On January 9, 1536, the Suprema instructed the inquisitors of Valencia, who had in charge a suspected Lutheran named Miguel Costa, to find out if the prisoner "has any books of Luther or his adherents, or of Erasmus."
Why Erasmus? He certainly was not a Lutheran, but it is obvious by now that one did not have to be a Lutheran to be guilty of being a "Lutheran." It was not so easy, however, for the Inquisition to condemn Erasmus as it was to punish the Illuminists. The latter were simple people of no influence, and the Franciscans within the movement suffered the stern displeasure of their general, Francisco de Quinones. Erasmus, on the other hand, had long been a popular figure among persons of learning and prestige. The celebrated reforming cardinal, Francisco Ximenez de Cisneros, had once invited the Dutch humanist to fill a chair at the University of Alcala. Even the Emperor Charles V publicly declared his admiration for Erasmus, and he had an articulate following among the humanists at the imperial court and on the faculty of the University of Alcala. Besides, the two most important Church posts in Spain were occupied by his admirers Alonso Manrique, Inquisitor General and Archbishop of Seville and Alonso Fonseca, Archbishop of Toledo and primate of Spain. The printing press of Miguel de Eguia at Alcala was publishing Erasmus' writings with the blessing of both archbishops. Some of his Spanish counterparts were writing Erasmian literature of their own: Alfonso de Valdes, secretary to Emperor Charles V, wrote two popular dia-
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logues in Spanish (1527 and 1528) attacking clerical abuses and praising Erasmus' proposals for Church reform in the language of the master himself. And there were many others. (1) But the spectre of Lutheranism changed all that, and Spain in the early 1520s became a battleground between pro- and anti-Erasmists.
It seemed at first that the forces in favor of Erasmus would win, but in the long run the advantage rested with the other side. As Lutheranism spread in Germany, Erasmism was everywhere weakened. It is true that in 1524 Erasmus' Diatribe on Free Will was written to reject Luther's concept of predestination and man's total depravity. But after all, this was only a reasoned treatise against a major Lutheran doctrine; it was not a violent denunciation of a detestable heresiarch. And these were not the days for detached argument about theological premises. Erasmus' second attack on Lutheran doctrine (the Hyperaspistes in 1526) provoked Luther to condemn Erasmus as a "viper with deadly stings." (2) But it did not help Erasmus with Luther's enemies, either. Early in 1527 Alfonso de Valdes (3) spoke of his alarm over the "tragedy provoked [against Erasmus] by the impudence of the monks." In a long letter to Erasmus, Juan de Vergara, secretary to the archbishop of Toledo, wrote (4) of his increasing sense of unease:
There have been some indications of hostility toward you here for some time. People have been muttering on the street corners that Erasmus is suspect of heresy, and there has been some
1. The Erasmian tradition in Spain has been written up at much
length. The most comprehensive study is Marcel Bataillon, Erasmo y Espana
2nd (Spanish) edition, 2 vols., Mexico, 1950.
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sniping at your writings in public gatherings also. Those who feel more sure of themselves have attacked you directly... and some [have even] dared to take matters into their own hands by usurping the powers of censorship to ban your books by this new kind of ostracism.
Everywhere, said Vergara - in the streets, the public squares, the churches, we hear cries against Erasmus the heretic and blasphemer. In the confessionals and in the bookstores the monks are hinting that those who read Erasmus will soon get their just desserts. These "licentious and shameless" friars are looking for a scapegoat. They say that Erasmus is either a secret collaborator of Martin Luther or else he is "sick in the mind" and spews forth his sickness in "temerity and madness." They say that because he hides the fact that he is secretly a Lutheran he is all the more dangerous, and that the innocent must be protected against his insidious subtleties. They say the evil is spreading more each day as the writings of this new heretic come off the press, . . . writings which are glossed over by an innocuous sweetness of style and so deceive the inexperienced and destroy the souls of the ingenuous innocents who are unable to recognize the poison which lies hidden under the honey. . . . This creeping pestilence, they say, can be stopped only if the works of Erasmus, already condemned as impious by public decree, are banished from Spain.
Another letter at about the same time (early 1527) came to Erasmus from Alonso de Virues, a Benedictine friar, reporting on the reception given to the latest (Spanish) edition of Erasmus' Enchiridion. (5) The friars attack your book every day, said Virues, and even though you enjoy the support of many influential and learned people in this country, I am fearful that the friars must win eventually. For you will die one day, but the friars never die.
