We live in such difficult times that it is dangerous either to speak or be silent.
—JUAN LUIS VIVES TO ERASMUS, 1534
In the early dawn of the European Reformation many intellectuals in Spain were foremost in their support for change. At the 1520 Diet of Worms, when Luther had to defend himself publicly, “everybody, especially the Spaniards, went to see him,” admitted the humanist Juan de Vergara. “At the beginning everybody agreed with him,” Vergara went on, “and even those who now write against him confess that at the beginning they were in favor of him.”1
Educated Spaniards of that generation were excited at the new horizons opened up by European Renaissance scholarship. Scholars who went to Italy, such as Antonio de Nebrija, who returned from there to take up a chair at Salamanca in 1505, were in the vanguard of the drive to promote learning. From Italy Peter Martyr of Anghiera came in 1488 to educate the young nobles of Castile, preceded four years before by Lucio Marineo Siculo, who joined the ranks of the professors at Salamanca. A key figure in the advancement of learning was Cisneros, archbishop of Toledo from 1495 and inquisitor general from 1507. He founded the University of Alcalá, which hoped to be a center of humanist studies. Its first chancellor, Pedro de Lerma, had studied at Paris. Nebrija was, as Erasmus wrote in 1521 to his friend Luis Vives (an exile from Valencia and now a native of the Netherlands), its “principal ornament.” Among its professors were the converso brothers Juan and Francisco de Vergara. One of the key tasks that Cisneros set the professors of the university was the production of a critical edition of the Bible which he hoped would be a classic of contemporary scholarship. The Polyglot Bible that resulted from this enterprise consisted of six volumes, with the Hebrew, Chaldean and Greek originals of the Bible printed in columns parallel to the Latin Vulgate. The Complutensian (from Compluto, the Latin for Alcalá) Polyglot was finally published in 1522.
The accession in 1519 of Charles I of Spain to the imperial title (as Charles V of Germany) encouraged some to believe that the country was about to participate in a great European enterprise. But the enthusiasm among scholars turned out eventually to be misplaced. The Polyglot, a beautiful but expensive product, found no ready market. The humanist aspirations of some Spanish scholars could not overcome the narrow mental perspectives among very many others.2 The clearest sign of a problem was what happened to the writings of Erasmus. The great Dutch humanist was acknowledged throughout Europe as the doyen of classical studies. From Charles’s own homeland, the Netherlands, his influence began to penetrate the open frontiers of Spain, and in 1517 Cisneros unsuccessfully invited him to come and visit. By 1524 a small number of intellectuals in the peninsula had rallied to the doctrines of Erasmus, to whom Vives commented approvingly in June 1524, “our Spaniards are also interesting themselves in your works.”
The wit and satire directed by Erasmus against ecclesiastical abuses, and particularly against lax standards in the mendicant orders, found a ready hearing in a country where the highest Church officials had themselves supported reform. The presence of prominent intellectuals and literary men in the entourage of Charles V ensured protection for the new ideas at court. Significantly, the two principal prelates in the Church—the archbishop of Toledo, Alonso de Fonseca, successor to Cisneros, and Alonso Manrique, the inquisitor general—were keen Erasmians. Erasmus’s success was confirmed with the translation of his Enchiridion, undertaken in 1524 by Alonso Fernández, archdeacon of Alcor. The enthusiastic translator wrote (with evident exaggeration) to the author in 1527:
At the emperor’s court, in the cities, in the churches, in the convents, even in the inns and on the highways, everyone has the Enchiridion of Erasmus in Spanish. Till then it used to be read in Latin by a minority of Latinists, and even these did not fully understand it. Now it is read in Spanish by people of every sort, and those who had formerly never heard of Erasmus have learned of his existence through this single book.3
The publisher of the Enchiridion, Miguel de Eguía, was printer to the University of Alcalá and brought out about a hundred books of humanist orientation. Erasmus, by far the best seller, was informed in 1526 that “though the printers have produced many thousands of copies, they cannot satisfy the multitude of buyers.” There were many personal contacts between his friends who came to Spain and Spaniards who went north to see him. Among the latter the most significant was young Juan de Vergara, who left the peninsula with the emperor in 1520 and spent two years with Erasmus in the Netherlands. On his return, starry-eyed, he wrote back to Vives: “The admiration felt for Erasmus by all Spaniards is astonishing.”
It was not quite true. Many Spanish scholars were critical of the northerner’s methods of exegesis. Others were uneasy at similarities between Erasmus and Luther. Some of the mendicant orders in particular were smarting under the satirical attacks of Erasmus, and pressed for a debate on his “heresies.” A conference of the Castilian Church4 presided over by Manrique, and including some thirty voting representatives of the orders as well as all the known theological experts, eventually met at Valladolid in the summer of 1527.5 The deliberations were inconclusive, with half the representatives coming out in favor of the Dutchman, but the result was viewed as a victory for the humanists. On 13 December Charles V himself wrote to Erasmus, asking him not to worry over controversy in Spain, “as though, so long as we are here, one could make a decision contrary to Erasmus, whose Christian piety is well known to us. . . . Take courage and be assured that we shall always hold your honor and repute in the greatest esteem.”6
The achievements of Spanish humanism were, perhaps inevitably, exaggerated by contemporaries. No more than a fraction of the elite (notable among them the grandee Mendoza family)7 were active patrons of the arts, and only a small number of clergy and scholars was devoted to classical studies. Few changes occurred in literary culture, and the popular tradition (represented, for example, by the Celestina of 1499) remained predominant in printed works. Among clergy, learned aspects of humanism always took second place to the influence of scholastic theology.8 The new learning favored by Charles V was largely a phenomenon of the emperor’s court. Beyond its confines, even among the nobles and elite, Latin in Spain was virtually a dead tongue, studied but never spoken.9 The Florentine ambassador Guicciardini in 1512 made an observation that other foreigners were to echo throughout the century. The Spaniards, he said, “are not interested in letters, and one finds very little knowledge either among the nobility or in other classes, and few people know Latin.” Regular contact with the Netherlands and Italy had by the early 1500s introduced some literate Spaniards to the art and spirituality of the north and the literature of the Renaissance, but the impact was small. The study of Greek never caught on. When some years later in 1561 Cardinal Mendoza of Burgos was asked to suggest scholars with knowledge of Greek who might suitably represent Spain at the Council of Trent, he could name only four people in the whole country.10
The opening of intellectual horizons in Spain was soon threatened from within by the growth of illuminism and the discovery of Protestants, and from without by the limitations imposed throughout Europe on free thought by political events.
The spiritual and devotional movements in Castile in the late fifteenth century were warmly patronized by Cisneros, and produced a literature of which the most outstanding example was the Spiritual ABC (1527) of the Franciscan friar Francisco de Osuna. Adepts of the Franciscan school believed in a mystical method known as recogimiento, the “gathering up” of the soul to God. Those who practiced it were recogidos. Out of this mystical school there grew up a version (condemned by the general chapter of the Franciscans in 1524) emphasizing the passive union of the soul with God. The method was known as dejamiento (abandonment), and adepts were called dejados or alumbrados (illuminists).11 Mystical movements and the search for a purer interior religion were common coin in Europe at this time. In Spain there was powerful patronage of mystics by the great nobility. One alumbrado group was patronized by the Mendoza duke of Infantado in his palace at Guadalajara. It consisted of the beata Isabel de la Cruz, Pedro Ruiz de Alcaraz, and María de Cazalla and her Franciscan brother Juan, auxiliary bishop of Avila. Alcaraz was also connected with another group at Escalona, patronized by the marquis of Villena. Meanwhile a parallel group of adepts emerged in Valladolid. The chief influence here was the beata Francisca Hernández, whose fame as a holy woman attracted into her circle Bernardino Tovar, a brother of Juan de Vergara, and the Franciscan preacher Francisco Ortiz.
