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Testimony of Orazio Cogno before the Venice Inquisition on August 27th, 1577

The following English translation of this transcript was done by Society member Dr. Noemi Magri of Mantova, Italy.

Introduction to the transcript by Nina Green, editor of the Edward de Vere Newsletter

Through the efforts of Dr. Magri we now know what it was the Venetian Inquisition really wanted to find out from Orazio Cogno. Contrary to Alan Nelson’s earlier pronouncements, it appears that all the Inquisition was interested in was (1) finding out whether Orazio Cogno had lived ‘Catholically’ while he was absent from Venice, and (2) obtaining from Orazio Cogno information about Oxford’s associates in Venice and about various Venetian nationals who were living in England. That the Inquisition was very much interested in this latter point is suggested by the fact that the information given by Orazio regarding Venetians living in England is repeated in the margins of the document.

The document also provides strong evidence that Oxford was not a Catholic. While living in Venice, of course, Oxford ate fish on Fridays and fast days, and went to Mass. However, once he was back in England, although he allowed religious freedom to his Catholic servants, Oxford himself did not live “Catholically,” and ate meat on Fridays and on Catholic fast days. Moreover, Dr. Magri points out that while Oxford was in Venice, he attended Mass at the Greek Orthodox Church because the Greek Orthodox liturgy more closely resembled the Protestant service than the Catholic.

And finally, the document gives the reason why Orazio Cogno left Oxford’s service. A Milanese merchant, Christopholo da Monte, felt that Orazio would be “perverted,” i.e. become a heretic to his faith, if he remained in England. He gave Orazio money, and embarked him on a ship for Flanders in the company of other Italian merchants.

 The Testimony

On the day of Tuesday 27th of the month of August 1577 in the presence of most illustrious Master Pasquale Ciconia.

Being summoned to the Holy Inquisition, there appeared Orazio, son of the late Francesco Cogno, altarist in the church of Santa Marina1 and, being asked about his age, he answered, “I am 17 years old”.

It was asked him (or He was asked), “Have you been outside this State?”. He answered, “Yes, Sir”.

It was asked him, “In which country?”. He answered, “In England”. Being asked, he said, “It has been a year and a half, I think, since I left this town to go to England”. Being asked, he said, “I went with an earl, a relative of the Queen of England, called Milord de Oxford”2

It was asked him, “How long did you stay in England?” He answered, “Eleven months”. Being asked, he said, “I have always been at the house of this earl”.

It was asked him, “What job (duty) was yours in his house?” He answered, “I was a page”.

It was asked him, “Have you been with others, besides him?” He answered, “No Sir, in England”.

It was asked him, “How long ago did you leave England?” He answered, “Seven or eight months”.

It was asked him, “How long ago did you arrive here?” He answered, “I arrived here on the day of the Assumption of Our Lady, just past”3.

It was asked him, “With whom did you leave England?” He answered, “Alone, Sir”.

He was asked, “Say where you have been and with whom in these seven or eight months”. He answered, “I was in Flanders 4 months with captain master Zuan Battista da Monte4 and then I left Antwerp where I had stayed all that time with the said captain and went down to Burgundy in transit, from Burgundy to Lorraine in transit and then to Savoy, then to Cremona, from Cremona to Mantua, from Mantua to Padua, from Padua to Venice”.

It was asked him, “Where did you leave the captain?” He answered, “At Fontanelli, north of Cremona”5.

It was asked him, “With whom did you come from Fontanelle to here?” He answered, “Alone”.

It was asked him, “Who set (put) you with the English earl?” (i.e. at the service of the English earl) He answered, “No one”.

It was asked him, “How did it happen that you went with him? (or: “What made you go with him?). He answered, “He heard me sing in the choir in Santa Maria Formosa6 and he asked me if I wanted to go to England with him and so I went”.

It was asked him, “Did you ask anyone for advice whether you should go or not?” He answered, “I asked my father and my mother and both advised me to go; then they died of plague”7.

He was asked, “This earl, where is he now?” He answered, “In England”.

He was asked, “Was he used to live (or: Was he living) Catholically?” He answered, “No Sir”.

It was asked him, “After he invited you, in this town, to go with him, how long did he wait before leaving?” He answered, “On Thursday before Lent, I went to live (or: I moved to) in his house and we left on the following Monday of Carnival”8.

It was asked me, “On the Friday and Saturday following Thursday before Lent, what food was eaten in his house?” He answered, “Fish”.

He was asked, “In England and on the journey to England, what did he eat for Lent >on the journey< and on fast days?” He answered, “Fish on the journey because no meat is served in inns”.

It was asked him, “And in England, on fast days, Fridays and Saturdays, what (food) did he eat?” He answered, “Fish and meat”.

It was asked him, “Did he let his family eat meat on these days?” He answered, “No Sir”.

It was asked him, “Did he let you have meat on fast days?” He answered, “No Sir. In his house he also had an attendant and a manservant who were Catholic”.

It was asked him, “Did he ever make (or: let) you listen to sermons of heretics?” He answered, “No Sir”.

