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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15

The Paterines

David Benedict

From the book, A General History of the Baptist Denomination, 1848

For this article I have copied the entire quote below from Jones' Ch. Hist. pp. 287-289. By him it was selected from Robinson's Ecclesiastical Researches, pp. 409-412, and p. 455:

"Much has been written on the etymology of the word Paterines; but is the Italians themselves are not agreed on the derivation, it is not likely foreigners should be able to determine it. In Milan, where it was first used, it answered to the English word vulgar, illiterate, low-bred; and these people were so called because they were chiefly of the lower order of men; mechanics, artificers, manufacturers, and others who lived of their honest labors. Gazari is a corruption of Cathari, Puritans; and it is remarkable that in the examination of these people, they are not taxed with any immoralities, but were condemned for speculations, or rather for virtuous rules of action, which all in power accounted heresies.

“They said a Christian church ought to consist of only good people; a church had no power to frame any constitution; it was not right to take oaths ; it was not lawful to kill mankind; a man ought not to be delivered up to officers of justice to be converted; the benefits of society belonged alike to all the members of it; faith without works could not save a man; the church ought not to persecute any, even the wicked; the law of Moses was no rule to Christians; there was no need of priests, especially of wicked ones; the sacraments, orders, and ceremonies of the Church of Rome were futile, expensive, oppressive, and wicked, with many more such positions, all inimical to the hierarchy.

"As the Catholics of those times baptized by immersion, the Paterines, by what name soever they were called, as Manicheans, Gazari, Josephists, Passigines, &c., made no complaint of the mode of baptizing, but when they were examined, they objected vehemently against the baptism of infants, and condemned it as an error. Among other things, they said that a child knew nothing of the matter, that he had no desire to be baptized, and was incapable of making any confession of faith, and that the willing and professing of another could be of no service to him. ‘Here then,’ says Dr. Allix, ‘very truly, we have found a body of men in Italy, before the year one thousand and twenty-six, five hundred years before the Reformation, who believed contrary to the opinions of the church of Rome, and who highly condemned their errors.’

“Atto, Bishop of Verceulli, had complained of such people eighty years before, and so had others before him, and there is the highest reason to believe that they had always existed in Italy. It is observable that those who are alluded to by Dr. Allix were brought to light by mere accident. No notice was taken of them in Italy, but some disciples of Gundulf, one of their teachers, went to settle in the Lower Countries (Netherlands), and Gerard, bishop of Cambray, imprisoned them under pretence of converting them.

“From the tenth to the thirteenth century the dissenters in Italy continued to multiply and increase, for which several reasons may be assigned. The ex­cessive wickedness of the court of Rome, and the Italian prelates, was better known in Italy than in the other countries. There was no legal power in Italy in these times, to put dissenters to death. Popular preachers in the church, such as Claude of Turin, and Arnold of Brescia, increased the number of dissenters, for their disciples went further than their masters.

“The adjacency of France, and Spain too, contributed to their increase, for both abounded with Christians of this sect. Their churches were divided into sixteen compartments, such as the English Baptists would call associations. Each of these was subdivided into parts, which would be termed churches or congregations. In Milan there was a street called Pataria, where it is supposed they met for divine worship. At Modena they assembled at some water-mills. They had houses at Ferrara, Brescia, Viterbo, Verona, Vicenza, and several in Rimini, Romandiola. and other places.

“Reinerius says, in 1259, the Paterin church of Alba consisted of about five hundred members; that at Concorezzo of more than fifteen hundred ; and that of Bognola about two hundred. The houses where they met seem to have been hired by the people, and tenanted by one of the brethren. There were several in each city, and each was distinguished by a mark known to themselves. They had bishops, or elders, pastors and teachers; deacons and messengers; that is, men employed in traveling to administer to the relief and comfort of the poor and persecuted. In times of persecution they met in small companies of eight, twenty, thirty, or as it might happen; but never in large assemblies for fear of the consequences.

