Piero Guicciardini

1806-1886. Italian Protestant leader. Born in Florence of a noble and ancient family which included in its history Francesco Guicciardini,* he received a good general education and was at once attracted by the spiritual revival spreading in Tuscany. There, under Leopold II, there was a certain religious toleration. Invited to participate in the educational project directed by Lambruschini,* he founded the first kindergarten in Florence, showing marked organizing ability, intelligence, and common sense. The contacts with the Swiss Protestant Church in Florence and the study of the Bible led to his conversion in 1836, a date which he desired to be remembered on his tomb. Actively involved in preparing a religious reform, in the reaction and repression after 1848 (see Risorgimento), he was imprisoned and exiled with many others, and took refuge in Britain. There he was warmly received by many noble families and came in close touch with the Open Brethren. At the invitation of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge he collaborated in a revision of the Italian Bible which had been translated by Diodati. The Guicciardini Bible of 1853 remained for a long time the best Italian translation.

A year later he returned to Italy at Nice, then part of the Sardinian kingdom, followed in 1857 by his great friend and collaborator Pietrocola-Rossetti,* with the purpose of preaching the Gospel to their compatriots. Guicciardini was the organizer of the movement, administering the gifts which came from Britain and adding much of his fortune. The communities formed were called Free Italian Churches, so anxious were the leaders to vindicate their antidenominational character and their Italian origin. The spreading of the movement occurred simultaneously with the liberation, and by 1870 there were more than thirty churches scattered throughout Italy. Guicciardini spent his last years in Florence. He had gathered a rich collection of religious works from Savonarola to the Italian reformers of the sixteenth century, which he bequeathed to the National Library in Florence.