In 1519 Isabel de la Cruz was denounced to the Inquisition by a servant girl of the Mendozas. There had been fusses before about other holy women—the beata of Piedrahita (1512) was a famous example—and little may have come of this case. But investigations happened to coincide with alarm over Lutheranism in Germany, leading inquisitors to fear that elements of heresy were involved. One by one, in a slow and patient inquiry that stretched over several years, the illuminist leaders were detained on the orders of Inquisitor General Manrique. Isabel and Alcaraz were arrested in April 1524. On 23 September 1525 Manrique issued an “edict on the alumbrados,” a list of forty-eight propositions which gives a valuable summary of their doctrine and leaves little doubt that their beliefs were not orthodox.12 Isabel and Alcaraz were sentenced to appear in an auto de fe at Toledo on 22 July 1529.
The attention of the inquisitors now shifted to Valladolid, where Francisca Hernández had gathered around her a group of adepts who practiced recogimiento in opposition to the method of the Guadalajara mystics. Her most devoted admirer was the well-known preacher Francisco Ortiz,13 and she lived for a while with the rich Cazalla family, relatives of María de Cazalla. Her fame spread: great lords and clergy visited her, and Erasmians such as Eguía and Tovar frequented the house. Her imperious character brooked no rivalry, however, and she quarreled first with the Cazallas, then with the Erasmians. When she was arrested by the Inquisition in March 1529, the indignant Francisco Ortiz went into his pulpit and in front of a distinguished audience emotionally denounced the Inquisition for its “public and open” sin in detaining her. He was pulled down from the pulpit and spent that night in the cells of the Inquisition. His trial dragged on for three years, by which time he retracted because he had lost faith in Hernández. He was suspended from his priestly functions for five years and ordered to stay in a monastery for two, but his spirit was broken and he spent the last dozen years of his life there, refusing to emerge.
In August 1529 Manrique fell into political disgrace and was confined to his see of Seville. At the same time the protecting hand of the emperor was withdrawn: Charles left in July for Italy and took with him some of the most influential Erasmians. This made it possible for the traditionalists, who had been biding their time after the defeat at Valladolid, to take the offensive.
One of the first prosecutions for Erasmian ideas was that of Diego de Uceda, chamberlain to a high official in the order of Calatrava. A deeply religious Catholic, Uceda was also an Erasmian who was skeptical about superstitions and miracles. Journeying in February 1528 from Burgos to his native city of Córdoba, he fell in with a traveling companion to whom he talked too earnestly and freely about religion, particularly about Luther. Denounced to the Inquisition by his companion, he was arrested, tortured and condemned despite all the evidence that he was blameless in his religious beliefs and practices. He finally abjured his “errors” at the Toledo auto de fe of 22 July 1529.14
The mingling of mystical, Erasmian and heretical influences made the late 1520s a unique period of both freedom and tension. The inquisitors sought Lutheran ideas everywhere, and located them in the views of some of the alumbrados. More significant for them, perhaps, was the fact that nearly every person implicated in the groups of these years was of converso origin: Isabel, Alcaraz, Hernández, Ortiz, Tovar, the Cazallas. It was as though conversos were seeking to reject formal Catholicism by interiorizing their religion. Completely at home neither in Judaism nor in Christianity, many conversos at all social levels had demonstrated signs of skepticism, unease and Nicodemism.15 As far back as the reign of King Juan II of Castile (d. 1454), there had been the reputed case of Alfonso Fernández Samuel, who in his will had requested that when laid out in his coffin, he should have the cross placed at his feet, the Koran at his breast, and the Torah, “his life and light,” at his head.16 In the early years of the Inquisition, considerable evidence came to light not simply of judaizing but also of messianism on one hand and irreligious skepticism on the other. Many conversos, indeed, were ironically condemned for beliefs that orthodox Judaism would have regarded as heretical, such as denying the immortality of the soul.17 Their search for new ideas did not, therefore, necessarily imply any drift towards Judaism. There was nothing remotely Jewish about the beliefs of the alumbrados: the root influence was Franciscan spirituality, the environment was the comfortable patronage afforded by Old Christian nobility.18
From the moment she was detained, Hernández attempted to save her skin by incriminating all those against whom she bore a grudge. Tovar had persisted in following her despite the warnings of Vergara. It was no doubt knowledge of Juan de Vergara’s hostility that moved Hernández, at her trial in 1530, to denounce him as a Lutheran, a claim that was supported by other disciples of hers. Tovar was already in prison. He was followed there by his brother in June 1530. Finally, in April 1532 María de Cazalla was imprisoned and tortured and accused of the various heresies of Lutheranism, illuminism and Erasmianism.19 Her trial dragged on until December 1534, when she was fined and ordered not to associate again with illuminists. Her brother the bishop had opportunely died in 1530. The Inquisition had not yet finished with their family, however, for from them sprang the circle of Protestants that alarmed Valladolid two decades later. Although the circle had closed round the mystics, they emerged remarkably unscathed.20 Hernández was by 1532 living in freedom in Medina del Campo; Isabel and Alcaraz, condemned to “perpetual” prison, were released after a few years;21 María de Cazalla was fined and had to express her repentance.
The attack on the alumbrados, though of short duration and with few serious casualties, had consequences of lasting importance. This can be seen clearly in the case of the famous preacher Juan de Avila. Active in the mission field in Andalucia in the late 1520s, Avila was denounced as an alumbrado and spent nearly a year (1532–33) in the cells of the Inquisition. He used his idle hours to think out the shape of a book of spiritual guidance, the Audi, Filia, which was not in fact presented for publication until 1556. An innocent victim of the alumbrado scare in the 1530s (he was a converso), in the 1550s Avila fell foul not only of the Protestant scare but also of an inquisitor general, Valdés, who was suspicious of all mystical writings (“works of contemplation for artisans’ wives” was how he saw them, according to Luis de Granada). Valdés banned the book in his 1559 Index, and Avila in despair burnt a large number of his manuscripts.22 Though the Audi, Filia circulated in manuscript for several years, it was not until after its author’s death in 1569 that the Inquisition allowed it to be published again, at Toledo in 1574. A whole generation of spirituality—we shall come across the case of Luis de Granada—fell under suspicion because of the supposed danger from illuminism.
The most direct threat, however, seemed to come from Lutheranism. An Old Christian, the Basque priest Juan López de Celaín, who had links with the alumbrados of Guadalajara, was arrested in 1528 and burnt as a “Lutheran” in Granada in July 1530.23Lutheranism was also one of the allegations made against Juan de Vergara.24 Secretary to Cisneros and later to his successor at Toledo, Alonso de Fonseca, Vergara was one of the foremost classical scholars in Spain. He had collaborated in the Polyglot Bible, had held the chair of philosophy at Alcalá and had proposed offering the chair of rhetoric there to Vives. Arrested in 1530, tried and imprisoned, Vergara was obliged to abjure his errors in an auto at Toledo on 21 December 1535, and to pay a heavy fine of 1,500 ducats. After this he was confined to a monastery, from which he emerged in 1537. Like others who completed their allotted penance, he was able to resume his old position in society. We encounter him once more in 1547 at the center of the great controversy in Toledo over the proposed statutes to exclude conversos from office in the cathedral. He died, still honored, in Alcalá in May 1566.25
Alonso de Virués, a Benedictine and preacher to Charles V, was the first of several eminent preachers of the emperor to be accused of heresy, presumably because of contacts that he, like Vergara, had made abroad. Arrested in 1533 and confined in prison by the Inquisition of Seville for four long years, he pleaded in vain that Erasmus had never been condemned as unorthodox. Finally, in 1537 he was made to abjure his errors, sentenced to confinement in a monastery for two years and banned from preaching for another year. Charles V made strenuous efforts to save Virués, and in May 1538 obtained from the pope a bull annulling the sentence. Virués was restored to favor and appointed in 1542 as bishop of the Canary Islands, where he died in 1545.
