Chapter Five
Juan Diaz

      I have before me a book*, written in 1546, the year that Martin Luther died. It tells a tale of twin brothers, how one slew the other in the name of honor and God Almighty.

      Martin Bucer, second only to Luther himself as a Protestant Reform figure in Germany, wrote a lengthy preface to this book.

      Bucer was a comparatively mild. mannered sort among the religious antagonists of the sixteenth century, but his usual calm failed him completely in this instance. Juan Diaz, he wrote, was a holy martyr of Christ. Born to riches and honors, he scorned them and chose instead to follow Christ. He was not like other Spaniards, who are greedy, arrogant, proud, superstitious, showing their violent hatred of the true (Protestant) religion and visiting their fury upon those who would profess the pure doctrine of the Evangel. To the Spaniards it were intolerable that one of their own should adhere to "our" religion, the only religion of Christ, and particularly if it were someone whose name, like that of Juan Diaz, was a name of prominence.

     For Diaz abandoned his homeland. He abandoned all his relatives of the flesh, whom he loved as the daughters of his eyes. He abandoned his only brother - his twin - whom he loved above all others, to search for the heavenly kingdom. In place of riches and honor, he chose to be humble, destitute and lowly, to seat himself at the threshold of the Lord's house in poverty.

*Spanish edition, Madrid, 1865: Historia de la muerte de Juan Diaz, par determinacion tomada en Roma, le hizo malar su hermano Alfonso Diaz, en la madrugada del sabado 27 iiim del ano 1546 (vol. xx of Reformistas antiguos espanoles).



     But that generation of Cain - the Roman Antichrist, in league with the Spanish nation and our false German brothers - did track him down, and our dear brother Diaz, seeking the light eternal in Germany, was killed with exquisite perfidy by his twin and only brother, a Spaniard and Roman cleric, who came to this land as the special servant of the Roman Antichrist.
      Behold the impiety of the Roman Antichrist, his deceptions, his impostures. See how the words of God are fouled by the infinite stench, the idolatry, superstition and deceit of that Roman beast.
      They are shamelessly and stupidly perverted, disfigured by horrible tyranny, idolatry and impiety; they seek to snatch the truth from us with the claws and gullet of their great Roman beast. Impious pontiffs feed like hungry wolves, like roaring lions on the inheritance of the Lord. They dismember the sheep of the small flock of Our Savior. And the creatures of this Roman harlot, in its nefarious and incestuous copulation, are these perverse bishops, lost Epicureans, rapacious wolves, roaring lions, with their pleasures, delights, impostures and horrendous outrages. The parapets of this universal choir are manned by those accursed hooded beggars, wondrously ordained in their insatiable begging, with their impious and portentous fictions about invoking saints, bones of the saints, carvings and images, masses, their crude holy bread, the numerous and monstrous species of friars, indulgences, oaths, magical prayers, purgatory.
      Against us they smirk mockingly, they wag their heads, and stirred up by the Devil himself these abominable scum, this Antichrist and his slaves, these detestable instruments of God's wrath, insult us, abuse us, and seek to erase us from among the living, seek to erase from the earth those who cry the Lord's name.

      And so on.


      The narrative which follows (in summary and paraphrase) was written in the form of a letter to Bucer by one Claude Senarcleus, companion and close friend of the deceased. "I have", he begins,

sketched only the outlines ("a shadow sketch") of the murder of this saintly man Juan Diaz, of which I was a witness. Such was the holiness of this man, his faith, integrity, that it ought not be passed


