Historians are sometimes seduced by the notion that events which happened in the past can be explained according to some kind of natural law of human rationality. We also -like everyone else - have an easy tolerance for stupidities softened by time and distance, particularly when they make their way into the historical "record" and are thereby elevated into "principles." I must say that to read through hundreds of Inquisition trials is a sure way to dissolve such illusions. Take, for example, the subject matter of this chapter: the prosecutions of native Spaniards for Lutheranism during Luther's lifetime. These trials (or at least those which remain to us today) reflect not so much the conversion of any Spaniards to Lutheran views as they do the more depressing aspects of human behavior during trying times. The trials of these years fall into two general classifications: those which resulted from confusion and fear about the spectre of Lutheranism, and those which were motivated by a desire for vengeance against a neighbor.
There were a number of interesting - and quite incorrect notions about Luther and his teachings. In August of 1523, for instance, one Spaniard allegedly attributed to Luther the opinion that all goods should be owned in common, a view which was as abhorrent to Luther as it was to the Catholic Church.(1) A few months later the alguacil of the Holy Office of Toledo, who might reasonably be expected to be informed on matters heretical, felt it necessary when he mentioned the name of Martin Luther, to identify
1. AHN, Inquisicion de Toledo, Legajo 221, no. 19, Proceso contra Gonzalo Mejia, fol. 17v.
40 JOHN E. LONGHURST
him as an "Augustinian friar in Germany,"(2) as though that were a piece of news. A witness before the Toledo Inquisition in 1526 spoke of a "friar Martin or friar Garcia," who had been a great man of letters in Rome, but who had left the Roman court for Flanders where his preaching drew many people to his heretical doctrines. (3) As late as 1532 one witness before the Inquisition of Llerena referred to Luther, whose name he did not even know, as "that friar who said that friars and nuns could marry." (4)
The earliest victim of this kind of lethal stupidity was a painter named Gonsalvo, from Murcia, who was burned at the stake as a Lutheran at Mallorca in 1523. Of this trial Henry C. Lea appropriately observes:
It is inconceivable that Lutheran errors could have penetrated at that time to Majorca, or that the inquisitors could have had any clear conception of what they were and, as Gonsalvo is described
2. Ibid., fol. 17r.
LUTHER'S GHOST IN SPAIN 41
as a negativo, he doubtless considered himself a good Catholic and perished because he would not admit himself to be otherwise.(5)
[If the reader is already beginning to protest that the Spanish Inquisition had no corner on cruelty, I hasten to recite an episode which occurred just a year before in England. According to the Chronicles of the Grey Friars (Camden Society, 1852), a man convicted of poisoning was executed by being dipped into boiling water. In 1531, a cook named Richard Coke tried to poison the bishop of Rochester, but the hand of Providence fed the deadly dose to two other persons, who died of it. By definition of Henry VIII, whose sense of values was shaped by what is called "statecraft," this was an act of treason. So Mr. Coke was publicly boiled at Smithfield, without benefit of clergy. See W. Andrews, Old Time Punishments, Hull, 1890.]
The same general confusion, on a more intellectually subtle level than that involving the painter Gonsalvo, probably accounts for the condemnation for Lutheran "tendencies" of Juan de Oria some time in the 1520s. Oria held the chair of nominalist philosophy at the University of Salamanca, and anyone acquainted with the outlines of nominalism can appreciate the dogmatic pitfalls of following it to "logical" extremes.
In 1535 the inquisitors of Llerena imprisoned Martin Alonso, a resident of the town of Calzadilla. Alonso and a group of his neighbors had been discussing the marital activities of the duchess of Medina-Sidonia. The duchess' husband was mentally incompetent and physically impotent, and the duchess had for years been sleeping with her husband's younger brother, by whom she had a son. A dispensation for annulment had been obtained on the ground of the duke's impotence, and the duchess was preparing to marry her brother-in-law and thus legitimize their son. In the course of the discussion about these events, Martin Alonso allegedly spoke up and
5. Henry C. Lea, A History of the Inquisition of Spain, New York, 1922, vol. 3, p. 413.
42 JOHN E. LONGHURST
observed that such goings on proved that Luther was right when he criticized people for "marrying and unmarrying" [Henry VIII?] and that "for that reason what Luther does is good although they say it is bad."
