Chapter Two

     The "history" of Lutheranism in Spain during the three decades following 1517 is really impossible to write. We have not the abundance of source material that exists for the second half of that century, which is where histories of Spanish Lutheranism usually begin. The best I have been able to find - always excepting the matter of Illuminism and Erasmism, which will be taken up later - are tantalizing fragments in Inquisition correspondence and now and then a rare extant trial. So the best I can do is summarize the material which still remains in the archives, with the suggestion that the reader may safely assume that it represents only a small part of the record of these confused and frightened years.

     (1523): A witness before the Inquisition of Toledo testified that one Gonzalo Mejia claimed he had been well informed about the teachings of Martin Luther by a friar companion of Luther's.(1)

     (1523): A vague suggestion of a case of Lutheranism appears in a letter from the Suprema to the Inquisition of Barcelona, dated May 16.(2) In this letter the Suprema makes a passing reference to the trials of "Nicolas Roig and Leonardo Aleman" (Leonard the German? ), which had already been voted upon by the Suprema. One can only guess that a German named Leonard had been tried for Lutheranism, along with a compatriot, Nicolas Roig (phonetic). We might

1. AHN, Inquisicion de Toledo, Legajo 221, no. 19, Proceso contra Gonzalo Mejia, fol. 17r. The circumstances of this testimony strongly indicate that Mejia had his conversations with an Augustinian from Germany who was traveling in Spain perhaps as early as 1521.
2. AHN, Inquisicion, Libro 319, fol. 15v.



expect Lutherans to appear this early in a port town like Barcelona through which, as we have already seen, Lutheran literature filtered into Spain. (1524): Henry C. Lea tells us(3) that the earliest case he found (of the Lutheran missionary type) occurred in 1524 when a German named Blay Esteve was condemned for Lutheranism by the Inquisition of Valencia. We hear of another case, of a French Franciscan converted to Lutheranism, who was doing some active proselyting in Spain with some modest success, if we can believe Hugo de Celso,(4) who claimed to have been converted by him:

In 1524 between Saragossa and a town called Agualada, which is nine leagues from Barcelona, he [Celso] met up with a friar of the order of Saint Francis, who said that he was an Observantine named friar Popa, a native of France and a doctor of theology .... This friar said that he had been in the city of Ulm in Germany with many other doctors who were called against Luther and that this Luther, guided by His Majesty [Charles V], according to friar Popa, had appeared in the said city of Ulm and offered to maintain his conclusions either in public or in secret as His Majesty wished, and to sustain them. It seemed to His Majesty that this affair should not be held in public but in secret and in the presence of theologians whom His Majesty had summoned from Italy, Spain, Germany and France for such a purpose. And friar Popa said that for many days many and diverse doctors disputed against the said Luther, and that none was able to convince the said Luther that he had erred. Rather the doctors who called the said Luther a heretic had all they could do to defend themselves lest they appear to be the heretics. As a result of this the said friar Popa told this witness that Luther had converted him to his sect, and that friar Popa had

3. Henry C. Lea, A History of the Inquisition of Spain, New York, 1922, vol. 3, p. 421.
4. AHN, Inquisicion de Toledo, Legajo 110, no. 22, Proceso contra Hugo de Celso. The excerpt quoted here is from Celso's testimony in Toledo on January 12, 1534.


come to these parts of Spain to talk with and to take with him to Luther a certain Franciscan friar Alonso, who was a native of Spain and who was a leading person in the order. Also this witness said that friar Popa ... told him many things about Luther and his propositions, greatly praising the said Luther and his doctrine, and saying that in the whole world there was not such a great man of learning as Luther ... and that Luther knew the New and Old Testaments as perfectly as friar Popa knew the Pater Noster. Friar Popa told this witness that he was returning to the said Luther, and he tried hard to persuade this witness to go with him to Luther, offering to this witness, in Luther's name, a promise that the duke of Saxony would do many good things for him.

