Piggott, Henry James (1831-1917)

The Founder Of Wesleyan Missions In Italy

The founder of Wesleyan Methodist missions to Italy was born in Lowestoft, England, in 1831, the son of a former missionary to Sierra Leone. He was educated at Kingswood School and Wesley College Taunton, before attending the University of London where he obtained a first class degree in Classics. He entered the ministry of the Wesley Methodist Connexion and served in local churches in Oxford, Hastings and Hammersmith in London. He resisted the call to overseas work until challenged to respond to the new opportunities for mission to Italy following the Risorgimento.

In 1861 he and Richard Green came to Italy. Piggott initially worked in the north, and then the Veneto, founding churches in Ivrea, Intra, Cremona, Parma, Padova and La Spezia. Then in 1873 he moved the centre of his work to Rome where he remained until his death in 1917. He was superintendent of the work of Methodism in the Italy District until his “retirement” in 1903, during which time he travelled and preached throughout the country. With the demand for more ministers, as the denomination increased in numbers of members and preaching places, schools and a theological college were established.

Piggott was a great advocate for Protestant missions in Italy, writing articles in the British religious press. He also contributed to the work of biblical scholarship in Italian (he was President of the Italian Bible Society as well as its Sunday School Union). He admired the work of the great orator and founder of the Italian Free Church, Alessandro Gavazzi, former chaplain to Garibaldi (buried here in Zone 1.13,15), whose Rome base at Ponte Sant`Angelo Church came into Wesleyan Methodism in 1903 when the churches merged. It is there that the memorial tablet, formerly housed at the church in Via della Scrofa where he lived, is now displayed, recording his death in Rome on 30th November 1917 after 56 years of ministry in Italy. In his grave (Zone 2.14.22) there are also buried his wife and daughter Mary. This great preacher and pastor, scholar and theologian, was the bedrock upon which Methodism in Italy was established and grew.

Contributed by the Revd. Dr Tim Macquiban

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