Pucci, Francesco (DNB00)

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PUCCI, FRANCESCO (1540–1593?), theological writer, was born at Florence in 1540 (Gaspari). He was of the same family as the conservative cardinals Lorenzo Pucci (d. 1531), Roberto Pucci (d. 1547), and Antonio Pucci (d. 1544), but his own bent was towards literature and freethought. Following Tuscan custom, he began life in a mercantile house at Lyons. Here he became bitten with a reforming zeal, and having some means of his own, in addition to an allowance from his father, he pursued a career of strange independence. He made his way to London, where he became acquainted with Antonio de Corro [q. v.] In 1572 he repaired to Oxford, apparently expecting to find sympathy with his antagonism to the Calvinistic type of protestantism. On 18 May 1574 he was admitted M.A. He applied for a post of lecturer in theology, but his disputations soon made him obnoxious to the authorities, who expelled him (before June 1575) from the university. John Rainolds, D.D. [q. v.], writes in 1576 to the vice-chancellor, ‘It pleased God to stirr up your haste with the grace of his holy Spirit for the removing of Puccius.’ In 1575–7 he was in London, communicating with the Italian congregation of the ‘strangers' church,’ but unsettled in his views. He corresponded with Francesco Betti, a Roman of noble family, who advised him to come to Basle and lay his difficulties before the future heresiarch, Fausto Paulo Sozzini (Socinus). Pucci reached Basle about May 1577, and held a written disputation with Sozzini on the question of immortality. Pucci regarded all creatures as imperishable; Sozzini denied the natural immortality of man, treating a future life as a conditional privilege. On 4 June Pucci formulated his positions, under ten heads; Sozzini replied on 11 June; Pucci finished a rejoinder on 1 July. The discussion was interrupted by the expulsion of Pucci from Basle. He had publicly maintained an extreme form of Pelagianism, printing theses, ‘De Fide natura hominibus universis insita,’ in which he claimed that all men are by nature in a state of salvation. Soon afterwards an epidemic drove Sozzini from Basle; he completed an answer to Pucci at Zürich on 27 Jan. 1578. This, in the following October, he forwarded to Pucci, who made notes on the margin of the manuscript, but wrote no formal reply. Long afterwards the manuscript was returned to Sozzini through Cornelius Daëms, D.C.L., of Gouda. Sozzini printed the whole discussion with the title ‘De Statu Primi Hominis ante Lapsum,’ Cracow, 1590, 4to (reprinted 1610, 4to; also in Socini Opera, ii. 257 seq.).

From Basle Pucci had returned by way of Nuremberg and Flanders to London, where Sozzini believed him to be still staying in December 1580. His peculiar views exposed him to persecution and imprisonment; on his release he betook himself to Holland, where he made the acquaintance of Justus Lipsius at Leyden. In Holland he attached himself to a ‘concilium peregrinantium Christianorum,’ and invited the adhesion of Sozzini. He soon moved on to Antwerp. By 1585 he had resorted to Sozzini in Poland. At Cracow he fell in with John Dee [q. v.] and Edward Kelley [q. v.], who passed for Roman catholics, and were bent on a new universal reformation. They initiated Pucci into their angelic experiences, and about the middle of 1585, despite the strong remonstrances of Sozzini, he accompanied them to Prague. On his arrival there, an angelic voice bade him re-enter the Roman communion, which he at once did. He wrote to Sozzini and other friends, entreating them to follow his example. Dee and Kelley suspected him of bad faith in treating against them with Roman catholic ecclesiastics; he exculpated himself in a letter of 17 Sept. 1585, which was printed.

Reverting to the theme which had caused his expulsion from Basle, he printed a treatise ‘De Christi Servatoris Efficacitate in omnibus et singulis hominibus .... Assertio Catholica,’ &c., Gouda, 1592, 8vo, with a dedication to Clement VIII. A ‘Refutatio’ of this ‘Satanic’ treatise was published by Lucas Osiander at Tübingen in 1593; Nicholas Serarius also published ‘Contra Novos … Puccii … Errores libri duo,’ &c., Würzburg, 1593, 12mo, and there were other replies. He projected a journey to Rome, to present his book in person; but in November 1592, while on the way, he was thrown from a vehicle, and lay some months with a broken thigh at Salzburg, where he probably died, under arrest, in 1593. Many of his letters and papers are in the archives of the consistory at Salzburg. According to Gaspari, he wrote his ‘De Serv. Effic.’ on his sick-bed at Salzburg; it was probably his ‘De Christi Regno,’ which is preserved among the Salzburg papers in Latin and in Italian.

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), i. 580, 587 seq., iii. 290; F. Socini Opera [1668], i. 378 seq., 497, 508; Bayle's Dictionnaire Hist. et Crit. 1740, iii. 826 seq.; Joannis Baptistæ de Gasparis Commentarius de Vita .. Puccii, in A. Calogiera's Nuova Raccolta d'Opuscoli, &c., 1755, vol. xxix., also 1776, vol. xxx.; Caterbi's La Chiesa di S. Onofrio, 1858; Cantù's Gli Eretici d'Italia, 1866, ii. 499; the Sozzini and their School, in Theological Review, October 1879, pp. 549 seq.; Wood's MSS. E. 29, in the Bodleian Library; Twelve Bad Men, ed. Seccombe, s.v. Kelley; information from the Rev. Fortunato Cecchi of St. Onofrio.]

A. G.