It was asked him, “Did you voluntarily go to listen to sermons of heretics?” He answered, “No Sir, but I used to go to Mass in the house of the Ambassadors of France and Portugal”.

It was asked, “Was there anyone in England who wanted to make you read prohibited books and to teach you the doctrine of heretics?” He answered, “Yes Sir”.

It was asked him, “Who were these people?” He answered, “A man called Master Alexandro, I think he has been banned from Venice on account of religion9. Another one, Ambroso da Venezia10 who is a music-player (or: musician) of the Queen of England; he has two childrren and has got married there, even though, as I have heard, his wife lives here in Venice and, so they also say, he used to send money to her. And there are also five Venetian brothers who are musicians of the Queen and play the flute and the viola11; and there is a Venetian gentlewoman from Ca’ Malipiero12 who has a school and teaches reading and the Italian language13; and I don’t know of anyone else”.

It was asked him, “Did you ever speak with the Queen?” He answered, “Yes Sir, and I sang (have sung) in her presence”. Being asked, he said, “She wanted to convert me to her faith”. Being asked, he said, “Some merchants, that is, master Christopholo da Monte, Milanese, told me that I would be perverted if I stayed here [i.e. in England] and he didn’t want me to stay there any longer and he embarked me for Flanders in company with other merchants and he gave me 25 ducats to go away (literally; or: in order that I could leave that place)

It was asked him, “Did you ask the earl for leave?” He answered, “No Sir, because he wouldn’t let me go (or: he wouldn’t have let me go)”.

It was asked him, “On the journey to Antwerp and other places where you have been, did you live Catholically?” He answered, “Yes Sir, I have come with Italian Catholic soldiers”.

It was asked him, “After you’ve come back here, did anyone ask you about the earl with whom you went?” He answered, “No Sir”.

It was asked him, “Who associated with the earl in this town?” He answered, “No one here from this town. He used to go to Mass at the Church of the Greeks14 and he was a person (man) who spoke the Latin and Italian language well”.

Being asked whether the earl had ever tried (or: wanted) to convert him to his faith, he answered, “No Sir. He let everyone (people) live as they wanted (do at will)”.

After this deposition was made, he [i.e. Orazio Cogno] was dismissed.


  1. The Church of Santa Marina was demolished in 1810. The square on which the church was situated is still called ‘Campo (=square) Santa Marina’ and it is north of the famous St. Marks.
  2. In MS, the name ‘Milord de Oxford’ is repeated in the left-hand margin.
  3. i.e. August 15th.
  4. In Ms, the name ‘captain master Zuan Battista da Monte’ is repeated in the left-hand margin.
  5. Now Fontanella-Grazioli, north-east of Cremona, on the road to Mantua.
  6. One of the most famous churches in Venice. It is in Renaissance style and is situated north of St. Mark’s. The name comes from the Latin ‘formosa’, ‘virtuous and beautiful’, an attribute of Our Lady to whom the church is dedicated. Tradition reports that the Virgin appeared in that place in the VII century. The church stands in Campo Santa Maria Formosa, a large square which in the past was, and still is, one of the liveliest centres of outdoor performances, as theatre plays, music, tumblers. Stately palaces built in the 15th and 16th century surround the ‘campo’.
  7. The first few cases of plague registered in Venice between July 1575 and February 1576 had been kept secret. The infection broke out violently in the summer of 1576 and went on until the beginning of 1577. Therefore Carnival celebrations were allowed to take place in February-March 1576.
  8. In the year 1576, Easter fell on April 22nd; therefore Ash Wednesday fell on March 7th; Thursday before Lent on March 1st; and Monday of Carnival, the day when Lord Oxford left Venice, on March 5th.
  9. In the left-hand margin: Alexander Forlan” and just below it: “Furlan”.
  10. In the left-hand margin: “Ambroso da Venezia, a musican of the Queen of England; he has two children and has got married”.
  11. In the left-hand margin: “Five Venetian brothers who are msucians of the Queen; they play the flute and the viola”.
  12. Malipiero House (Ca’ short for “casa”, “house”) was the home of the Malipiero family. It is situated in Campo Santa Maria Formosa. It was built in the first half of the 16th century. The top floor was added in the 19th century. The Malipiero family is one of the most distinguished aristocratic families in Venice. They number two dogi (Orio, 1178-93) and Pasquale (1457-62), ambassadors, renowned musicians, literary men and generals.
  13. In the left-hand margin: “A Venetian gentlewoman who has a school”.
  14. San Giorgio dei Greci (The church of St George of the Greeks) situated east of St Mark’s, was and still is the most important Greek-Orthodox church not only in Renaissance Venice but also in Italy and Euope. The Greek community officially founded in 1573 was particularly flourishing at the time of lord Oxford’s visit, i.e. two years after the church had been inaugurated. Its printing-house and library housing rare incunabula, manuscripts and books had certainly appeased the earl’s thirst for learning. There he also had the opportunity to practise his Greek.
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