating the passion of Jesus Christ. In this case the Holy Innocents were the morning sacrifice, whereas the evening sacrifice was represented by the martyrdom of St Thomas Becket together with the persecution of the Catholic Church by Henry VIII and the Anglican schism and later with the excommunication of Queen Elizabeth by Pius V in 1570 and the draconian laws against Catholics. The “flower of Canterbury”, that is St Thomas Becket of Canterbury, was already producing blossoms to counteract this in the person of other martyrs, the so-called “English Martyrs”, and “therefore that island wept”, (that is England), “but rejoiced in heaven.” It is evident that he saw the evening sacrifice as represented in these contemporary events. He points out that the end of the world, the time when the Lord will return, is not known because “time is in God’s hands.” However, it is not forbidden to try to read the signs of the times and to study the Bible “since studies are our work.” Because the present time is full of confusion we need to be on guard and stay in the light. Indeed, if it is true that fire will precede the coming of the Lord, present times – according to Bellintani – are the time for the smoke which we must not allow to entrap us so that we do not become easily overcome by the sudden onset of the fire.

However, it is not easy to grasp all the implications of these allusions and images that were constructed by Bellintani’s fervent mind which joined Biblical and prophetic interpretations to “pious oratorical exclamations, ascetical and spiritual exhortations and references to actual contemporary events.”

4. Unsuccessful attempts at publication (1598-1600)

He had almost finished the Commentari sull’Apocalisse. He would have revised part of the work and hoped to soon have it published. He certainly had no idea of the difficulties that lay ahead.

Two months later, on 19 March 1598, he again wrote to Cardinal Borromeo to give a further explanation of what he had written in his letter of 7 January where the image of the Church was associated with the woman who fled into the desert might have given the impression that the Church was being accused of being an “inactive deserter”. He wanted to correct this impression, and reassure his brother of just the opposite and to be certain that Borromeo had understood this correctly. He wrote:

Am I now being scrupulous or oversensitive or both? I am worried about the expression “inactive deserter” that I used when I wrote to Your Eminence about the Apocalypse because I fear that it could be misunderstood even though I also said that you had always exerted your authority to put things right. Please assure me, your Eminence, that you have understood it correctly so that you may remove from me any obligation to ask for forgiveness. When introducing such images into the discourse we have to be sure that they fit what is being discussed. The images portray the characters since the King was both “inactive and a deserter” and they represent the evil that he did. The Apocalypse is trying to do nothing more than demonstrate the women’s frailty was protected by the men who came to her defence. This was expended so as to arrive at the conclusion that the authority of the woman should be strongly defended even though she is frail. […] [51]

In the meantime, the first two copies of the book on Dei dolori di Christo had appeared. They were printed at the expense of the Cardinal of Milan whose generosity had been so great that a large sum remained and Mattia da Salὸ confidently asked Borromeo if he could give some to the friars and to other people so that they could buy other books, “or if it could also be used to print the Apocalisse”,[52] a work that was very close to his heart as was also the publication of his Historia Capuccina. In fact, a few months earlier, through the intervention of the Countess Laura Gonzaga Matinengo and graphic artist Bartolomeo Zucchi, the Venetian printer Pier Paolo had tried to obtain exclusive rights to print Bellintani’s Croniche Capuccine. In a letter dated 14 September 1597 B. Zucchi made Mattia aware of this. He wrote: “[…] When a Venetian printer came to know that Your Reverence had compiled a special volume about certain Capuchin Fathers he tried to obtain the rights to print that volume and he came to me to obtain that favour for him […].”[53] Mattia da Salὸ could not agree to this request because he was already involved with another printer as we can see from the reply that he sent on 8 October : “[…] I feel very unhappy at not being able to accede to your request as I have already promised this to others whom I cannot refuse.”[54] In any case the edition was never published for reasons which perhaps we may discover before we reach the end of this study.

At this point the documentation that dates from the two years up to 1600 is of no further help to us. We do not know what happened to his Commentari sull’Apocalisse. We cannot find any further specific mention of this in Belintani’s correspondence until much later in the years 1607, 1610 and 1611 just before he died.

In 1598 he preached the Lenten Course in the Cathedral at Brescia for the third time at the personal request of the new Bishop, Marino Giorgi. Although he was sixty-three years of age Mattia also conducted the devotions of the Forty Hours with the usual sermons.[55] He then went back to the friary of Barbarano at Salὸ where he remained for the rest of his life. When the Provincial Chapter was celebrated in Brescia in the following November, he did not attend it but remained in the friary at Salὸ.[56] Although from time to time he suffered from attacks of vertigo he still preached the Advent Course in the mother church in Salὸ. Things were completely different in 1599. The anonymous author of his Vita said: “Because he was ill, he did not preach the Lenten Course in 1599 but stayed in Salὸ and did not go to the Chapter.”[57]

In 1600 Mattia turned sixty-five years of age. Nevertheless, he went to Aquileia where he preached for five weeks during the devotions of the Forty Hours delivering forty consecutive sermons. He supported this popular Eucharistic devotion to the end. He considered it to be the culmination of his Lenten preaching and the most effective pastoral instrument for the renewal of the local Church. When he returned to Salὸ he began the Advent Course for the third consecutive time.[58] However, after his mission in Brescia, his external activity began to diminish even though these years seem to have been the time when he put some order into his many spiritual and oratorical works.

Around 1600 he began to set out the plan for his Practtica dell’oration mentale, composing the third and fourth parts which were published towards the end of 1607 on his return from Prague.[59] At the same time, in order to develop the material that he had on hand, he started the first draft of the Teatro del Paradiso, as he relates in his introduction to the fourth part:

I thought that I ought to compose a few [meditations on Paradise] since it is something that is beyond our thoughts. I soon began to expand this […] and I thought that I ought to once again take the pen up, […] and let it write down what the divine goodness was showing me concerning the heavenly glory with the objective of subsequently taking up a number of other broader considerations and putting them in this part. Thus, I set down one hundred and fifty propositions. I decided to set them out clearly so that simple people would understand them […] God willing, I will address other things at another time. I shall call the work: Teatro del Paradiso.[60]

5. The Apocalyptic Reservations of a Theologian from the Sorbonne (1600)

It was just at the beginning of 1600 that there arose some uneasy reservations concerning the spirit of apocalyptic prophesy. In the General Archives of the Order in Rome there are two lengthy letters from Claudio Stefano Novelletus Thallorinus,[61] a theologian at the Sorbonne, that were written to Bellintani who was regarded as a famous authority on the interpretation of the Apocalypse. These letters challenge him about his opinions concerning the Antichrist and others features of apocalyptic prophesy.

For many years he had been meditating on the Apocalypse that he considered to be “the best summary of what lay ahead in the Church” with the intention of being prepared for the snares of the Antichrist that made this the prophesy of prophesies. Because of this he had formed a particular image of the Antichrist by delving into all the commentaries and books that he could find on the subject. He was convinced that the Antichrist would appear before the end of the world and, indeed, according to some experts, this ought to be imminent, even though others said that he had already appeared in the person of Mahomet. He was of the opinion that the Antichrist had already appeared as a person and would soon appear again in the members of the Church before the final struggle between the Church of Christ and the Church of Satan.[62] However he was concerned. “I have asked many people about this and consulted many books without ever reaching a solution.”[63]

Claudio Stefano had met the new Capuchin Reform in France where he taught at the Sorbonne and he said that they were “holy and learned men.” It was from them that he found out that Bellintani loved “working in this area” and had been occupied for some time in the study of the prophetic books of St John. However, he was unable to ascertain from the friars what the learned Italian Capuchin was thinking.

After returning to his homeland of Annecy in the last months of 1599 the Sorbonne professor met Angelo d’Avignon, the Provincial of that area.[64] He learnt from him what Bellintan thought about the Antichrist as, in his opinion, this was “totius Apocalypse cardo” (the whole meaning of the Apocalypse). As we can read in the letter just quoted, Angelo said “I remembered a little of this” but enough for the Sorbonne Professor to assume that Bellintani’s reflections were not very different to his own and this pleased him greatly and prompted him to consider them more closely and not just to listen to what someone else was saying. Therefore, he decided to go to the source directly, and to show his concern and anxiety about the reform of the Church he approached Mattia da Salὸ while still maintaining hope in the reform of the Church following the Council of Trent and being horrified with the heresy that had broken out in Christian Europe. He believed in the conversion of the new world to the faith of the Catholic Church following the discovery of America. Even some of what the heretics were saying about this gave him consolation as the Capuchins who brought the letter to Ballintani could attest.[65]

It was a kind of plea for spiritual discernment. The Professor would like the famous Capuchin from Salὸ to reassure him that his meditations on the Apocalypse were not fantasies but that he was on the right path: “if God has allowed me to think like you think I will and readily acknowledge that I have taken the right path.” Indeed, he would have stopped writing so as not presume to being ahead of someone who by his books and valid references knew much more than he did: “Indeed I would stop writing if that meant that I was putting myself above you. I have learnt so much from your books.”

He ended the letter with a moving declaration accompanied by an expression of belief in the future coming of an “angelic Pope” (whom he identified as Clement VIII) and the reform of Christianity in agreement with what was generally held in the last two decades of the sixteenth century and the beginning of the seventeenth century:

Reverend Father, open the book of the seven signs for us so that with your assistance we may be strongly armed to fight against the sorrows that have been inflicted on the Church so that they will not place a burden on our memory when the new man comes into the world, that is in the person of Christ the new creature whom many hoped would soon bring about the marriage of the Lamb and which I hope to occur at the time of rest mentioned by Paul (Heb. 4) when God’s people will enjoy rest, and when, (as Daniel said), the kingdom of God will be given to the Holy people when many hoped that there would be an Angelic Pastor, whom I think is perhaps Clement VIII, who is at present the Supreme Pontiff in the Church, when everything has to be done to rid it of dissidents and heretics and the behaviour of the world has to be reformed.[66]

We do not know how Mattia replied to this letter nor have we been able to find his Commentary on the Apocalypse. However, we do know that the same theologian who lived at Annecy wrote to Bellintani later on and sent him a longer letter in which he expounded his apocalyptic thoughts at a greater length and in more audacious terms.[67] Mattia da Salὸ’s response contains another idea of his. This letter was given to a certain Fr Teodosio, that is Teodoro da Bergamo,[68] to give to the Sorbonne Professor.

Bellintani’s reply filled him with joy because in it he discovered a degree of sympathy with his apocalyptic ideas. He wrote that he had read many commentaries without succeeding in finding an historical interpretation of the Apocalypse. A Commentarius in Apocalypsim by the Jesuit R. Ribera had been published in 1591.[69] He had been able to glance through this in Paris during a break from teaching at the University and he recalled that at a certain point the author had taken issue with the interpretations given by commentators when he emphasised the purely historical meaning of the work. When he found that this was in agreement with his own ideas, he bought the book immediately. It had to contain something important as it was the work of a Jesuit. He found that it justified his attempt at providing an historical interpretation of the Biblical work. Therefore, he read it over and over and filled it with marginal notations. In the end he realised that his critical judgement coincided with that of Bellintani. It was a book filled with doctrine and very good material. However, it deviated somewhat because it tended to mix what was mystical with what was historical and created confusion. Although he was in complete agreement with Bellintani there was just one matter on which he did not agree and that was that the Capuchin had named actual people as fulfilling the apocalyptic prophesies, for example by saying that the Antichrist had already appeared in the person of Mohamed. [70]

The Antichrist is the exact opposite to Christ. Christ is the head of the Church of God. The Antichrist belongs to the Church of Satan and is the complete antithesis of Christ. I believe, while placing everything under the judgement of Holy Mother Church), that his arguments are not sustainable. The arguments are taken from Sacred Scripture and from the opinions of saintly Doctors of the Church, while saying that the supreme Antichrist is to come, state that he will come in a line of successors that are referred to as one force who will subject the universe to themselves or at least disturb it for three and a half years. You maintain correctly that this is not the work of one person. It involves the Church, Christ and his spouse. To prove this you rightly quote the psalm: We who are alive, and who are left alive...[71]

It can be deduced from these principles that the head of the beast of the Apocalypse was Mohamed and those who came after him such as the Saracens, the Turks and also the heretics that prepared the way just as Arius had done for Mohamed and then the Patriarchs of Constantinople and Antioch. Thus, by extending the application it could include Luther and his followers at the present time, even though they were made up of many sects, as making up the Church of the Antichrist in contrast to the Church of Christ that was unified.[72]

The desire to historically identify the Antichrist led the Professor from the Sorbonne to find other applications. This is how Luther became identified with Gog, the false prophet of Magog, or of the future king who would be the last or the penultimate wound on the Church. However, he did not want to go into too much detail concerning this point preferring to delay that until they met personally. He saw it all as an unbroken chain that began with the pseudo-prophets that had appeared in the Church in the past and who had separated themselves from her to attach themselves to an Antichrist who had been born outside the Church, all of whom were precursors of Mohamed. In addition to the Emperor of Antioch and others in the Old Testament, Judas, Pilate, Simon Magnus and Nero were also pseudo-prophets. Others could also be joined to this line of characters. The chain stretched down to Luther and the mysterious monster Magog who seemed to be cultivating and nourishing the disturbed condition of the world in his breast, a situation from which God could set the Church free.[73]

His apocalyptic meditations caused him to also dream about the possibility of the Reign of Christ which was the main subject of the apocalypse. On this subject he shared the opinions of Mattia da Salὸ. He imagined that the Reign of Christ would also take place in the temporal sphere, with one flock under one Pastor with the Pope and the Emperor being in perfect harmony, the first as the vicar of Christ in the eternal priesthood, the second as the Vicar of Christ in having dominion over the universe, but subject to the Pope.[74] He was able to prove this assertion by using many arguments that were taken both from the Bible and Patristic sources, as well as by meditating on contemporary history. Here too we find that he agrees with Bellintani even though he adopts a different method and follows a line of thought that departs from that of the Capuchin. It is interesting how the French Professor explains his way of thinking to Bellintani.[75]

He also adopted the same line of thought as Mattia da Salὸ with regard to the reform of the Church and the Angelic Pope in so far as he did not see him as a single individual. (We are not really sure how Bellintani thought on this subject.) He set out these thoughts to have them affirmed because he had not read Bellintani’s Commentarii sull’Apocalypisse.[76] He was convinced that whatever was written in chapter sixteen of the Apocalypse had already taken place. Nicholas of Lyra and other commentators had also applied this prophesy to their own time. However, after chapter sixteen, there was still the question of the triumph of the Church.[77] However, the critical moment was the persecution of Magog, which was connected to Ishmael, or the followers of Mohamed, both of which were destined to be killed, the former because he attacked the priesthood of the spirit of Christ with the sword and the later because they were the enemies of the Kingdom of Christ. This would fulfil the prophesy of Ishmael. “His hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him.” (Gen 16:13). Following that, or perhaps it has already begun, the sabbath of the people of God will begin with the reformation of the universe that is already flourishing in the new world, while In Europe unfortunately it is faltering because the decrees of Trent have not been carried out.[78]

The learned theologian from the Sorbonne knew that not everyone agreed with his theory of claiming that the Antichrist was Mohamed and his followers. Whenever he spoke about this, he was trying to provoke a discussion. Some people had begun to have doubts while others remained convinced.[79] Even though he had decided to remain silent on certain somewhat doubtful questions, he still wanted to share with Bellintani more deeply some thoughts that concerned his literal interpretation. For example, he had not succeeded in discovering who was Margog’s father while he identified Magog’s son as Japheth, the second child of Gomer. However, he could not identify the other children of Magog and this meant that the race of vipers had not been multiplied.[80] However, he was able to express all that he was thinking.

Another important matter was the reconciliation of the Greek and the Latin Churches. This was necessary if reform was to be universal, just as important as the conversion of Israel, especially as the Jews were by now spread throughout the world.[81] The one frightening thing – he emphasised – was the scourge of Magog. In fact, Luther-Magog brought about insanity and in doing so were aided by Magog together with Ishmael. However, all three will be defeated by the future monarch, “sub quo predicandum est evangelium regni in universo mundo, sub unico Summo Sacerdote” (under whom the entire Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached through the whole world by the High Priest), while enduring many afflictions. However, by means of penance the predicted threat may be revoked as was the case at Nineveh.[82] He concluded his exposition of the theories concerning the Antichrist with the prospect of hope and trust and the assurance that he would be defeated: “Bene ergo nobis consulierimus si ad misericordiam Dei confugimus, ne in severitate iudicii incidiamus.” [83]

Once again, we do not have Bellintani’s reply. This long letter was written at Annecy on 7 July 1600. Among other things the French Professor is prompting Bellintani to hasten the publication of his Commentari sul Aposcalisse by offering him the possibility of having it published in Lyon where the friars could supervise it carefully if he would send a manuscript copy, something that Teodoro da Bergamo greatly desired.[84] He wanted to meet him in person if he had the chance of coming to Italy even though he was sixty years of age. He wanted above all else to fulfil a vow he has made to the miraculous Mother to make a pilgrimage to the sanctuary of the B. M. of Montereale.[85] We do not know whether he kept his vow afterwards.