over in silence. Oh immortal God! What abundancy and efficacy of prayer there was in him! What fervent and profound contemplation of sacred things! What love for truth, what hatred for falsity! Our Diaz was born in Cuenca. He spent his early youth in the universities of Spain, where he learned the first elements of languages and liberal arts. He then went to Paris to study Greek and Latin literature. There he remained for thirteen years, where he won a reputation as one of the outstanding scholars among the many talented Spaniards at Paris.
     During his latter years at Paris Diaz turned to theology, for which purpose he became an accomplished scholar in Hebrew. He always insisted that one must go directly to the sources, which led him to the study of Holy Writ and a consequent dissatisfaction with scholastic dogma. Through reading Saint Paul he became converted to the belief in justification by faith (alone, presumably). Thus converted to the truth (our truth) he left the unsafe environs of Paris for Geneva, where he spent some months interspersed with conversations between himself and John Calvin.
     In 1545 Diaz went to Strasbourg. There he became friendly with Martin Bucer and made plans to settle down. Late in that year Emperor Charles V convoked a meeting at Ratisbon to deal with problems religious and political. I (Senarcleus), Martin Bucer, and Juan Diaz attended as representatives of the Strasbourg Protestants.
     It was at Ratisbon that there began the fatal series of events leading to the murder of Juan Diaz. Almost the moment he arrived, Juan sought out his fellow-countryman Pedro de Maluenda, who had been named by the Emperor to speak at Ratisbon for the Catholic side.
     Maluenda and Diaz had been friends and classmates at Paris, but had been out of touch in recent years. Consequently, Maluenda was astounded to see Diaz appear as a representative of the hated Protestants. For indeed, he said, the Protestants take greater glory in attracting to their side one single Spaniard than they take in converting ten thousand Germans. How could Diaz betray his family, his country, and his honor by leaving the true (Catholic) faith? How could a man of his background ever become a Protestant? He must not destroy the purity of the word "Spanish" by this heresy; he must return to the obedience of Rome. What will other people say, seeing a Spaniard


desert his own faith, when Spain is known the world over as the fortress of the Catholic faith? The consequences of such a step are horrendous; Diaz has placed his soul in peril of eternal damnation, and has also exposed himself to the gravest physical consequences. This is madness, said Maluenda. You (Diaz) alone say that you have seen the true light, and so you overthrow the religion of so many centuries and so many thousands of men. You violate the traditions of your country. I exhort you as a Spaniard, and as a friend. Do not wait until it is too late; fear the just judgment of God, and look to your salvation.
     But our Diaz had already seen the truth. He was not afraid of torture, he replied. He would leave it to God to decide who was right.He never would give up the true faith, once having found it. Tremble before your maker, Maluenda; you cannot set the authority of man against the will of God. Consider the famous men of history, illuminated by the true light, who gloried to die for their beliefs. See the eternal truth of God. Seize it for yourself. You cannot persuade me, you cannot frighten me. The Pope whom you adore is the enemy of Christ. I (Diaz) will follow only the laws of God, not the tyrannies of men. Come into the light of the Evangel-you and all Spain:

If I could liberate my countrymen with my own blood, from Roman bondage, I would not hesitate to make this sacrifice to redeem Spain from the yoke of tyranny, abominable superstition and idolatry, and from the raving friars who will not hear the voice of God, who will not allow one to read God's own works, who fatten and gorge themselves like pigs under the guise of religion, who corrupt the purity of the Gospel, who insist on being regarded as saints, who are the creatures of Satan brought forth for the perdition of mankind and the destruction of the church of Christ. I appeal to your conscience, Maluenda. Consider yourself; look into the corners of your heart. Recall the judgment of God, and fear it. Change your ways, your actions. End this persecution of God's truth. Strive to show the glory of the divine name.
     Maluenda wrote back home; other people wrote to other people, and before long the news got to Juan's twin brother Alfonso in


