As Protestants this year remember the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, they will understandably focus on the legacy of Martin Luther and other big-name Reformers. However, it is to be hoped that this anniversary will also help rekindle interest in figures that were, at the time, hardly less significant to the formulation of Protestant doctrine and the establishment of reformed churches and liturgies. Chief among such figures is surely Peter Martyr Vermigli, the Florentine Reformer whose pilgrim life saw him teaching and building networks of disciples in Italy, Strasbourg, England, and Zurich, and who through his copious writings shaped Reformed churches throughout Europe. During the 16th century, his writings were esteemed as highly as Calvin’s in many regions, and particularly on the topics of Christology and the Eucharist. On the latter subject, Calvin himself declared that “the whole [doctrine of the Eucharist] was crowned by Peter Martyr, who left nothing more to be done.”
However, despite a vigorous revival of scholarly interest in Vermigli since the 1970s, he remains unknown and unappreciated by most theologians today. Here, as so often, the culprit is the lack of a readily accessible magnum opus in modern English that can serve as a touchstone and reference work for students of Reformation theology. Vermigli never wrote a systematic summary like Calvin’s Institutes, but his students compiled one from his writings, published in 1576 as the Loci Communes and translated into English in 1583 as the Common Places. Sadly, this English translation has never been updated since and has not even been reprinted since the 1600s, so that it is largely inaccessible today.
But not, we hope, for much longer.
Beginning in 2018, the 500th anniversary of Vermigli’s matriculation at the University of Padua, Vermigli’s Loci Communes will begin appearing in a new English translation, the product of a partnership between the Davenant Trust, the Peter Martyr Society, and the Greystone Theological Institute. Selections of the Common Places will first appear in annual slender volumes as a Supplementum to Greystone’s new theological journal, before an abridged edition of the full Loci Communes (which is about three times longer than Calvin’s Institutes) is published in 2025, the 500th anniversary of Vermigli’s ordination. There is some potential that the project may be able to proceed faster, or to result in a complete unabridged translation of the Loci in due course, if resources prove sufficient.
We are very grateful to Dr. Kirk Summers, Director of the Classics Program at the University of Alabama, for taking on the demanding role of General Editor of this project. Dr. Summers has done extensive work in neo-Latin, and particularly 16th-century Reformed works, having recently published Morality After Calvin: Theodore Beza’s Christian Censor and Reformed Ethics with Oxford University Press (2016). We are also very grateful to Dr. Mark Garcia, President of the Greystone Theological Institute, for helping spearhead this partnership, and of course to Prof. W.J. Torrance Kirby, whose Peter Martyr Society came under the aegis of the Davenant Trust last year.
If you are interested in contributing to this project as a translator, please contact Dr. Summers at [email protected], and if you are interested in contributing financially to the project, you may make a designated donation here, selecting “Vermigli Project.” Stay tuned for further information as we lay the groundwork for this important initiative.