The long letter, which was not written in his handwriting, contained two other items, one was the signature at the bottom and an additional note saying that he had broken into the text to make corrections or to change or refine the text.[86] The other item was a postscript at the left-hand corner of the page. This has a special importance because it makes mention of a new apocalyptic-cabalistic opinion that also involves the Republic of Venice:

I hold out hope for the great Republic of Venice which is famous for how it praises God. Rome came first. Constantinople. Rome came forth again and again, Constantinople was next. Although it was old, God did not bless it or test it. Venice came third and this is the greatest of all numbers because it is said of the Divine Nature.[87]

These future prospects which give the Republic of Venice special privileges were nothing new at the time, as M. Reeves has demonstrated.[88] This shows how widespread this apocalyptic way of thinking was at the end of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth centuries.

6. Contemporary prophetic and apocalyptical literature and proceedings in the Inquisition (1601-1607)

There is an abundance of apocalyptic literature in the sixteenth century. The Expositio in Apocalysim by Joachim of Fiore was published at Venice in 1527. In Basel in 1558 Franceso Lamberi d’Avignon had printed Exegreseos in sanctam divi Joannis Apocalysim libri VII. Damian Hortola, the abbot of the monastery in Ville-Bertraud, who Phillip II sent to the Council of Trent, thought that the spread of the followers of Mohamed meant the arrival of the reign of Antichrist. In 1524 the Bishop of Chiemsee Bertold Purstinger anonymously published a work that carried the noteworthy title: Onus Ecclesiae temporibus hisce deplorandis Apocalypseos suis aeque conveniens Tucarumque incursus iam grassani accomodatum, non tam lectu quam contemplatu dignissimum. In Paris in 1571 Coelius Pannonius, or Francesco Gregorio, revised and printed his Collectanea in sanctam Apocalypsum and Bartolomeo Holzhauser published his Interpretatio in Apocalypsim in Vienna in 1586.[89]

In Italy the commentary on the Apocalypse was repeated frequently by Seralino da Parma: Dicharatione sopra l’Apocalisse.[90] This author often quotes Joachim of Fiore and Ubertino da Casale and, among other things, maintains that the two forerunners to Antichrist were Mahomed and Luther:

Mahomed appeared in the world six hundred years after the Lord, and I have no doubt that his sect prepared the world for Antichrist. Some state that he was the Antichrist, but they are wrong. The other forerunner […] I maintain was Luther who appeared at the end of the fifth seal, just as Mahomed had at the end of the fourth. Thus, he continued the preparation for Antichrist who will come with the sixth deal. If you put together all the errors that came out of the infernal well after the sixth seal, which Oecolampadius, Zwingli, Carotadio, Melanchthon and many others repeated you will find that they move far away from Jesus Christ.[91]

Serafino also said that at the time of Antichrist another Gospel prediction that is different than what is predicted about the Apostles will be fulfilled for it concerns when “all people will have entered”:

all of Israel will be saved, and so the Jews who were the first shall be the last and as he knew that this would soon come God permitted that the new world would be discovered in just a few years, which according to the trustworthy testimony of many who write is no smaller that the whole of Europe in size and in population. Ships will sail from Spain every year and the Gospel will be preached where there never was any law and many have already been converted. Thus, just as the blindness of the Jews was the cause of our salvation, our blindness constrained Jesus Christ to go to other lands. What was predicted by the Apostles is being fulfilled at present and their voice can be heard in every land. Scripture tells of four plagues that extend over the world and we see that already the Gospel had penetrated Asia, Africa, and Europe so that there remains only the recently discovered new part of the world that Is called America to which it has to be transported.[92]

Many other commentaries on the Apocalypse appeared in the early seventeenth century. This explosion of apocalyptic-prophetical literature signified a state of uncertainty, a moment of cultural changes and a quest for structure, confidence and hope.

Being aware of this mentality, Mattia da Salὸ did not hesitate to add his thoughts and comments on the Apocalypse, and from the documents that we possess we know some of the subjects that he treated. However, he had to interrupt the final draft for printing because St Lawrence of Brindisi, the new Minister General of the Capuchins, sent him on a mission to Prague in Bohemia where he remained for three years from 1692 to 1605. When he returned from Prague, he was elected Vicar Provincial in Brescia at the beginning of December 1605. He did not hold the office for three years but resigned in October 1607 and returned to Salὸ. [93]

These years were filled with exhausting apostolic work, tiring and dangerous travel, suffering and tribulation, the edict that Paul V issued against the Republic of Venice and the stripping of the Capuchin friaries in Venice. Obviously, he could not turn to working on his Commentari sull’Apocalisse. In the letters that have come down to us he is concerned with other problems. In a letter written in Prague on 21 October 1602 he warns his friend O. Mancini to beware of the danger of politics in the Roman curia which he defines as being: “the Babylonian furnace”. [94]

While this was going on something happened that probably increased the opposition of some ecclesiastical professionals to prophetic and apocalyptical topics. In a letter to Mancini, Mattia da Salὸ was astounded to note the “dream” that a friend of his in Brescia was proposing. This friend said that the Turks would overrun Italy very soon.[95] We do not know who this “friend” was. However, we do know that in the early years of the seventeenth century a Capuchin from Brescia who Mattia must have known well had written a book on chapters 12 and 13 of the Apocalypse and wanted to have it published. These chapters deal with the vision of the woman and the dragon. This is the dragon who passes his power onto the beast and the false prophets who serve the beast. This Capuchin was Girolamo Averoldi da Brescia. If it had not been for some questions that were raised by Cardinal Francesco Albizzi with regard to a book by Paolo Sarpi that came out in Serravallo in 1638, fifteen years after the death of this famous Servite, we might never have known his sad story. The book was entitled Historia dell’orogone, forme, leggi ed uso dell’Uffizio dell’Inquistione nella città e dominio di Venezia.

When Cardinal Albizzi had read the Historia by Sarpi he replied with a volume in which he defended the authority of the Roman Pontiff because “in spiritual matters the whole of Christianity is the diocese of the Pope.” Because Sarpi had referred to the actions of the Inquisition with regard to Averoldi and criticised Rome, Albizzi explained the process at length being convinced that the Servite’s account was not true:

I have collected all that the Capuchin friar Averoldi wrote and I have come to the conclusion that what Brother Paolo said was not true. The Capuchin Br Girolamo Averoldi intended to produce a work on the twelfth and thirteenth chapters of the Apocalypse in which he attempted to prove that Mahomed was the Antichrist whom John had predicted. In this work he made use of certain arguments that when they were examined by the Inquisition were considered to be temerarious and almost heretical. After Averoldi had been confined in the prison of the Holy Office he had been forced, before his release, to retract his opinions. After doing this we see what he did in 1601.

He did not remain silent but in 1603 he wrote a work defending his teachings and put a clever interpretation on the Decree of the Sacred Office following which he had retracted his opinions. Because of his temerity he was called to Rome and detained there for some time. Before he was allowed to leave, he was obliged to revoke what he had written and obliged to never treat the subject except under the guidance of certain theologians who would be appointed by the Sacred Congregation. He made his retraction and accepted the precept. He had no sooner been released from prison when he returned to his vomit and when he contravened the prohibition issued by the Sacred Congregation the Inquisitor in Brescia put him in prison in 1604. The Inquisitor provided him with no assistance and went ahead with the process without entering into any discussion. When the process was over the Inquisitor sent him to Rome. The Congregation ordered him to retract and confined him to prison for three years. He refused to retract because he mistakenly thought that he had been imprisoned because he supported the Republic. This upset the Doge and the Senate but when they were informed of the truth, they remained silent simply saying that Averoldi should not have been sentenced by the authority of those in Rome but by the Bishop and Inquisitor of Brescia.

This point also meant nothing since the friar recanted and was condemned to prison as he had been in Rome.[96]

This too would be an interesting topic for research. Bonari discretely mentions this Capuchin saying that in his study of chapters 12 and 13 of the Apocalypse, in which he asserts that Mohamed was the Antichrist, “he inserts propositions that are not proved.”[97] Giannaria Mazzucchelli summarises Albizzi’s account making use, however, of the second edition of the Risposta all’Istoria della Sacra Inquisitione.[98] Bonari also speaks about another Capuchin from “the most noble family of Averoldi”, that is Fr Ippolito da Brescia, and he says that that he was “a profound theologian and Scotist … who penetrated the hidden things in the Apocalypse. To introduce something new he wrote and symbolised: Icones nonnulas ad pleniorem Apocalysis intelligentiam, cum elegantissimis commentariis in loca difficilora, Brixiae 1638.”[99] He was probably confused since, according to the Necrology, Fr Ippolito died on 26 October 1774, a date that is also registered in the Biblioteca Fr Illarino.[100]

We see immediately that for now it is impossible to verify every one of Albizzi’s assertions. We would need to know his handwriting and the incriminating assertions and his later book that defended his teaching as well as the Memoriali that he sent to the Venetian Senate.[101] Because they were writings that were connected to a process of the Inquisition, we can easily guess the result. They were either destroyed or hidden away in the files of the Sacred Office. What is more, if Averoldi was imprisoned in 1604 for three years and came out in 1607 this could mean that the debate might reflect a disagreement between Venice and Rome on a point of law in the context of the Interdict that lasted from 17 April 1606 to 21 April 1607.

7. New attempts to print the “Commentari sull’Apocalisse” (1607-1627)

In the month of December of 1607, Bellintani resigned as Provincial and returned to Salὸ. It was here that he received a letter dated 20 November from Francesco Pietrasanta, who was the Inquisitor in Brescia. The letter had mysterious contents that might have a connection with Averoldi’s case. It requested that he come to Brescia urgently for some “important business””

Most Rev. Father

I send my greetings and at the same time ask you to come to Brescia as soon as possible so that, following the instructions of the Cardinal in charge of the Inquisition, I may speak to you confidentially about some important matters. I would like you to come as soon as you receive my letter so that you will be comforted by what I have to say. As soon as this happens you may return to Salὸ at your leisure. Had I not been so busy I would certainly have taken the opportunity to deliver this letter. I await you and pray God to send you peace. Do not let anyone know that you are coming to Brescia out of respect for me and for other reasons. I send my heartfelt regards. Brescia, 20 November 1607. The Lord Inquisitor of Brescia.[102]

We do not have documents that could tell us precisely what he is talking about. Pietrasanta must have been referring to the “important matters” that had been raised by the Cardinal of the Sacred Office and this would have comforted Bellintani. Could this have been news of Averoldi’s release from prison? Was it some directive with regard to his Commentari sull’Apocalisse as we know that part of this had been sent to the Inquisitor of Brescia for review?[103]

In any case in less than a month Pietrasanta sent a second letter to Bellintani:

Most Reverend Father,

I received your good wishes with the book I saw in Padua. You wrote to me asking my opinion about the book. I can tell you that I wrote to Cardinal Arrigoni informing him that I had received the books saying that it would be necessary for you to apply to him because I am neither able nor allowed to act without his instruction. I believe that having written to that illustrious Lord I will easily learn what he wants and whether you have to change some parts or the entire work. I will send this on to you immediately since I want to assist you in every way. He may reply and tell you that he wrote to me and I will do what he asks of me. In the meantime, I will assist you in anything else. I greet you from my heart praying the God will grant you all that is good. Brescia, 15 December 1607.

Your devoted servant Fran[ces]co Pietras[an]ta, Inquisitor.[104]

While the letter shows Pietrasanta’s inflexibility as he carries out the office of Inquisitor in strict dependence on Cardinal Pompeio Arrigioni, who had been recently appointed Bishop of Benevento and who was also a member of many Roman Congregations such as the one in charge of printing and the Congregation of the Index,[105] it says nothing that is particularly mysterious. In all probability the books mentioned in the letter are simply the second edition of the Prattica dell’oration mentale that had been “revised, corrected and amplified” and was published in four parts in four small volumes.[106] It would seem that Bellintani claimed that he had revised part of his Commentari sull’Apocalisse and approved it for printing even if we have no documentary evidence of this before 1619. In the meantime, it is quite clear from his correspondence with Frederico Borromeo and from the Vita by an anonymous author that he preached in various places in Brescia and “in a short space of time … composed a draft of Quadragesimale Ambrosiano”, which was developing into a rich series of Latin sermons, which Bellintani asked a skilful writer to copy, because Bellintani’s handwriting “was scratchy by nature, slow and unsightly and someone else should do it if I want to remain sane.” Bellintani wrote this to Borromeo himself.[107]

Research into a revision of his Commentarii seems to prove the supposition that Pietrasanta’s letter of 15 December 1607 definitely refers to this work. Indeed, Bellintani sent a letter from Brescia to Cardinal Borromeo on 22 September 1610:

From the enclosed letters Your Most Illustrious Reverence will see that the revision of my comments on the Apocalypse have been dedicated to you and I ask you most humbly to accept this for the love of God and of St John the Evangelist. I should have come there in person with the work and brought you the letter but the Reverend Inquisitor of Brescia who was holding the work, did not dare to give it to me without consent from Rome. The problem was placed before Monsignor Seneca who said that the Inquisitor could release it to me without any worry. When I did not have the work, I thought it better to send a letter to your Illustrious Reverence with this information so that when you had seen it with your very prudent judgement you would deign to tell me what you thought when I come to preach on the Feast of the Saint. Until then I will remain in suspense, not being concerned about the outcome or the time. Thus, I am waiting to hear the opinion of your Illustrious Reverence and word from Rome. I humbly ask you to do this for me […][108]

Bellintani speaks of letters that he received which prove that Borromeo had been officially appointed by Rome as the authorised critic of his revised work on the Apocalypse. However, the Milan Cardinal must have already known something because Cardinal Giovanni Gratias Millini had written this letter to him fourteen days earlier:

Illustrious and Reverend Lord,

When the Capuchin Father Mattia Bellintani of Brescia wanted to print his work on the Apocalypse he asked for certain parts to be reviewed as he could not come to Rome because of his age if there was anything to answer. I proposed that you, either personally or through someone else, could review and examine it to see if the work was in conformity with the spirit of the rules and even contact him in conversation if any difficulties might arise. I received your [reply: the word has been cancelled] saying that you accepted this burden. I reverently kiss your hand. Rome, 4 September 1616.

Your illustrious, Reverend and humble servant, Cardinal of Milan.[109]

Thus, Paul V had given permission for the examination of Bellintani’s work to go ahead under the supervision of Borromeo and released Bellintani from undertaking a tiring voyage to Rome because of his age and illness. It is certain that in Rome this was well-known to the Father General of the Order, Girolamo Gerandoni da Castelferretti, who had been Procurator General, and also to Fr Michelangelo Diotalleve da Rimini, who was the new Procurator General.[110] Monsignor Seneca, that is Antonio Seneca da Norcia, who was Pronotary Apostolic, and a friend of the Cardinal of Milan as well as a Canon of the Cathedral, Oblate, Doctor of Both Laws, Deacon of the Milan Church and Bishop of Anagni since 25 June 1610 was also Secretary of the Commission for Reform during the Pontificate of Paul V.[111] He cut short the passage of the proceedings before the Inquisitor of Brescia, who was too zealous about juridical formalities so that the matter could progress forward to the Cardinal of Milan. At this time, Mattia da Salὸ was waiting for precise instructions from Borromeo about coming to Milan to deliver the panegyric for his great friend Charles Borromeo, who Paul V was about to proclaim a Saint. He was certainly on edge not knowing anything certain about this matter. He was uncertain whether the official proclamation of the canonisation had been made, (which was made a few weeks later on 1 November 1610), or when he had to come to Milan for the sermon. In the meantime, he did not waste time. He continued working on other sermons for his volume Quadragesimale ambrosiano which he had been regularly sending to Borromeo to revise.[112]

However, his Commentari sull’Apocalisse were held up. The approval to print was delayed. Confusion came from all sides and time was lost. The Inquisitor in Brescia was waiting for word from Rome. Borromeo, who was preoccupied with the canonisation of his cousin, had not taken Bellintani’s request seriously, and, perhaps, seeing that it presented some difficulties he delayed making a decision. On the other hand, the Fathers who had been appointed by the Father General to scrutinise the work were frightened to undertake this work. We are not sure who it was. It is probable that in addition to the Procurator General, Michelangelo da Rimini, that Fr Paolo da Cesena and Girolamo da Castellerrelli himself had seen the manuscript.[113]

Mattia da Salὸ’s last hope was the intervention of Borromeo. Therefore, the old Capuchin wrote to him from Salὸ on 2 January 1611:

I give praise to God and like you Most Illustrious and Reverend Lordship I am delighted with the canonisation of Borromeo, as I await the very solemn festival that will be honoured by your presence. In the meantime, I am sending you these twelve sermons, that I have completed and had others write down. I ask you to assess them. As it is winter I regret that I could not come and present them to you personally and speak to you in the same way as I am now doing with the pen asking you to agree to pass judgement on my poor work on the holy Apocalypse for I am not as frightened of you as I am our Fathers in Rome (amor timorem enittit). I never expected that you would have to read my unworthy interpretation as you are so busy. Let it be done with your learned and prudent judgement. Promise that you will send me everything quickly. I wait for you to finish the tiresome work, which you will carry out with great affection in spite of me being so presumptuous which makes me feel quite humble. It is now Thursday after Ash Wednesday. I look forward to the time when you will invite me come to Your Illustrious Reverence, whom I respect very humbly. I ask your blessing and wish you a good New Year. Brescia, January 1611.[114]

F. Borromeo’s invitation to come to Milan never came. Bellintani waited in vain. A few months later, following an attack of his illness, he died in the friary of SS Pietro and Marcellino in Brescia during the evening of 20 July.[115] Nothing more was done about his Commentari sull’Apocalisse. If something was done nothing came of it. We do not know what Cardinal Borromeo decided to do about Bellintani’s most emphatic request concerning the revision. He probably sent his findings to the General Curia of the Capuchins in Rome as this would explain the presence in the General Archives, of the letter from the Cardinal of Milan to Bellintani.[116] He may have been happy to withdraw from a burden that had become embarrassing. For certainly the atmosphere had changed by the beginning of the seventeenth century. It was not like it was at the time of St Charles. The General Superiors must have been hesitant about publishing the work. Following the death of Mattia da Salὸ, Clemente Di Lorenzo da Noto, Girolamo Gerardoni da Castelferretti and Francesco di Negro da Genova were the Procurators in the Order.[117] Fourteen years later the last mentioned wrote a letter on 4 September to the Minister General Giovanni M. da Nola in which he said that the “Congregation had prohibited the publication of the book on the Apocalisse by Mattia da Salὸ…” The General, who was on canonical visitation in Macerata, wrote a letter on 12 September saying, “We may have peace of mind because of the decrees issued by the Sacred Congregation with regard to the book by Mattia da Salὸ.”[118] However, historians cannot be satisfied. They want to know the motives for this prohibition. Urban VIII Barberini was the Pope at the time. In close collaboration with the Congregation of the Index, the Congregation of the Inquisition exercised a far-reaching role becoming very strong and intransigent precisely in those years.[119] Because of their reformist and apocalyptic tone, and there spiritualist and Joachimite similarities Mattia da Salὸ’s Commentarii sull’Apacalisse were considered to be too dangerous and so they were blocked. This was so effective that we still cannot find them.