5. The letter appears in Marcel Bataillon's Prologue to Erasmo. El Enquiridion o Manual del Caballero Cristiano, ed. by Damaso Alonso, Madrid, 1932.
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And although, indeed, these religious orders number among their members many honorable and excellent men who truly cultivate learning and emulate evangelical simplicity, yet all of us are partial to our own orders and zealous for their honor. As a result the majority, who err either through a vulgar notion of piety or through malice, easily gain the advantage, and even convert their betters to their own way of thinking. And if, in the belief that we are thereby promoting the glory of Christ, we struggle against you for the sake of our own honor and glory. . . we will triumph over those who support you, because they wish only to support the Gospel. For such zeal as yours is frail, for the very reason that it is better than ours and - I say this with heavy heart - it perishes in the souls of mortal men.
Inquisitor General Manrique decided to put a stop once and for all to the attacks on Erasmus. In March of 1527 he convened an assembly of theologians and friars to meet at Valladolid to settle the question of Erasmus' orthodoxy. (6) After a long and acrimonious series of debates, and despite Manrique's scolding efforts to lay down the law to his subordinates, both sides remained more convinced than ever that they were right. So Inquisitor General Manrique dissolved the conference with the announcement that Erasmus had been cleared of suspicion and an order forbidding publication of any further attacks by the friars.
The friends of Erasmus were appropriately joyful and not a little relieved. Their troubles were apparently over; the friars would vex them no more. Letters of reassurance and praise were sent to Erasmus by his Spanish supporters. Archbishop Fonseca of Toledo wrote the Dutch humanist, criticizing those who had opposed him at Valla-
6. The original minutes of the Valladolid conference are in the Inquisition archives in Madrid: AHN, Inquisicion, Legajo 4426, no. 27. For an analysis and extracts see Manuel Serrano y Sanz, "Aetas originales de las congregaciones celebradas en 1527 para examinar las doctrinas de Erasmo," in Revista de archivos, bibliotecas y museos, vol. i (1902), pp. 60.73.
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dolid and assuring Erasmus that his opponents in Spain were being reduced to silence. It was a great victory. Or was it?
On February 11, 1528 a man named Rodrigo Duran appeared before the Holy Office of the Inquisition of Toledo to volunteer a statement. (7) He had been (said he) on his way from Burgos to his home in Santo Domingo in the New World, when he stopped overnight at an inn in the town of Cerezo. There he had met a stranger whose behavior struck Rodrigo Duran as very suspicious.
It seems that before dining Rodrigo and the stranger sat down by the fire to chat. The name of Martin Luther came up in the conversation. When Rodrigo condemned Luther as a heretic, the stranger replied that not everything Luther said was bad. The stranger agreed with Luther that there was no need for images in the church, and that images were for simple people only. In the matter of confession the stranger also agreed with Luther that men should confess to God alone and not to the priest. When Rodrigo told him about certain miracles which had transpired the stranger laughed at him and told him there were no such miracles. Among those present during this conversation were the landlady, her son, and a few servants. Rodrigo thought it possible that since these persons kept going in and out of the kitchen they might not have heard the entire conversation.
A search was immediately begun for the stranger. Meanwhile, the Toledo Inquisitors sent a man to Cerezo to check out the story and get some more evidence. The landlady of the inn was not much help. She did recall two men quarreling about something, but she insisted she knew nothing about their conversation because she kept going in and out of the kitchen and never lingered long enough to attend to the details of the quarrel.
7. AHN, Inquisicion de Toledo, Legajo 112, no. 74. For the full account of this trial see John E. Longhurst, Luther and the Spanish Inquisition: The Case of Diego de Uceda, 1528-1529, Albuquerque (University of New Mexico Press), 1953.
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The landlady's son was much more helpful. He had not been present when the conversation began but he did arrive when it was well under way, and he remembered many of the details. He recalled, for example, that the stranger agreed with some of the things Luther said, particularly that images in the churches were needed only for simple people. He could not recall hearing anything said about the proper mode of confession, although he was certain that the stranger might well have approved what Luther had to say on that subject, too. On Thursday morning (February 27, 1528) Diego de Uceda was apprehended at the home of relatives in Cordoba and brought to the Inquisition chambers of that city. Rodrigo Duran, remaining in a separate room, unseen by Diego de Uceda, swore that Diego was the stranger who had made those suspicious remarks.
