A heresy trial was held in Modena in 1567 for the most famous Maranello citizen to be hauled before the Inquisition – the humanist Gian Maria Tagliati, known as “Maranello.”

The trial of the humanist Gian Maria Tagliati, known as “Maranello” was held in Modena on 1 March 1567 at the Court of the Inquisition at San Domenico. The charges against Tagliati were laid down in just two letters, ER. These were shorthand for the accusation of “Heresy manifested, convinced and pertinacious.” Tagliati was the fourth Maranello citizen in history to be tried as a heretic and to receive one of three stamps with the ER mark. However, let us take a step back to understand the fall of the unfortunate “Maranello.”

Gian Maria Tagliati was the son of Pietro Tagliati, landowner of land and houses in the old Grizzaga. He studied law, became a notary and preceptor and worked for the nobles of Modena. He entered Modena’s literary circles and met such figures as Giovanni Grillenzoni. It was a forum for those who loved the Greek language and a place for discussions where classics would be read and translated.

However, this was also the time of the Counter-Reformation, and there was a suspicious atmosphere. Grillenzoni was accused of Lutheranism, and there was much attention focused on his circle. Eventually, the group was closed and its members taken to court. Maranello was “sold-out” by other “accomplices” who, under torture, claimed it was infected by the “Lutheran plague.” The accusation came in the form of a letter slipped under his door, bearing the dreaded letters ER.

Knowing of his impending arrest by “coppers”, as they are named in the trial documents, Tagliati fled to Maranello. He first sought protection from Count Tommaso Calcagnini, then moved to San Venanzio, but escape was futile. During the trial, which ran until 27 April, Tagliati defended himself by attributing his “deviance” to youth. He admitted he had once argued that baptism should only be given to grown men and admitted to having owned books which were on the index of forbidden readings. He confessed to once believing that the consecrated host did not contain the body of Christ and that that images of saints should not be venerated. However, he added that it had been 20 years since he thought these things and had never transmitted them to his pupils.

Finally, Tagliati recanted, his life was spared, and his confiscated goods were returned to him. He was ordered to live in a place to be defined and pay rent for the rest of his life, say psalms and litanies daily on his knees for a year and always keep a red cross on his chest on top of other clothes. In addition, he had to pay all court costs and was fined 25 Scudi (ancient currency) which was donated to the poor.

The nightmare seemed over, but in 1570 Tagliati was brought back to court. This time the objective was, to make him testify against his other accomplices. In the first session, he had mentioned a few names and one way or another, the second trial went ahead. Four years later, Tagliati died at his rented home in the parish of San Bartolomeo di Modena. In the death register, the most illustrious Maranello citizen who faced the Iinquisition is recorded under the name of place where he sought protection –  “Messer Giovanni Maria Maranello.”



Silvano Soragni “Maranello. Dal Castello feudale… al Maestro Giuseppe Graziosi”, Artioli, 2007.