Another outstanding case, sometimes connected with the origins of Protestantism in Spain, was Juan de Valdés, also of the University of Alcalá, who in the fateful year 1529 published his theological study Dialogue of Christian Doctrine, which was closely based on some of Luther’s early writings. It was immediately attacked by the Inquisition despite the testimony of Vergara and others. The controversy over the book took so dangerous a turn that in 1530 Valdés fled to Italy, just in time to avoid the trial that was opened against him. His treatise was thereafter distinguished by appearing in every Index of prohibited books issued by the Inquisition.26 In 1533 Mateo Pascual, former rector of the Colegio Mayor of San Ildefonso at Alcalá University, and at the time vicar-general of the see of Saragossa, fell under suspicion for his links with Juan de Valdés. He was detained for a while in the Inquisition of Toledo, then released to return to Saragossa. Some years later he left Aragon and went to live in Rome, where he died peacefully in 1553.27
A further casualty of the alumbrado trials was the printer to Alcalá University, Miguel de Eguía, denounced by Francisca Hernández for Lutheranism. He was imprisoned in 1531 and spent over two years in the cells of the Inquisition at Valladolid,28 but was released at the end of 1533 and fully absolved. Less fortunate was Pedro de Lerma. Former chancellor of Alcalá University, former dean of the theological faculty at the Sorbonne, canon of Burgos cathedral, he fell under the influence of Erasmus and publicized it in his sermons. He was denounced to the Inquisition, imprisoned, and finally in 1537 was made to abjure publicly, in the towns where he had preached, eleven propositions he was accused of having taught. In shame and resentment the old man shook the dust of Spain off his feet and fled to Paris, where he resumed his position as a dean of the faculty, dying there in August 1541. According to his nephew Francisco Enzinas (famous in the history of European Protestantism as Dryander), people in Lerma’s home city of Burgos were so afraid of the possible consequences of this event that those who had sent their sons to study abroad recalled them at once.29 Such a reaction shows an awareness among some Spaniards of the problems involved. Erasmianism and the new humanism were being identified with the German heresy, and for many the only protection was dissociation.
In December 1533 Rodrigo Manrique, son of the inquisitor general, wrote from Paris to Luis Vives on the subject of Vergara’s imprisonment:
You are right. Our country is a land of pride and envy; you may add: of barbarism. For now it is clear that down there one cannot possess any culture without being suspected of heresy, error and Judaism. Thus silence has been imposed on the learned. As for those who take refuge in erudition, they have been filled, as you say, with great terror. . . . At Alcalá they are trying to uproot the study of Greek completely.30
Erasmus’s links with his friends in Spain were affected by the reaction. His last surviving letter to that country is dated December 1533. Three years later he died, still highly respected in the Catholic world, so much so that in 1535 the pope offered him a cardinal’s hat. In Spain his cause (as we shall see) survived, but was restricted to a few learned circles. His works remained on sale to the Spanish public for much of the century, but the tide now turned against him.
The history of these conflicts between a handful of scholars and ecclesiastical authority was by no means peculiar to Spain. All over Europe during these years, from Italy and Germany to France and England, there were new ways of thinking that brought on a direct collision between traditionalists and innovators. Though the Inquisition appears in a negative role in our story, it did not always favor the traditionalists, and we should remember that it did not pass a single death sentence, which sets it in startling contrast to what was happening in countries like England and France.
The decline of interest in Erasmianism, and the suspicions directed against liberal humanism, seemed to be justified by the apparent links between Erasmus and the growing Protestant menace. Bataillon has shown how in Spain the Protestant stream which sprang from illuminism between 1535 and 1555 adapted Erasmianism to its own purposes and moved towards the Lutheran doctrine of “justification by faith alone” without ever formally rejecting Catholic dogma.31 Many leading humanists, such as Juan de Valdés, were Erasmians whose defections from orthodoxy were so significant as to give cause for the belief that they were crypto-Protestants. Vigilance against radical Erasmianism was therefore strengthened.
The Lutheran threat, however, took a long time to develop. In 1520 Luther had probably not been heard of in Spain. Lutheran books were first sent to the peninsula, with what result we do not know, by Luther’s publisher Froben in 1519. The first Spaniards to come into contact with his teachings were those who accompanied the emperor to Germany. Some of them, seeing in him only a reformer, were even favorable to his ideas. A full generation went by after the conflicts over Erasmians and illuminists, and still Lutheranism failed to take root. There was, during those years in Spain, no atmosphere of restriction or repression. In the Netherlands, where Charles V also ruled, there was a ferocious repression of heresy, but not in Spain. During the generation before 1558, fewer than fifty cases of alleged Lutheranism among Spaniards came to the notice of the inquisitors.32 In most of them, it is difficult to identify any specifically Protestant beliefs. There was some curiosity about the heresies that Luther was propounding, but little sign of any active interest among Spaniards.
What explanation can we offer for this astonishing inability of Protestant ideas to penetrate the peninsula? With its wholly unreformed Church (see chapter 13 below), backward clergy and medieval-style religion, Spain was surely ripe for conquest by the Reformation. In one major respect, however, the country was peculiarly unfertile ground. Unlike England, France and Germany, Spain had not since the early Middle Ages experienced a single significant popular heresy. All its ideological struggles since the Reconquest had been directed against the minority religions, Judaism and Islam. There were consequently no native heresies (like Wycliffism in England) on which the German ideas could build. One may add that Spain was for a time33 the only European country to possess a national institution dedicated to the elimination of heresy. By its vigilance and by coordinating its efforts throughout the peninsula, it may be argued that the Inquisition checked the seeds of heresy before they could be sown. This view, however, is both naïve and optimistic. At no time in history have governments been able to identify and eliminate security threats before they happen.
Nor was it possible to exclude new ideas, for the peninsula was not cut off from the world. In the 1540s, Spanish intellectuals came into direct contact with Lutheran ideas in foreign universities (at Louvain, for example, where Philip II was shocked by the views of some of the Spaniards in 1558; or in France, where Miguel Servet was educated); at the emperor’s court in Germany; and at international assemblies such as the Council of Trent (1546), where theologians were obliged to read Lutheran books in order to combat the errors in them. Among the laboring classes, Spaniards came into touch with immigrant workers from France or the Netherlands who had direct experience of the new beliefs. Ideas transmitted at this level, however, were confused, distorted and unlikely to strike root anywhere. Possibly the only group—a tiny one—that may have imported coherent ideas were the printers, nearly all foreign, who worked in publishers’ presses.