Diego identified himself as a servant in the household of the Treasurer of Calatrava, in the service of Emperor Charles V. He had left the Emperor's court at Burgos a month before, on a journey to Cordoba for his employer. Diego was then advised by the Inquisitors that he stood accused of "having said, held and affirmed a certain heretical proposition or propositions held and affirmed by the heretic Martin Luther. Therefore, for the love of Our Lord, he should manifest the truth of his guilt." The Inquisition notary recorded Diego's reply:
He said that the only thing he had said about Luther is that he is favorably impressed by the latter's statements to the effect that Church officials should be poor. He does not recall having approved any of Luther's other ideas. If he has erred in this he submits himself to the correction of the Holy Mother Church. Also, he well knows that many wicked things are maintained by Luther, and if he has spoken at all on such matters, it has been during discussions about Luther. However, he does not remember with what persons or in what places he has had any such discussions.
Under further questioning that afternoon Diego stated that he had discussed the subject of confession one evening two weeks before at
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an inn at Guadarrama with the archpriest of Arjona and the canon of Leon, and he believed that someone must have overheard and misunderstood what he had said and reported his words incorrectly to the Inquisition. In the matter of images also he must have been overheard and misunderstood, because what he had said on these subjects was also found in the works of Erasmus, which had been approved by the Inquisitor General himself. As for Luther, Diego insisted he knew nothing about him and did not want to know anything about him.
The next day was spent in questioning a number of character witnesses, all natives of Cordoba and old friends of the family, who had known Diego from childhood. They all agreed that Diego was an Old Christian (that is, no Jewish blood), that he had always lived a virtuous life, and that he never had shown the slightest evidence of heretical thoughts. One of the witnesses noted that Diego was inclined to read a good deal, and he did remember seeing Diego read some of the writings of Erasmus; even so, he was sure that Diego was a good Christian. Another witness was certain that Diego was more inclined by temperament to the life of a religious than to the secular pursuits of a husband or a courtier. On the major point - Diego's orthodoxy and good intent - the witnesses agreed unanimously in his favor.
At noon on March 2, a messenger left Cordoba with a letter addressed to the Inquisition Tribunal at Toledo:
We received the letter of your graces and with it the accusation against Diego de Uceda. We took action as you instructed, as you can see from the examination made of the said Diego de Uceda.
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ness who made the accusation against him did not clearly understand the intent of the said Diego de Uceda when he accused him of denying oral confession.
Four weeks later, Diego de Uceda, still unaware of the identity of his accuser, was transferred to the Inquisition jail at Toledo.
The Toledo Inquisitors, as we have already seen, had a sharp eye for heresy. Diego's case obviously needed further investigation. April 2, 1528 he was brought to the audience chamber where he was directed to state truthfully the guilt he felt for having done or said something against the Holy Faith. This was his opportunity to clear his conscience and receive mercy.
Diego insisted he had already told the truth to the Inquisitors in Cordoba about his conversation with the archpriest of Arjona and the Canon of Leon. He was certain that someone listening had misunderstood his words. Perhaps he had been out of his head at the time, or drunk, in which case he begged for mercy and asked that he be given proper penance, because he never would knowingly say anything bad.
Two days later, in a letter addressed to his captors, Diego elaborated on his conversation at Guadarrama with the archpriest of Arjona and the canon of Leon:
I asked the archpriest if he knew anything about Erasmus. He said he did not, so I told him about the Colloquies and the Enchiridion, and about another work called Imensa Misericordia Dei, and advised him to try to get copies. He said he had heard that these books had been condemned, so I enlightened him on the matter.
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him to get the writings of Erasmus. . . . I told him about some of the clever things in the Colloquies, especially about the colloquy of Erasmius and Gaspar which discusses the proper attitude to take toward holy things. I told him what Erasmius says in the same colloquy about confession - how the most important thing is for the sinner to repent in his soul for having offended God, and how the boy [Gaspar] said that he searched his thoughts every night and if he found that during the day he had offended Our Lord, he begged God's pardon, weeping and rending his heartstrings, and promising to mend his ways in the future. And after this, one must make oral confession to the priest. . . .
Still under the delusion that he had been accused by some muleteers who had overheard his conversation with the archpriest of Arjona, Diego assailed them for being poor Christians. If they had been men of virtue and good faith, instead of rushing to denounce him, they would have availed themselves of the opportunity to be enlightened. But no, they demonstrated their wickedness and inexcusable ignorance by denouncing him for something they did not understand. They should be made to specify in detail exactly what he said that was heretical; only in this way could the truth be brought out. Diego's honor might then be restored and his wretched accusers punished for their ignorance. Furthermore, any number of persons
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would testify to Diego's orthodoxy: a licentiate in Valladolid, to whom he had confessed in Burgos on All Saints' Day; a chaplain and an innkeeper with whom he had discussed Erasmus when he stopped in Madrid on his recent journey; the present chaplain of his employer Fernando de Cordoba, with whom he had also discussed Erasmus; all the members of the household of Fernando de Cordoba, as well as Fernando himself, all of whom would testify that Diego was a faithful son of the Church. Indeed, Diego added, his intention had never been other than to live and die in the Catholic Faith.