Called before the Llerena inquisitors to explain himself, Martin Alonso quickly found himself in even more trouble when he was unable to recite the Pater Noster or the Credo, or to cross himself properly. In reply to the Lutheran charge he explained that, if he did make the remark alleged against him he did so sarcastically, because he was annoyed with the others who seemed to think it was all right to make and unmake marriages so freely. The inquisitors seemed to be satisfied with this explanation, if not with the prisoner himself. Alonso was required to appear in an auto de fe, bare-footed and bareheaded, with candle in hand, and to abjure de vehementi his Lutheran errors. He was also to be confined to a monastery for as long a time as was necessary to indoctrinate him in the proper articles of the faith. This latter requirement was suspended, however, on condition that Alonso live at the home of his son, who was a cleric, and that he hear mass every day.(6)
Much of Martin Alonso's difficulty, particularly his inefficiency in ritualistic matters, can probably be explained by his advanced age of seventy-five. But senility was apparently not a mitigating circumstance, as is even more evident in the trial of one Bernardino Brochero, a cleric of Maqueda, who was denounced by his parishioners in 1526 for failure to observe the proper technical procedures of his office. An old man in his early nineties, Brochero had obviously become absent-minded. He often omitted words of the ceremony of the mass, he was careless in his handling of the Host (his hands probably shook), and he neglected to observe the correct procedures in hearing confessions. As a result of these accusations lodged against him Brochero was jailed by the Toledo Inquisition. Almost immediately it became apparent that the prisoner was in a state of complete mental and physical decay, to the point where he could only lie on his cot in his cell, being unable to defend himself against any of the charges. Consequently his defense was conducted by a court
6. AHN, Inquisicion de Llerena, (note 4, above).
LUTHER'S GHOST IN SPAIN 43
appointed counsel who took the position that Brochero's advanced age was the cause of his careless performance of his priestly duties. While the defendant lay dying in his cell, the inquisitorial machinery ground more slowly than that of the gods until finally, three years later, Bernardino Brochero was formally absolved of the charges against him. But Brochero never got to hear the good news; he had died in his cell some time before.(7)
Two trials at Valencia in this same period are a little more precise in their Lutheran character. In 1534 one maestro Vicente was arrested for expressing his approval of Luther's views on clerical poverty and marriage, disparaging the Inquisition by comparing its officials to the rebellious comuneros of the early 1520's, and suggesting that there were some things in Valencia which were even worse than heretics and Jews. Since we have only a fragment of his original trial, we do not know his fate, but it seems almost inevitable that he was at least required to abjure his errors.(8)
The following year Miguel Mezquita, an Aragonese of some political stature, was denounced at Valencia on several counts of Lutheranism. He allegedly said that Luther's followers were properly called evangelists because they preached the holy evangel, whereas the followers of the pope deserved only to be called papists. He also maintained that Luther was correct in his contention that there was no scriptural basis for the papal tradition of apostolic succession, and that Christ had given this authority only to Saint Peter and to none
7. AHN, Inquisicion de Toledo, Legajo 98, no. 6,
Proceso contra Bernardino Brochero.
44 JOHN E. LONGHURST
of his successors. Mezquita was jailed in January (1536) and his trial was still in progress at the end of the month, when our records unfortunately end.(9) The case of friar Martin Sanchez, which also illustrates the generally vague character of this early Lutheranism, has a certain grim humor. Friar Martin, of the order of Calatrava, had been prior of the town of Manzanares for twenty years when, in 1538, a number of his fellow citizens accused him of making an extensive variety of indiscreet remarks. The local chaplain at Manzanares took depositions in writing and sent them to the inquisitors at Toledo, with the observation that friar Martin was an incorrigible ignoramus unfit to serve his office. All told, there were twenty-one depositions, which emphasized the following irregularities of friar Martin: he completely neglected the formalities of the mass; he said that Christ had died on the cross for nothing; he objected to his parishioners visiting nearby hermitages to pray instead of coming to his church. However, the accusation which stung the Toledo inquisitors to action was that friar Martin maintained that any layman, if he donned the sacred vestments and pronounced the proper words, could perform the consecration as well as a priest.
9. AHN, Inquisicion de Valencia, Legajo 531, no. 38. See
also Marcel Bataillon, Erasmo y Espana, Mexico, 1950, vol. 2, p. 69.
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On March 4, 1539 the Toledo inquisitors ordered the arrest of friar Martin and the confiscation of his goods for upholding "that Lutheran position" that a layman could consecrate as well as a priest.