Rome, where he was serving as a member of the Rota. *(Webster: The Sacra Romana Rota-Sacred Roman Rota-of the Roman Curia, with jurisdiction, ordinarily appellate, in civil and ecclesiastical cases). Alfonso Diaz hired a "knavish assassin, who had served as a public executioner in Rome," and set out immediately for Ratisbon. There he contacted Maluenda, who told him plenty. But Juan Diaz had left town and gone to Neuburg on the Danube to supervise the editing of a book by Martin Bucer which was being printed there.
     How to find out where Diaz had gone? Without revealing himself to me (Senarcleus), Alfonso conspired with Maluenda to send me a message that a certain nobleman, an intimate friend of Juan Diaz, had just arrived in Ratisbon bearing some very important letters for Juan, which he had been instructed to deliver personally. I was suspicious, and talked the matter over with Bucer and others. After considerable discussion we finally agreed that I ought to tell where Diaz was, since these letters might be important. At the same time, however, we agreed to write to Diaz at Neuburg to be on guard against treachery.
     Soon after, we learned that Alfonso, that wicked traitor, was the culprit, and that he and Maluenda had intercepted our letters to Diaz and destroyed them all. So we sent a special warning by a private party to tell Juan of our fears.
     Meanwhile, Alfonso and his assassin had arrived in Neuburg. Juan was surprised and pleased to see his twin brother, whom he had thought to be still in Rome. Alfonso told Juan the true purpose of his visit and explained that in the name of brotherly love and piety he had come to dissuade Juan from his actions.
     Although Juan could not accept Alfonso's concept of true piety, he was touched by this sign of fraternal love (which the perfidious monster was feigning, of course) and he received Alfonso with great respect and affection. Alfonso told Juan how he had made the long and arduous journey from Rome to persuade Juan to give up his heresy and return with Alfonso to Rome and the true (Catholic) faith. He spoke of the dangers of persisting in his (Lutheran) heresy, and of the dishonor Juan was bringing to the family name, as well as the miseries, jail, exile and other proscriptions facing Juan if he persisted in his madness. But Juan, having found the truth, replied that


all the dangers in the world could not make him give it up now.
     Then Alfonso, that wretch, pretended that he was beginning to be attracted to Juan's religious ideas. In fact, he pretended to be completely converted, and began talking about how he and Juan together ought to try to bring this new faith to their Spanish countrymen:

But, Alfonso said, how can we make the new faith prosper in Spain by remaining here in Germany among men whose language you do not even know? Here, your talent for God is buried. Besides, you are not needed here in a land where so many learned men are active in the new faith. Your real work lies among your countrymen.

     And so Alfonso urged his brother to work his wonders and slake the thirst of the peoples of Italy and Spain for the evangelical doctrines. Could Juan turn his back on this manifest call from God? Could he ignore the weak cries of those who begged his help? Could he refuse to teach the true doctrines to those who were crying out for it? Alfonso would help him in the good work. He would introduce him to eminent men; he would ease his path in Italy; he would serve him in the true spirit of the loyal brother.
     Juan rejoiced in spirit at this happy turn of events. He would do whatever he could to advance the cause. But he would like to communicate with his friends, to seek their advice. However, his friends wrote back and told Juan under no circumstances to do as Alfonso suggested, for they suspected him of evil designs. Still, Juan wavered, for he was sorely tempted to follow the advice of his brother whom he loved. So, Bucer and I (Senarcleus) decided to go to Neuburg to make sure that Juan did not follow Alfonso to his death in Italy. We arrived in Neuburg on March 22, 1546.
     (March 25) We had managed to persuade Juan to remain in Neuburg, which decision he communicated to his brother. At dawn on this day Alfonso, shedding copious tears of farewell, still pretending the greatest affection for Juan, and still professing to believe in the evangelical religion, left Neuburg in a carriage, together with his hired executioner. We all breathed a sigh of relief. Bucer and I had breakfast with Juan that day. After breakfast, Bucer left to return to


Strasbourg, while I decided to say at Juan's house in Neuburg until Bucer's book was finished. The plan was that when the book was done, Diaz and I would return to Strasbourg also.
     Meanwhile, Alfonso Diaz went as far as Augsburg. On arriving at the city gate, however, he did not enter. Instead, he had the carriage driver take him around outside the walls until he arrived at the house where he planned to stop, because he did not want to be recognized.
     He told the carriage driver that he was going on to Italy early the next morning, but that he would like the driver to take back a letter to his brother in Neuburg, so would the driver please come by in the morning and pick up Alfonso's letter before returning to Neuburg.
     (March 26) At dawn the carriage driver stopped by to pick up the letter, only to be told that Alfonso was still asleep and to come back in an hour or so. When he came back the second time the driver was told that Alfonso had already left for Italy and would write his brother from Innsbruck. So the driver set out on the return road to Neuburg.
     At noon, he arrived at the little town of Bothmes, about halfway between Augsburg and Neuburg. He stopped at the local inn and to his surprise found Alfonso and his executioner there, having lunch with a local cleric and some other people. Alfonso was disconcerted at seeing the carriage driver, but he put on a jovial front and insisted that the driver join them at table, explaining that a matter of great importance had suddenly come up, and he had to tell his brother Juan about it without delay. He also persuaded the driver to relax and stay overnight at Bothmes, at his (Alfonso's) expense.
     [The following information came out during the course of the investigation which followed the murder.] After lunch, Alfonso and his assassin went out to see if they could buy a hatchet-a sword, they had decided, would be too awkward for their purpose. However, they did not want to buy this equipment in a local shop for fear of arousing suspicion (and of having it traced to them). So, seeing a carpenter chopping up some wood with a hatchet, they approached and asked him if he had another hatchet and would he like to sell it.
     The carpenter produced several which they carefully hefted for efficiency, finally choosing one which they thought would be satisfactory, i.e., small enough to hide under a coat and with good