The most remarkable aspect of the case is that the Spanish government was actively allied with Lutherans in those mid-century years. In 1548 Charles V made an agreement, known as the Interim because it was deemed temporary, to allow toleration and coexistence in Germany between Catholics and Lutherans. The committee of fifteen theologians that gave formal approval to the agreement was made up largely of Germans but included three prominent Spaniards: Domingo de Soto, Pedro de Maluenda and Pedro de Soto. All three were from the Dominicans, the order most closely associated with the Inquisition in Spain; and Pedro de Soto in particular was (a contemporary reported) “an enthusiastic supporter” of the Interim. The accord between Catholics and Lutherans went a step further when at the next session of the Council of Trent, in 1551, the emperor’s personal representative insisted that Lutherans be allowed to take part, and Archbishop Guerrero of Granada entertained the Lutheran delegates at his private residence in Trent.34
Quite obviously, the Spanish theologians were willing to accept Protestants if no alternative solution could be found. Several years before, Charles’s confessor Garcia de Loaysa, who became archbishop of Seville and inquisitor general until 1546, had stated precisely to the emperor: “My advice is that Your Majesty should make a compromise and excuse their heresies.”35 The political situation in Germany offered no other option. In Spain, however, the inquisitors seem to have had a completely different policy; there they were vigilant against any entry of the virus of heresy, especially if it came from Germany.
The area most vulnerable to the penetration of foreign ideas was Seville, center of international commerce. In 1552 the Inquisition there seized some 450 Bibles printed abroad.36 As a center of printing, Seville was also one of the towns where foreign typesetters and printers might fall foul of the alert over heresy.37 As archbishop of Seville, Manrique had encouraged the appointment of scholars from Alcalá to be canons and preachers in the cathedral. But times were changing, both in Spain as a whole and in Seville. In 1546 the city obtained a new archbishop who was also made inquisitor general, Fernando de Valdés, a ruthless careerist who saw heresy everywhere.38
One of the cathedral preachers in Seville, Juan Gil, commonly known as Egidio, was nominated by Charles V in 1549 as bishop of Tortosa. The appointment was quashed when Egidio was accused of heresy and in 1552 made to retract ten propositions. “In truth,” commented a member of the disciplinary committee, the emperor’s confessor Domingo de Soto, “apart from this lapse he is a very good man, and his election [as bishop] was a good decision.”39 Egidio died in peace at the end of 1555.40 In 1556 Valdés objected to the appointment as cathedral preacher of Constantino Ponce de la Fuente, an Alcalá humanist and converso who had been chaplain to Charles V in Germany. His writings were examined for heresy. Arrested by the Inquisition, he died in its cells two years later. Neither Egidio nor Constantino can be considered a Lutheran. They were humanists who believed in a strongly spiritual religious life and none of their views appears to have been explicitly heretical.41
There were, certainly, Protestant sympathizers in Seville. International trade links brought together in the city a broad range of people and opinions that could not fail to influence some Spaniards. Heretical books were imported in quantity. The Spanish “Protestants” in Seville probably totaled around 120 persons, including the prior and members of the Jeronimite monastery of San Isidoro, together with several nuns from the Jeronimite convent of Santa Paula. The Seville group managed to exist in security until the 1550s, when some monks from San Isidoro opportunely fled. The exiles included Cipriano de Valera, Casiodoro de Reina,42 Juan Pérez de Pineda and Antonio del Corro, who played little part in Spanish history but were glories of the European Reformation. The first three named, as we shall see shortly, during their exile gave to Spain something it badly lacked: a new translation of the Bible.
Meanwhile, in northern Castile, another circle of Protestant sympathizers had come into existence.43 The founder was an Italian, Carlos de Seso, who had turned to Protestantism after reading Juan de Valdés, and who from 1554 had been corregidor (civil governor) of the town of Toro. His missionary zeal soon converted an influential and distinguished circle centered on Valladolid and numbering some fifty-five persons, most of noble status and some with converso origins. The most eminent of the converts was Dr. Agustín Cazalla, who had been to Germany as chaplain to Charles V and had also accompanied Philip there. Cazalla was influenced by his brother Pedro—parish priest of Pedrosa, near Valladolid—and with him the whole Cazalla family, led by their mother Leonor de Vivero,44 fell into heresy. Their beliefs were no simple extension of the illuminist or Erasmian attitudes of the previous generation. In their clear rejection of most Catholic dogma the Valladolid heretics were true Protestants. They also included scions of impeccably Old Christian nobility. A leading member of the group, Fray Domingo de Rojas, son of the marquis of Poza, recruited young Anna Enríquez, daughter of the marquis of Alcañices. He told her “that there were only two sacraments, baptism and communion; that in communion Christ did not have the part attributed to him; and that the worst of all things was to say mass, since Christ had already been sacrificed once and for all.”45
The Seville group was uncovered in 1557, when Juan Ponce de León, eldest son of the count of Bailén, was arrested together with others for introducing books from Geneva. His chief accomplice was Julián Hernández, who had spent a considerable time in the Reformed churches of Paris, Scotland and Frankfurt, and who specialized in smuggling Protestant literature into his native country.46 The Inquisition collected information and in 1558 made a wave of arrests, including the whole Cazalla family in April and Constantino in August. A harsh repression was set in train by Fernando de Valdés, who was concerned to exploit the discovery in order to regain the favor he had recently lost with the court in Spain.
Commenting on the high social origins of many of the accused, Valdés told Charles V that “much greater harm can follow if one treats them with the leniency that the Holy Office has shown towards Jewish and Muslim conversos, who generally have been of lowly origin.” The emperor did not need to be alerted. The sudden emergence in Spain’s two principal cities of a contagion from which everyone felt the country had been free sent shock waves through the nation.47 Charles, in retirement at his villa beside the monastery of Yuste in Extremadura, saw to his horror the rise within Spain of the very menace that had split Germany apart. For him there could be only one response: ruthless repression. His historic letter of 25 May 1558 to his daughter Juana, regent in Spain during Philip II’s absence in the Netherlands, appealed to her to follow the tough policy that he himself had used against heresy in Flanders.
I am very satisfied with what you say you have written to the king, informing him of what is happening about the people imprisoned as Lutherans, more of whom are being daily discovered. But believe me, my daughter, this business has caused and still causes me more anxiety and pain than I can express, for while the king and I were abroad these realms remained in perfect peace, free from this calamity, but now that I have returned here to rest and recuperate and serve Our Lord, this great outrage and treachery, implicating such notable persons, occurs in my presence and in yours. You know that because of this I suffered and went through great trials and expenses in Germany, and lost so much of my good health. Were it not for the conviction I have that you and the members of your councils will find a radical cure to this unfortunate situation, punishing the guilty thoroughly to prevent them spreading, I do not know whether I could restrain myself leaving here to settle the matter. Since this affair is more important for the service of Our Lord and the good and preservation of these realms than any other, and since it is only in its beginnings, with such small forces that they can be easily put down, it is necessary to place the greatest stress and weight on a quick remedy and exemplary punishment. I do not know whether it will be enough in these cases to follow the usual practice, by which according to common law all those who beg for mercy and have their confession accepted are pardoned with a light penance if it is a first offense. Such people, if set free, are at liberty to commit the same offense, particularly if they are educated persons.
One can imagine the evil consequences, for it is clear that they cannot act without armed organization and leaders, and so it must be seen whether they can be proceeded against as creators of sedition, upheaval, riots and disturbance in the state. They would then be guilty of rebellion and could not expect any mercy. In this connection I cannot omit to mention what was and is the custom in Flanders. I wanted to introduce an Inquisition to punish the heresies that some people had caught from neighboring Germany and England and even France. Everyone opposed this on the grounds that there were no Jews among them. Finally an order was issued declaring that all people of whatever state and condition who came under certain specified categories were to be ipso facto burnt and their goods confiscated. Necessity obliged me to act in this way. I do not know what the king my son has done since then, but I think that the same reason will have made him continue as I did, because I advised and begged him to be very severe in dealing with these people.