However, before the seizure order could be carried out, friar Martin himself appeared voluntarily on March 5 before the inquisitors, with a doubtful tale to telL He had, he said, been searching his conscience, and he remembered having said some improper things to his parishioners at Manzanares. He then confessed to most of the charges already made against him and spoke feelingly of his anxiety to do penance "healthful to my soul," and to be purged of his errors.
Under persistent questioning he then admitted that his real reason for coming to Toledo was that he had learned of the accusations made against him and so had decided to appear voluntarily in hopes of mitigating his punishment.
The inquisitors spent the remainder of that day and all of the next bedeviling friar Martin with his remark about a layman having the power of consecration. Where had he learned this? Had he read it in some book? How long had he believed it? To how many people had he said it? Had he known that it was a mortal sin to say such a thing? Friar Martin would only admit his error, repeating over and over that he knew he had spoken badly, and expressing his hope that the inquisitors would show him mercy.
The following week was spent in cross-examination on the other accusations against him, some of which he admitted freely, while he hedged on others. Then the Inquisition prosecutor presented his formal accusation against friar Martin. The principal charges were that, "like a Lutheran," friar Martin had claimed that any layman, if dressed in holy vestments, could consecrate the Host; that he had said God was to be found only in the churches and not at the hermitages, which should be locked up so people could not go there to pray. He was also charged with maintaining that morning mass was of no benefit, and that there was no need for sermons so long as people knew their prayers and the ten commandments, and read the "chronicles of God" to the exclusion of all else. Three days later (March 16, over the strenuous objections of the prosecutor, who insisted that there was much more to investigate, the Toledo inquisitors voted to require friar Martin to make light abjur-
46 JOHN E. LONGHURST
ation (de levi), to pay a fine of one hundred ducats, and to suspend him from his clerical office for two years.(10)
Then we have the grudge cases. Gonzalo Mejia was from an old family of the lesser nobility. He had nine children, of whom one was a priest, another a nun, and two died in the wars against the Moors. In 1524 he was denounced by a neighbor in his home town of Esquivias, who accused him of praising the deeds and doctrines of Martin Luther on the ground that, if Luther's doctrines were bad, God would have exterminated him. Other and more elaborate denunciations followed: Mejia supported Luther's views against clerical celibacy, confession, mass offerings, and tithes. He also had expressed his pleasure over the Turkish capture of Rhodes in 152 and had praised the Grand Turk (Suleiman the Magnificent), describing him as a powerful and valorous man whom the world could not resist. On another occasion, when one of his accusers was lamenting the fact that there had been so little rain, Mejia replied that the Moors did not suffer from scant rainfall any more than Christians did and that Christian good works could do nothing to improve the weather.
Questioned by the Toledo inquisitors in 1525, Mejia admitted that he had sometimes discussed Luther, but denied ever having praised him. He also admitted that he had spoken of the Grand Turk as a powerful fighting man, but denied ever having expressed pleasure over the Turkish capture of Rhodes.
Then followed some comic opera confusion. The inquisitors told Mejia that if he persisted in his refusal to confess the truth he would be jailed. In that case, Mejia replied, he would admit that he had spoken favorably about Martin Luther. The inquisitors naturally clapped him into jail immediately and confiscated his goods and property. Mejia protested that he had "confessed" as a promised alternative to jail; but now he wished to revoke that confession because he really had never praised Luther at all.
With Mejia in jail, his enemies rushed forward to help dig his grave. A local chaplain offered the opinion that Mejia was not a good
10. AHN, Inquisicion de Toledo, Legajo 222, no. 34, Proceso contra Martin Sanchez. This document is incorrectly numbered 33 on the cover folio.
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Catholic because he did not consider adultery to be a sin and because he often conducted his business affairs on Sundays and holy days. Others observed that Mejia did not take off his hat in church when the Host was raised, and that he ate roast rabbit on Friday. Another reported that Mejia, like Luther, refused to give alms. Asked for specific evidence, he told the following story. One day a crippled man, riding an ass, came through Esquivias begging for alms. He asked Mejia, "in the name of God," to give him alms, since he was but a poor cripple unable to support himself, financially or otherwise. Mejia replied that there were already enough beggars in Esquivias, to which the cripple retorted that in that case he did not imagine he would ever get rich on what Mejia gave him. This made Mejia so angry that he began pelting the cripple with stones and pursued him all the way out of town in this fashion. It was clear, therefore, that Mejia shared Luther's aversion to giving alms. The sorriest testimony of all was offered by a witness who reported that about twenty years before he had heard Mejia say something which did not make much sense, but which sounded suspicious to him. The witness could not recall what it was; anyway, he admitted, he never had liked Mejia very much.