     balance and sharp blade so the job could be completed with one tidy stroke. They returned to the inn and told the innkeeper they had to take a short trip, but would be back soon. However, they explained, their horses were tired, so would the innkeeper please fix them up with a couple of fresh horses-good, fast ones.
     Alfonso Diaz and his companion then set out for Neuburg.
(March 27) They spent the night of the 26th at a village called Veldkirchen, just outside Neuburg. The following morning, before dawn, they slipped into Neuburg, leaving their horses tied up at the edge of town, so as not to awake the sleeping natives. With the assassin in the lead-they had agreed that he should perform the deed, since his was the more practiced hand-they arrived at the house of the local preacher, where Juan was staying. The assassin knocked on the door and asked the preacher's brother to open up, because he had a very important letter for Juan from his brother Alfonso.
     Juan was asleep in a room with me (Senarcleus), when the young domestic came in and awakened him. He jumped out of bed, clad only in a light nightgown, and went into the front room to receive the "messenger" with Alfonso's letter. While Alfonso stood guard at the entrance, hidden from his brother's view, the assassin presented Juan with a letter written by Alfonso, which he said had been sent from Augsburg. Dawn was beginning to break, and Juan went over to the window to read it. While his attention was thus engaged, the assassin took out the hatchet he carried hidden inside his jacket and plunged it up to the handle into the right side of Juan's head, near the temple. In an instant all the sensory organs in the brain were destroyed, so that Juan could not utter a sound. So as not to disturb any of us with the sound of a falling body, the assassin caught Juan's body and eased it quietly to the floor, where it lay with the hatchet protruding from the head. All this was done so quickly and silently that none of us knew anything about it.
     Lying in bed, I began to wonder about Juan's visitors, so I got up to go and see. As I came out of the bedroom I heard hurried footsteps, but I could not tell if they were coming or going. I went into


the front room and froze in horror at what I saw. I approached the body of my friend, which was lying prostrate on the floor, the eyes turned upward and the hands folded as though in prayer. Weeping uncontrollably, I pulled the hatchet out of his head to see if by chance any life remained in the body. There was still a whisper of life left, but he was to die within the hour. Meanwhile he lay there, eyes turned to heaven, like one begging God's mercy.
     I called together everyone in the house so we all could see this terrible spectacle. They spread the word rapidly; in fact the news was all over town before the killers got outside the city gate. A posse was formed by the local magistrate and inside of a half hour they were pursuing the killers.
     The killers reached Bothmes by 7 A.M. There they changed to fresh horses and dashed off toward Augsburg, with their pursuers close behind. They managed to get all the way to Innsbruck, however, before they were captured and thrown into jail, all the while objecting loudly that they were on official business for the Emperor (Charles V) and could not be treated in such fashion.


      The next few weeks were marked by a tug-of-war between Catholic and Protestant officials over matters of jurisdiction. The affair was settled when on April 14 the officials at Innsbruck received orders directly from the Emperor that the case (and prisoners) be sent to him to be judged (in favor of the accused, of course) by him and his brother, Catholic King Ferdinand.

      And there the matter ended. Or did it? I remember reading some time ago, in an out-of-the-way place, a brief reference to one Alfonso Diaz, cleric at Rome, who committed suicide (I think) about 1555. I must, however, apologize to my readers for the most amateurish of all scholarly errors: I cannot, for the life of me, find my notes on this point.