     As a matter of fact, Celso said, he was so impressed by what friar Popa said that he probably would have gone with him to Germany had he not been occupied in important business at that particular moment. Even so, Celso admitted, friar Popa's Lutheran propaganda had its effect, because, as a result of this conversation, Celso broke his clerical vows and not only took a wife but also gave up many other religious obligations of his profession.

     Hugo de Celso, I suspect, was a confidence man by nature, and it is hard to know just what to believe. His remark about the reason for his marriage is an obvious lie, for example. He had already married before his alleged conversation with this real or imagined friar Popa, and his trial indicates that he had a natural inclination toward polygamy, so it is hardly likely that he needed any sanction from Luther. Besides, his trial before the Toledo Inquisition was only superficially a matter of Lutheranism. Although a priest and a Franciscan friar, he had a propensity for multiple marriages: he first married in Basel, then again in Barcelona, and a third time in Toledo. It was there that he was seized by the .Inquisition and charged with being both a Lutheran because he was a married friar, and a Moslem because he had more than one wife. Celso readily admitted his offenses and begged forgiveness, pleading that he had been misled by Lutheran teachings. He was found guilty (1535) of Lutheranism and apostasy. He was divested of his ecclesiastical office; his property was confis-


cated; he was required to make a major abjuration (de vehementi), and was sentenced to perpetual imprisonment. But even in jail he managed to get himself into trouble: he was denounced by a fellow prisoner for not reciting his canonical hours, expressing doubts about the authenticity of the fake Donation of Constantine, boasting about his prowess with nuns and lay ladies, and saying unkind things about the Inquisition. By June of 1539 he had managed to escape from jail(5) and flee to Toulouse in France. But he was eventually tracked down and dragged back to Toledo, where he was burned at the stake in 1551, which must have seemed like the only thing to do.

     (1527): The northern ports were particularly vulnerable to infiltration by Lutheran propagandists. On June 16 Inquisitor General Manrique wrote to the provisor of Lugo. He had been informed, he said, of recent arrivals in Lugo of persons "who hold to the reprobated opinions of Luther" and who "mock those who come on the pilgrimage to Santiago [de Compostela] saying that they come there more for the purpose of eating and drinking than for devotion." The provisor of Lugo was therefore to confer with the heads of the Dominican and Franciscan monasteries of Lugo, to whom Manrique also wrote on the same day. These three were to investigate and to seize and hold the culprits pending further instructions. Were any of them persons of high estate, or prelates, the whole affair should be kept quiet and Manrique should be immediately advised so that he could consult with Emperor Charles V regarding appropriate measures to be taken in such a delicate situation. Furthermore, the three local investigators, under cover of the greatest secrecy, were to find out whether any of Luther's writings were being brought into the port at Lugo, or whether there was any Lutheran literature in the general vicinity.(6)

     (1529): In April of this year the citizens of Valencia were treated to a spectacular visitation by an itinerant preacher identified only as "Melchior of Wurttemberg," and who must have been the celebrated

5. AHN, Inquisicion, Libro 322, fol. 240v. This is a letter from the Suprema to the fiscal of the Inquisition of Aragon, regarding the flight of Hugo de Celso, (the letter) dated Toledo, June 16, 1539. 6. Libro 319 (note 2), fols. 396v-397r.


Anabaptist Melchior Hoffman who later raised all kinds of hell in Strasbourg.(7) On this occasion Melchior suddenly appeared in the streets of Valencia claiming that he was divinely inspired, that he had the power to perform miracles, that he had searched over the world seeking a true follower of Christ and had found none, and that the world would come to an end in 1533, when the whole planet would be drowned in blood. One Sunday he began to harangue some people outside the church of Saint Catherine in Valencia, warning them of the dire need to ready themselves for the horrendous events to come. When he sought to enter the church to bring his message to those inside, he had to be restrained by the porters. Melchior was denounced (April 22 and 24) to the inquisitors of Valencia and was seized soon after. Under torture he confessed that