Believe me, my daughter, if so great an evil is not suppressed and remedied without distinction of persons from the very beginning, I cannot promise that the king or anyone else will be in a position to do it afterwards.48
This letter really marks the turning point in Spain. From now on, thanks to the fears of Charles and the policy laid down for Inquisitor General Valdés, heterodoxy was treated as a threat to the state and the religious establishment. Writing to the pope on 9 September the same year, Valdés affirmed that “these errors and heresies of Luther and his brood which have begun to be preached and sown in Spain, threaten sedition and riot.”49
Sedition and riot, armed organization and leaders—how far from the dreams of Cazalla and Constantino! Yet once again well-meaning men were prey to the tensions gripping Europe, and the result was a series of autos de fe that burnt out Protestantism in Spain. The first significant auto was held at Valladolid on Trinity Sunday, 21 May 1559, in the presence of the regent Juana and her court. Of the thirty accused, fourteen were burnt in person, including Cazalla and his brother and sister. The only one to die unrepentant was Francisco Herrero from Toro. All the rest died repentant after professing conversion, among them Agustín Cazalla, who blessed the Holy Office and wept aloud for his sins.
The next auto at Valladolid was held on 8 October in the presence of Philip, who had now returned to Spain and for whom an impressive ceremony was mounted. Of the thirty accused, twenty-six were considered Protestants, and of these twelve (including four nuns) were burnt at the stake. Carlos de Seso was the showpiece. The inquisitors had for days attempted to make him recant and, in fear for his life, he had shown every sign of repentance. But when at last he realized that he was to be executed regardless, he made a full and moving statement of belief: “in Jesus Christ alone do I hope, him alone I trust and adore, and placing my unworthy hand in his sacred side I go through the virtue of his blood to enjoy the promises that he has made to his chosen.”50 He and one other accused were burnt alive as impenitents. “How could you allow this to happen?” he is said to have called out to the king during the procession in the auto. “If my own son were as wicked as you,” Philip is said to have replied indignantly, “I myself would carry the wood with which to burn him!” The exchange, not documented in any reliable source, is completely apocryphal. Curiously enough, we do have a document demonstrating that almost exactly the same words were used by the pope in an interview with the Venetian ambassador in Rome twelve months before!51
It was now the turn of Seville, where sympathy for Constantino and hostility to the actions of the Inquisition was widespread. A Jesuit reported in 1559 of the former that “he was and still is highly esteemed,” and that “there are a great many of these murmurings [against the Inquisition].”52 The first great auto there was held on Sunday, 24 September 1559.53 Of the seventy-six accused present, nineteen were burnt as Lutherans, one of them in effigy only.54 This was followed by the auto held on Sunday, 22 December 1560.55Of the total of fifty-four accused on this occasion, fourteen were burnt in person and three in effigy; in all, forty of the accused were Protestants. Egidio and Constantino were two of those burnt in effigy, while those actually burnt included two English sailors, William Brook and Nicholas Burton, and a native of Seville, Leonor Gómez, together with her three young daughters. This auto de fe was followed by one two years later, on 26 April 1562, and by another on 28 October. The whole of that year 1562 saw eighty-eight cases of Protestantism punished; of these, eighteen were burnt in person, among them the prior of San Isidoro and four of his priests.
With these burnings native Protestantism was almost totally extinguished in Spain. For contemporaries in 1559, it was the start to an emergency without precedent in their history. That very August the primate of the Spanish Church, archbishop Carranza of Toledo, was arrested by the Inquisition on charges arising in part out of allegations made by Cazalla and Seso (see chapter 8). Threatened, as it seemed, by the incursion of heresy, the inquisitors stretched their resources to check the contagion wherever it might appear. In Toledo in September 1559 placards were found posted up on houses and in the cathedral itself attacking the Catholic Church as “not the Church of Jesus Christ but the Church of the devil and of Antichrist his son, the Antichrist pope.”56 The culprit, apprehended in 1560 and burnt, was a priest, Sebastian Martínez. At the same time, in Seville pamphlets circulated attacking “these thieves of inquisitors, who rob publicly and who burnt the bones of Egidio and of Constantino out of jealousy.” The leaflets also asked the public to “pray to God for his true Church to be strong and constant in the truth and bear with the persecution from the synagogue of Satan” (that is, the Inquisition).57
The great autos de fe up to 1562 served to remind the population of the gravity of the crisis and taught them to try to identify Lutherans in their midst. As a consequence the tribunals of the Inquisition in the 1560s devoted themselves to a hunt for Lutheran heresy, and drew into their net scores of Spaniards who in an unguarded moment had made statements praising Luther or attacking the clergy. In Cuenca, for instance, no sooner had one resident heard the news from Valladolid than he zealously denounced one of his neighbors to the Inquisition for reading a certain book of whose contents he—being illiterate—knew nothing. In those same weeks the archbishop of Tarragona (Fernando de Loazes, who had some years before been inquisitor in Barcelona) stopped over in Cuenca on his way to his diocese. He was asked about the Carranza case, and replied: “If the archbishop was a heretic, we are all heretics.” He too was denounced to the Inquisition. In both cases, the inquisitors sensibly took no action.58
These years helped the old and ailing59 Inquisitor General Valdés to save his career for a while longer. He attempted to convince Philip II that a major crisis was in the making, and that only the Inquisition could resolve it. In May 1558 he wrote informing the king, who was then in Brussels, of Lutheran books in Salamanca and many other places, of problems with the Moriscos, of the discovery of judaizers in Murcia, and of the Lutherans in Valladolid and Seville.60 The Murcia cases, in which personal conflicts led to a large number of people being executed on very flimsy evidence,61 was a local phenomenon of passing importance. The Protestant cases were serious enough, on the other hand, to encourage Valdés to ask, virtually, that the country be put into the hands of the Inquisition.62 He suggested that new tribunals be set up immediately in Galicia, Asturias and the Basque country; that a second tribunal be set up in Valladolid; that special vigilantes be set up everywhere; that no book should in future be printed without the permission of the Inquisition; that no books be sold without prior examination by the inquisitors; and so on. Fortunately, the new king took no notice of these suggestions at the time, but a few of them were implemented later, notably the idea of establishing a tribunal in Galicia.
