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§ 40. The Congregation of Locarno.

Ferdinand Meyer: Die evangelische Gemeinde von Locarno, ihre Auswanderung nach Zürich und ihre weiteren Schicksale. Zürich, 1836. 2 vols. An exhaustive monograph carefully drawn from MS. sources, and bearing more particularly on the Italian congregation at Zürich, to which the leading Protestant families of Locarno emigrated.

Locarno, a beautiful town on the northern end of the Lago Maggiore, was subject to the Swiss Confederacy and ruled by bailiffs.249249    It originally belonged to the Duchy of Milan, and was ceded to Switzerland in 1512, together with Lugano and Domo d’Ossola. In 1803 it became, with Lugano and Bellinzona, one of the three capitals of the Italian canton Ticino. In 1878 Bellinzona was declared the only capital. It had in the middle of the sixteenth century a Protestant congregation of nearly two hundred members.250250    Meyer gives a complete list of members from the Archives of Zürich, and two lists of those who emigrated to Zürich, vol. I. 511-515 and 521-525. Chief among them were Beccaria, Taddeo Duno, Lodovico Ronco, and Martino Muralto. A religious disputation was held there in 1549, about the authority of the pope, the merit of good works, justification, auricular confession, and purgatory.251251    An account of it by Duno in a letter to Bullinger, and in the book De persecutione. See Meyer, I. 190 sqq. It ended in a tumult. Wirz, the presiding bailiff, who knew neither Latin nor Italian, gave a decision in favor of the Roman party. Beccaria refused to submit, escaped, and went to Zürich, where he was kindly received by Bullinger. He became afterwards a member of the Synod of Graubünden, and was sent as an evangelist to Misocco, but returned to Zürich.

The faithful Protestants of Locarno, who preferred emigration to submission, wandered with wives and children on foot and on horseback over snow and ice to Graubünden and Zürich, in 1556. Half of them remained in the Grisons, and mingled with the evangelical congregations. The rest organized an Italian congregation in Zürich under the fostering care of Bullinger. It was served for a short time by Vergerio, who came from Tübingen for the purpose, and then by Bernardino Ochino, who had fled from England to Basel after the accession of Queen Mary. Ochino was a brilliant genius and an eloquent preacher, then already sixty-eight years old, but gave offence by his Arian and other heretical opinions, and was required to leave in 1563. He went to Basel, Strassburg, Nürnberg, Krakau; was expelled from Poland, Aug. 6, 1564; and died in poverty in Moravia, 1565, a victim of his subtle speculations and the intolerance of his times. He wrote an Italian catechism for the Locarno congregation in the form of a dialogue (1561).

The most important accession to the exiles was Pietro Martire Vermigli, who had likewise fled from England, first to Strassburg (1553), then to Zürich (1555). He was received as a member into the council of the Locarno congregation, presented with the citizenship of Zürich, and elected professor of Hebrew in place of Conrad Pellican (who died in 1556). He labored there till his death, in 1562, in intimate friendship and harmony with Bullinger, generally esteemed and beloved. He was one of the most distinguished and useful Italian converts, and, like Zanchi, an orthodox Calvinist.

The Italian congregation was enlarged by new fugitives from Locarno and continued to the end of the sixteenth century. The principal families of Duno, Muralto, Orelli, Pestalozzi, and others were received into citizenship, took a prominent position in the history of Zürich, and promoted its industry and prosperity, like the exiled Huguenots in Brandenburg, Holland, England, and North America.252252    On the industry of the Italians in Zürich, see Meyer, II. 375-391.

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