Mejia denied the accusations against him, claiming that they were being made by his enemies in order to frame him. He drew up a list of those enemies, which included the names of ten of his unidentified (to Mejia) accusers. He also called on a long list of other persons in Esquivias, whose testimony indicated almost conclusively that most of the accusations against him were the result of a heated feud between Mejia and some of his less affluent neighbors in Esquivias.
On the advice of the Suprema, and over the vehement objections of one of the Toledo inquisitors, Mejia was submitted to brisk and rigorous torture. Despite his advanced age and his numerous physical infirmities, he continued to protest his innocence (under conditions which frequently encouraged accused persons to break down). The inquisitors then went through the formalities of compurgation (character witnesses), and six reliable persons testified to their convictions that Mejia was a perfectly orthodox and God-fearing Christian.
Finally, in September (1527), after lying in jail just over two years, Mejia performed his penance at a private auto de fe in the audience
48 JOHN E. LONGHURST
chamber of the Toledo Inquisition and bought back his freedom, though not his reputation, with a fine of 100,000 maravedis. Ninety years later (1617), one of Mejia's descendants, seeking ecclesiastical office in Osuna, had to obtain a statement from the Suprema attesting that the case against Gonzalo Mejia had not been sufficiently serious in nature to disqualify his descendants from ever holding public office.(11)
It makes me uneasy to find myself on the side of injustice in the case of one Gaspar de Torralba, who has to be the meanest sonofabitch of the sixteenth century. On November 2, 1531 a cleric named Francisco Garcia appeared before the Toledo inquisitors to make both a statement and a fervent plea. Until two years ago, he said, he had served in the church at Vayona. During his five-year tenure there he had accumulated enough evidence to convince him that Gaspar de Torralba, a citizen of Vayona, was a man of doubtful orthodoxy. He ate meat on every holy day and all during Lent. He said that if one wanted to be rich he should turn his back on God. He refused to spend money on bulls because he claimed they were sold only as a scheme to raise money for the Emperor. He had sexual relations with his own relatives and also with women with whom his brother previously had such relations. (This involves several varieties of incest, based on the Church's extrapolations of the principle of consanguinity.)
Furthermore, Francisco Garcia concluded, everybody in Vayona knew that Torralba was not a Christian. If he were jailed many people would come forth to testify against him. However, as long as he was loose, nobody would dare to do so, for the great fear they had of him. Even his own daughter hated him, because he tried to break up her marriage.
One week later the incumbent priest of Vayona came to Toledo to present a long written list of charges against Torralba. The shotgun character of these accusations leaves no doubt that Gaspar de Torralba was a versatile menace who had terrorized the town. The charges, as listed by the local priest, were:
11. Proceso contra Gonzalo Mejia (note 1
LUTHER'S GHOST IN SPAIN 49
1. Torralba, with drawn dagger, forced his attentions on the wife of Juan de Bonilla, disregarding her protests that Torralba's brother had already done the same thing.
50 JOHN E. LONGHURST
10. On Saturdays he ate pork and when visitors came to his house he forced them to eat it too. 11. He never observed vigils or fast days.
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niece be absolved and when Torralba refused, the priest said he would see that Torralba was paid for the goods and he would then absolve the niece. Torralba, in a rage, accused the priest of favoring thieves and right in the church he drew his dagger and tried to stab his niece, saying he wanted her to die excommunicated and go to Hell.
Inquisitor Juan Yanes of Toledo apparently decided to see for himself what it was all about, and went personally to Vayona to interview the local inhabitants. In one week (January 21 to 28, 1532) thirty-six citizens, many of whom had suffered at Torralba's hands, voluntarily came forward to substantiate all the charges made against Torralba at Toledo. On the day when Inquisitor Yanes was preparing to leave, he was handed a letter in the name of the entire town begging that Torralba never be allowed to return to Vayona:
If he should return to this town, then everybody else will have to leave. With him here there will never be peace and harmony, especially after this, for he will suspect everyone of having accused him. . .' Since he has been gone we are all living in peace, friendship and charity.
In March Torralba presented what was probably his best defense. He said that the witnesses against him were all motivated by personal malice, and that they were vile and infamous perjurers. He then proceeded to name a total of 157 persons who were his enemies in Vayona, describing them variously as peasants, villains, wretches, perjurers, drunkards, whores, and thieves. On his list he included the names of both his daughter and his wife. He also reaffirmed his orthodoxy and explained that most of his seemingly unorthodox behavior could readily be understood because he was an impetuous man who in a moment of passion or anger was likely to say just about anything.
