Faith and Concealment between Italy and Tudor England


In Nicodemites: Faith and Concealment Between Italy and Tudor England, Anne Overell examines a rarely glimpsed aspect of sixteenth-century religious strife: the thinkers, clerics, and rulers, who concealed their faith. This work goes beyond recent scholarly interest in conformity to probe inward dilemmas and the spiritual and cultural meanings of pretence. Among the dissimulators who appear here are Cardinal Reginald Pole and his circle in Italy and in England, and also John Cheke and William Cecil. Although Protestant and Catholic polemicists condemned all Nicodemites, most of them survived reformation violence, while their habits of silence and secrecy became influential. This study concludes that widespread evasion about religious belief contributed to the erratic development of toleration.

'Anne Overell is an accomplished practitioner of history as a sideways glance, revealing subtleties and contours that others have missed. In doing so, she enriches the story of the Reformation and helps us see its humanity and nuance more vividly and completely.'
Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of the History of the Church at the University of Oxford.

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Biographical Note

Anne Overell is Honorary Research Fellow at Durham University UK. She has published extensively on sixteenth-century religious reform, especially in her Italian Reform and English Reformations, and also on the many Nicodemites who sought safety by concealing their faith

Review Quotes

“Overell presents a complex and sympathetic picture of the motives behind religious prevarication that moves beyond a simple fear of physical abuse.”
Robert Ingoglia, St. Thomas Aquinas College. In: Choice, March 2019.

Table of contents

Prologue 1

Part 1
1 The Landscape of ‘Holy Cunning’
2 A Nursery of Nicodemism: The Circle of Reginald Pole in Italy
3 Pole’s Nicodemite Piety? Viterbo to England
4 The Volte-Faces of Pietro Vanni
5 Nicodemite’s Progress: Edward Courtenay

Part 2
6 The Confusions of Il Beneficio di Cristo
7 The Case against Nicodemites
8 Exploiting Francesco Spiera in Italy and in England
9 Counsel for Nicodemite Sinners: Vermigli, Curione and Cheke
10 Radical Texts for the Queen of Nicodemites
11 Mixed Messages in Elizabethan England
12 Echoes




All interested in the individual dilemmas caused by religious reformation in sixteenth-century Europe, including students and readers of biographies, as well as librarians and specialists in English and Italian reform.

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