Chapter One
Lutheran Propaganda

     OCTOBER 31, 1517: on that, day Martin Luther, Augustinian friar and heretofore seemingly a loyal son of the Church, posted 95 Theses on the church door at Wittenberg. Only a prophet - and there didn't seem to be any of those around - could have known what it would all lead to one day. But it didn't take much foresight to see that there was bound to be some trouble immediately. Cardinal Prierias, confessor to Pope Leo X, and a party regular, publicly cried heresy in his A Dialogue against the Presumptuous Conclusions of Martin Luther (1518). Luther replied, of course - he was not one to keep silent in the face of criticism - and the great war of words was on.

     Luther's partisans spread the word in print. John Froben of Basle published a modest collection of Luther's writings in 1519, for circulation abroad. The following year, as the volume of Luther's work increased, they began to appear in translation (including Spanish) for the edification of the laity who could read. Spain was hardly a fertile ground for the growth of heresy. Her traditions were decidedly wrapped up in the Catholic faith and she was efficiently organized, with her Inquisition, to cope with heretics on a grand scale. Although there was some momentary confusion as to who Luther was and what he represented, it was clear enough by 1521 that he was a revolutionary. April 7 of that year saw the first of a long procession of edicts designed to protect faithful Spaniards from the contagion of heresiarchs. Inquisitor General Adrian, after unnecessary urging from the pope, issued the first directive in Spain against the writings of Martin Luther. The language is familiar enough, but the document tells us that some of this stuff was getting through:



We have been informed that some persons, with evil intent and in order to sow cockles in the Church of God and to rend the seamless tunic of Christ our Redeemer, have extended their efforts to bring into Spain the works recently written by Martin Luther, of the order of Saint Augustine, which works are said to be printed [in Spanish] for publication and sale in this kingdom. It is eminently proper for the honor and service of God and the exalting of our holy Catholic faith that such works not be published or sold, nor appear anywhere in this kingdom, because they contain heretical errors and many other suspect things about the faith. We therefore direct you to order, under pain of grave censures, as well as civil and criminal punishment, that nobody dare to own, sell, or permit to be sold, in public or in private, any such books or any parts of them, and that within three days of the publication of your order ... such books, in both Latin and Spanish, be brought and presented before you. When this is done you will then burn them all in public, directing the notary of your Holy Office to record the names of all persons who possess, sell, publish and bring before you such books, and the records of their burning, including the number of books burned.(1)

     But what did Spain's young king, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, think about all this? A Fleming by birth and tradition, he had not been exposed to Spanish traditions long enough to immobilize a certain inclination to political flexibility. In fact, his ambassador to Rome had suggested that Charles might find in Luther a useful diplomatic tool for encouraging political virtue on the part of the pope - at least, so far as imperial ambition was concerned. For indeed, wrote ambassador Juan Manuel (1520), this friar Martin Luther "has placed the pope in great distress, squeezing him more than the pope would like." (2)

1. A(rchivo) H(istorico) N(acional), Inquisicion, Libro 317, fols. 182r-v. The letter quoted here is the one sent to the Inquisition of Aragon.
2. Quoted in Marcelino Menendez y Pelayo, Historia de los heterodoxos espanoles, Santander, 1947, vol. 3, p. 392.


     But Charles was getting impressive advice from Spain. His old friend and advisor, Adrian of Utrecht, now inquisitor general and regent in Spain, wrote Charles a persuasive diagnosis of Spain's spiritual health, which urgently required that the "obstinate heresies" of Luther be put down, along with the enemies of Jesus Christ who were following "that wicked and pestilential man" - that is, Luther, of course. A second letter, from a committee of grandees of the realm, announced that "that seducer, not content with having perverted and deceived Germany, is endeavoring with his malignant and diabolical cunning to pervert and contaminate" all of Spain by smuggling into that country Spanish editions of his heresies and blasphemies. This was indeed serious: "From a little spark ... may spring and burst forth a great fire." Charles must act immediately in order that "those damnable and perverse subtleties may cease and be extirpated, so that not only this detestable and corrupt pestilence shall not enter into these your kingdoms and seignories of Spain, but that by the hand of your Majesty it may be extirpated and destroyed throughout all the world."(3)

