Heresy and Obedience in Tridentine Italy: Cardinal Pole and the Counter Reformation

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Reginald Pole was one of the most complex figures in sixteenth-century history. The only Englishman to follow a career at the Roman Curia in the crucial decades of the Reformation, the victim successively of the Tudor Reformation and the Roman Inquisition, his life was marked by misunderstanding, failure and tragedy. This book is a study of his career in Italy, his involvement in the Council of Trent and his share in the vain attempt to obtain reunification with the Protestants. Dr Fenlon discusses in great detail Pole's attitudes towards the doctrine of the Protestant reformers, its influence within Italy and the development of his group of `spirituals' at Viterbo. But this is not simply a biography of Pole nor an analysis of his influence. Rather it is an examination of the crisis the Catholic Church and its adherents faced in the Reformation, the conflict exemplified in Pole's personal experience and that of the groups among which he moved, between obedience to the established ecclesiastical order and sympathy with Luther's tenets. The crisis and its resolution reflect the genesis of the Reformation and the Catholic Counter Reformation which resulted in the final confessional divisions of Christian Europe.