Early Modern European Lives: Pompeo Diodati

Updated Friday, 17th April 2015
Pompeo Diodati lived in Italy during a time of hostility towards protestants. Learn about his exile and incredible journey to Geneva here. 

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Pompeo Diodati was born in 1542 in Lucca, Italy to Nicolao Diodati and Elisabeta (Zabetta) Girolamo Arnolfini. He learnt the family business and eventually became a Merchant. His life was to be plighted by religious tension and exile. 

The family were Protestants. However, a series of decrees in 1545, 1549, 1558 and in particular 1562 ordered the entire population to conform to Roman Catholicism. Pompeo was the instigator and arranger of his family's emigration to France and eventually Geneva; the emigration was meticulous, it took years to plan and was stretched over a year. Pompeo was the first person in his family to escape the suppression of Protestants in Lucca in 1566. He made plans for his mother and wife-to-be to follow him six months later. 

His first marriage was to Laura Calandrini in 1566 in Lyon, France; her father was Giuliano Calandrini who went on to marry Pompeo's widowed mother (his father died when he was two years old). Thus, his father-in-law was his step-father. They had also been joined by Pompeo's brother (Nicolao), his wife and Laura's father and uncle. 

In 1567 they journeyed on to Paris, not Geneva as they had originally intended, to meet up with the rest of the exiles and extended family. They managed to buy a considerable country estate a few miles outside of Paris, showing that they had been able to sell most of their property in Lucca and remained relatively wealthy. Nonetheless, during the French Wars of religion in 1567 the family had to flee from their home. Luckily they were given accommodation in Renée de France's castle, daughter of Louis XII. However, during this time (1568) Pompeo's wife had contracted German measles in her pregnancy and gave birth prematurely to a boy who died a few hours later. 

Painting by François Dubois, depicting the St Bartholemew's day massacre The St Bartholomew's day massacre The family all managed to escape the St Bartholomew Day Massacre that killed over 5,000 Calavnist Protestants. They moved to Sedan after this to escape the hostility; many of the emigrants wore white crosses, pretending to be Catholic, on their journey to avoid any aggression. However, Pompeo stayed true to his faith. 

He eventually made it to the Protestant-accepting Geneva in 1575 along with his immediate family; nine years after he left Lucca.  

He was widowed in 1580, left with four children. Like many widowers during that time, he married again in 1591 in Basel, Switzerland to a woman named Sara Balbani who was 28 years his junior, they went on to have a further five children together.

He died 1st November 1602 in Geneva, Switzerland aged 75 years old.

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