     It turned out that Charles did not need any urging. In his capacity as Holy Roman Emperor he had just seen and heard Martin Luther (at the city of Worms, April 18, 1521) defy both Church and Emperor by refusing to recant his "heresies" until he could be shown that they were in fact heresies. Luther was put under the ban of the Empire, and all Germans were directed to seize his person and destroy his works wherever found. In Spain, where this might be easier to do than in Germany, the good work had already begun. In defense of the homeland the Council of Castile, in the name of Charles V, published (April 13) an order that "no person sell nor have nor read nor preach about the books of this heretic nor speak of his errors and heresies either in public or in secret."(4) Meanwhile, in obedience to Inquisitor General Adrian's directive of April 7, Lutheran books were being ferreted out, and public burnings of such literature, supervised

3. These two letters appear in Manuel Danvila, "Historia critica y documentada de las comunidades de Castilla," in Memorial historico espanol, vol. 37 (1898), pp. 580-583.
4. Marcel Bataillon, Erasmo y Espana, Mexico, 1950, vol. 1, p. 128.


by the various Inquisition tribunals, soon became commonplace.(5)

     It were better, where possible, to destroy such literature in its northern breeding grounds. The papal nuncio, Jerome Aleander, discovered in July (1521) that Spanish editions of Luther's writings were being printed in Antwerp. He rounded up all he could find and consigned them to the flames of a great public bonfire.(6) He obviously did not get them all. In 1523 a Spanish ship back from Flanders arrived in the northern home port of San Sebastian. Examination of her cargo - now a scrupulous exercise - turned up some Lutheran books in both Latin and Spanish. They were immediately confiscated and taken to the public square where they were burned, but not before some of them had been spirited away by persons unknown.(7) Soon after, the inquisitors of Navarre received a letter from the Suprema (Consejo de la general y suprema inquisicion), expressing grave concern over these events "of such great scandal and disservice to God."

     The local inquisitors were directed to do everything possible to locate the remaining books immediately and to send to the Suprema a complete inventory of both the books and the names of all persons who had anything at all to do with them - an ominous portent for the overly curious. It may seem strange, in a tolerant age like ours, that a few Lutheran books gone astray could cause such excitement, yet the Suprema was much agitated by the whole affair. On the same day, a second letter was sent to the Navarre inquisitors. It told of the distribution of these Lutheran books by certain bachilleres and clerics and directed the inquisitors to publish an edict ordering, "under pain of excommunication and other heavy censures and civil and criminal punishments," that "any

5. AHN, Inquisicion, Libro 319, fol. 13v.
6. Bataillon, vol. 1, p. 132. Cf. Henry C. Lea, A History of the Inquisition of Spain, New York, 1922, vol. 3, p. 413.
7. Letter of Martin de Salinas to Archduke Ferdinand, dated Burgos, June 25, 1524, in Antonio Rodriguez Villa, "El emperador Carlos V y su corte (1522-1539) segun las cartas de don Martin de Salinas," in Boletin de la real academia espanola, vol. 43 (1903), p. 175. Salinas expresses the hope that these events have not sown the "bad seed of Lutheranism" in Guipuzcoa.


doctor, licentiate, bachiller, cleric or other person, of whatsoever estate, grade or condition he be," who had in his possession any such books - in either Latin or Spanish - turn them in within fifteen days, under penalty of the most severe measures.(8)

     The hunt did not end there; in matters of heresy the Spanish Inquisition was noted for both its tenacity and endurance. Six months later the Suprema sent a strongly worded note to its agents in Navarre. "We are now informed," they wrote, "that in that province of Guipuzcoa there are some of the said books [in circulation], from which it appears that you did not take the proper action to carry out our directive [of May 7] or to do what we charged you to do. We are very surprised at this, and at not having received word from you as to what you have done in this matter." Specific instructions came in a letter the following day. Inquisitor Ayala was to leave immediately for the province of Guipuzcoa. He was to travel by way of Santander, thence to Segura, preaching sermons against the possession of Lutheran books and admonishing his hearers to tell him what they knew. From there he was to go to Tolosa, thence to San Sebastian, where he should spend several days, as it was in San Sebastian that the Lutheran books had been seized. The remainder of his itinerary was made up of visits to a number of small towns along the seacoast of Guipuzcoa where, in addition to publishing edicts against Lutheran books, Inquisitor Ayala was also to investigate reports of witchcraft activities (which seemed always to be going on). In order to assure Ayala of freedom from interference by local authorities sensitive about matters of jurisdiction, the Suprema wrote the corregidor of Guipuzcoa to urge his complete cooperation in the investigations.(9)