8. The content and significance of Mattia da Salὸ’s prophetic and apocalyptic approach to reform

From the moment that the Archives of the Roman Inquisition became unavailable there was nothing left to do but look for another possibility. That was to search for the meaning of Bellintani’s prophetic, apocalyptic and eschatological thoughts by following the various quotations from the Apocalypse of St John in his other publications especially in his Historia Capuccina, in his book Delli dolori di Christo, in the Quadragesimale ambrosianum, the Essagerationi morali and the Teatro del Paradiso, all of which were either published or prepared in the last fifteen to twenty years of his life that is when he was thinking over and writing his Commentari sull’Apocalypse.[120]

a. Notes on Bibliography and Method

We begin with a bibliographical and methodological note. All the ancient bibliographers sing the same song that says that Mattia da Salὸ wrote the Expositio admirablis et profundissima in librum Apocalypis B. Ioannis Apostoli and that it was praised by all the scholars and especially Clement VIII who commanded that the original manuscript be preserved in the Vatican Library.[121] V. Bonar added to this information that a copy of this Espositionewas held by the Capuchins in Brescia. A copy of this work can be found in the friary at Salὸ. It is entitled: Discorso della vera beatitudine sopra le parole dell’Apocalisse: Beati mortui, qui in Donino moriuntur and that it is contained in a manuscript of 64 pages without numbers.[122] Here too Bonari is making an unproven supposition. He would have known only too well that a discussion about a phrase in the Apocalypse that had been drawn out to show that beatitude was not to be found in earthly life, but in death, death in Christ, was not a commentary on the entire Apocalypse. The folder is still preserved in the Provincial Archives of the Capuchins in Milan. It is catalogued as A 121, not handwritten but set out in a way that it is ready to be printed. It is dedicated to “Monsignor Preposito Lodovico Covo Agostini Cesareo” and dated 1577.[123] Thus it was written before Bellintani began his commentary on the Apocalypse.

We have to go through all of his books and dig out his thoughts on these matters in order to come to know indirectly some aspects of what he was thinking.

First of all, we have to distinguish the purpose of his various writings. It is obvious that in his books of sermons that were preached to arouse young people and his Quadragesimale ambrosianum duplex, or the Delli dolori di Christo, or the Essagerationi morali and books of an ascetical and mystical character such as the Teatro del Paradiso we will only find passing, spiritual, mystical or moral comments on the Apocalypse. Whereas in his Historia Capuccina which is a genuine historical and apologetic meditation on the Capuchin Reform, it is easier to discover comments that reflect the frame of mind of his Commentari sull’Apocalypse.

His conviction that he had discovered “the meaning, the sequence and message” of the book of the Apocalypse is challenging for us.[124] However, this expression needs to be understood as meaning that he had succeeded in calming his meditations down and harmonised what was intellectual, what was retrospective and what involved the future and what was the ultimate reality in the journey of the history of the world and of the Church as this was depicted in the Bible. We know that from his hasty thoughts in the first draft of the Commentari sull’Apocalisse he passed on from a review of the entire 22 chapters of the prophetic book to a synthesis, that was a kind of history of the Reign of Christ, as it was set out by the Apostle. It was therefore a quick analysis and global synthesis. In the more elaborate and final product the text was divided into two parts with the first eleven chapters dealing with the Head of the Church, that is Christ, and the second part analysing the other eleven chapters that dealt with the Body of Christ, that is the Church. This division is not that evident from his quotes from the Apocalypse as they appear in the printed edition or in the manuscripts that have come down to us.[125] One topic emerges that pervades all that he is saying and that is the reform of the Church which in essence is similar to the Franciscan reform promoted by the Capuchins. There also emerged a continual link between St Francis, the Franciscan Order and the Church. There is also continual anxiety about the “last days” as they are described in prophetical terms by St John.[126]

It is in this context that the presence and activity of the Antichrist emerges as the opponent of the definitive rebuilding of the Church and of the Reign of Christ. Another thing that should not be forgotten is that Bellintani intended that this prophetic book should be read “in the strictest possible literal sense because this was what God intended when he had these mysteries committed to writing.”[127] He thought of this approach as providing a possibility for human investigation and an obligation for undertaking research.[128] However, he proposed this with the greatest humility because he was facing revelation and listening to the Word of God.[129] And, most of all, because he wanted to submit to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, since, once the Apostles had departed, the Church of Rome was the sole secure foundation.[130]

b. The Kingdom of God, and the victory of the Risen, Glorified Christ

By coordinating all of the quotations from the chapters of the Apocalypse, we noted a few thoughts that treat of the Kingdom of God and the victory of the Risen Christ.[131] These focus on the blood and suffering of the Passion as being the response of love as the Bible often describes it.[132] This produces grace, peace and a new life that is crucified, filled with mortification and focused on heaven.[133]

The mystery is immediately caught up in the glorious body of Christ which “is seated at the righthand of the Father, is always with us, so that he is the head and we his body. We are made one with the head, live a heavenly life in communion with all in heaven. If he who is seated in heaven comes down to walk the earth with the lampstands (Apoc.1: 12-13) to look after us and help his Church, shall we who are on earth not journey up towards heaven?[134]

The degrees of approaching a resemblance to the glorified Christ indicate the degrees of excellence in the heavenly hierarchy, that is “the difference in the Choirs and in the degrees of hierarchy is such that the first and most important stand continually before him paying him reverence.” However, above these is “a Woman who resembles him and who is as close to him as possible, that is his Mother who is divine in her bearing.” Then come others “alongside that great Mother”, the first of whom is St Michael, “the first in all of paradise.” After him there comes the other six, “who together with him make up the seven spirits who assist at the throne of the divine majesty.”[135] The distribution of spirits and then the immense number of blessed are meant to represent the divine presence, “the glorious face of the Most High” in its infinite majesty.[136]

It is good to note the special devotion Bellintani had towards the Angels who he saw as being present and working both in the different regions of the earth and in the Church for the salvation of souls. The Anonymous author of Mattia’s Vita related a very interesting incident in which when Bellintani had finished his mission in France, after Easter 1578, “as he was leaving the borders of France he said to his companion: – I will not return to France. – His companion replied – How do we know that? – He replied – The Angel Guardian of France has abandoned me – This priest told me this and added that he really experienced the abandonment of the Angel.[137] Knowing this we can understand how when he explained Apoc.5: 6 he said that the Angels:

were always ready to obey the commands that they received from the lips of Christ who exercised the power he had in heaven and on earth, through these ministers by means of the eyes of the Angels who were sent throughout the world. They do this both in the administration of earthly kingdoms, and in working for the salvation of souls when they are in danger from the deception of our satanic enemies.[138]

The glory of the blessed consists in union with Christ. It is an assortment of “indescribable delights”, like “unleavened manna that remains hidden until it is consumed, tasted and enjoyed. This is our real life as it is hidden with Christ in God.”[139] This is the glory of the Kingdom of God, shared by God and man, because this dominion of glorified mankind derives its excellence from Christ. As it says in Rev 3:21, there are not two thrones but only one, the throne of Christ, since we are co-heirs.[140] The glory of Christ the head is joined with that of his Church his Body and it is because of this that “it is called marriage in Scripture.” It is the body of Christ because “spouses are one flesh.” This means that the Church is the body of Christ in two ways. He is the head to whom the body is joined. He is the spouse being one flesh.[141] Just as Christ resembles the Father in holiness and the Seraphim always call God holy three times, all the heirs of heaven are taken up into him as well as the entire universe especially that of which the Father is Lord.[142] The spouse shares in this heredity in the eternal wedding and expresses the beatitude of the Saints as God has decreed. This interpretation is typical of Scotus.[143] The greatness of the heavenly gifts and the beauty of the heavenly city are presented in the many quotes especially from chapter 21 of the Apocalypse that can be found in the Teatro del Paradiso. As might be expected the main image that appears this is that of light that has its source in Christ’s body.[144]

In any case Christ’s victory first required a struggle “because the whole life of mankind on earth is a struggle and in order to reach heaven, he is always doing battle. Thus, in all the Church’s activity described by St John the price is promised to the victor.”[145]

Up to this point there is nothing special or original in Bellintani’s thoughts. His imagination is aroused by his fundamental knowledge of the Bible and the theology of Bonaventure and Scotus. He joins this with spiritual insights that we cannot analyse here.[146]

c. The reform of the Church

It is easy to follow the development of the other sequence of ideas through which we can discover the substance of his Commentari sull’Apocalisse and perhaps also the reason why they were banned. From a precise count of the number of quotations we find that the chapter of the Apocalypse that he quoted most frequently (about thirty times) was chapter 12, the one that speaks about the woman and the dragon. We note immediately that this coincides with one of the two chapters that Girolamo Averoldi commented on and which brought about his condemnation by the Inquisition. It is precisely on the basis of these images (woman and dragon), to which we could add that of the “beast”, that Bellintani makes his literal historical and mystical conclusions as being carried out in the reform of the Church as well as that of the Capuchin Order.

He says that the general reform of the Church must come about through two things: 1) by means of living an apostolic life and preaching and 2) by means of the serious tribulations that God will permit to punish the faithful for their iniquities and arouse them to amendment.[147] He explains the first by saying that just as Christians were told to model their conduct on the way of life of the Apostles, so too reform will consist in taking a way of life like that of the Apostles. The proof of this can be seen in “the woman who was clothed with the sun” and crowned with a garland of twelve stars, and the shing city set on twelve precious stones as described by St John in the Apocalypse”.[148] He goes on to say: “Sacred Scripture speaks openly about the second means of general reform, which is the one that involves tribulation. This is especially true of St John in the Apocalypse where he sets out the Church and its journey in seven stages under the figure of seven churches, seven seals and seven trumpets. The sixth stage is always characterised by two things: great tribulation and by great wellbeing and splendour.”[149] The seventh Church, the seventh seal and the sound of the seventh trumpet signify, on one hand, the tribulation of the Antichrist, and on the other hand, the reform of the Church through apostolic preaching and the sign of the living God on the foreheads of the servants of God.[150]

However, the reform will not take place all at once, nor will the tribulation come on suddenly, because the Evangelist says, “the woman was in pain to give birth (Apoc.12: 2) and it is certain that the giving of birth is the reform of the Church and the pain is the tribulation. To do this God usually arouses some kind of spirit of reform and then sends the scourge, there then follows a stronger spirit followed by a greater scourge. These troubles go on until the very end and perfect reform, which following the figure of the woman giving birth would appear to be heading towards cruel, final ruin.”[151] He presents this kind of interpretation very well going on to say that “when something that lasts for a long time is represented by a figure or image, the image presents it as if it all happened at the same time.”[152]

The image of the woman is used to signify the excellence of Mary who received “like a tabernacle or room, the great Son of God of who she became the genuine mother, conceiving him, carrying him and nourishing him.”[153] However, at the same time it is interpreted as representing the Church. The two great signs: the woman giving birth and “the great red dragon whose blazing eyes watch the giving birth in order to devour her child”, represent the continual struggle between Christ and Satan and between the Church and the Antichrist who is to come while the world still exists.[154] However, when the Son is born, he is caught up to heaven and to his throne, while the woman flees into the desert where she is nourished by God (Apoc.12: 6). Bellintani explains that this was verified in Christ and will be verified in the Church:

The text does not just say that the woman would give birth to a male child but adds that the child will rule over all people. The first thing that we observe from this is that the birth of Christ which the evil observes closely, is the birth of the King, that is the establishment of the kingdom […] and because of this the devil, being frightened of losing his rule (this was the destruction of his head, which Christ would carry out when he reigned), was afraid of him ruling and persecuted him.[155]

He concludes from this that Christ’s life is a succession of persecutions and tribulations: Herod and the flight into Egypt, the temptations in the desert before he began preaching, being persecuted by the Pharisees when the people wanted to proclaim him king and his Passion and death. “When we look carefully, we will see that the main cause of his death was his being a king.[156] Even here Christ is caught up to God since he rises, ascends to heaven, sits at the righthand of the Father and his kingdom goes on in the preaching of the disciples. When the devil:

cannot reach the head of Christ who is seated in heaven he turns to his body on earth persecuting the faithful for three hundred years and thus we have an almost infinite number of holy martyrs. However, in spite of the devil, the Church on earth takes up the kingdom of the world and he is cast out, stripped of the power he had over the world in the person of the Roman Emperor. From here on the woman giving birth is no longer the just the Most Holy Virgin, but is also the Church which through the sufferings of her Holy Martyrs finally gives birth to Christ when she shares in the sufferings of the kingdom in his name who is the ruler of the world. The flight into the desert means being guided by God who will not allow the wiles of hell to prevail over her. Such things will evidently take place in the final persecutions during the reign of the Antichrist and Gog when all will be fulfilled when the foot, that is the final extremity of Christianity, will be seriously wounded by persecutions and the head of Satan will be crushed completely when he loses dominion. Then only Christ will rule the earth saving the Church in the desert.[157]

It is obvious “that what happened to Christ is the model and beginning of what was to happen to the Church which is his body. For certain the things that happened to both of them are the daily signs and blueprints for each of the faithful who are the members of his body and because St John calls the Church woman and Christ a male we immediately recognise that there are two categories of those who are fighting against the serpent with both of them being victors in a different way.”[158] The males “are the holy martyrs, who although St John calls them angels when he is relating the battle between Michael and the dragon and his angels he means the holy martyrs who overcame Satan. This is why he adds immediately: “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and did not love their lives in death.” (Rev.12: 11).”[159] As the thoughts of the martyrs are vital and we can appreciate the great love that Bellintani had for the relics of the saints.[160] Their suffering is the fulfilment of Christ’s Passion.[161] When quoting Apoc.19: 11 he explains:

These are the horses in Christ’s army, that is the holy martyrs, on whom the captain and all the soldiers are riding […] Behold Christ bleeding on horseback. The armies in heaven followed him on white horses. These are the martyrs and all who labour in his service and fight against the world, glorious knights and holy people. Christ is suffering in such people always persevering in his Passion. This is what we should be doing […][162]

This is how “by her faith in Christ, by suffering with the martyrs the Church has gained dominion over the world. With what other means? By the word of their testimony. (Apoc.12: 11). By suffering joined to preaching […]. The Passion and preaching, suffering and speaking, the witness of shedding blood and the use of the voice have drawn the world to Christ”.[163]

The other kind of combat is represented by the “woman”, that is “those who were not so brave, but who were afraid […] and hid themselves.” This is why the woman fled from the face of the dragon and hid in the desert where she was fed by God. However, she was the one who gave birth to the male. Victory came through Christ’s blood and the Word of God.[164]

