The Risorgimento in Italy: A period when the doors open (part 6)

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     The second war of independence certainly did not remove all of the difficulties for evangelicals, but it did coincide with the beginning of the evangelism en masse of Italy . . . Getting the message out was relatively simple: the exiles coming back home brought with them what they had learned while the Waldensians sent numerous pastors and missionaries came supported by foreign mission boards.36

     The available statistical data does suggest that seeds of Protestantism did take root in Italian soil during the Risorgimento. In 1840 the only Protestants to be found in Italy were the twenty thousand Waldensians whose roots date back to the 1200s. By 1861, the Protestant population had climbed to 32,975 and ten years later the number had almost tripled to 58,651. Then, the growth flattened out and after another thirty years, (by the turn of the century) that total had only inched up to 65,595.37
     Although it has been said that "today the Italian evangelicals represent the ideals of the Risorgimento,"38 the growth of the Protestant movement in this period was far less than what had dreamed would happen. By 1900, delusions had set in among many Italian Protestants. Their disappointment in what the ideals of the Risorgimento had brought to Italy was also shared by many in the populace as a whole.

With the end of the old century and the beginning of the new, after the smoke of the battle had cleared, Italians began discovering that they were more or less the same as they had always been, that those who had really believed in the Risorgimento had been a small minority. The ancient traits began to reassert themselves, the old outlook began to reappear in print.39

     In spite of the failure to realize heady dreams born in the ideals of the Risorgimento, the door for Protestant work in Italy had opened. The evangelical evangelization of Italy had begun and would continue to grow until today it has topped half a million (including the Pentecostals who entered at the beginning of the 20th century and who comprise at least one-half of the total).

36 Ibid., p. 30.

37"Vinay, Cristianesimo, op. cit., p. 338.

38Spini, op. cit., p. 9.

39Barzini, op. cit., p. 181.


Barzini, Luigi. The Italians. New York: Bantam Books, 1965.

Baylis, Robert H. Europe on Purpose. Berkeley, Ca.: The Pilgrimage Press, 1977.

Comba Ernesto. Storia dei Valdesi. Torre Pellice: Claudiana, 1930.

Hedlund, Roger E. The Protestant Movement in Italy: Its Progress, Problems, and Prospects. South Pasadena, Ca.: William Carey Library, 1970.

"La stampa periodica protestante in Italia (1845-1880)," Confronto (Vol. 3, n. 13/14, p. 7), bimonthly publication of the Centro Sociale Evangelico of Florence, Italy.

Latourette, Kenneth Scott. A History of Christianity, rev. ed. New York: Harper and Row, 1975.

________. The Nineteenth Century in Europe, Vol. II of Christianity in a Revolutionary Age. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1959.

Maselli, Domenico. Breve storia dell'altra chiesa in Italia. Naples: Edizioni Centro Biblico, 1971.

Nisbet, Robert, et. al. Cento anni di stampa evangelica. Torre Pellice: Libreria Editrice Claudiana, 1956.

Procacci, Giuliano. History of the Italian People, trans. from French by Anthony Paul. New York: Penguin Books, 1973.

Santini, Luigi. Un'impresa difficile: l'unione degli evangelici italiani (1859-1963). Torre Pellice: Società di Studi Valdese, 1964.

Spini, Giorgio. L'evangelo ed il berretto frigio. Turin: Claudiana, 1971.

________. I protestanti in Italia . Marchirolo: Edizioni Uomini Nuovi, 1965.

Vinay, Valdo. Luigi Desanctis e il movimento evangelico fra gli italiani durante il Risorgimento. Turin: Claudiana, 1965.

________. Storia dei Valdesi, Vol. III. Turin: Claudiana, 1980.

________. Storia del Cristianesimo dalla reazioni romantica ai nostri giorni. Rome: Facolta Valdese di Teologia, 1951.

Walker, Williston. A History of the Christian Church, rev. ed. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1959.

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