"The Paterines were decent in their deportment, modest in their dress and discourse, and their morals irreproachable. In their conversation there was no levity or scurrility, no detraction, no falsehood, no swearing. Their dress was neither fine nor mean. They were chaste and temperate, never frequenting taverns or places of public amusement. They were not given to anger and other violent passions. They were not eager to accumulate wealth, but content with the necessaries of life. They avoided commerce, because they thought it would expose them to the temptations of collusion, falsehood, and oaths, choosing rather to live by labor or useful trades. They were always employed in spare hours either in giving or receiving instruction. Their bishops and officers were mechanics, weavers, shoemakers, and others who maintained them­selves by their industry.

"About the year 1040 the Paterines had become very numerous at Milan, which was their principal residence, and here they flourished at least two hundred years. They had no connection with the (Catholic) church, for they rejected not only Jerome of Syria, Augustine of Africa, and Gregory of Rome, but also Ambrose of Milan, considering them and other pretended fathers as corruptors of Christianity. They particularly condemned Pope Sylvester as anti-Christ. They called (the adoration of) the cross the mark of the beast. They had no share in the State, for they took no oaths, and bore no arms. The State did not trouble them, but the clergy preached, prayed, and published books against them with unabated zeal.

“About the year 1176 the archbishop of Milan, an old infirm man, while preaching against them with great vehemence, dropped down in a fit and expired as soon as he had received extreme unction. About fourteen years afterwards, one Bonacursi, who pretended he had been one of these Paterines, made a public renunciation of his opinions, and embraced the Catholic faith, filling Milan with fables, as all renegades do. He reported that cities, suburbs, towns, and castles, were full of these false prophets—that it was the time to suppress them, and that the prophet Jeremiah had directed the Milanese what to do when he said, ‘Cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood!’ advice which we shall presently see was too implicitly followed."

“The scene is here laid between six and seven hundred years ago, and among this people, besides their opposition to infant baptism, we see in the arrangement of their associations a very distinctive trait of the Baptist character. One of these associations at this time, about 1060, contained upwards of fifteen hundred members."

Mr. Orchard has traced the history of the Paterines in Italy to the middle of the thirteenth century (Orchard’s Foreign Baptists). A few detached sketches in the words of this author I shall now present to the reader.

“It is acknowledged that the Latin church in this century (the 12th) was troubled with the puritans, a term, according to Moshiem, expressive of the successors of the Novatianists; but the pontiffs were particularly annoyed by the Paulicians, who emigrated in numbers from Bulgaria, who, leaving their native land, spread themselves throughout various provinces.

“Many of them, while doing good to others, and propagating the gospel, were put to death with the most unrelenting cruelty. Their accessions from different sources made the puritan or Paterine churches very considerable, and to their enemies, very formidable even before the name of Waldo of Lyons was known.

“Besides these foreign accessions, some books had been written and circulated by the puritans, while several reformers appeared in different kingdoms, all advocating the same doctrines and practice so that the clergy and pontiff were aroused to vigorous opposition.

“In 1180, the Puritans had established themselves in Lombardy and Puglia, where they received frequent visits from their brethren who resided in other countries; in this and the next century they were to be found in the capital of Christendom." Effective measures were matured about this time when Waldo and his followers were driven from France.

“In 1210, the Paterines had become so numerous and so odious to the State clergy, that the old bishop of Ferrara obtained an edict of the Emperor Otto IV for the suppression of them; but this measure extended only to that city. In five years after, Pope Innocent III, of bloody celebrity, held a council at the Lateran, and denounced anathemas against heretics of every description. Dr. Wall declared that this council did enforce infant baptism on the dissidents, as heretics taught it was to no purpose to baptize children.

“In this council the Milanese were censured for sheltering the Paterines. After a variety of efforts to suppress them, the cruel policy of the court of Rome extended its sanguinary measures over Italy. In 1220, Honorius III procured an edict of Frederick II, which extended over all the imperial cities, as had been the case for some years over the south of France, and the effects of the pontiff's anger were soon felt by the deniers of the infant right.

“These edicts were every way proper to excite horror, and which rendered the most illustrious piety and virtue incapable of saving from the most cruel death such as had the misfortune, says Mosheim, to be disagreeable to the inquisitors. No alternative of escaping those human monsters presented itself but that of flight, which was embraced by many; indeed, Mosheim observes, they passed out of Italy and spread like an inundation throughout the European provinces, but Germany in particular afforded an asylum, where they were called Gazari instead of Cathari (puritans).