There is an entire sermon that deals with this concept using a series of quotations from chapter twelve of the Apocalypse. This sermon is entitled De vitoria Christi contra diabolum, de qua nobis laetandum est. Among other things he explains how the name Michael, which is in Latin quis est Deus, also means humilitas Dei and that he is opposed to the pride of the dragon. Because of this, when in the final battle Christ uses his ministers and servants to represent him (quis est Deus) personally he is using his humble self since “egenus factus apparuit in forma servi, non Altissimi”. Indeed, he became “novissimus virorum, opprobrium hominum et abiectio plebis.”[165]

He understood the life of Christ as being lived out in a succession of tribulations and the history of salvation as it was told in the Bible and the history of the Church in the world as repeating the same sequence, because divine providence almost always decreed what St John described happen to the woman who was about to give birth with the dragon sitting in front of her waiting to devour her child as soon as he was born.[166] He said:

As soon as Adam was born the dragon was present ready to devour him. When the first just man was born the same thing happened and he was killed by his brother. When the world was flooded this happened again plunging him into the abominations that followed. The same thing happened to the people of old every time that they received God’ favours. This has certainly happened to the Church, who is surely the woman whom St John saw in heaven clothed with the sun.[167]

The history of the Church in the world developed in different periods of time that indicate more precisely how Bellintani interpreted the reform of the Church in general. “From the time that Christ was born, the dragon persecuted him until his death. From the time that the Church was born the dragon did the same through the deaths of so many martyrs in its early days. After the peace of Constantine arrived, she was disturbed by heresies and when they were rectified persecutions by the Saracens and the Turks sprang up again.[168] Elsewhere he spells out various details of this theology of history. He says that “the lower grade of the apostolic way of life that was present in the successors of the Apostles” remained the model of Gospel perfection for three hundred years (until Constantine). When Rome ceased to persecute the Church (= the dragon incarcerated for a thousand years) and conceded authority and the Kingdom to Christ, it was like when the saints sang in the Apocalypse. Then the Popes would be honoured and worshipped by the Emperors and “even glow with temporal splendour.”[169] The first three hundred years of the history of the Church as the body of Christ are like the three days that Christ, the head of the Church, spent in the grave.[170] When the Roman Empire was converted at the time of Constantine and Pope Silvestro, Satan was bound and the prince was cast out.[171]In that way the Roman Emperor ceased to be the beast and the city of Rome ceased to be Babylon, or the woman who was intoxicated with the blood of martyrs.”[172]

After dealing with the disturbance caused by the heresies, he turns to the tribulation of Mahomed, “which was never finished and [..] and has always infested the faithful in many countries in the Church,”[173] including Africa, Europe and the East. In 1300 the sect of the Turks arose among the Saracens and they fulfilled what St John has written concerning the dragon who came after a thousand years and concerning the beast with seven heads and ten crowns who came from the abyss.[174] This beast is the Antichrist. Both the dragon and the woman intoxicated with blood are red coloured. However, when will Satan be set free and the beast leap out of the abyss? This is the very question that Bellintani asks concerning the reform: that is when will the reform take place? According to his interpretation of history Bellintani sees the four dominions or the four kingdoms being represented by the four living creatures in Ezekiel (Ezekel 1: 4-5) and in the Apocalypse,[175] that is the Kingdom of the Chaldeans, the Medes and the Persians, of the Greeks and the Romans as taking in the entire world which will last until the world falls into the hands of Christ, as in the Apocalypse chapter 11 verse 15.[176]

In 1300 the Roman Emperor returned to being the beast because along with the Ottoman leader he began “to be in with the infidels”,[177] and when in 1453 Constantinople was conquered by Mahomet, and the “New Rome” became Babylon.”[178] The unbound red dragon once more began to suck the blood of the Angel, and the eastern head of the eagle (whom Esra said was the fourth beast in Daniel and who is the eagle with three heads) rose against Christ, while the other two who rose up were the Papacy under Boniface VIII along with the Avignon exile and the Emperor whom the Pope excommunicated.[179] All of these “painted the dragon red” and during that time the Holy House of the Virgin that was transported from Nazareth to Loreto by angels (the interpretation is strange) “seems to be a testimony and figure of what the Holy Church is doing and ought to do since, in St John’s vision she was given wings to fly away from the gaze of the dragon into the desert.”[180]

d. The reform of the Church and Franciscan renewal

However, to discover the time of the reform Mattia da Salὸ breaks the history of events that led up to his day into new periods of time involving an interpretation of the mission of St Francis and his Order since there is a very strong link between the Franciscan Order and the Church and “a great similarity between the Church and the Franciscan Order”.[181]

He said: “In Ezekiel the reform is represented by the Tau and the Cross, which St John had called the seal of the living God (Rev 7:2).” Because of the reformation of the clergy (here he cites the Theatines as an example) has to reach up to those who are the head through the reformation of the Holy See, that is the Pope and the Cardinals and God never wanted the activity and symbols of this reformation to ever be separated from St Francis. This is what God wants “the acts and symbols of reform to neve be separate from St Francis”. It started on the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.

The genuine exaltation of the Cross is the renewal of the Christian people and the Gospel lifestyle in order to receive the fruits of the Holy Cross” in the same way that St Francis received the stigmata, the seal of the living God on the feast of the Cross. Therefore, since “in our days a general reform has started in the Order of St Francis and among the clergy the first exterior sign was the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and the Stigmata given to our Holy Father.”[182]

The Angel with the sixth seal cried out in a loud voice (Rev 7:2). At this point Bellintani is talking about his own times and he explains how the reformation of the way of life in the Capuchins has increased this call and “thus God has been moved to pity and Christians induced to do penance, preparing themselves to receive the effects of divine mercy, the principal one of which and the most manifest is the Council of Trent which has opened the gate to reform.”[183] However, even before that the two witnesses, the Orders of St Francis and of St Domenic, had put perfect observance into practice being like those who “are crying out to the angels who were striking telling them not to harm the earth, the sea and the trees (Rev 7:3). However, when they relaxed the tribulations of the Ottoman Empire and of the Turks came and it was precisely during these tribulations “that the male child of the holy reformation was born.”[184] Bellintani gives details in his original handwritten codex:

The Angel does not represent one person but represents a state or set of persons, like the four angels who were sent to harm the earth and the sea and the trees (Rev 7:1-3) are not only four individuals but all the tribulations that are to come upon the Church from all sides by the hands of the Turks, heretics, evil Christians including heavenly seasons and influences that make the body uncomfortable. To prove this the angel with the seal of the living God does not say to the Angels sent to harm the earth: -Stop until I give the signal but until we have sealed- (Rev 7:3) – Because of this we know that this angel represents all holy men that God has appointed to reform the Church at this time, among whom the most significant were the two Religious Orders of St Dominic and St Francis.

The seal of the living God was “the sanctity of life and teaching adopted by these holy men and their disciples along with all the other Pastors and religious who put sin aside by doing penance and living a Christian lifestyle.” This must be made public because the reform has to be obvious and carried out by the support of the cross. The Lord also wanted to impress this seal on the body of St Francis “in such a way that what all possess in a spiritual way he would actually possess spiritually and physically. What happened to him shows everyone that God is at work reforming the Church at all times and in all circumstances.”[185]

Note here the universal prophetic aspect of the figure of St Francis that sounds like something Bonaventure or the Spirituals would say, for the Order of St Francis resembles the Church with Francis at the head as Christ was at the head of the Church. Thus, the tribulations that affected the Church were repeated in the Franciscan Order. Because of his humility St Francis was predestined to “be tormented in a special way by Satan.” Bellintani emphasises this point and develops it by using some reflections borrowed from Angelo Clareno. He says that just as at the beginning of the Church when Christ cast out the ruler of the world by means of holy martyrs, in the same way “in the last days of the Church when the Beast rises once again from the abyss, and the Dragon is released at the end of the thousand years during which he was detained, St Francis, having been given and wearing the seal of the cross, as one of the principal founders of the general reform of the Church went into personal battle with the Beast himself.”[186] Consequently like Christ:

he preserved the grandeur and brilliance of his Church in the last days, and as with the moon, that world will be under his feet […] Thus, in the last days, this is how the beauty and spread of the figure of the Seraphic Order will be of service. This will generate hunger which God will gradually satisfy until its new and final birth and resurrections appears in greater glory.[187]

From this point on it was easy for him to praise the Capuchin Reform as the “final and most perfect.” Bellintani’s way of thinking did not focus on one person or just on one reform movement as if they were definitive and exclusive. Perhaps it is necessary to correct the traditionally rather hurried reading of the Chronicles of Mattia da Salὸ as being simply propaganda for the Capuchins. His argumentation is more open and less intransigent. He was not sure that the Capuchin Reform was the ultimate Franciscan reform. He does not go looking for signs, historical or spiritual coincidences, the verification of prophetical figures and unambiguous statements. His concept of reform is much vaster and more open and goes in search of a universal vision that is apocalyptic and eschatological. Even though he makes use of “trustworthy revelations” that God bestowed on certain holy friars as a guarantee that the Capuchin Reform was pleasing to God,[188] and tells of “secret miracles” that support the Capuchins,[189] this is true even if many prophesies in the past, such as those of Giacomo de Massa, Angelo Clareno, Giovanni da Parma, Bernardino da Quintavalle and Joachim of Fiore seem to apply specifically to the Capuchins,[190], only God knows if the Capuchins are the final, perfect reform of the Franciscans or just a sign, a beginning of a greater reform in the future. For now (he says) there are divisions among the Capuchins who live without privileges observing the Rule and Testament and the Observants and Conventuals who accept privileges:

But if as part of the tribulations threatened by God in revelations given to holy men, after the heresies there are to follow other important events before the reform of the Church is perfected this could also happen within the Franciscan Order. Only God knows. We may well have to wait for the pastor and guide of the Capuchin Reform that Christ has promised to appear for him to perfect the Order as well as the Church following extreme tribulations and restore their beauty as the Prophets and St John the Evangelist have promised the Spouse would do.[191]

In order to put more emphasis on this concept Bellintani tells the story of a vision, that had already been told by Francesco Ripanti da Jesi, without acknowledging this. A friar saw terrifying armies descend on Christianity causing amazing destruction and killing some people and pillaging sacred objects. The fervent friars “fled into the desert” where St Francis guided them and preached to them exhorting them to persevere while waiting for the right time in the desert. If someone disobeyed and went off to preach the faith, he died immediately “without deriving the fruit or honour from the faith”. While the friars armed themselves with the spirit of God in the desert, “the entire desolate Church arrived.” At the right time, the Holy Spirit descended upon twelve of those refugees in the desert and they and the others were filled with heavenly fire and they went forth and preached to the infidels, and “led back all the Mohammedans to the faith of Christ and filled the Church, which growing in perfection, shone with wonderful beauty.”[192] This vision is in line with the image of the woman in the desert who was nourished by God.

Another prophesy or vision that Bellintani must have found in the Italian codex of Clareno that is held in Genoa speaks of how while a naval battle was raging on a stormy sea (a symbol of the history of the world) the smallest vessel in which St Francis was travelling was the fastest, that is the one “that contained those who observe the Rule as St Francis lived it.” It was small because there are a few on board since those who observe the Rule perfectly living in poverty and humility are few in comparison to the wicked. The conflict represents how “by means of exterior conflicts and by transgressions” the demons prevail in Christ’s Church, “like St John said that the beast was allowed to advance on the Saints and defeat them. However, St Francis’ little ship will not be defeated. Indeed, it will defeat the army of the Tartars which is filled with evil spirits, because this ship is devoting itself to the reform of the Church and in bringing the Turks who have afflicted Christians to the holy faith, just as Christ revealed to St Francis”.[193]

It is in this context that Bellintani, during an exalted moment in his meditation, audaciously tells the friars the main reason for the dissolution of an Observant Religious Order which is:

the pardon superiors extend to delinquents out of human respect. In this case it is a sign of ambition in the hearts of superiors who, being afraid that if they punish transgressors, they would displease the friars so they go ahead pretending and closing their eyes under the pretext of showing mercy. As a consequence, two great unacceptable things follow on. Firstly, transgressors remain unpunished and so their disciples are not afraid to do the same. Secondly, they hide defects in the Order which upsets many, starts dissention and brings on hatred both towards the superiors and towards those whom they are supporting. What is more than anything else, this results in great confusion.[194]

He means to apply this to the time of the Capuchin Reform as he says that after seventy years “it is gradually relaxing the customary sanctity that glowed in the early founders of the Reform.”[195] The same appears in another comment that he makes on contemporary history. “When the reform that is taking place in our time begun, by means of the Council of Trent, our Divine Majesty provided a clear sign that the sacred Council pleased him very much when he gave us victory over the Turks in order to demonstrate clearly that in so far as the reform progressed, the strength of the enemy would fall behind.”[196] When he mentions that during the Generalate of Giovanni M. da Tusa in 1582, there was a reform in the calendar that became known as the “Gregorian Calendar” he adds comments that are almost cabalistic as he plays with numbers and symbolic coincidences, for,

going back ten days, to the first day of the previous course that was the Feast of St Francis, when he put an end to his former ways and began a new and reformed way of life it was noteworthy that by calling the day after the Feast of St Francis the fifteenth, whereas it was the fifth, we skip over the seventh which was the day of the victory over the Turks [7 October 1571] as if that day had been destroyed. This means that God fulfilled what was in the Apocalypse where it says that one of the heads of the Beast appeared to be dead, but then it came back to life. (Rev 13:3).[197]


Mattia da Salὸ is not making a mistake in applying various interpretations to contemporary events. He believed that the Apocalypse had continual outcomes in history especially with regard to the Capuchins. Ochino’s fall, that “appeared to be the end of the Order”, was the result of the four angels of harm being set free, in order to imprint the seal of the living God on the foreheads of his servants.[198] The address that Cardinal Severina delivered before Paul III in defence of the Capuchins was full of references to the Apocalypse:

Most Holy father, faults, scandals and dangers must be removed, taken away and remedied […] and this is the responsibility of the Holy Sea, against which the gates of hell will not prevail […] it will close them with its strength and the help of providence, so that the beast who wanted to overcome the saints could not rise from the abyss. (Rev 13:7), or send unclean frogs (Rev 16:13) to spoil the beauty of Christianity, or send locusts to devour the grass of the earth and prevent good actions from being performed. (Rev 9:2-4).[199]

When he speaks about the two Capuchin protomartyrs, Giovanni Pugliese and Giovanni Spagnolo, he argues that they are martyrs who belong in the time of the Antichrist, because, “they were full of inner strength and strength of faith, whereas the ancient martyrs showed exterior sign so as to confound the tyrants.”[200] His method of applications becomes more emphatic and detailed: “As the time approached for the male child of the general reform to be born the beautiful peace of the Church and especially of Italy where its head resided, was disturbed by a great deal of civil wars and internal discord […] which provided the enemy, the cruel head of the beast, with strength and opportunity to attack and put them beneath his feet.”[201] These disasters lasted from 1490-1528, and the pains of birth, the last ones, were the most severe. In fact, Luther appeared:

to whom was given the key of the well of the abyss and he opened it. He released the dark smoke of error that took away the splendour of the sun from so many people, darkening in their eyes the clarity of Papal authority and Gospel truth. The smoke was the origin of the abominable locusts who scourged the Church with new errors, disturbed people and sowed cruel discord and wars and brought about the ruin of those who did not have the seal of the living Gd on their forehead and were living a worldly lifestyle.[202]

Bellintani sees the extreme pain of giving birth in the defeat of the King of France at Pavia in 1525, in the alliance of the Pope with Venice and the King of France against the Emperor, the antipapal factions against Clement VII which took place precisely as the time of Giovanni da Fano persecuting the Capuchins and most of all in the “Sack of Rome” which he describes in very dramatic pages, indicating the coincidence of events as a sign of divine judgement of the Church:[203]

Having observed carefully the threats that the prophets made against Jerusalem and Babylon we realise (from the total destruction that came from outside) that the situation in Rome was worse than the punishments that had been predicted for them for whereas this ought to be Jerusalem where sanctity and the reign of Christ prevails, but where the confusion of vice is reigning. Babylon was destroyed beyond repair but the walls of Jerusalem may be repaired by reform carried out by the grace of God by hard-working Christians as is symbolise by the building of the new St Peter’s Church.[204]

Mattia da Salὸ devised the similarity between “the pains of giving birth and the trials of the reform from the fact that, after the Sack of Rome”, Clement VII fled to Orvieto by night, and, on 3 July, “issued a Bull which was the foundation and strength of the Capuchin Reform.”[205] The instrument of reform was the Council of Trent which had set it on its way, validated it and authenticated all of the expressions of “holy reform” that appeared not only in the Capuchins, but in many other ways among the regular and secular clergy.[206]

All the evil that happened to the Church was transformed into good and what had been “a dark night” was changed into “clear day” because the reform had overcome the Roman Court:

Now Rome that was holy because of its status and because of the relics of the Saints, is also holy because the virtues it practices which shine out and increase every day and where there was no word that was more suspect than the word reform now there is no word so respected and valued. What is more, this shows that God has created the spirit of reform so that nothing is more desirable or active with new expression of reform coming up each day.[207]

This was indeed the time when reform became a significant feature of the Church, one of the signs of which was the Capuchin Reform. This reform did not stop within the Church. The waves of tribulation and spiritual renewal always continued to become stronger as she suffered the pains of giving birth.