7. AHN, Inquisicion de Valencia, Legajo 531, no. 33. There are good reasons for thinking that this was Melchior Hoffmann. The major difficulties in the way of such a hypothesis are: (1) the problem of language, since Hoffmann very likely knew no Spanish, and (2) the problem of timing. Melchior Hoffman was apparently banished from Denmark after a debate with the Lutheran John Bugenhagen on April 8, 1529. Our "Melchior of Wurttemberg" was denounced to the Inquisition of Valencia just fourteen days later. This would mean that Hoffman traveled from Denmark to Valencia in less than two weeks, which is conceivable, but not probable. On the other hand, we know that Melchior Hoffman was from Wurttemberg. We know also that he preached in precisely the same vein as did the Melchior seized in Valencia. We know also that no later than early 1528, Melchior Hoffman visited Luther at Wittenberg and that their interview was a decidedly unfriendly one. (See Luther's letter to Justus Jonas, March 14, 1528, in Preserved Smith, ed., Luther's Correspondence and other Contemporary Letters, Philadelphia, 1913, vol. 2, pp. 433-434.) So too, our Melchior in Valencia had visited Martin Luther at Wittenberg, and had come away displeased. The circumstantial evidence weighs heavily in favor of the thesis that "Melchior of Wurttemberg" is really Melchior Hoffman. Otherwise we must be prepared to accept a series of truly remarkable coincidences to account for all this.


he had visited Luther in Wittenberg. The Valencia inquisitors were apparently perplexed by this case, and requested advice from the Suprema, which sent the following recommendation (September 18):

Our vote and opinion is that the said Melchior be questioned as to how long ago it was that he went to see and speak with Luther, and whether he knew at that time that the said Luther had been pronounced a heretic. [He should also be asked ] whether he had any doubts regarding any articles of our holy faith, since he says in his confession that he went [to Wittenberg] to find out whether Luther's was a true or a false sect, and later under torture he said that Luther was light minded and had no constancy of faith. If it should appear from his reply that he had any doubts about the faith, or that he lent any credulity to the heresies and errors of Luther, see that justice is done [i.e., burn him]. If nothing further should result from these inquiries, beyond what has already been ascertained in his trial, one may conclude that the things of which he stands accused are the empty ravings of a madman, and that one need not pay as much attention to them as one would if they had been uttered by a person of sense and repute.

     However, the members of the Suprema did not feel that the prisoner's sins should go unpunished. (It was seldom, in fact, that anyone ever got off without some kind of punishment, as a matter of some kind of principle.) They recommended, therefore, that he be given one hundred lashes and be banished from Spain. The Valencia inquisitors, in accordance with their instructions, questioned Melchior further. He swore that he had no confidence or faith in anything connected with Martin Luther. Thus reassured that whatever Melchior was, he was not a Lutheran, the inquisitors voted to carry out the sentence recommended by their superiors, and very soon after that, Melchior of Wurttemberg disappeared from Spain as suddenly as he had come.

     (1529-30): The trial of a young Flemish painter named Cornelius is a rare instance of a clear-cut case of Lutheranism in this period. Cornelius, who came from Ghent, was employed as a portraitist in


the household of a painter named Gaspar Godos in Valencia. He was only a youngster (a "mancebo") and apparently not old enough to keep quiet, particularly when he had been guzzling wine. Luther, he would tell the other members of the Godos household, was a better man than they were, and knew what he was talking about: there was no purgatory; masses for the dead were a joke; there was no need for confession; the pope was a thief; Luther had shown up the cardinals and all the other so-called learned men when he debated with them, and so on. Godos and several others of Cornelius' fellow employees denounced their young colleague to the Inquisition in December, and after a fairly quick trial Cornelius was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment in May of 1530.(8)