“One Ivo, of Narbonne, was summoned by the Inquisitors of heretical pravity. Ivo fled to Italy. At Como he became acquainted with the Paterines, and accommodated himself to their views for a time. They informed him, after he was a member of high society, that they had churches in almost all the towns of Lombardy, and in some parts of Tuscany; that their merchants, in frequenting fairs and markets, made it their business to instill their tenets in the minds of the rich laymen with whom they traded, and the landlords in whose houses they lodged.

“On leaving Como, he was furnished with letters of recommendation to professors of the same faith in Milan; and in this manner he passed through all the towns situated on the Po, through Cremona, and the Venetian States, being liberally entertained by the Paterines, who received him as a brother, on producing his letters and giving the signs, which were known by all that belonged to the sect.

"The Paterines knew their discipline could not possibly be practiced in the church, they therefore withdrew, constantly avowing the sufficiency of scripture, the competency of each to reform himself, the right of all, even of woman, to teach; and openly disclaiming all manner of coercion in matters of religion.

"In conformity with their declaration of the sufficiency of the scriptures to regulate a Christian church, they had houses in many cities in which they assembled for religious worship, with their barbs, or religious teachers.

"And notwithstanding the persecutions to which they were exposed, they maintained themselves in Italy, and kept up a regular correspondence with their brethren in other countries. They had public schools where their sons were educated, and these were supported by contributions from churches of the same faith in Bohemia and Poland. Their prosperity irritated the pontiff, who, on Frederick's death, 1250, and during an interregnum, resolved on extirpating heresy. The usual methods were attempted—preaching and mustering crusaders; but, after every effort devised for their instruction, they appeared no less in number, and still formidable to their adversaries.

“Indeed, it was found in the middle of this century that the Paterines had exceedingly increased, so that his holiness found it necessary to give full powers to his inquisitors, and to erect a standing tribunal, if possible, in every country where puritans were known to infest. These inquisitors were armed with all imaginable power to punish all those persons who dared to think differently to the pope and his successors. Unity of views, sentiments and practices was to be effected by these cruel measures; but, instead of accomplishing this object, we conclude the Paterines were dispersed abroad into other provinces, or else they retired into obscurity, from either of which circumstance their local names would become extinct.

“The terror of the inquisitors awed the Italians into silence; but it is highly credible, indeed, there are some reasons to believe the Paterines did continue dispersed in Italy till the Reformation in Germany. It is very probable that many of these people became incorporated with the Waldensian churches in the valleys of Piedmont, which at this period enjoyed, under the Duke of Savoy, the sweets of religious liberty. This incorporation could be easily effected, since it is proved, by Allix and others, that the most part of the Paterines held the same opinions as the churches in the valleys, and therefore were taken for the one and the same class of people.

"The straitened circumstances of the Vaudois in Pragela, suggested the propriety of seeking for a new territory. This they obtained on their own terms of liberty, in Calabria, a district in the northeast of Italy. This new settlement prospered, and their religious peculiarities awakened displeasure in the old inhabitants; but the landlords, well pleased with their industry, afforded them protection. This colony received fresh accessions from time to time of those who fled from the persecutions raised against them in Piedmont, and continued to flourish when the Reformation dawned on Italy, after which they were barbarously murdered.

"These plain facts allow us to conclude that Italy must have, in parts, enjoyed the lamp of truth from apostolic days. That the Cathari or puritan churches continued for ages, is acknowledged of the views of which we have spoken. Such churches were strengthened by the Baptists from Bulgaria, whose sameness of views admitted their incorporation. When these congregations became too large to assemble in one place, they parted, and held separate assemblies, in perfect unity with each other.

“They owned the scriptures as a rule of conduct, and administered the ordinances of baptism to believers by one immersion. They maintained church discipline even on their ministers, as examples are recorded. They were always found on the side of religious liberty, and considered the oppressing, clergy the locust which darkened and tormented the world. They were persecuted, awed, dispersed, or destroyed, yet their spirit and conduct will be again exhibited in future sections of our history."

"The Paterines, in 1260," says Reinerius, "had four thousand members in the perfect class, but those called disciples were an innumerable multitude."