Thus Bellintani’s vision remains open to an eschatological future in a Ecclesia semper reformanda, until the glorious return of the Lord.

  1. Cf. Italia Francescana 54 (1979) 389-408
  2. Cf. FERDINANDO CALLEY, Infiltration des idèes franciscaines spiritualles chez les Frères Minorurs Capucins au XVIe siècle, in Miscellanea F. Ehrle I, Roma 1924, 388-408; subsequently reprinted in Italian: Le idee fransescane spirituali nei FF. MM. Cappuccini del secolo XVI, in Italia Franc. 2 (1927) 113-130; Melchior a Pobladura, Introducitio generalis, in MATTHIAS DA SALÒ, Historia Capuccina, Pars prima (Monemta Historica Ord. Min. Cap., V), Roma 1946, LXXXII-XCV; STANISLAO DA CAMPAGNOLA, le origini francescane come problema storiografico. Secondo ediz. Riveduta e aggiornata, Perugia 1979, 103-105.
  3. The history written by Mattia is partisan; it contains a periodization similar to that of Joachim that he only uses to create a perspective of the past. However, he uses the same approach to classify the situation of the Church in his own time with such passionate and prophet emphasis that it astounds us. In his vision of history which was taken from the perspective of a theology of history, conveyed in the language and the ideas of Joachim, Bellintani expressed his thoughts …; and developed an extraordinary interpretation of the history of the Capuchin Reform. Portraying its motives and spiritual power.” (A. B. Langeli, La figura de Bonaventura da Bagnoregio nei prime cronisti cappuccini, in Coll. Franc. 44 (1974) 347s and notes 85-87; the whole article 331-382.
  4. Published by MELCHIDORRE DI POBLADURA in volumes V and VI of the Monumenta Historica Ord. Capuccinorum, Romae 1964 and 1950. Because of the frequent quotations from these from now on we shall use the following abbreviations: Mon. I: MARIUS A MERCATO SARACENO, Relationes de origine Ordinis minorum capuccinorum,Assisi 1937: Mon. II: BERNARDINUS A COLPETRAZZO, Hitoria Ordinis fratrum minorum capuccinorum (1525-1593). Liber primus: Praecipuit nascentis Ordinis eventus, Assisi 1939; Mon. V: MATTHIAS A SALÒ, Historia Capuccina. Pars prima, Romae 1946: Mon, VI: Ib., Historia Cappuccina, Pars altera, Romae 1950.
  5. Cardinal F. Borromeo’s opinion about this matter is well known and he attributed it to “his unique memory for sacred literature”, to the point that we might think “that he did not only possess natural human ability, but something greater and more exalted”. Cf. De sacris nostrarum temporum oratoribus,Mediolani 1632, 129.
  6. For example, the reform movement that sprung up within the Jesuits at the end of the Sixteenth and the beginning of the seventeenth century which MICHEL DE CARTEAU speaks bout in hi Politica e mistica, Milano 1975, 103-148. With regard to a literary approach see P. DINZELBACHER, Vision un Visions literatur im Mittelalter, Stuttgard 1981.
  7. Cf. E. BEST, Ecclesia spiritualis, Stuttgart 1934: R. MANSELLI, La “Letura super Apocallipism” di Pietro di Giovanni Olivi. Ricerchie sull’escatologismo medievale, Roma 1955; Id., L’Apocalisse e l’interprezione francescana della storia mediovale, in The Bible and Medieval Culture, edited by W. Loudaux and Verhelst, Leuwen 1979, 157-170; M. Reeves, The Influence of Prophecy in the Later Middle Ages: A study in Joachimism, Oxford 1969; Id., Joachim of Fiore and the Prophetic Future, London 1976; Mc GINN, BERNARD, Visions of the End: Apocalyptic Traditions in the Middle Ages, New York 1979; ANN WILLIAMS (ed.), Prophecy and Millenarianism. Essays in Honour of M. Reeves, Harlow 1980; DELNO C. WEST, (ed.), Joachim of Fiore in Christian Thought. Essays on the Influence of the Calabrian Prophet, 2 Vol., New York 1975; A. Crocco, Gioacchino da Fiore e il gioachimismo, Napoli 1976; H. DE LBEC, La posterité spirituelle de Joachim de Fiore; I: De Joachim a Schelling, Paris 1979; STANISLAO DA CAMPAGNOLA, L’”Angelo del sesto sigillo” e l’ ”Alter Christus”, Genesi e sviluppo di due temi francescani nel secoli XIII-XIV; Roma 1971; Id., Influsso del giachimismo nella letteratura umbro-francescano dell Due-Trecento, in Anal. TOR, n. 131 (1979) 443-475; R. RUSCONI, L’attesa della fine. Crisi della società, profezia ed Apocalisse, in Italia al tempo del grande Scisma d’Occidente, Roma 1979; L. VOL AUW, Angelo Clareno et les Spitituels italiens, Roma 1979: Id., Angeli Clareni Opera, I; Epistole, Roma 1990; G. I PODESTĀ, Storia ed escatologia in Ubertino da Casale, Milan 1980; Ricerche sull’influenza della profezia del basso medioevo,in Bulletino dell Inst. Stor. Ital. per il M.E. e Arch. Muratoriano 82 (1970) 1-157; Storia e messaggio in Giocchino da Fiore. Atti del l’ I Congresso Internat. Di Studi Gioachimiti, Abbazia, 19-23 sett. 1979; S. Giovanni in Fiore 1980.
  8. A. CHASTEL, Il Sacco di Roma (1527), Torino 1983, 225
  9. Ibid., 174s
  10. Ibid., 54
  11. C. Vascot, Studi sulla cultura del Rinasscimento, Mandura 1968, 187s; with regard to mystical and prophetic topics at the end of the fifteenth century see ibid.,180-240.
  12. Cf. A. GIORGETTI, Fra Luca Bettini, in Arch. Stor. Ital. 77 (1919) 192; JACOPO PITTI, Storia fiorentina (ed. GIORGETTI), ibid, I (1842) 112s; quoted by C. VASOT, I 219; OLGA ZORZI PUGLIESI, Il “Chronicon” di Angelo Clareno nel Rinascimento; volgarizzamento postillato di Girolamo Benivieni,in Arch. Franc. Hist.73 (1980) 514-529.
  13. Conciliorum Oecumenicorum Decreta. Edidit Centro di Documentazione per le Scienze religiose, Bikigna, Esitio altera, Basileae etc, 1962, 610-614: Circa modum praedicandi.
  14. A. CHASTEL, cit., 45-51
  15. Cf. Mon. I, 350 and note 3; Mon. II, 63s 304s, 505s; Mon. V, 366; Mon.VI, 212s; see also G. TOGNETTI, Note sul profetismo nel Rinascimento e la letteratura relativa, in Bull. Ist. Per il M. E. e Arch. Muratoriano 82 (1970) 143s.
  16. Mon. I, 10, 32.
  17. Cf. C. URBANELLI, Storia dei Cappuccini delle Marche. Parte primo, vol. I: Origini della riforma cappuina (1525-1536), Ancona 1978, 271-278, 317-320; A. CHASTEL, Il Sacco di Roma, cit., 176-178.
  18. For example, Giuseppe Piantanida da Ferno’s preaching, and later in the later part of the sixteenth century that of Alfonso Lobo. In the thirties this prophetic-apocalyptic preaching was very fashionable especially because of the Augustinian and Franciscan Orders at first, and then the Capuchins. Indeed, in 1536 a chronicler from Modena, Lancillotti, noted that in general “almost all of the preachers in Modena spoke about the renewal that had to be undertaken by the Church and the whole of Christianity.” He quoted “the Apocalypse of John the Baptist, and other prophetic writings in Holy Scripture.” (cf. S. PEYONEL RAMBALDI, Speranza e crisi nel Cinquecento modenese. Tensioni religiose e vita cittadina ai tempi di Giovanni Morone, Milano 1979, 205s). The early Capuchin chroniclers consecrated many pages to documenting this matter. See: ARSENIO D’ASCOLI, La predicazione dei Cappuccini nel Cinquecento in Italia, Loreto, 1956; ISIDORO AGUDO, I Cappuccini tra eremitismo e predicazione, in I Frati Minori tra ‘400 e ‘500, atti del XII Convegno Internazionale. Assisi 18-20 ott. 1984, soon to be published; MELCHIDORRE DA PUBLADURA, la “Serera riprensione: di fra Matteo da Bascio (1495?-1552), in Arch. Ital per la storia della pietà 3 (1961) 278-309; C. CARGNONI, La predicazione dei Frati Cappuccini nell’opera di riforma promessa dal Concilio di Trento, Roma 1984.
  19. See the material collected by MALCHIOR A POBLADURA in his Historia generalis O.F.M.Cap. Pars prima (1525-1619), Roma 1947, 247-322; concerning Capuchin spirituality see METODIO DA NEMBRO, Quattrocento scittori spirituali, Roma 1972; C. Cargnoni, Alcuni aspetti del successo della rifirma cappuccina nei primi cinquantt’anni (1525-1574), in Le origini della riforma cappuccina. Atti del Convegno di studi storici, Camerino 18-21 sett. 1978, Ancona 1878, 211-259; and our contribution, Quarant-Heures, in Dict. De Spiritualité (to be published soon).
  20. For example, Mon. II, 14-21, 69s, 256, 259; there is a doctoral thesis by M.L. LOMBARDI, at the University of Perugia, overseen by Stanislao da Campagnola in 1973-74. It develops the theme: L’incentivo escatologico nella storiografia delle origini cappuccino.
  21. Mon .V, 333-422 (capp. 22-41). C. Vasoli emphasised the incidence of Spanish components that was typical of religious life at the time and which continued to be spread by predictions about the imminent arrival of the Antichrist and the tribulations of Christianity and the approach of the “Last Things”. He added “It was from the preaching of Vincent Ferrer, who had also preached Italy, and that had been taken up by some Dominican preachers, such as Manfredo di Vercelli, who had certainly also been influenced by the young Savanarolo and the so-called “new Apocalypse” that these notions arrived. They were attributed to the Portuguese Franciscan Joao de Silva (Blessed Amadeo). However, it is more likely that they were redeveloped and spread in the environment of the Spanish Cardinal Bernardino Carvajal. The prophesies of S. Cataldo (that have recently been examined by Giampaolo Tognetti), led to the reconsideration of themes and personages both of recent and ancient Spanish origin and which were also linked to Joachimist predictions.” Cf. C.Vasoli, Aspetti e problem culturali tra Italia e Spagna nell’età del Rinascimento, in Annuario dell’Ist. Ital. per l’età moderna e contemperanea 29-30 (1977-78) 476 459-481; see also ID., Sul probabile autore di una “profesia” cinquencentesca, in Il pensiero politico 2 (1969) 464=472; ID., Ancora su Giorgio Benigno Salvati (Turaj Dragisic) e la “profezia” dello pseudo- Amedeo, ibid., 3 (1970) 417-42; A. MOROSI, Apocalypsis Nova. Ricerche sul’origine e la formazione della pseudo-Amadeo, Roma1970.
  22. This was already noted by A. B. ANGELI n. p. 346. Note 80 in the study mentioned above.
  23. No monograph has been produced about this aspect of the early days of the Capuchins. FREDEGARDO DA ANVERSA alludes to it in passing in his Le idee francescane (see above note 20) 116; on other points in our study: Fonti tendenze e svilluopi della letteraura spirituale capuccina primitiva, in Coll. Franc. 48 (1978) 335-347.
  24. Cf. Mon.VI 144s; see the text of the revelations, ibid.,143-159 and in Mon., II 461-477.
  25. Mon. II, 43.
  26. Cf. FRANCESCO DA VICENZA, Cenni biografici del P. Mattia Bellintani da Salὸ. Da un document inedito, in Coll. Franc.6 (1936) 253, 247-261; F. MERELLI, s. Carlo Borremeo e P. Mattia da Salὸ cappuccino. Epistolario, ibid.54 (1984) 285-313,
  27. FRANCESCO DA VICENZA cit., 254-261.
  28. Ibid.,256.
  29. Ibid.,257
  30. Ibid.
  31. FREDEGANDO DA ANVERSA cit., 11-130. See the list of sources used by Bellintani in Mon. V, LXXXII-XCII.
  32. However, his interest in these topics existed already from his first days of preaching, or at least from 1570. In fact, in the Oratione funebre recitata dal P. F. Gio[vanni] Francesco [Quaranta] da Brescia, predacatore cappuccino nella morte, et supra il corpo del M.R.P.F. Mattia da Salὸ pred. cap. Il giorno delle sue esequie nella Chiesa de Santi Pietro et Marcellino in Brescia Milano 1612, we read this precious notice “[ O, Brescia città mia] how often have I, like a prophet, predicted your calamities and tribulations? Do you recall when I read the Apocalypse in San Giovanni, how many mysteries of the Holy Church and about the Kingdom of Christ I expounded to you and how many things I foretold that were to come?” This information is repeated in in the Compendio della vita P. Mattia Bellintani Predicatore Cappuccino, deliniato da un devote Padre dell’istessa Religione, Bergamo 1650, 17: When speaking about his spirit of prophesy he says, among other things, “when reading the Apocalypse in Santo Giovanni in Brescia he said many things, that were fulfilled in part with some awaiting fulfilment latter.” We know that in Brescia he preached in San Giovanni in 1581 and many times in the Cathedral in 1588, 1589, 1598. Cf. FRANCESCO DI CICENZA (note 26) 253, 258, 260.
  33. Ibid.,253.
  34. Cf. CHARLES DE GENEVE, Les trophies sacres ou Missions des Capucins en Savoie, dans l’Ain. La Suisse Romande et la Vallée d’Aose, àla fn du XVIᵄ siécle par F. TISSERAND, vol. II, Lausanne 1976, 72s.
  35. Cf. Mon. V, 421s.
  36. Ibid.,369.
  37. We see this particular detail in the codex Vaticano, signed by Bellintani and it is placed among various facts that appear in the edition published by MELCHIOR A PABLADURA: Mon. V, 369 in the notes. In the codex Napolitano concerning which Pobladura speaks in Mon. I. LXV-LXIX, and which came from the Province of Brescia, and which was written by various hands, dating from 1584, we can read the following apocalyptic message on folio 260r: Divi Servi Episcopi Neapolitani vaticinium: “This is an apocalyptic vision that predicts the devastation of Italy. The beast will destroy those who are baptised in the same way.” (Ibid., LXVII).
  38. Mon. V, 368 and 369 where he adds: “I obtained the (second) prophesy from Fr Paolo who said that he received it in the same way and in the same place.”
  39. Chioggia, Arc. Curia Vescovile, vol. 16, f. 142r; da ARTURO DEL CARMIGANO DI BRESCIA, Storia dei Cappuccini veneti,III; Conventi fondati dal 1582 al 1585, Venezia-Mstre 1979, 333s, doc. 48.
  40. Cf. Ballentini’s letter to Orazio Mancini, Brescia 28 August 1594: “… when I wanted to send you the Capuchin Chronicles V. S. had to depart …” cit. by A. CISTELLINI, Aspetti e momenti religiosi della Communità Iacuale, in the Lago di Garda. Storia di una Communità Iacuale, Atti del congresso Internazionale promosso dall’Ateneo d Salὸ, I, Salὸ, 1969, 178s note 30; the whole article 165-186. Concerning the figure o O. Mancini (1545-1633), a Perugian, Doctor in utroque, secretary of Card. Antonio Carafa and of Card. G. Sartori, and later the agent of the Spanish Crown in Rome, and later in 1616 the founder of the Oratory in Perugia. Cf. Ibid., 177 noye 28, and most of all A. MENGGARELLI, Origini e sviluppo dell’Oratorio Perugino di S. Filippo Neri (1613-1715), Perugia 1976, 17-30.
  41. Letter to O. Mancini, Salὸ 9 August 1594: “V. S. may you be always happier in holy meditation and be further removed from earthly considerations which distract the eyes and make it seem that men are sturdy trees. This Roman ruse and Babylonian adornment is greedy mankind dressed in gold, to whom many people raise a toast and embrace over and over. It is the ruination of the world. It takes time to be rid such wine, much effort and the grace of God and whoever tastes a quantity of this confusion could easily experience the insanity of worldly men. However, in the end emptiness and foolishness will follow and send a man mad with the stupidity of worldly men who think that they are wise. It will finally affect the body as well as the mind. Cf. A. CISTELLINI cit., 181, note 33. The very important correspondence between Bellintani and Mancini was discovered by Cistellini in the Archives of the Congregation of the Oratory in Perugia. He used part of it in the study we have quoted. Nothing further has been done up to now.
  42. Cf. FRANCESCODI VIVENZA, cit’; (note 26), 260; letter to O. Mancini. Salὸ 26 Oct 1594: “For three months I have not had clear vision. I was clouded by vertigo that did not allow me to keep up my studies or to pray comfortably. I stayed at Salὸ to see whether the local, clearer air would help me, but after almost a month I feel no significant improvement. It all depends on most sweet hand of God the loving Father.” A. CISTELLINI, 181, note 34.