     (1535): A venetian named Juan Baptista was reconciled by the Inquisition of Mallorca (and that is all we know about him).(9)

     (1536): On January 9 the Suprema wrote to the inquisitors of Valencia about another case being tried by that tribunal. The suspect, Miguel Costa, could have been either a native Spaniard or a foreigner. In any event his case seems to have caused a surprising compassion among the members of the Suprema:

     We have seen the articles of Miguel Costa, Lutheran, and it appears that you should charge some good theologians to study carefully the said articles and to converse with the said Miguel Costa and seek to reason with him and turn him to the truth so that his soul may not be lost. When you learn the results of such conversation, and in the light of his trial record, carry out justice in conformity with law and the instructions of the Holy Office.

8. A note at the end of the trial of Cornelius states that his sentence is included in the trial of one Jacob Torres, who was presumably tried for Lutheranism in the same period.
9. The brief reference to the Baptista case appears in the papers of Henry C. Lea at the University of Pennsylvania (Box 20). In 1540 a German surgeon identified only as "Maestro Juan" was required to abjure de vehementi by the Inquisition of Logrono (Ernst Schafer, Beitrage zur Geschichte des Spanischen Protestantismus im Sechzehnten Jahrhundert, Gutersloh, 1902, vol. 1, p. 6.


Also try to find out whether he has communicated his errors with other persons, and who taught them to him, and whether he has any books of Luther or his adherents, or of Erasmus.(10)

     Another letter from the Suprema to the Valencia tribunal in August of the same year speaks of the trial of "el luterano sostinado," which was being conducted by that tribunal, and expresses the Suprema's approval that the culprit's errors were not announced in public.(11)

     (1539-40): In 1536 Henry VIII of England dissolved the ties of the English church with Rome and established his own special kind of Protestantism for something less than idealistic reasons. The Spanish Inquisition naturally began taking steps to meet this new threat to orthodoxy at home - so far as Spain was concerned, this was just another of the many odious forms of "Lutheranism." The first case we know about (and we know very little) was the imprisonment in 1538 or 1539 at Valladolid of an "English Lutheran." Uncertain what to do with him, the inquisitors sought advice from the Suprema which in turn referred the matter to Emperor Charles V. Mindful of the political implications involved Charles directed that the prisoner be detained at Valladolid until a decision could be made regarding the disposition of his case.(12) Soon after this the Suprema wrote to the tribunal at Barcelona, and certainly to other tribunals too, to remind the officials there of the need to be particularly sensitive to the special problems created by the introduction of Lutheranism in England.(13)

     The first really meaty account of English "Lutheran" activities came to the Inquisition from the tribunal at Navarre. Some English

10. Libro 322 (note 5), fol. 1r.
11. Ibid., fol. 54r. The letter is dated August 12, 1536. "Sostinado" may be a proper name; it could be a misspelling - or my own misreading - of "sostenido," meaning "sustained." The context would accommodate either interpretation.
12. AHN, Inquisicion, Libro 785, fol. 12v. We don't know what the decision was.
13. Libro 322 (note 5), fols. 243r-v. (Letter of June, 1539)


sailors and merchants in the northern Vizcayan ports were said to be talking freely about the virtues of their king, country, and their new religion. Inquisitor Valdeolivas of Navarre was ordered to the scene and began a series of investigations.

     In the lengthy correspondence which followed(14) we hear of six Englishmen who were processed by the Inquisition for Lutheranism in 1539. Two of them were young men ("muchachos") seized in San Sebastian. Although we do not know the specific charges laid against them, their crimes were not considered to be serious, and they were required merely to appear as penitents in the local church and to pay small fines. A third case, also in San Sebastian, was that of an English boy of 16 or 17, who was accused of "talking about religious practices in England." Under questioning he readily confessed his errors and begged forgiveness. Inquisitor Valdeolivas, who thought he was more of a "simpleton" than a heretic, sentenced him to a public abjuration and forbade him to leave San Sebastian for one year.