The Protestant scare was in any case never as grave as Valdés made out. After the anti-Lutheran repression of these months, the Inquisition was in reality over the hump. From the 1560s Judaism was no longer an issue and the Reformation no longer a threat. Autos de fe were wound down. When held they were more showy and ceremonious, in the manner of the great autos of 1559, to make up for the lack of penitents.63 In perspective, the Protestant crisis in Spain, often presented as a singularly harsh period of repression, was somewhat less bloody than the ferocious religious persecution in other countries. The mid-sixteenth century, a fateful time in Europe for religious freedom, was certainly the period when the death penalty for heresy was heavily used in Spain. Even so, it has been calculated that no more than eighty-three persons—sixty-four Spaniards and nineteen foreigners—died at the hands of the Inquisition between 1559 and 1563.64 The English authorities under Queen Mary had executed nearly four times as many heretics as died in Spain in the years just after 1559, the French under Henry II at least three times as many. In the Netherlands fifteen times as many had died. An expert estimates that “between 1523 and 1566, around 1,300 men and women in the Habsburg Netherlands lost their lives, while thousands more were fined, mutilated or banished.”65 And this was before Philip II’s general the duke of Alba began his repression there! In these last three countries, very many more died for religious reasons in the years that followed. “The healthiest country of all is Spain,” Philip II observed with some justice to the inquisitor general.66
Despite all the alarms, Protestantism never developed into a real threat in Spain. Several cases, from all over the peninsula, are known to us because they appear in the records of the Inquisition. Three men appeared on suspicion in an auto in Saragossa on 17 May 1560. In an auto of 20 November 1562 two were burnt alive for Protestantism.67 The total number of Spaniards executed for “Lutheranism” (as the inquisitors insisted on labeling all varieties of Reformation belief) during the crisis years 1559–62 was, as we have seen, sixty-four. Those cited during the late century for the same offense totaled about two hundred. Most of them were in no sense Protestants. The majority of these cases demonstrated in reality the ignorance of the inquisitors rather than any real Lutheran threat. They recall the equally indiscriminate persecution that the tribunal had directed against conversos a half century before. Irreligious sentiments, drunken mockery, anticlerical expressions were all captiously classified by the inquisitors (or by those who denounced the cases) as “Lutheran.” Disrespect to church images, eating meat on forbidden days were taken as signs of heresy. A hapless uneducated woman of Toledo who claimed in 1568 that “all those who die go straight to heaven,” was accused of the heresy of denying the existence of purgatory.68 It is clear that in such cases, of which there were very many, the agents of the Holy Office were reacting to unofficial beliefs among the people rather than to any infiltration of heresy.
There were of course a few convinced heretics to be found—among them the nobleman Gaspar de Centelles, burnt in Valencia in 1564,69 and Fray Cristóbal de Morales, burnt in Granada in 1571—but less than a dozen Spaniards were burnt alive for Lutheranism in the later part of the century outside the cases tried at Valladolid and Seville. Others—like the slightly crazy friar Pedro de Orellana,70 who spent twenty-eight years in the prisons of the Holy Office—were arrested for offenses that included suspicion of “Lutheranism” but had no identifiable Lutheran beliefs.
Much of the potential Spanish Reformation had emigrated abroad. Since mid-century Spaniards sympathetic to the Reformation could be found dotted around intellectual groups in Western Europe. Rather than refugees, they were part of the well-worn tradition of wandering scholars. True emigration commenced with the discovery of the Protestant cells in Seville and Valladolid. A small stream of refugees made their way into the Reformation communities abroad.
Many in Spain were alarmed by the trend. In some cases, there were fears of the dishonor that could be brought on families by heresy. This provoked at least one murder, that of Juan Díaz in Germany, to which we shall refer later (chapter 12). The government, for its part, tried to repatriate Spaniards who fell under suspicion. Philip II was convinced by his officials that it would be a useful policy. In 1561 his ambassador in London, Quadra, reported that several Spanish Protestants were flocking to that city. “They arrive every day with their wives and children and it is said that many more are expected.”71 Philip’s father had in the 1540s condoned the occasional seizure outside Spain of Castilians who became active Protestants. They were packed off home and made to face the music there. The intention was not, as a subsequent ambassador of Philip in England explained, to eliminate them but to keep an eye on them and hope that others would take the hint and mend their ways.72 Under Philip II, the selective kidnapping was carried out by two agents based in the Netherlands, one of them the army paymaster Alonso del Canto. They were sponsored by the king’s secretary Francisco de Eraso. With the help of special funds, a little network was set up to spy on Spanish émigrés living in England, the Netherlands and Germany. Their most notable success was in persuading the famous humanist Furió Ceriol to return to Spain in 1563. In the process, they collected valuable information on Spanish Protestants abroad.73 Canto in the spring of 1564 was able to inform Madrid of the preparation by Juan Pérez de Pineda of a new version of the Bible in Spanish.74
The real brunt of the attack on so-called “Lutheranism” was borne by foreign visitors, such as traders and sailors, and by foreigners resident in Spain. The heresy scare intensified xenophobia among many sections of the population. It made Spain, at least for a while, unsafe for foreigners, in a pattern that has since become familiar in many countries where problems of security are deemed to exist. The Holy Office had been active against foreigners from as early as the 1530s. Spain’s extensive trade with northern Europe made contact with its citizens inevitable, especially in the ports. The first Protestant foreigner to be burnt by the Inquisition was young John Tack, an Englishman of Flemish origin, burnt in Bilbao in May 1539.75 Down to 1560, nine other foreigners were arrested and reconciled by the inquisitors on this coastline.
In the Toledo area in the 1560s French and Flemish residents were those principally accused of heresy.76 Some had accompanied Philip II back from Flanders or had come with the new queen, Elizabeth Valois, from France. The 1560s were the only decade in which Flemings figured in any number.77 More usually, those accused were French. In Barcelona the inquisitor in 1560 felt it opportune to hold an auto de fe “so that people are on their guard against foreigners.”78 Foreigners indeed constituted the bulk of prosecutions in these years, especially in frontier tribunals.79 Nearly all the cases arising at Valencia from 1554 to 1598 involved foreigners, eight of whom were burnt in person or in effigy. In the tribunal of Calahorra (later transferred to Logroño), though there were as many as sixty-eight cases of suspected Lutheranism in 1540–99, the majority (82 percent) were foreigners. “All the people punished in this Inquisition are poor foreigners,” the tribunal reported in 1565.80 In northern Spain, as a result of the proximity of the Calvinist areas of France, Frenchmen were singled out for suspicion. Between 1560 and 1600, the Inquisition in the provinces of the crown of Aragon and in Navarre executed some eighty Frenchmen as presumed heretics, burnt another hundred in effigy, and sent some 380 to the galleys.81
The victimization of non-Spaniards by the Inquisition brings into focus its xenophobic and racialist tendencies. This would continue to be the attitude of all security and immigration agencies down to our own times. As it had pointed the finger once at people of Jewish and Muslim origin, so it now pointed the finger at all foreigners, regardless of religion. The attitude, even when practiced in the crown of Aragon, must be attributed mainly to the Castilian inquisitors. In the 1560s the consellers of Barcelona reminded the inquisitors that they were unwise to pick on French people indiscriminately, since they must know that the greater part of Frenchmen were Catholic. But the inquisitors, sticking by an ideological attitude that could be found among many Spaniards, both clergy and laymen, up to the first half of the twentieth century, persisted in describing all nations outside Spain as “tierras de herejes” (heretical countries).82 Of all nations, they said time and again, only Spain was Catholic. It has been calculated that between 1517 and 1648 over 2,550 foreigners were arrested by the Spanish Inquisition,83 proof enough of a degree of repression, but one that produced very few martyrs.
The Castilian inquisitors looked with special suspicion on the Basques and Catalans. In 1567 the local inquisitor, who happened to be visiting the Basque town of San Sebastian, commented that “the natives of this town have too much contact with the French, with whom they link up through marriage; and they always speak their language, rather than their own or Spanish.”84 There was, in effect, an open frontier between France and Spain’s three border regions: the Basque country, the kingdom of Aragon and Catalonia. It did not help that the three regions were almost wholly free of royal administrative control. The bookshops of Barcelona were full of books printed in France.85 Possibly one-tenth of the population of Barcelona and one-third of that of Perpignan, Catalonia’s two main cities, was French. Despite this unimpeded contact between the two nations, Catalans made not the slightest move towards embracing heresy from France. In default of victims among the Catalans, the Inquisition sought them among the French. In Barcelona between 1552 and 1578 there were fifty-one alleged Lutherans burnt in person or in effigy, but all were foreign.