  43. In the same letter of 26 October 1594 we read: “[…] The Turk is beginning to verify everything that was contained in the dream that my friend had about the country because of which he believes destruction is close and there is the threat of ruin although I am not frightened about its proximity and I think that we shall not see it in Italy in our day for many reasons which I cannot explain. I want you to be liberated from the major abuses by means of a genuine process of reform, because there is no alternative. While the cause exists, the effect cannot disappear. God dissipate consilia principum et aufert spiritus rorum. Therefore, it is necessary that we dismiss vane thoughts and desires and pull ourselves together so as not to provoke tribulations or have them return as quickly or draw them into ourselves. With all the sickness in my head, I am glad of all the rest that I can have although because as I am almost idle, I cannot write down the things that are running round in my head. I implore Our Lord on behalf of the Church and our friends and masters that God will open them to do his will because there is nothing else that we ought to ask of him.” Ibid., He puts these words alongside those of Canisius: “It is about twenty years that I have been preaching the Gospel throughout Italy, interpreting the sayings of the Prophets, expounding passages from the Apocalypse, the destiny of the Church and predicting that we would soon experience amazing events and unheard-of catastrophes that would be followed by the renewal of the Church.” (quoted without giving the source by D. CANTIMORI, Umaniesimo e religion nel Rinascimento, Torino 1976, 150).
  44. A. CISTELLINI cit., 183, note 39.
  45. Cf. C. CARGNONI, La predicazione (see above at the end of note 18), 31-34; it is interesting to read in the Compendio della vita del P. Mattia Bellintani, Bergamo 1650, 18: “Cardinal F. Borromeo often wrote to him requesting the solution of doubts abort Sacred Scripture, calling him his teacher, seeking his advice and support; … when speaking about Fr Mattia, he told Fr Teodoro Foresti da Bergamo, an eminent Capuchin theologian, that if Mattia fell into some kind of error it would be just like seeing Origen make a mistake. On other occasions when speaking about this priest’s intelligence he said it was like St Augustine said of Deodatus. Ingenium illud mihi terroris erat.”
  46. In a. Cistellini CIT., 183, NOTE 42. With regard to the noble family of Count Lodrone, from which came which the illustrious Capuchin Giovanni Francesco da Salὸ, cf. V. BONARI, I conventi e I cappuccino bresciani. Memorie storiche, Milano 1891, 175s.
  47. Cf. H. Jedin, G. Contarini e il contributo veneziano alla riforma cattolica, Id., Chiesa della fede, Chiesa della storia. Saggi scelti, Brescia 1972, 624-639.
  48. A. CISTELLINI cit., 183s, note 43.
  49. This volume was published in Bergamo in 1598, by Comin Ventura, and dedicated to Card F. Borromeo in a letter written by Bellintani himself on 10 March 1598. Borromeo was the generous benefactor of this edition which is one of the literary masterpieces that Mattia a Salὸ composed in apocalyptic-mystical style. This is described by ILARIO DA MILANO, Biblioteca dei Frati Minori Cappuccini di Lombardia (1535-1900), Firenze 1937, 243, n. 1399-1301.
  50. Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana [= BA], G 181 inf. 195r.m
  51. BA G. 179 inf. 161r.
  52. Letter dated 18 March 1598: BA, G 179 inf. F. 157r.
  53. Monza, 14 sett. 1579: from Lettere di B. ZUCCHI, De’ complimenti vol. II, Milano 1623, 434.
  54. Bergamo 8 October 1597. B. ZUCCHI, L’idea del Srgretario … rappesentata, IV, Venetia 1600, 468. These two letters from Zucchi were mentioned by MELCHIOR A POBLADURA, in Mon. V, XCIs.
  55. FRANCESCO DA VINCENZA cit., (note 26), 260.
  56. This took place on 27 November and Leonardo da Bergamo was elected Provincial. Cf. Milano, Archivio Provinciale dei Cappuccini Lombardi, Ms. 324.
  57. FRANCESCO DA VICENZA cit., 260. By chance an important bit of news appears at the end of a letter from Bellintani to Cardinal Borromeo that was written on 6 October 1599: “God and St John provided me with an inspiration that was most appropriate for me to willingly include in my work on the Apocalypse. I could not have done this without the pen of St John […]” (BA, G. 184 inf. F. 63v). The person who played this providential role was a notary in the town of Salὸ.
  58. Ibid.
  59. Cf. UMILE DA GENOA, Brevi cenni biografici intorno al P. Mattia Bellintani da Salὸ, in P. MTTIA DA SALÒ, Pratica dell’orazione mentale, Parte I, Introduzione ed edizione critica, Assisi 1932, XXXs.
  60. Cf, Prattica dell’oratione mentale, di F. Mattia da Salὸ … Quarta Parte, ove si tratta delle pene dell’inferno et della Gloria del Paradiso, Venetia, appresso Pietro Dusinelli, 1607, nel Proemio.
  61. In spite of much research we have not yet succeeded in identifying this person and placing him in any historical context. Both letters are contained in cod. 80 in the General Archives of the Capuchins and were recently catalogued: Raccolta di documenti originali spettanti al Padre Mattia Bellintani da Salὸ. He probably came from Talloires, in the district of Savoy about 12 km from Annecy, on Lake Annecy.
  62. “Jns + M.a. in Christo Patri, Patri Matri Bellintanio Claud. Steph. Novelletino Thllorimus salute. Aliquot ab hinc annis non possum mihi vel tantillum imperare quin aliquid meditando perquiram in Apocalypsim D. Jo. Evangelistae, et id eo maxime qupd mihi jam diu eorum placeat sentential qui dicunt ibi latere summam summarum rerum in Ecclesia futurarum, seu potius profeticam historiam a diebus dilecti discipuli [ad finem saeculi; aggiunto con srgno al margine] quam Deus velit servis suis ststus temporibus revelari, ad praeccautionem insidiarum Antichristi, de quo tam varias fere opinions et esse et fuisse reperto quot sint autores qui hanc prophetiarum prophetiam interpretandum suscperunt, aliis alia de eo coniectantibus. Communis est sentential eum non prius adituturum quam instet ultima munsi catastrophe. Sunt et quiopinentur eum brevi expectandum, nec desunt etiam qui asserant iam advenisse esse que Machometum. Ego vero libenter eo me duci prmittam (salvis semper sanctae matris Ecclesiam decretis) ut opiner iam venesse in persona (si is muhamedes est) et iterum in membris suis prae foribus esse, sicut et in eisdem sub funem in mundi adhuc venturum, quando ipse suam a Sathana, sicut Christus a finem mundi adhuc venturum, quando ipse suam Sathana, sicut Christus a Deo suam accepit Ecclesiam, indeque ikkius ad hunc antithrses w diametro pugnantes.” )roma. Arch. Gen. O.F.M.Cap. ms. AD 80, doc. 11, [f. 1r]).
  63. Ibid.
  64. Angelo Des Michaëlis d’Avignon (+ 1612) was one of the early Capuchins in the Province of Lyon. He had two brothers: Raffaele, who became the Provincial of the Capuchins in Provence, with the other becoming Provincial of the Jesuits in Avignon. He governed the Province of Lyon for six years (1597-1600) and the Province of Provence for three years (1600-1603). He had preached at Annecy where a Capuchin friary had been founded in 1593. This was the Provincial residence and it was here that he was elected for the first time as Provincial in September 1597. One chronicler noted that Angelo was one of the first French students, the first to obtain patents for preaching, the first French Definitor and the first Custos of the Capuchin General in Rome as well as the first French Provincial. Cf. THĖOTIME DE SAINT-JUST, Les Capucins de l’ancienne Province de Lyon (1575-1660), Saint-Etienne 1951, 36, 56, 67, 72, 404s. See also EUGĖNE DE BELLEVAUX, Nécrologe et Annales biographiques des FF. Mineurs Capucins de la Province de Savoie (1611-1902), Chambery-Paris 1902, 375.
  65. “Nuper tandem cum Lutetiae agerem, vrstrique Ordinis et pios et dctos Patres frequenter meo convenirem, didici ab aliis te quoque in hac palestra exerceri, sed quid de hoc sentias ab aliis itelligere nunquam potui. Tamen cum in patriam, aliquot ab hinc mensibus, redissem, foliciterque mih occurrisset doctus pariterque pientissimus Pater fr. Angelus ab Avenione (qui vestris in hac nostra Cenevensi provincial iure merito praefactus est) coepi ibidem ab eo inquirere ecquod tuum esset de hac re iudicium. Ille pauca quaedam mihi quasi per transennam retulit quibus coniectem te aliquod meis simile meditari, quod ut mihi iucundissimum fuit, ita et alacritatem rogandi addidit et a te discert quod postea me dovere posset posset, quando totus Apocalypseos cardo in hoc mihi verti videtir ut agnoscrur Antichristis indeque conici possit quia tandem aut tumendum aut sperandum de futurus et forte proximis Ecclesiae tum vexationibus tum triumphis, ut praemoniti illa facilius per poenitentian vitemus, ista vero citissime a Deo precibus impretarw possimus. Res enim universi huius huius orbis ita mihi videntur hodie composite, ut cum abaltero timendum sit ab altero tamen, his reformations legibus, non sit desperandum, Timorem incutiunt Europae nostrae peccata et piimum haereses in ea grassantes, sed tamen novi orbis conversion magnam in spem sanctam matrem Ecclesiam erigere videtur. Add si placet et apud nos et item alibi, per Dei fratiam, tam a peccatis, tum etiam ab haeresi frequentem rspiscentiam, cuius rei te certiorem reffere poterunt pientissimi Patres qui hasce nostras ad te perferndas susceperunt.” (Ms. AD 80, doc. 11, [f. 1r-2r).
  66. Ibid., (f. 2r). “Aperi ergo nobis, reverende Pater, librum sigillis septem obsignatum, ut per te a Deo omnes muniantur ad fortiter ferendos Dolores parturientis Ecclesiae, quae non recordation pressurae quando natus erit novus homo in mundum, id est in Christo nova creatura, quod spirant multi futurum in proximis Agni nuptiis, quas putarim ego non alias esse ab illo d. Pauli sabbatismo quem ipse (Heb. 4) asserit populo Dei relinquendum esse, tum cum (Daniele teste) regnum tradendum est populo Santorum: quod futurum speratur s[icu] a tam multis prophetato Pastore Angelico, quem forte mihi vetat opinari esse Clementem 8, qui nunc Ecclesiae summas moderator habemus, quando id totus est in pacandis eius dissisiis, haeresibus rxtirpandis et hominum moribus in melius reformandis”. The letter that was written in his own hand ends like this: “si quid ergo, venerande Parer, nostril melius istis candidus imperti, et me miserum peccatorem tuis precibus commenda Deo, qui te quam diutissime Ecclesiae suae incolumen servet.” The date is as follows: “e musaeo nostro Annesiacensi mense januario feriis Regalibus anni Sancti Jubilaei 1600. Vale. Raptim scripta. Pace occupatissmo.” (ibid.)
  67. See Ms. AD 80, doc. 13: This is not in his own hand and is spread over six folios, in gothic script. The address is handwritten: “ in Christo Patri, Patri Mathiae Bellintano S[an]cti Capucinorum Ordinis Religioso, Venetiis.” A note in the Archives says “Lettere e risposte del Mattia, e D. Claudio Stefano Novilitio, Dottor di Sorbona,”
  68. A member of the Foresti family, Teodoro da Bergamo was born in 1545, became a Capuchin in 1572 and was ordained by St Charles who was very fond of him. In 1579 he was sent to the Province of Lyon. In that Province he was the Master of Novices and the Guardian of various friaries, Provincial Definitor from 1583 to 1607, Commissary in Lorraine and in Salὸ and Minister Provincial from 1591 to 1594 in the Province of Lyon. Together with St Francis di Sales he was of great assistance to Prior Dom Claude de Quoes in bringing about reform in the Benedictine Abbey of Talloires. He knew the Venerable Mother Agnes de Langeac (Agnes Galand) the Dominican who was the spiritual mother of Monsignor Olier the founder of Saint-Sulpice. She had such veneration for Teodpro that she called him “le vrai pére de son ame.” He died at Lyon in 1625. Cf. P. THEOTIME DE SAINT-JUST, Les Capucins (note 64), 33, 58, 64, 73, 77, 93 212-215; P. CHARLES DE GENEVE, Les trophies sacrès (note 34), vol, III, Lausanne 1967, 16-21; V. BONARI, I conventi ed I cappuccini Bergamaschi. Memorie storiche, Milano 1883, 107-114; for more bibliography see ILARIO DA MILANO, Biblioteca cit. (note 49), 283 n. 1493.
  69. Francesco Ribera, who was born in Villacastio near Segovia, taught Sacred Scripture at Salamanca for sixteen years. He was also one of the directors of St Theresa of the Child Jesus. He died at Salamanca just when his book In sanctam b. Johannis Apostoli et Evalgelistae Apocalypsim Commentarii was published in Salamanca in 1591. There were also other editions in Antwerp 1594, 1603 and 1623, a new “revised” edition in Duaci in 1623. With regard to this see the comments of M. Reeves, The Influence, cit., (note 7), 280s; for a bibliography see C. SOMMERVOGEL, Bibliothèque de la Compagnie de Jèsus,VI, Bruxelles-Paris 1895, 1761-67.
  70. Here are his exact words: “Jesus _ Maria. Reverendo, doctissimo pianissimo in Christo Patri, Patri Mathiae Bellintano Sancti Capuccinorum Ordinis Rligioso Claudius Stephanus Novelletius Thallorinus salute in eo qui omnium saus est. Quanta est Laetitia non dicam (utique enim hoc satis est), sed quanta iubilationae (sic enim mihi loquendum) literae reverendissimae et mihi colendissimae paternitatis tuae affecerint, facilius sentire, quam exprimere mihi concessum est, quando te unum hacienus reperi, qui ad eundem scopum in sacra Apocalipseos intrpretationem historicam, quam literalem dicimus, perquiro! Intera prodeunt in lucem Riberae in sacrum hunc librum commentationes, quae dum forte adhuc mihi Lutetiae agenti in manus incident, coepi librum adhuc incomplaetum cursim, sed tamen avide et lectione interrupta hac atque ikkac evolvere, et firte in quendam locum incidi (eius nunc non memini) quo multorum reiectis interpretationibus, dicebat se sensum historicum quaerere. Accipio librum, iubeo festinanter concinnari, polliceor quantum valet pretium bibliopola. Dicebam enim ex hac Societate mihi non magnum prodit: perfecerit iste quod ego tentare contremisco, et ita hoc onere me levarit. Legi, perlegi, annotationibus librum oneravi, ita tandem cum ad finem perventum est, idem de eo iudicium quod tu in epistola ad Reverendum patrem Theodosium data feci, Doctus est certe, et multae lectionis, sed dum historicis mystica miscet, a scopo mihi deviare videtur. Multa tamen habet opyima, quibus iuvari possit historicua [sic] interprete si eis ita utatur ne primis medium mediisne discrepet imum. Sed ad tuam eruditionis refertissimam epistolam tecum sum in omnibus uno tantum except, quod putem nulla preteriise, quae tu futurs dicis, quorum illud unum est, summum Antichristum iam venisse, eumque esse Mahometem.” (Ms. AD 80, doc, 13, [f. 1r-v]).
  71. Ibid,[f. 1v]. “Antechristus e diametro Christo contrarius est. Christus caput est Ecclesiae Dei, Antechristus ecclesiae Satanicae, et ita per antithesis omnia et singulis conferens, videor mihi (salvo tamen in omnibus sanctae matris Ecclesiae iudicio) rationibus magnis inniti […]. Rationes tamen desumptae sunt ex Sacra Scriptura, et sententiis sanctorum Ecclesiae Doctorum, qui dum dicunt Antechristum summum venturum, probant iam venisse et in successoribus eius es adimplenda, quae ipsi de unico dicunt, cui tantum tres annos et dimidium tribuunt ad universum sibi mundum subiiciendum, aut saltem vexandum, quod tamen tu rectissime sentis, non esse opus huius singularis hominis, sed et successorum eius, id est sanctam sposam pertinent; ad quod probandum tu apposite citas illud paukinum: Deinde nos qui vivimus, qui relinquimur etc”. The quote from S Paul comes from 1 Tit 4:17
  72. “Hic et aliis rationibus statuo Mahometem caput bestiae, qui substituo Saracenos, deinde Turcas, et ccum illis haereticos pro pseuoprophetis, qui pararunt illis viam ut Arius Mahometi et postea duo Patriarchae, unud Constantinopolitanus, et alter Antiochenus, ut placet ex historis. Quod idem nostra aetate gecit. Lutherus cum suis, licet omnes et singui sibi etiam ipsis contrarii sint. Nam et hac dissonantia ecclesiae Antechristi, suny simphonia ecclesiae Christi propria est,” (Idid,[f. 1v-2r])
