OCHINO, Bernardino

Bernardino Ochino was an Italian theologian and itinerant preacher who con­verted to Protestantism and influenced many radical Reformers by his nontrad-itional views. Bernardino de Domenico Tommasini was born in Siena in 1487. The nickname Ochino originated in the fact that he was born in the quarter of the city named Oca (goose). At an early age he entered the Order of the Ob­servant Friars, the strictest sect of Franciscans. He rose to be the order's general, yet he desired a stricter monastic rule and had himself transferred to the newly founded order of Capuchins in 1534. In 1538 Ochino was elected vicar general of the Capuchins.
Ochino was renowned as a popular preacher who traveled throughout Italy delivering sermons; his popularity as a preacher soon prompted papal regulation of his appearances. In 1536 he met the Spanish religious writer Juan de Valdes* in Naples. Along with Peter Martyr Vermigli, Ochino began to spread the teach­ings of Valdes from the pulpit. Ochino seems to have hoped that all of Italy would embrace evangelical reform. But his summons to Rome in 1542 led him to suspect his arrest. He fled to Geneva and almost immediately published a series of sermons reflecting rigid Calvinist orthodoxy. Ochino married in Geneva and then traveled first to Basel and then to Augsburg (1545), where he became the minister of the Italian Protestant community there. When the imperial forces of the Schmalkaldic League occupied the city in January 1547, he was forced to abandon this position.
After brief stays in Basel and Strasbourg, Ochino accepted the invitation of the Archbishop Thomas Cranmer of Canterbury and visited England. Here he received a prebend and wrote his chief work, A Tragoedie or Dialoge ofthe Unjuste Usurped Primacie of the Bishop of Rome, and of All the Just Abolishyng of the Same, which some have viewed as a precursor to John Milton's Paradise Lost. Events preceding Mary I's* accession to power forced Ochino to leave England in 1553. He traveled to Geneva, arriving there on the day of the exe­cution of the Antitrinitarian Michael Servetus.* Ochino next went to Zurich, where he became pastor of the Italian congregation there.
Ochino's tenure at Zurich witnessed his greatest period of literary activity. When his work started to stir up doctrinal controversy within the Swiss congre­gations, the Zurich authorities warned him not to publish. In 1563, however, he published his Thirty Dialogues. His critics argued that in this work Ochino justified polygamy, condemned the use of force against heretics, and questioned the traditional interpretation of the Trinity. Ochino was condemned and expelled from Zurich. He then traveled to Poland and was forced to flee yet again after a royal edict expelled all non-Catholic foreigners. Ochino lost three of his chil­dren to a plague and died in ignominy at Austerlitz in 1564. Ochino's legacy bears witness to his own religious individuality. Although he was a peaceful Reformer, contemporary Protestants and Catholics alike found his teachings in­tolerable.
E. Gleason, ed. and trans., Reform Thought in Sixteenth-Century Italy, 1981.
Andrew G. Traver

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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