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In June the inquisitors questioned some twenty persons whom Torralba had named as favorable character witnesses. (So he did have some friends - or dependents at least.) They generally substantiated his claims to orthodoxy, and without exception agreed that he was indeed an impetuous man. On July 1, 1532 he was released from prison on bond. By December he had been formally penanced and was presumably back home in Vayona among his companions.(12) The Inquisition of Llerena in 1532 began proceedings against Clara Gonzalez, citizen of Merida, whose chief characteristics appear to have been that she was very cranky and slightly demented. Between March and October five of Clara's neighbors made an assortment of indignant accusations against her:
1. One day she came out into the street with a live chicken in her hand. She looked up at the sun; then she put her feet on the feet of the chicken, pulled out a knife and cut the chicken's throat.
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objected that although Luther did say some bad things, he also said some good things, particularly when he said that it was better for clerics to marry than to lust illegally after women (better to marry than burn).
Under questioning, Clara Gonzalez claimed that her accusers were personal enemies motivated by malice. What she did admit was that she had expressed her approval of Luther's remark that it would be better for the clergy to marry than to live in sin. She also admitted that she had eaten meat during but that she had done so for reasons of health and on the recommendation of the doctor. Her trial dragged on for five years; in 1536 she was submitted to torture, which turned out to be very hectic. "She confessed violently," with much thrashing about and jerking of the head. "This torture was violent." So reads the imperturbable record of the Inquisition notary.
Clara later revoked her confession. She must have antagonized her judges in other ways too, for (March, 1537) although she was reconciled to the Catholic faith, all her property was confiscated and she was given the unusually severe sentence of one hundred lashes in a public flogging.(13)
Probably the most bitter grudge case on record was that of an escudero from Miranda de Ebro, by the name of Ortega de Carcamo. He was denounced to the Inquisition of Navarre for "heretical blasphemies and Lutheran propositions."(14) However, as soon as he
13. Inquisicion de Llerena (note 4 above).
54 JOHN E. LONGHURST
learned of the denunciations, he fled town to escape seizure. Learning that he was in Burgos, the Navarre inquisitors asked that he be seized by the authorities at Valladolid and held there. This apparently was done, for by February (1537) Carcamo was in jail at Valladolid. He begged the inquisitors not to return him to Navarre, claiming that he was the victim of persecution by enemies at home. When a representative of the Navarre Inquisition showed up in Valladolid to claim the prisoner, the Valladolid people asked the advice of the Suprema. In a letter dated February 12 of the following year (1538) the Suprema wrote to the inquisitors of Navarre:
One Francisco de Frias arrived in Valladolid with an order from you to take custody of Ortega de Carcamo, and he asked our authorization to permit him to exercise this order anywhere outside of your jurisdiction. We have news that this Francisco de Frias has had some differences with Carcamo. It would be improper to give authority to Carcamo's enemy to take him prisoner, because death can result in the act of seizure.
And so, by order of the Suprema, Carcamo's case was taken over by a special body of inquisitors attached to the royal court. The last we hear of him is that his trial was still going on some time in 1539.(15)
The most famous "Lutheran" to flee from the Inquisition during these years was Michael Servetus. In the correspondence of the Suprema to the various tribunals is a letter to the inquisitors of Aragon, dated March 13, 1538:
15. AHN, Inquisicion, Libro 785, fol. 47r. This document is a list of the Navarre cases handled by the Inquisicion de Corte, by order of the Suprema. On this list appears the trial of Ortega de Carcamo, "who is not [yet] sentenced." The document itself is not dated, but it appears in the midst of other materials of mid-1539.
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Some days previous we wrote you directing you to advise us of the status of the case of Miguel Reves, alias Serveto. We are informed that in the home of his father there is a brother of his who was chaplain of the Archbishop of Santiago, and who went to Germany to bring him back to Spain, but was unable to persuade him to return. We want you to try to find out from the brother where the said Miguel Serveto presently is, and to advise us."(16)
The generation following this one is the era of the expatriate Spanish "Lutheran."(17) However, the two most celebrated cases of this kind belong to our early period. Each has its own special quality of dramatic instruction, which we hope to demonstrate by taking them up in the two chapters which follow.
16. Inquisicion (note 14 above), fol. 190r.