  73. “Et nisi valde hallucinor, Lutherus Gog est, et est pseudo-propheta ipsius Magog, id est mox future, et forte iam nati, imo et forsan adulti illius Regis, a quo si non ultima, saltem penultima ecclesiae plaga timetur, de quo quid sentiam, mallem tibi in aurem dicere, quam hic aperte scribere. Neque enim tutum est. Dicam tamen me semper preterios pseudoprophetas in Ecclesia repreisse, ab eaque recessisse ut adhaererent Antichristis, extra ecclesiam natis aut factis. Loquor de mysticis et precursoribus Mahometis. Tales fuerunt (relictis Antiocho et ceteris ex veteri Testamento) Judas et Pilatus, Simon Magus et Nero etc. Ex his discamur omnes gradatim. Ab hac meditatione devenio ad Lutherum per lineam rectam, expectans quem regem habitutus sit pro suo Magog. Quos sit aut futurus sit ipse Deus novit. Coniectare possum, affirmare non item; status tamen rerum humanarum videtur nescio quid monstri nunc alere. Bene vertat Deus, qui solus ex malis elicit bona; evellat ipse et destruat, dissipet et disperdat, ut tandem aedificet et plantet.” (Ibid., [f. 2r]).
  74. “Tecum preterea linri huius subiectum statuo regnum Christi, etiam temporale, quasi mihi in propinquo esse videtur, quia u test sacerdos in aeternum in sacerdotioque habet Petrum Vicarium cum successoribus, ita, quia est, res regum et Doninus dominantium, habitus est Vicarium universi monacham, sacerdoti tamen apostolico subiectum, quando scilicet futurum est unum ovile sub uno pastore.. (Ibid.).
  75. “Probationes huius propositionis multa et clara sunt, tam ex Scriptura, quam ex Patribus, imo et es praesenti rerum statu. Er haec omnia et alia mea (sit amen mea sunt quae Deus dedit) tuis ad amussim mihi videntur convenire, licet alia forte, et alia via ad eundem finem contendimus.” (Ibid.).
  76. “De reformation item et fr. Pappa Angelico accedo etiam tuae sententiae nempe non unicum esse; nam etiam nostril seculi profetae, unum summum et plures illi succedentes ponunt, quo et superioribus optime quadrat.” (Ibid. [f. 2r-v]).
  77. “Breviter, totus in hac sum ut ostendam onia ad literam imlieta quaecontinentur in Apocalipsi ad decimum sextum capit. Lyrannus enim et aliquot alii eousque historice interpretati sunt satis ante accomodantes prophetam ad posteris enucleandum relinquentes. Hoc posito, ab eo capite incipit, quasi id posteris enuedeandum reliquentes. Hoc posito, ab eo cpite incipit D. Joannes predicens instantes Ecclesiae trumphos, id est, omnium hereseon, et faisarum predicens instantes Ecclesiae trumphos, id est, omniim hereseon, et falsarum religionum omniumque tirannidum tam spiritualium quam temporalium eversionem mox, Dei favente, adfuturam.” Ibid., [f. 2v])
  78. “Timenda tame nest vexatio a Magoh, cui fortasse adhaerebat Ismael, uterque caesurus: illo spiritu oris Cgristi, iste glaudio eius, quando ille rius sacerdotium aggreditur, iste eius regnem. Adimpleri enim oportet illud de Ismaele vaticinum: Manus omnium contra illum, quia haetenus Manus eius fuit contra omnes,quorum neutrum dici possit adimlentum fuisse in Ismaelis persona, ergo in eius posteris; et ita debet incipere, si non iam inceptus est,Sabbatismus populo Dei relinquendus, cumcum reformation universi quae iam valde floret in orbe novo, nos hic tam refugimus, concilio Tridentino recalcitrantantes.: (Ibid.,).
  79. “His positis video omnia quadrare nisi ego valde falior. Ante tamen quamista serio concludam, expect doctissimae, et ut ego video illuminatissimae paternitatis tuae, in hanc prophetiam explications, quae erunt mihi lapis lidius [?] ad mea omnia examinanda. Habeo sententiae meae valde claras probationes, et maxime de Mahometo, in quo omnia reperio quae de ssquitiusmali Antichristo dixere sancti Patres, quod prima fronte omnes cum quibus de hoc contero, toto caelo distare clamant subdubitare incipient, alioque modo assentiri. [aucas imo fere nullas habeo mecum: tanta vis et violentia est semel conceptae a vulgo opinionis!” (Ibid., [f. 2v13r])
  80. “Notet. Reverntia tua habesse nunc per Dei gratiam habascere, post quam atseismum progenuerunt, qui nunc superbas erigit cristas etsi occulte. Quid ulterius potesr draco machinari? Unum icam quod silere volebam, dicam tamenut mihi videnti ulterius meditandi causam prebeam. Parenti Gog ad literam non invenio. Magog vero filius Japhet est, secundogenitus a Gomer. Patet ex Scriptura. magogi autem filios nullos reperip; et hoc quod vi[erea progenenies non fuerit meltiplicata. (Vero Philone maliter genealogiam texere, sed innitor Sacris,)” (Ibid.,[f. 3r])
  81. “Utinam de his tecum, si non colloqui, saltem mussitare lateret, quando scriber non est totum. Mystica sunt haec, sed quae in fugura contiguerunt et explicationem liyerae valde faciunt. Si Deus det mihi parere quod concepi, hac et huismodi, non omnibus, sed tibi et tui similibus piis et bonis patebunt. De Ecclesia grecca superset eius reconciliation cun Latina. Plenitudo gentium fere ex toto introit in novo orbe, Suprsunt Israelis reliquia post gentes salvandaeet haec etiam omnia instare videntur. Sed mirum mihi vusum est, quod reperi hodie gentem iudaicam reliuas omnes multitudines superare; quod tamen pauci credunt, ad eos tantum spectantes qui captive sunt unter christianos et Turcas; cum tamen tibi nulli sunt respect caeterorum vulgo incofnitorum.” (ibid.).
  82. “Et ut tamen finiam, dicam tantum timeo plagam a Magog. Nam Gog Lutherus suam exequutus est insaniam, nisi quod favebit ipsi Magog cum Ismaele, ut tandem hi tres predicandum est evangekium regi in universe mundo, sub unico Summo Sacerdote flagekkandp fortasse cum suo levo nisi resipiscamus, Nam praeditiones comminatotiae possunt revocari, u tilla de Nineve subvertenda.” (Ibid., (f. 3v).
  83. Ibid., (f. 3r-v)
  84. “Caeterum an Ecclesiae sanctae aedificationem accelera commentariorum tuorum editionem, quam si Lugduni vis typis mandari, adeo nostratis Reverendus tui Ordinis patribus, ut quanta fieri poterit diligentia vitentur typographorum soliti errores, si, ut scribis, et ut per Deum rgamus, exemplar tuumin votis est,” (Ibid.)
  85. “Sed praecipui reverendae Paternitatis tuae invisendae avidissimus sum. Nam urget presential Turnj. Tentabo occasionem, quantum senectutis meae sexagenariae ratio tollerare poterit, et eo magis si mihi Beatae Mariae Montis Regalis aedem miraculis claram adire Deus ex voto concesserit. Non audio polliceri ne sim non solvendo. Fiat voluntas eius, quem tota mente totoque affectu, oro, ut te diu Ecclesiae suae incolumen servet,” (Ibid.). We do not know precisely which sanctuary he was referring to.
  86. We come across these words before the signature; “Aale, Pater in Christo mihi colendossome, et tuis tuorumque precibus adiuva, et maxime in hac quam suscepi difficikkima scribendi provinvia, ut ex indigno Deus dignum faciat, aut omnino silere iubeat. Vale iterum Annessiaci. 7a Julii 1600.” Then there follows in the handwriting of Thallorinus: “Haec, licet mano scripta, tibi corrigenda, augenda, minuenda, mutanda, e si ita videbitur, evellenda disperdenda etc, mottot tuae R.dae Paternitati Cl. Steph. Novelletius hallorinus, tibi in Chtistp deditissimus.” (Ibid.)
  87. Ibid. “Da Venetorum Repub[lica] magna et ad Dei laudem praeclara spero, Roma, Roma prima; Constantinop. Roma nova quae et secunda. Venetiae Roma nova quae et tertia. Constantinop. In numerobinario. Atqui secundae dues non benedixit Dominus nec probavit. Venetiae in numero ternario, qui omnium numerorum excellentissimus est et divinitatis proprius etc”.
  88. Cf. M. REEVES, The Influence cit. (note 7), 262-267, 376-378, 431-434, 498.
  89. With regard to these authors see once again M. Reeves, The Influence,463-65, 467s, 479-71 and 53. For the comments made by Observant Friars, Augustinians and Jesuits see ibid.,229-41, 251-90. See also h. RIEDI-INGEN, Apokalysenkommentare, in Lexikon des Mittelalters I, Mṻnchen und Zṻrich 1979, 748-50. He says that up to the present there are about 100 commentaries, 50 of which are unpublished but noted by these authors. There are a further 120 anonymous commentaries. More than 30 commentaries on the Apocalypse appeared during the sixteenth and at the beginning of the seventeenth centuries. Cf. Dict. De la Bible I Paris 1926 756, suplem.Paris 1928, 322-25, Dict, Theol. Cath. I/2, 1473-75.
  90. Venice 1562, Parma 1569 and 1570 etc. Cf. M. REEVES, The Influence,469s. With regard to this author see D. FEYLES, Serafino da Fermo, Canonico Regolare Lateranese (196-1549), Torino 1942.
  91. Breve dichiaratione sopra l’Apocalisse, dove si prova esser venuto il precursor d’Antichristo. Et avicinarsi la percossa da lui predetta nel sesto Sigillo, in Opere del R.P.D. Stefano da Fermo, in Venetia 1562, 333s.
  92. Ibid.,338r-v.
  93. Cf. FRANCESCO DA VICENZA, Cenni biografici (note 26), 261. Various original documents that contain details of this period of Bellintani’s life are preserved in Ms. AD 80.
  94. “Quanto mi sono io, non posso dirlo, rallegrato nei ricevimento della lettera di l’V. S. molto Magnifica e Rev.da, et maggior piacere di certo ho preso in vedere la sua reverenza affettuosa a quella material memoria del B. Carlo che se a me proprio mandata l’havesse, onde non mi pento di havergliela chiesta, havedone io fatto cosi gran gaudagno, et mi piace che se la tenga chi tanto la stima: se poi nell’occasioni io gli tocco tallora quei tasti romani o curiale, imputelo all’amore, il quale è ordinariamente pkeno quanto egli è grande di solecitudine timorosa et mi fa credere che pochi si trovino nella furnace di Babilonia senza abbruciarsi, et so che il gettarsi sopra dell’acqua detriment apportarglu non puto [..]. Letter to O. Mancini, Prague, 21 Oct. 1602: see A. CISTELLINI, Aspetti e momenti(note 449), 184s, note 44. Letter to Borromeo, Salὸ 3 Sept. 1605 “[…] passando frati nostril adesso che vengono a Milano, faccio humile ruverenza a quella, dandone aviso ch gratia di Dio, son ritrovato 9de Praga] sano et in buons dispositione, et conosco et confesso di essere quanto sia da parte mia sotto la sua giurisdittione come prima, quantunque lo strumento sia logorato, s non fosse cosi sopra inverno procurarei venir a fare questa riverenza in persona […]” (BA. G 194 bis inf. F. 268r).
  95. See above note 43.
  96. Cf. [F. ALBUZZI], Risposta all’historia della Sacra Inquisitione composta già del R.P. Paolo Servita, o sia discorso dell’origine, forma, ed uso dell’ufficio dell’ Inquisitione nella città e dominio di Venetia del P. Paolo dell’Ordine del Servi, teologo della Serenissima s.l.n.d., [ma redatta a Roma tra il 1671/84], 99-101. The second revised, corrected and enlarged edition was put out by the printer of the Propagation of the Faith. Cf. L. CEYSSENS, La cardinal François Albizzi (1593-1684). Un cas important dans l’histoire du Jansénisme, Roma 1977 180s: see a review in Coll. Franc.49 (1979) 161-63,
  97. V. BONARI, Iconventi e I Cappuccini bresciani,Milano 1891, 179,
  98. Cf. Gli Scrittori d’Italia, vol. I/2, Brescia 1753, 1244.
  99. V. BONARI, cit. 182s.
  100. Cf. ILARINO DI MILANO, Biblioteca cit (note 49), 223, n. 1196. Perhaps there has been confusion with Girolamo Averoldi who died in Brescia on 25 December 1610 whose baptismal name was Ippolito. In any case it is evident that Ippolito died in 1774 and could not the Icomes of 1638!
  101. Perhaps someone would have more success n examining the archives of the State of Venice that we searched through unsuccessfully.
  102. Rome, Arch. Gen. O.F.M.Cap. Ms. AD 80, doc. 20.
  103. However it might also refer to Cardinal Borromeo as we shall see later.
  104. Ibid.,doc. 23. We do not possess a biography of this Inquisitor. F. ARGELATI, Bibliptheca Scriptorum mediolanensium,f. 2 in 4 voll. Mediolani 1745, 1901: mentions a certain Fr. Pietrasania (sec. XVI=XVII), but we were to verify this.
  105. With regard to Cardinal Pompeo Arrignoni (+ 1616) see the entry by G. De Caro in Diz. Biog. Ital. IV, Roma 1962, 329s.
  106. Cf. ILARINO DA MILANO, Bibliotecacit., 248, n. 1325 and 1327. The first little volumes were dedicated to Cardinal Santa Severina in an undated letter written by Bellintani himself. The third volume was dedicated to Cardinal Francesco Joyeuse (+ 1615) by the editor Pietro Dusinelli in a letter that was dated 5 May 1607 and which was sent from Venice. The fourth volume was once again dedicated by Dusinelli in an undated letter to Filippo Canayo, a member of the Council of State, the secretary of the most Christian King and the Ambassador to the Republic of Venice.
  107. Letter to Cardinal Borromeo from Salὸ on 24 June 1608. BA, G 199 inf. F. 545. This work was published after he died. It was edited by his brother Giovanni Bellintani da Salὸ who was also a Capuchin. He gave it the following title: Ambrosianum duplex, in duos tomos divisum …, Lugduni 1624 and 1625, Coloniae Agrippinae 1626, Keuken 1626. Cf. ILLARINO DA MILANO, Biblioteca cit. 255s, n. 1368-71. See also the letter to Borromeo from Salὸ 17 Oct. 1608: BA, G 198 inf. F. 132r. Bellintani’s handwriting is truly tiny and scratchy and very hard for his readers to understand.
  108. BA, G. 203 inf. F. 42r.
  109. Ms. AD 30: the letter is in his own handwriting. We do not know how it became part of this collection when it ought to have been in the Ambrosiana among the letters of F. Borromeo. With regard to G. Garzias Millini (+1644), who was created Cardinal by Paul V on 11 September 1606, see Hier. Cath/ Medii et Rec. Aevi, IV (1592-1667), Monasterii 1935, 296. He was a famous person who was praised by L. Pastor, Storia dei Papi, XII, Roma 1930, 231s, 233, 533.
  110. Cf. Series Prociratorium Generalium Ordinis ,in Anal. O.F.M.Cap.12 (1896) 152: FELICE DA MARETO, Tavole dei Capitoli Generali dell’Ordine ei FF. MM. Capucciini con molte notizie illustrative, Parma 1940, 101, 111, 115,126: Lexicon Cappuccinum,Romae 1951, 1408-1411.
  111. Cf. Hier. Cath. Medii et Rec Aevi, IV, 82: L. PASTOR, Storia dei Papi, XII, 684.
  112. The commitment that he had undertaken is obvious because of what we see in his correspondence with Borromeo. For example, with respect to Salὸ 21 December 1608 (BA. G 198 inf., 277): Brescia 6 September 1609 (G 202 inf., 250); Brescia 4 December 1609: “… by God’s grace I have sent off the Quadragesimale except three sermons for the Feast of Easter which I have withheld until I have a clearer head than I have now which will resound with Alleluia.” (G. 202 inf., 134) etc. See also the correspondence in note 114.
  113. We do not know all the details. A copy of Bellintani’s work on the Apocalisse had been sent to Rome to be examined, as was the practice, by some of the theologians in the Order. In addition to those already mentioned, there were possibly other theologians such as Clemente da Nola, Girolamo di Narni, Sante Tesauro, Dionigi di Piacenza and Silvestro Monteleone.
  114. BA, G 206 inf. F. 221r.
  115. In cod. AD 80, doc. 31 we read the moving testimony of an eyewitness regarding the Successo dell’infirmità, morte et sepultura del R. Padre frate Mattia da Salὸ Pred. This conveys information about his great sanctity and spirit of contemplation. The text has been published by V. BONARI in Misc. Franc. 3 (1888) 39-42. See also two obituaries, one delivered by Giafrancesco Quaranta da Brescia on the day he was buried, and the other on the anniversary of his death by Don Giovanni Poeta. These were published by the printer Bernardino Lantoni in 1612 in Milan. Cf. ILARINO DA MILANO, Biblioteca cit., 197, n. 1060.
  116. See above note 109. With regard to Cardinal F. Borromeo see P. PRODI in Diz. Biogr. Ital. XIII, Roma 1971, 33-42.
  117. Cf. Anal. O.F.M.Cap.12 (1896) 152: FELICE DA MARETO, Tavole cit. (note 110), 118, 120, 136, 131s.
  118. This important information was already noted by Edoardo d’Alençon to be among the papers of Bellintani in the files in the Historical Institute of the Capuchins, but without mention of the source. He came to the conclusion that came from research in the Vatican Archives whereas it came from a file containing the correspondence between the Minister General Giovanni Maria da Noto and the Procurator General Francesco Di Negro da Genoa that is held in Archi. Gen. O.F.M.Cap.cod. AB 102. P. 138 and 136.
