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Pietro Bernardino

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Pietro Bernardino dei Fanciulli (Petrus Bernardinus) (c. 1475 – 1502) was a follower of Savonarola.

Born at Florence, his parents were common folk, and he himself lacked higher education. But he attached himself with fanatical zeal to Savonarola, and, by diligent attendance at his sermons and zealous study of his writings, acquired a wide but superficial theological knowledge.

Peter preached to the people in the public squares of Florence and, during the lifetime of Savonarola and after his death, he propagated secretly some revolutionary doctrines. According to him, the Church must be renewed with the sword; until this was accomplished, there was no need to confess, since all priests, secular and regular, were unworthy.

According to the Florentine chronicler Bartolomeo Cerretani, about twenty adherents of Savonarola formed a secret society and elected Peter pope. Tha latter, who was then twenty-five years old, assumed special ecclesiastical functions and anointed his followers with oil. The members attended no Divine Service, but during their meetings prayed in spirit under the leadership of Peter, whom they regarded as a prophet.

The association was discovered by the archbishop and at his request the Council of Florence proscribed its meetings. In 1502 the members left the town secretly and proceeded to Mirandola where Count Gian Francesco, a zealous supporter of Savonarola, gave them a friendly reception. When, a little later, the count was besieged by two of his brothers, who claimed Mirandola, Peter declared it God's will that Gian Francesco should overcome his enemies. However, Mirandola was taken and the count lost his territory in August, 1502. The sectaries falling into the hands of the victors, Peter and some of his companions were burned as heretics; the remainder were expelled or dispatched to Florence.


This article incorporates text from the entry Petrus Bernardinus in Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913, a publication now in the public domain.

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