     While the Inquisition was pursuing Lutheran books in Guipuzcoa, more were being brought in at other places. Early in 1525 three Venetian galleys arrived in a southern port of Granada with a large cargo of Lutheran literature. Its presence was somehow discovered and the local authorities seized the entire cargo, along with the ship's

8. AHN, Inquisicion, Libro 319, fol. 13v and fol. 14r-v. The letters are dated Valladolid, May 7, 1523.
9. Ibid., fols. 42r-v, 43r-v, 43v-44r.


captain and crew, which led to some lively diplomatic exchanges between Charles V and the Venetian ambassador.(10)

     Printing presses in Flanders continued to grind out Lutheran tracts for the clandestine Spanish market. Luther's Bondage of the Will was translated into Spanish (probably) at Antwerp in 1525. Spanish merchants with business in Flanders were reportedly buying Spanish editions of books by Luther and the Swiss reformer, Oecolampadius, and shipping them home despite the increasingly rigorous watchfulness of the Inquisition.(11) This prompted Adrian's successor, Inquisitor General Alonso Manrique, to issue yet another edict (April 15, 1525) in which he complained that "some persons, showing little fear of God [and of the Inquisition] ... have brought into Spain and have in their possession many books of the accursed heresiarch Luther and his followers." All persons were ordered to bring to the Inquisition "whatsoever books and writings of any and all works written by the said perverse heretic and his followers," and to denounce any persons whom they knew or suspected of having such accursed books of that perverse heretic.(12)

     Still, the forbidden literature kept coming in - or at least the authorities were convinced that it was. We don't have records of all the edicts and circulars issued by the Spanish Inquisition, which may be a small blessing for both scholar and reader, but those I have found for this period are sufficient to make the point that either a great quantity of heretical material was crossing the Spanish border, or the Inquisition was frightened into believing that the Lutherans never slept.

10. Letter of Martin de Salinas to Archduke Ferdinand, dated Madrid, Feb. 8, 1525, in Rodriguez Villa (note 7 above), p. 239. Salinas says there were enough Lutheran books to supply one to everybody in Granada, "where only a small spark is needed to light a great fire."
11. AHN, Inquisicion de Toledo, Proceso contra Juan de Vergara, Legajo 223, no. 42, fols. 15r-v; AHN, Inquisicion de Toledo, Proceso contra Luis de Beteta, Legajo 102, no. 3, fol. 26r.
12. The edict is reproduced in the trial of Juan de Vergara (note 11 above).


     These heretics were also tricky. On June 13, 1530, the Suprema sent a warning to the various Inquisition tribunals, advising them that "there is reason to suspect that [the writings of such heretics] are being brought to Spain and sold as approved and proper works." All tribunals were therefore directed to obtain from booksellers a list of all books in their shops on law, arts and theology, so that the books by authors whose names were unfamiliar might be examined for theological error. The Suprema also noted that the enemy had adopted even more satanic tactics, by adding Lutheran glosses to books written by perfectly respectable and orthodox authors - "bad additions by bad authors" - and directed all inquisitors to have all new books examined, regardless of authorship.

     This latter practice apparently continued, with refinements. Two months later the Suprema sent another circular letter to the local tribunals:

A few days ago we were informed that Martin Luther and others among the followers and adherents of his false opinions, and inventors of other new errors, realizing that they are unable to spread their books and poisonous doctrine in these lands as freely as they would like ... have introduced many of their harmful opinions under the names of Catholic authors, giving false titles to their books, and in other instances including [Lutheran] glosses and additions of false expositions and errors to well-known books of approved and good doctrine.