It was in France, as it happened, that the inquisitors failed to get their hands on one of the most notable Spanish heretics of the Reformation epoch. Miguel Servet, born in 1511 near Saragossa, was at the age of seventeen sent by his father to study at Toulouse in France, and spent the rest of his life outside his native country.86 A perpetual exile, he was driven by his brilliant mind and restless search for knowledge. He dedicated himself to learning the tongues that opened the way to knowledge, and ended up with a command of Greek, Arabic and Hebrew. He visited the German lands as a member of the court of the Emperor Charles V, and met the principal leaders of the Reformation, among them Melanchthon and Bucer. In 1531 he was studying medicine at the University of Paris, but never obtained any qualifications. That same year, at the age of twenty, he published in Haguenau his work on Errors about the Trinity, in which he argued that the Christian teaching about three persons in one God had no basis in the Bible. The book shocked by its premises and was forbidden even in some cities controlled by the Reformation. Word of his theories got about, and in the course of 1532 the Inquisition in Spain and the French Inquisition in Toulouse made independent moves to bring him to trial. Servet did not ignore the threat, and decided to go into hiding or even emigrate to America. He changed his name to Michel de Villeneuve and began a peregrinating life, moving quietly round France for the next twenty years, always with caution but also burning with the excitement of new ideas. He studied more medicine at Paris, and worked in the south as a printer. Finally in 1553 he published anonymously in Latin at Vienne his principal work, The Restoration of Christianity, a fat volume of over seven hundred pages in octavo.
Scholars today remember the Restoration because it contains, on pages 169–71, the first statement published in Europe modifying older views on the pulmonary circulation of blood. Servet was fascinated by medicine but in fact his real purpose was religious, to put into print the dream of a new, radical Reformation to which the work of Luther and Calvin would be only a prelude. His attention to blood arose from the idea, common enough at the time, that the human soul resides in the blood, which alone gives life. But his concern was over the future of the soul rather than over the movement of blood. His basic idea in the Restoration was that the historic Christ was only a man, not God. God was not three persons, as the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity maintained, but simply one. He quoted from both Islamic and Jewish sources on this point, thereby provoking accusations (certainly unfounded) that he was pro-Jewish or of Jewish origin. Salvation of the soul, he maintained, was to be achieved through Christ, the man. The proposition was not simply heretical; it struck at the root of classical Christianity and was seen by all religious leaders as blasphemous. In reality, Servet rejected every single tenet of classical Christianity, whether taught by Catholics or by Protestants.87 The Spanish inquisitors, when informed of the book’s contents, took the matter as clear evidence that contact of Spaniards with foreigners could be dangerous.
The book also outraged the leader of the Reformation in Geneva, John Calvin. Michel de Villeneuve was suspected of being the author, and thanks to information from one of Calvin’s friends was arrested by the French Inquisition at Vienne. Servet managed to escape from his confinement within a few days, but made the mistake four months later of leaving France and passing through Geneva, where in August 1553 he was recognized when he attended a church service at which Calvin was preaching. He was immediately arrested and put on trial, and as a result of pressure from Calvin was condemned to be executed as a heretic (for denying the doctrine of the Trinity and the divinity of Christ) by burning. The act took place outside the gates of Geneva, in the area called Champel, on 27 October. It was a slow, painful death, for the logs on the stake were damp and took time to fire up. Servet, who had the book on the Restoration strapped to his body, cried out in agony: “Jesus, Son of the Eternal God, have mercy on me!”
The act unleashed a fierce controversy among European intellectuals over whether religious dissent (that is, “heresy”) was an offense that should be punished by the death penalty. A Frenchman, Sebastian Castellio, used the execution as an argument to defend (in 1554) the right of individual dissent. In a subsequent work that was not published until half a century after the burning at Champel, Castellio concluded that “killing a man is not defending a doctrine, it is merely killing a man. When the people of Geneva killed Servetus, they did not defend a doctrine, they killed a man.”88 Servet, as it turned out, was the only Spaniard to be executed outside Spain for heresy.
The failure of the Protestant cause in the Mediterranean inevitably brings us back to the question, already mentioned above, of why no Reformation occurred there. The Inquisition may certainly take some credit, but its measures were of limited scope both in Spain and in Italy. Repression was more efficient, bloody and brutal in other countries, notably the Netherlands, yet persecution there did not check heresy. Indeed, many observers argued both then and later that repression had stimulated it. Philip II was convinced thattimely repression and continual vigilance were the key. “Had there been no Inquisition,” he affirmed in 1569, “there would be many more heretics, and the country would be much afflicted, as are those where there is no Inquisition as in Spain.”89The king may have believed it, but there is little evidence to show he was right.
Nor is it possible to maintain that Spain was sealed off from contact with heresy. The implausible image of an iron curtain of the Holy Office descending on the country and cutting it off from the rest of the world has no relation to reality. Precisely in the 1550s and 1560s, Spaniards were traveling abroad more than ever. More Spaniards than ever before published (as we shall see) their books abroad. Tens of thousands, mainly Castilians, served abroad in the army, where they rubbed shoulders with people of other faiths (the Spanish army in Flanders was not too choosy about the religion of recruits). The frontier in the Pyrenees, Spain’s chief overland link with the world outside, was occasionally watched because of the danger of military intervention by French Protestant nobles and by bandits, but it could never be closed. Throughout the late sixteenth century, Spaniards drifted at will over it. Some went to trade, some to be educated, some because they wished to join the Calvinists in Geneva. At the same time, many foreigners, principally artisans, came to Spain. It was a handful of these who, through carelessness on their part, fell into the hands of the Inquisition.
The open coastline and the great ports were an obvious point of entry for heretical literature. In the same way, the difficulty in controlling the Pyrenees frontier comes through in the anxious correspondence of an ambassador to France in the 1560s, Francés de Álava. In 1564 and 1565 he sent reports to the king of booksellers from Saragossa, Medina del Campo and Alcalá who had come to Lyon and Toulouse to purchase books on law and philosophy for taking home.90 One of the booksellers, he said, had links with Geneva. This importation of foreign books, we may observe, was carried out in open contravention of the laws of Castile. Álava also confirmed that “many books, catechisms and psalters in Basque” had passed through Toulouse to Spain.91 Basque was his own native language, so he knew of what he spoke. Books in Catalan, he reported, had also been taken into Catalonia, and other heretical books had gone to Pamplona.92 In those same weeks the archbishop of Bordeaux forwarded a report on a citizen of Burgos who “had taken four or five loads of heretical books in Spanish and in Latin through the mountains of Jaca.”93 Despite the open frontier, heresy failed to penetrate or at least to achieve any gains. The Reformation remained, for Spaniards, a phenomenon that barely affected them.