     The remaining three cases were more serious. Juan "Tac," a sailor of Flemish origin and English citizenship, confessed to a lengthy list of heresies: there was no Purgatory, the Pater Noster in Latin was worthless, the clergy were useless, prayer to the saints was ridiculous, images and the mass were meaningless, papal bulls could not absolve sin, English "law" was better than Spanish "law," and the Whore of Babylon described in Revelations was really the Roman Church.

     Juan Tac humbly confessed his errors and asked to be reconciled to Catholicism. His request for reconciliation was granted, but he was also sentenced to life imprisonment. He immediately tried to escape, and when apprehended, roundly abused the Inquisition for not having set him free. Obviously mad as hell he revoked his confession,

14. The material for these English cases appears in a series of letters exchanged between the Suprema and Inquisitor Valdeolivas of Navarre. AHN, Inquisicion, Libro 322, fols. 240v-241r, 243r-v, 246v, 250v, 256r; Libro 785, fols. 1r-v, 3r, 4r, 6r, 7r, 8r-10v, 12r-v, 14v, 25v, 29r, 35v, 36v, 39v-40r, 44r-v. The pertinent parts of the original documents are appended to my article, "Luther in Spain: 1520-1540," in Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 103(1959), pp. 66-93.


which meant according to Inquisition rules that he had relapsed into heresy, one of the greatest crimes of all. Inquisitor Valdeolivas tried very hard, he said, to persuade Tac to return to the faith; but the prisoner was pertinacious and so Valdeolivas had no choice but to burn him at the stake in a ceremony held at Bilbao May 21, 1539.

     The other two cases, which were handled together, were those of Thomas Shipman and one "Hiptitun," long time residents and prosperous merchants of San Sebastian, who were denounced by an English compatriot, Bernard of Reading. They confessed to holding Lutheran opinions, namely that the pope had no more authority than any other bishop, there was no need to pray to the Virgin Mary or to any other saint, and that confession to a friar or cleric was not necessary. They also admitted that they had mocked the custom of fasting, had uttered odious blasphemies against the pope, and had claimed that Henry VIII of England was a good Christian of correct religious views. They were required to perform public penance in San Sebastian on July 13, 1539, were fined a total of 600 ducats, and were forbidden to leave town for two years.

     Apart from the personal drama of these documents, we find some interesting information about the state of religion and politics in both England and Spain. There were many Englishmen in the northern Spanish provinces, most of them being merchants with permanent business establishments there, or sailors from home on temporary visits to Spanish ports. The religious opinions which they express in these documents are clearly those of English Protestantism before 1539. In the years immediately following the English break with Rome, there was a strong movement in England, led by Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, to effect an understanding with Luther and Lutheranism. Luther's writings began to appear in English translations and his religious views were regularly endorsed from English pulpits. It is obvious that our Englishmen in Spain, and especially Juan Tac, shared these general sentiments toward Luther which were common at home. However, in 1539, the year of our trials, religious conditions in England underwent considerable change. For reasons of state, and also because he despaired of winning Luther's approval of his multiple marriages, Henry VIII swung violently away from Lutheranism and toward a conservative position in


theological matters. The act of the Six Articles issued by the crown in 1539 restored transubstantiation, communion in one kind, clerical celibacy, vows of chastity, oral confession and private mass. But these English Lutherans in Spain had not yet learned of events at home, and were expressing religious opinions of the period prior to the issuance of the act of the Six Articles.