     All bookstores were to be diligently searched, and because such books might already be in the hands of private parties, the inquisitors were to include in future edicts against Lutheran books a provision requiring the faithful to come forward and inform them of any Lutheran literature in such Catholic disguise.(13) This directive was followed four days later by a general edict ordering under pain of excommunication and other censures and punishments, that all persons having any books, pamphlets, or treatises

13. AHN, Inquisicion, Libro 320, fols. 321v-322r and 343r-v.


of the accursed heresiarch Martin Luther or of his adherents and followers, bring and present them to the said Council within a certain period of time, and that if they have any information regarding persons who have such books, they should come forth and so state to the said Council.(14)

     Such edicts apparently brought some results. That same year (1530), to add a certain pious zest to the celebration of the day of the Trinity, a great public burning of Lutheran books was staged in Toledo, all spectators being warned that any pieces of the burned books which flew about in the air should not be touched under pain of excommunication. As part of the ceremony letters of excommunication were read instructing all persons who knew of Lutheran writings, either printed or in manuscript, so to declare, since such literature was known to be in circulation. A similar public burning in Salamanca at about the same time did not stop the illicit trade in forbidden literature; Lutheran works could still be bought from a book peddler in the streets.(15) The next year brought sterner measures. On April 27 (1531) inquisitors throughout Spain were directed to send "to all the cities, towns and principal villages of your district letters of excommunication against all persons who have any books, works, tracts or letters" of Luther and his followers. These letters of excommunication were to be read and published in all the churches. All preachers were to emphasize in their sermons that any persons who possessed such works, or who failed to inform on others who possessed them, were automatically excommunicated. Likewise, all confessors were to say the same to all persons whom they confessed.(16)

     This kind of pressure, and the climate created by it, make perfectly understandable a little drama which took place the same month in the small town of Consuegra. The scene was the local barber shop of

14. Proceso contra Juan de Vergara, fol. 1v. Statement by Lope Diaz, secretary of the Suprema, Nov. 12, 1530.
15. AHN, Inquisicion de Toledo, Proceso contra fray Bernardo, Legajo 190, no. 4. Testimony of Friar Bernardo on May 13, 1531.
16. AHN, Inquisicion, Libro 320, fols. 401v-402r.


Juan Barbero ("John the Barber"); the time, April 24, 1531; the principals, a French Augustinian named Bernardo Costa and some of the local aborigines passing the time of day discoursing on matters philosophical at the barber shop. Bernardo Costa, who was in Spain to visit the shrines of Santiago de Compostela and Guadalupe, came into the barber shop for a shave. While he was in the chair, a conversation started about the campaigns of Emperor Charles V against the Turks and the Lutherans. Friar Bernardo offered the opinion that nobody was going to conquer Martin Luther because Luther had an army which was greater than the armies of the Emperor and the King of France combined, and Luther's armies had already killed more than twenty thousand clerics.

     One of the local sages then observed that since Luther was neither a Moor nor a Jew nor a Christian he must be some kind of devil. Friar Bernardo replied with a brief exposition of Lutheran doctrine: all Luther taught was that one needed to believe in one God only; there were no saints or apostles in Heaven; there was no need to say mass; clerics had no power to absolve sins; there was no need for monasteries or convents, and it was all right for clerics to marry. He knew all this, he said, because he had a book of Luther's writings which he had bought in Salamanca, and this book had many good things in it.

     The following day three of the friar's hearers, including John the Barber, denounced him to the alcalde of Consuegra. The latter immediately sent a report of the matter to the Inquisition of Toledo, expressing the customary horror that this "disease" might infect the whole community. On orders from Toledo the local authorities at Consuegra seized friar Bernardo (May 11). A search of his room and questioning of his landlord failed to turn up the Lutheran book, and friar Bernardo was sent on to Toledo.

     Before the inquisitors at Toledo friar Bernardo admitted to the conversation reported in the barber shop. However, he insisted that the things he said about Luther were not said in approval of his evil doctrines; rather they were replies of an informational nature to questions asked him by his audience. As for his knowledge of Lutheran doctrine, he acquired this from a book by Luther which he had bought in Salamanca. But, he hastened to add, he had read only one page of this book because he could see immediately that the things in


it were wicked and contrary to the True Faith, When he mentioned the book in Consuegra, his listeners told him about the edicts which had been issued against the possession of Lutheran literature. So he immediately returned to his lodgings and burned the book in the fireplace. Unfortunately, the only witness who could testify that he had done so was a traveling man temporarily stopping at the same inn; he had since departed, and Friar Bernardo did not know where he was and could not remember his name.