Because Spain remained almost impervious to heresy in the sixteenth century, later generations presented it as a unique case of fidelity to the faith. The triumphant words of the nineteenth-century scholar Menéndez y Pelayo are well known to many Spaniards: “One faith, one baptism, one flock, one shepherd, one Church, one crusade, a legion of saints. Spain, which preached the gospel to half the world, Spain the hammer of heretics, the light of Trent, the sword of Rome, the cradle of St Ignatius, that is our greatness and our unity, we have no other.”94 It was a wholly fictitious image, and one that gave comfort to those who believed in it. The problem is that Spain’s indifference to the great tides of European thought is indeed impressive. In Catalonia, the inquisitors were continually suspicious of the religion of the Catalans, but failed all the same to find any heresy in the region. “Their Christianity is such,” an inquisitor reported in 1569, “that it is cause for wonder, living as they do next to and among heretics and dealing with them every day.”95The Reformation in any of its forms failed to appeal to Spaniards until the twentieth century, when the collapse of old dogmas opened the gates to sectarian movements.96
Though the Reformation failed, it left a considerable legacy to the country it had failed to penetrate. Sympathizers of the Reformation looked to the Bible as their main inspiration and in consequence some of the exiles devoted their efforts to translating it. The classic version of the Bible had been in Latin (the so-called Vulgate), of which already in the thirteenth century a king of Castile, Alfonso the Wise, had ordered a Castilian translation to be prepared. In the early days of the Reformation, there was considerable controversy over whether the Bible should be translated at all.97 Translation of small items from the Bible, such as the Psalms, met with few problems.98 But the appearance of various unauthorized versions of the New Testament, which bypassed the Vulgate in order to go back to original Greek texts, which were often given an unorthodox interpretation, put the Inquisition on its guard. In the early sixteenth century it began rounding up copies of the translated Bible that had been imported into Spain. In the Index of Prohibited Books it issued in 1559, all translations of the Bible in Spanish were disallowed.
As a consequence, translations into Spanish could be produced only outside Spain. The best known of them was published in 1553, in Ferrara (Italy), by Jewish refugees from the peninsula who felt the need for a text of the Old Testament for their co-religionists, most of whom did not know Hebrew. It was suitable for use in the synagogue but not calculated to reach the man in the street. Christian Spaniards who based their thinking on direct reading of the Scriptures needed a more accessible text. This was supplied by the exile Casiodoro de Reina.99 Reina, from near Badajoz (Extremadura) and of Morisco origin, was one of the friars who fled from the monastery of San Isidoro in Seville. Like some of the others, he ended up in Geneva, the capital of Calvinism. He eventually moved to England, where he stayed for five years and became pastor of a Spanish church. In London his stay coincided with that of another of the Seville exiles, Cipriano de Valera, a firm Calvinist who made England his home and taught both at Cambridge and Oxford.
During all this time Reina was painstakingly working to realize his great dream, a translation of the whole Bible, on whose preparation he had been consulting with other exile friends. It still staggers the imagination to think of this humble monk from Seville as one of the great humanist scholars of the age of the Reformation, yet that he undoubtedly was. In later years he moved easily through the major languages of Europe, such as French and German; and as translator he was in command of Latin, Greek and Hebrew. The Spanish Protestant Bible in fact had its origins from well before Reina. A part of the New Testament was published in 1543 at Antwerp, by the Spanish exile Francisco Enzinas, who left his native Burgos with his brother Diego at an unknown date and went to northern Europe, first to the Netherlands and then to Germany, because of his sympathy with the ideas of the Reformation. Diego chose to go to Italy, where he was later arrested on a charge of heresy and burnt at the stake in 1547.
Francisco had better fortune. At the instigation of the German reformer Melanchthon, he studied at Luther’s University of Wittenberg and translated the New Testament into Spanish from the Greek edition of Erasmus, managing to get it published at Antwerp in 1543.100 On the title page Enzinas stated clearly that the edition was dedicated to Charles V, and in an interview with the emperor he did manage to obtain his consent for the publication. Shortly after the interview, however, he was detained on suspicion of heresy at the instance of Charles’s confessor Pedro de Soto, and kept under house arrest in Brussels. He escaped after a year, persuaded by now that he must identify himself with the Reformation. He spent two years in England, where he obtained a teaching post at Cambridge during the years of freethinking that marked the reign of the boy-king Edward VI. Enzinas returned to the continent two years later in order to supervise the printing of his works, but died of the plague during a visit to Strasbourg.
Enzinas’s version of the New Testament was in turn used by Juan Pérez de Pineda, another of the Seville monks, as the basis for an edition which he published in Geneva in 1556, an impressive volume of over seven hundred pages, printed in a small format (five by three inches) that could be easily hidden away. The edition formed the bulk of the cargo that a certain Julián Hernández attempted to smuggle into Seville in two huge wine casks the year after. The casks were discovered and confiscated, the smuggler was arrested and later perished in an auto de fe in Seville. Pérez de Pineda later completed his own translation of the New Testament, which he intended to publish in Paris. Unfortunately, agents of Philip II managed to seize and destroy almost all copies of the edition.
When Reina came to prepare his own effort, he was obliged to do much of the New Testament himself. He followed the guidelines of the text by Pérez de Pineda (who died in 1566), modified some of the translation, and added some explanatory notes. His version of the Bible was eventually published in the Swiss city of Basel in September 1569, the first complete translation into contemporary Castilian. It was known as the Bear Bible because of an engraving on the title page of a bear retrieving honey from a tree. Years later it was retouched slightly by Cipriano de Valera, who brought out an edition which he published in Amsterdam in 1602. Known generally today as the Reina-Valera Bible, it has been read and used for centuries by Hispanic Protestants, and remains the standard text of their Bible. It was, for example, the text that the Englishman George Borrow took with him to Spain in 1836, when he set out on a trip to sell the Bible to a population that had never seen it. Reina’s later views became thoroughly Lutheran, and he died as a pastor in the German city of Frankfurt, comforted by his wife and his numerous family.
Reina’s long and eventful life was closely tied to what went on in Spain, and he always had Spain uppermost in his mind. Above all, he seems to have been partly responsible for the first, and most deadly, work of polemic directed against the Spanish Inquisition, the Sanctae Inquisitionis hispanicae artes (Secrets of the Holy Spanish Inquisition), published in Heidelberg in 1567. The pseudonym used by the author was Reginaldus Gonzalvus Montanus, but the work appears to have been written by Reina and another exile, Antonio del Corro.101 Their direct knowledge (there were descriptions of how the monks in San Isidoro secretly read forbidden literature during their hours of prayer) gave authority to the account and turned it into an international success. Between 1568 and 1570 it was issued in two editions in English, one in French, three in Dutch, four in German and one in Hungarian. It served for a long time as a basic element in the development of propaganda directed by Protestant writers against the Spanish government. The mid-sixteenth century, we have seen, was the peak period for persecution of Protestants in Spain, though fortunately very few suffered for their beliefs, thanks to escaping overseas to freedom.
The firmness with which Spain resisted all the dissenting movements that could have threatened it confirmed its reputation as the most inflexibly Catholic country of Europe. But was it truly a Catholic country? Very many clergy doubted it even at the time (seechapter 15 below). And the Inquisition, as the figures attest, played only a small part in repressing or excluding heretics, so that it is unconvincing to give it credit for the failure of the Reformation. As we have seen, the inquisitors themselves could not understand how the frontier regions of Spain, which enjoyed intimate daily contact with Calvinist areas of France, did not fall into heresy. The inability of limpid northern theology to enter on any appreciable scale into the mindset of the Mediterranean peoples may have played a greater role in the story than we realize. Their way of thinking, rather than their religious fervor, was what protected Spaniards.
Whatever services the Holy Office may have rendered to keeping heresy at bay, in the end it was not Protestant but Catholic Spaniards who undermined the established religion. In the nineteenth century, for the first time, the Spanish people began to express their detestation of the official Church. This opened the doors wide to an unprecedented spectacle, a huge upsurge of opinion against the established faith that for the first time in its history created a massive emigration of clergy from the peninsula, and in certain parts of Spain brought the practice of the Catholic religion to a halt.102 The early twentieth century underscored this trend in fire and blood, on a scale that surpassed any savagery committed in the epoch of the Inquisition.