     Besides, these English Lutherans were hardly theologians. Neither a merchant nor a sailor - nor "muchachos" - could be expected to have an appreciation for theological intricacies. They were probably moved more by considerations of patriotism than of religion. One of the charges against Juan Tac, for example, was that he insisted that English law was better than Spanish law. The Inquisition, which understood dogmatic subtleties, did not understand many of the simpler things in life; they interpreted Tac's statement to mean that Protestantism was better than Catholicism. Surely what Juan Tac meant was that England was better than Spain: English cooking was better than Spanish cooking, English girls were better than Spanish girls, English law was better than Spanish law, and in fact England was just plain better than Spain. Also, in the confessions of both Tac and the two merchants, we can see that their "Lutheranism" was not an affirmative religion, but rather a negative view toward Catholic practices which had been rejected in the homeland. In the case of Juan Tac, his patriotic sentiments were reinforced by anger and pugnacity. When he discovered that he was not to be freed despite his "conversion" to Catholicism, he refused to be reconciled to anything. Not only did he spurn the persuasions of his captors to avoid the horrors of being burned alive, but on the terrible day of the auto de fe he threw himself into the flames as if he were falling "into a bed of roses," to the bewilderment of Inquisitor Valdeolivas.

     For the Spanish, a certain political delicacy was required in the handling of English Lutherans. In writing to the Suprema about the case of Juan Tac, Inquisitor Valdeolivas felt obliged to note that harsh treatment of Englishmen in Spain might bring on retaliation against Spaniards in England. We have seen, also, how the Emperor advised the Valencia tribunal to do nothing with their English Lutheran, apparently until some decision on general policy could be made. This decision is almost certainly reflected in a Memorial sent


by the Suprema to Inquisitor Valdeolivas to guide him in his handling of the trials of these English Lutherans. The Memorial was originally prepared as a diplomatic document, for it is described as follows: "Replies to be given to the English ambassador regarding the procedures to be followed by the Holy Office of the Inquisition in dealing with Englishmen who now are and who may come to this kingdom of Spain."

      The Memorial outlines the jurisdictional rights of the Inquisition in dealing with English Lutherans. This jurisdiction includes all importations of books by "Luther or his sectaries," or any other books in which there are the ritual "errors and heresies against our holy Catholic faith or against the obedience owed to the holy Apostolic See." All Englishmen in Spain are subject to inquisitorial authority if they are accused of having done or said, in public, anything scandalous, erroneous or heretical, or which encourages disobedience to the Pope. However, the Memorial reflects an appreciation of sentiments of national loyalty and makes some small allowance for it, by providing "that if any person or persons among these Englishmen, as a result of being aggravated or incited by some other person or persons, shall speak of the disobedience prevailing in England toward the holy Apostolic See, defending the acts of his king, but not dogmatizing nor teaching his opinions, then in such case, the inquisitors shall send to the Council of the Inquisition the information they have on this subject," and the Suprema would presumably decide which was which and what action should be taken.

      Where financial considerations were involved, the Inquisition made no concessions. When Inquisitor Valdeolivas went to San Sebastian to supervise the trial of the two English merchants accused of Lutheranism, he was besieged by the leading citizens of that town who pleaded with him not to jeopardize the local economy by harsh action against the culprits. If he were too severe, they were afraid that San Sebastian would be ruined by the loss of trading agreements with England. They even offered "thousands of ducats" if Valdeolivas would drop the case. But, Valdeolivas reported to his superiors, "I replied that the honor of God and of His holy Catholic faith were not for sale."


      When these same two merchants were fined 600 ducats by Valdeolivas, some of the citizens of San Sebastian protested to the Suprema that the fines were excessive, and a lively correspondence followed between the Suprema and Valdeolivas. The latter defended his sentence on the ground that the two merchants in question could well afford the fines (which tempers just a little the firmness of inquisitorial principles). One gets the impression from this correspondence that Valdeolivas was right and that the Englishmen were driving a hard bargain in the belief that the Suprema would give in to the protests from San Sebastian, rather than lose the economic benefits of their business activities there. But they failed to gauge the temper of Inquisitor General Juan Pardo de Tavera. After five months of haggling over the question of the fines, Tavera directed that the unpaid balance be forgiven and that the two English merchants get out of Spain within sixty days. In matters touching the faith, there was little to negotiate about in Spain.