  119. Cf. I. PASTOR, Storia dei Papi, XIII. Roma 1931, 619s. With regard to the Secretary and staff of the Holy Office in the first decades of the century see A. KARUK, Das päpstiche Staatsseketariat unter Urban VIII,Freibourg i.B, 1964.
  120. For a complete bibliography of these volumes see ILARINO DA MILANO, Biblioteca cit. (note 49), n. 1300,1303, 1371, 1357 In volume I of the present edition the abbreviations are: Mon. V-VI: Quadrag.: Essagerationi: Teatro del Paradiso I-II. Note that the book Delli dolori di Christo contains another work entitled Quattro prediche dell’istesso R.P.F. Mattia Bellintani …Brescia 1598 that will be referred to as Quattro prediche.
  121. Cf. BERNARDINUS A BOBONIA, Bibl. Scriptorum Ord. Min. Cap., Venetiis 1747, 186b: “Expositio admirabilis et profundissima in librum Apocalypsis B. Joannis Apostoli, ab omnibus viris doctis et praesertim a Summo Pontifice Clemente VIII tunc regnante maxime commendata, cuius originale conservari iussit in Bibliotheca Vaticana”; G. MAZZUCCHELLI, Gli Scrittoei d’Italia, II/2, 629s, where there is an entry in the list manuscripts mentioning n. XV: “La sua Esposizione dell’ Apocalisse di San Giovanni, the original text of which is preserved in Rome in the Vatican Library”.
  122. V. BONARI, I conventi ed I cappuccino bresciani, Milano 1891, 241.
  123. There is another copy in the Bibl. Estense di Modena, Manoscritti Campori, n. 131: Discorso della vera beatitudine, Cod. Cart. 8, cc. 32, sec. XVI (Anonimo). The title is Beati mortui qui in Domino moriuntur. Cf. L. LODI, Catalogo dei codd. Mss. March, Giuseppe Campori, parte 2ᵃ, Modena, s.d. 100.
  124. See above in note 44.
  125. Among all these quotes we have found 40 in the Historia Capuccina, about 25 in the Dello dolori di Christo and Quattro prediche, 32 in the Essagerationi, 70 in Quadrag. and more or less 40 in Teatro del Paradiso. The higher or lower number of quotes should not mislead us about the importance of these quotes, because it comes from the context and the purpose of the individual volume as we have said. However, there is another calculation that is extremely important. The entire 22 chapters of the Apocalypse are quoted, except chapter 8. Here is a list of quotes and their number; I (18), II (14), III (12), IV (6), V (10), VI (4), VII (10), IX (7), X (4), XI (3), XII (37), XIII (6), XIV (7), XV (1), XVI (5), XVII (3), XVIII (4), XIX (11), XX (7), XXI (23), XXII (16). Significantly chapter 12 is the highest chapter quoted.
  126. The frequent mention of “the last days” is noteworthy, especially in the Historia Capuccina. No doubt he was under the influence of Clareno. See for example Mon. V, 11s, 13s, 18s, 30s 269. With respect to this in general see R. MANSELLI, L’Apocalisse e l’interpretatione Francescana della storia, in The Bible and Medieval Culture, Leuwen 1979, 157-176.
  127. Mon. V, 389.
  128. “There is nothing that is more obscure in the divine writings and prophesies than determining the time […] Nevertheless, we can and we should investigate it making use of the strictest literal sense possible […]” (ibid.). He expressed the same concept in another way in a letter to Borromeo written from Salὸ on 7 January 1598: “The times are in the hands of God; studies are in our hands.” (BA, g, 181 inf. F. 195r).
  129. “When St John received the prophesy about those who were to continue to lead the Church, he did not hear it from in front of himself but from behind his shoulders, and to listen to the one who was speaking he had to turn around: Et conversus sum, ut viderem vocem, quae loquebatur mecum (Apoc.1: 12). I think that this perhaps meant that it was announcing things about the future that were to happen after he was gone and this is why he had to turn around. When he turned there was the one who was speaking. This also shows that men should not think that they have the light before their eyes. They have to turn around, twist their neck, carry the cross and be humble if they want to see clearly. The first thing that John saw was three lampstands that proclaimed the coming of light: Et conversus sum vidi septem candelabra aurea (Apoc. 1:12). It is just the reverse with those who are worldly-wise and consider themselves wise while remaining foolish (Rom. 1: 21) (Essagerationi, 27: 1s).
  130. “As when he was ascending to heaven, he left the Apostles in his place to be the foundations of the church, as St John calls them in his revelations (Apoc 21: 14), so when the Apostles went to glory the Church would never be left without steady foundations that would sustain it throughout all time. Thus, the apostolic office always remained on earth so that the Church with its support would never collapse. The apostolic office is reserved to the Roman Church whereas all the other Churches that were established and built by the Apostles have fallen and come to nothing. Thus, Christ said to Peter alone: you are Peter and, on this rock, I shall build my Church which will be so stable that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Mt 10:5s; Lk 9: 2s)” (Mon .V, 11: 14).
  131. Quattro prediche, 60; Essagerationi, 515,
  132. Delli dolori di Christo, 156.
  133. Quadrag.92a, 457b, 509b, 522a, 686a, 731a.
  134. Essagerationi, 82.
  135. Teatro del Paradiso I, 324s, 302.
  136. Ibid.386.
  137. FRANCESCO DA VICENZA, Cenni biografici (note 26) 255.
  138. Teatro del Paradiso I, 347
  139. Ibid., 60, 144, 267; Quadrag.39b, 731a.
  140. Ibid.,422b.
  141. Teatro del Paradiso, II, 306; I, 140.
  142. Ibid., II, 86.
  143. Ibid., I, 352. “[…] When he created the world the primary intention of the Divine Will was to provide what was the greater good as far as that was possible for someone who is not God. This was nothing else but to arrange the highest possible union with God himself. He did this for all the Elect giving each his proper existence and then leaving him. As this was clearly what God intended therefore the Just say that that is why things were created (Apoc.4: 11). This is how they were specially blessed.”
  144. Teatro del Paradiso I, 21, 59, 63, 140, 161, 193, 268: II, 2s, 42s, 216s, 274, 295: Quadrag.35a, 55a, 179b, 514a.
  145. Delli dolori di Christo, 75.
  146. It is particularly noteworthy how his discourse is full of Biblical quotations especially in his sermons (Essagerationi and Quadrag.) and the volume that appeared after his death that contained “meditations on heavenly glory” that is the Teatro del Paradiso. We should remember that he was writing hurriedly, without consulting books, out of a strong concentration on his contemplative experiences and his incredible memory, as Cardinal F. Borromeo said (above note 5). This was brought out in his funeral sermons. Cf. Oratione funebre cit. (note 115), 24s. When speaking about how hard he found it to write he said in a letter from Salὸ to Borromeo on 21 December 1608 that even though the pen was very quick it could not keep up with his mind: “[…] the normal and continual defects of my pen that omits entire words and abbreviates others ruins the meaning of the work. A sentence begins in one way and ends in another. I will say nothing about the mistakes for even when I have something in my head the pen writes something else.” (BA, G 198 inf. F. 277).
  147. Mon. V, 372.
  148. Ibid.,372s.
  149. Ibid.,373.
  150. Ibid.,373s
  151. Ibid.,374s.
  152. Ibid., 385.
  153. He said in the sermon Della Annuntiata Beata Virgine: “If the great Sun of the Incarnate Word shed light on the entire world, and that light illumined the heavenly Jerusalem reaching to the depths, it is very right and proper that the Holy Virgin who was closer to him than any other creature, would also make the Church shine with an abundance of light. St John was right in seeing her not only like the moon and crowned with stars but as being clothed with the sun […]. The splendour of this blessed lady and Holy Virgin are most outstanding. She carries the Sun within herself, from where it comes to shine, making all around sparkle, really clothed with the sun. Thus, the stars and the moon which do not possess light of themselves, are not ashamed to come and venerate and pay respect. In the same way all of the saints and all creatures, who receive the light of grace from God joyfully gather to honour and magnify Maria. O Milan, the summit of Mary’s excellence was receiving the great Son of God in this tabernacle and room, and in being his real mother, who conceived him, carried him, bore him and nourished him. Everything else was born and nourished from this. Therefore, she was crowned with stars, had the moon beneath her feet, was clothed with the sun and brought forth a male child, who was to rule over all people holding the sceptre and being taken up God to be seated on his in the eternal kingdom […]. All her virtues and privileges are based on this special favour, or on gifts from him, having the moon beneath her feet and the stars on her head.” (Quattro prediche, 63s. Note the theological depth of these thoughts.) See also ibid. 85s; Teatro del Paradiso II 252, 292.
  154. Delli dolori di Christo, 85-87
  155. Ibid.,101, 105, 108.
  156. Ibid.,102.
  157. Ibid.
  158. Ibid.,103.
  159. Ibid.
  160. This is characteristic of the Church of the Reformation. It is an experience of glory and victory together with a desire to return to the original spirit of the Apostles and the Church of Rome that involves genuine reform. Bellintani’s devotion to the relics of the saints comes through in many of the events in his life. For example, in 1586, “in the month of September Fr Mattia acquired some holy relics from the Fathers at S. Affra of Brescia for our church in Salὸ that he carried in solemn procession etc.” (FRANCESCO DI VICENZA, Cenni biografici cit., 257}. He did the same in December (ibid.,257s), and again in April of 1589 (ibid., 258). In 1593 “desiring to enrich his homeland of Salὸ with some holy relics he approached the Illustrious Lord Duke of Acquasparta sending two friars from Salὸ to procure them. The following Pentecost he transported them in a solemn procession to our Church at Pieve in Salὸ. These relics were procured so the Saints would protect the entire Riviera.” (ibid., 259). “In the month of April (1594) he received some holy relics from the Duke of Acquasparta.” (ibid.). In Aquileia in 1600 (ibid. 260), when he came back from Prague in 1605, he brought “with him a beautiful relic of the Companions of S. Maurizzio Martire, having obtained it from Monsignor Giovan Prstorio the confessor of the Emperor. These relics were placed in our church in Salὸ” (ibid., 261). Today there is a large folder of documents in the Provincial Archives of Milan that authenticates these relics which are exposed in the sacristy and the crypt of the church of the Friary of the Most Holy Annunciation in Val Camonica.
  161. Delli dolori di Christo, 140
  162. Delli dolori di Christo, 140.
  163. Delli dolri di Christo 140s.
  164. Ibid., 103.
  165. Quadrag.724-731b, which is similar to the second sermon for Easter. Here is a passage from this sermon that is a typical example of Bellintani’s style which resembles that of the Fathers.: “[…] Et humilis Michael percutiens et impugnans eum, qui moliebatur esse sucut Deus. Ideo Diabolus et Angeli eius non prevaluerunt, neque inventus est amplius locus eorum in coelo et profectus est draco ille magnus in terram. Aperta pgna fuit ista, nam aperte appetitiis est similitude Dei […]. Proiectus draco in terram, non ideo quievit, sed qui fraxit in terra tertiam partem stellarum, putavit desertam facere onem terram aggressus Patrem orbis terrarium, non aperto marie illum invadens, sed per mulierem se illi insinuare conatus […]. Inimicium ponam[…]. Non erit finis, sicut fuit principium […]. Ecce restauratum bellum. Draco in terram proiectus est. Homo de terra terrenus, instigante superbo, supbe putavit fieri sicut Deus. Venit in terram ille qui est imago Dei invisibilis. […] Sed egenus factus apparuit in forma servi, non Altissimi. […] Verus Michael, id est, humilitas Dei percuriens Deus et confringens capita inimicorum […].”
  166. Cf. Mon.V, 29.
  167. Ibid.
  168. Ibid.
  169. Ibid., 12.
  170. Ibid., 384.
  171. Ibid., 387s.
  172. Ibid., 386s: “The beast is the Roman Emperor and for certain the woman is no other than the city of Rome, since St John, in one place, calls her woman and in another place calls her Babylon.” Babylon is the symbol of every kind of worldliness: “This glorious woman holds a golden cup in her hand full of wine that intoxicates the entire world. (Apoc. 17: 4) The woman appears to St John in the form of a prostitute clothed in gold and in gems. She intoxicates the entire world with the wine of fornication. This is lust, concupiscence, pleasure that exist in creatures. Here all are intoxicated […]. All, all sins are lust of some kind […] Those who are intoxicated fall cannot stand on their feet. Babylon falls to the ground […].” (Delli dolori di Christo,27). See also Quattro prediche,17; Essagerationi, 186; Quadrag. 695a. On the apocalyptic meaning of Babylon cf. P. CHRISIANSON, Reformers and Babylon: English Apocalyptic Visions from the Reformation to the Eve of the Civil War, Buffalo 1978.
  173. Mon. V. 384
  174. Ibid., 12, 385
  175. Cf. Quadrag.186a, 64b, 501b.
  176. Delli dolori di Christo, 7.
  177. Mon.390
  178. Ibid..
  179. Ibid., 390s.
  180. Ibid.,391.
  181. Ibid.,262; also 97 in a note.
  182. Ibid., 68s.
  183. This is from the handwritten codex in the Vatican: ibid., 434 in the notes.
  184. Ibid., 392s.
  185. Ibid. 432s
  186. Ibid., 33.
  187. Ibid., 32,
  188. Ibid., 333.
  189. Ibid., 276: “Then there appeared a secret miracle that showed that each of the three Generals of the Franciscan Orders had a part to play. The General of the Conventuals was there at the start of the Order, and was the accredited successor of St Francis. The General of the Observants received a Bull that gave him the title of Minister. The General of the Capuchins had the backing of a Bull and of St Francis in the sight of God. Thus, all three as well as the three Congregations became a threefold plant with the Observants coming from the Conventuals and the Capuchin from the Observants all being recognised by the Conventuals.”
  190. Ibid., 333-38, 347, 349, 351, 371-76.
  191. Ibid., 352s,
  192. Ibid.,353s.
  193. Ibid., 363s. Bellintani probably transcribed this vision from the Italian codex of A. CLARENO’S Chronicon that is held in the Capuchin Provincial Archives in Genoa, cod. G. p. 217-20: ibid., 361 note 3 and in the Introductio generalis, ibid., LXXXV.
  194. Ibid., 365.
  195. Ibid.,281 in a note.
  196. Ibid., 404. The sermon that Bellintani delivered in 1571 in Brescia in the Church of S. Giovanni is still famous. “The Anonymous author whom we have already cited said: Then he preached that memorable sermon about the victory over the Turks in the presence of the Illustrious Lord Marino Grimano, Podestà di Brescia who later became a Prince (FRANCISCO DI VICENZA, Cenni biografici cit., 253) using images that were almost photographic: “[O Brescia, my city]. Remember the great Sermon that I preached about the naval victory when I moved back and forth in the pulpit, making vivid gestures, raising my voice in words that described the conflict, the encounter of squadron upon squadron as they came together, our chasing after them to wipe out the enemy, the generous assaults of our valiant Captains, the taking of prisoners, that burst of artillery, the smoke, the slaughter, the spilling of blood that turned the entire ocean red and the loud cry: Too, too, Deo gratias qui dedit nobis voctoriam pe Jesum Christum.”
  197. Mon.VI, 374.
  198. Ibid.,50s.
  199. Ibid., 61.
  200. Ibid., 170.
  201. Mon, V. 405.
  202. Ibid., 406.
  203. Ibid., 406-411.
  204. Ibid.,411.
  205. Ibid., 412.
  206. Ibid., 414-16. See C. CARGNONI, Sviluppo della riforma cappuccino nella storiografia dei primi cronisti, in Italia frans. 54 (1979) 398-406.
  207. Mon. V, 417.