     The inquisitors had their doubts about this tale. They were particularly skeptical that a man would pay good money for a book and then burn it after reading only one page. But Friar Bernardo stuck to his account, insisting that he did not even know the title, that he had stopped reading it after he saw the bad things on the first page, and that he had only bought it in the first place to reinforce his unshaken conviction that Luther's doctrines were as bad as he knew them to be. Nor could he remember the name, appearance, origin, or destination of the person from whom he had bought the book.

     Sentence was passed on friar Bernardo on May 16. "Because he is a stranger from another land, and is a priest, and came here on a religious pilgrimage," he was let off with a light punishment. He was required to pray the seven penitential psalms seven times, and to say a mass in honor of the Blessed Virgin, begging Her to "protect him against such errors" as those into which he had fallen (or almost fallen).(17)

     And so the war against Lutheran propaganda went on. In 1535 the Suprema directed the inquisitors of Valencia to commission a competent theologian to examine the local bookstores for Lutheran books.(18) The inquisitors of Aragon reported in 1539 that they were continuing their investigations to prevent the sale of Lutheran books in their district.(19) The authorities at Barcelona were warned by the Suprema to exercise special caution against the introduction of Lutheran errors from England, which had only recently joined the

17. Proceso contra fray Bernardo, (note 15 above).
18. AHN, Inquisicion, Libro 321, fols. 355r-v. The letter is dated Dec. 9, 1535.
19. AHN, Inquisicion, Libro 322, fol. 240r.


ranks of the Protestant revolutionaries. (20) In September of the following year (1540) the same Barcelona inquisitors received the sternest of communications from the Suprema regarding Lutheran books. "Every day," the Suprema warned, "condemned books come into this kingdom, the merchants and booksellers showing no fear of the censures and prohibitions of the Holy Office." To put a stop once and for all to this traffic, the new Inquisitor General, Juan Pardo de Tavera, had drawn up a special Instruction for the inquisitors of Barcelona, which was to be followed to the letter, "because we have news that in Germany and other places great efforts are being made to bring heretical books into Spain in order to sow their errors in this land."

     The Instruction was a drastic document. All bookstores in Barcelona were to be closed while inventory was taken of their complete stock. All bookdealers were to be questioned to find out whether they then had or had sold any books which appeared on a special list of reprobated works enclosed with the Instruction. (21) All books recently imported from Germany and England were to be examined. Any bookdealer who had sold books in violation of earlier edicts, or who should do so in the future, was to be arrested, his property confiscated, and he was to be submitted to trial as a faut-or of heresy. All books delivered to a printer for printing should first be brought to the inquisitors for examination. No bookdealer could sell any new books without prior approval by the inquisitors. In addition, the inquisitors were to examine the libraries of the cathedral churches,

20. Ibid., fols. 243r-v.
21. This list unfortunately does not appear with the original document preserved in Madrid.


the monasteries, and the universities, and remove all suspicious books found there.(22)

     The fears of the Inquisition were reinforced by the conviction that some of the faithful in Spain had been turned from the path of orthodoxy by Lutheran opinions. If the evidence was slim, it proved only that the Enemy was deceptive and hard to find. Some of his propaganda had been intercepted, however, and where there was propaganda so too must there be foreign agents in the country. That was the natural order of things.

22. AHN, Inquisicion, Libro 322, fols. 291v-292v. The fears of the Suprema were probably justified. An inventory of a bookdealer (Michaelis Cabrit) in Barcelona in 1538 contains the following entry: Institutiones grece literatura dragmata Ioannis Colampadi. See Miguel Gonzalez y Sugranes, Contribucio a la historia dels antichs gremis dels arts y oficio de la ciutat de Barcelona, Barcelona, 1918, vol. 2, p. 93. We have other examples of the introduction of Oecolampadius into Spain. His commentary on Isaiah was in Alcala before 1530, and his translations of some of the early Church fathers from Greek to Latin were being brought into Barcelona by 1540. Proceso contra Juan de Vergara, fols. 15r-v; also AHN, Inquisicion, Libro 322, fol. 292v.