For the next month Diego sat in his cell in solitary meditation. Meanwhile, orders were sent out to Cordoba to question the archpriest of Arjona about his conversation with Diego at Guadarrama.
The archpriest insisted that he had heard Diego say nothing contrary to the Catholic religion, and nothing about confession. In fact, the archpriest never heard Diego say anything which sounded heretical to him. All he could recall was that Diego had said that Erasmus had written three books which had been printed and approved in Spain, and that he never went anywhere without them. . Ten days later Diego requested an audience, that he might make a statement. By this time he was obviously trying desperately to extricate himself from his difficulties. The notary recorded his testimony.
Diego de Uceda stated that he recalled clearly that the two muleteers at Guadarrama, who have denounced him, had overheard his talk with the archpriest. They heard him say that Erasmus spoke well when he said that the most important thing in confession was one's inner feeling, and they confused this with the teachings of Luther.... The accused believes that God has permitted this adversity to befall him in order that his sins might be purged. He praised God that such is the reason for his misfortune, and to God's hands he entrusts the expediting of this affair. . . .
Two days later Diego made a shorter and more pungent statement:
Diego de Uceda said that the witnesses who have informed against him not only twisted his words but that they added many
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more. Especially have the two muleteers twisted the words they heard him speak with the archpriest at the inn at Guadarrama:
and they have added many other bad and stupid words which were not spoken between the archpriest and the accused.
The next six months were taken up locating witnesses for questioning. On June 23 (1528) Cristobal Juarez, the canon of Leon, was questioned in his native city. Of Diego's conversation with the archpriest of Arjona at Guadarrama, Juarez said he knew nothing, for he had gone to bed early. The next morning he had accompanied Diego and the archpriest as far as the town of Bailen, and during the journey he had heard nothing to indicate that Diego was anything but a faithful son of the Church.
The archpriest of Arjona was prodded a second time (July 27, 1528) and responded with a few additional items useful to the prosecution. He recalled, for example, that Diego de Uceda had praised the works of Erasmus as good books profitable to the spirit, and added that they had been approved by a congregation of learned men in Valladolid the preceding year. The archpriest also recalled that Diego de Uceda had much to say about Luther and his doctrines, but as Diego spoke a great deal and the archpriest was praying his hours during much of the monologue, he did not pay very close attention.
The archpriest did say, however, that he had reproved Diego for speaking about Erasmus because he did not think it proper to talk about such subtle things with simple country folk. Diego had replied that the works of Erasmus were Catholic, that they had been formally approved the year before, and that he was not doing wrong to talk about them. In fact, Diego had said that Erasmus was looked on with great favor at the court of the Emperor.
The testimony of Diego's friends among the household of his employer, Fernando de Cordoba, even if given with good intentions, could not have helped him much. All the witnesses agreed that Diego never said kind things about Martin Luther, but his fondness for reading and for talking about "subtleties" made them uneasy, as did his frequent talk about Erasmus of Rotterdam:
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....This witness has always considered Diego de Uceda to be a God-fearing Catholic Christian, who attends mass and matins and performs the works of a good Christian, such as praying and giving alms. However, this witness has often heard Diego de Uceda say some things about our Holy Faith which did not seem proper. . . . He does not recall just what they were except that Diego de Uceda, in reading the books of Erasmus in Spanish, quoted many foolish things which seemed improper to those who heard him....
The questioning of witnesses was completed in October (1528), with depositions from three friars who testified that they had confessed Diego de Uceda on a number of occasions during the previous year and he had done nothing to arouse their suspicions.
With testimony from aU available witnesses now in their hands, the Inquisitors of Toledo held a consultation (November 6) and "unanimously stated their opinion and vote to be that Diego de Uceda be put to torture to determine whether he said the words attributed to him, and with what intent he said them." The trial of Diego de Uceda had reached a critical stage, and Diego himself, alone in his cell, must have sensed it. On November 10 he sent a long letter to the Inquisitors, in which he discussed in minute detail all the articles of the Catholic Faith, with particular emphasis
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on oral confession, and begged to be recognized as a true believer. He concluded his letter with the following appeal:
I beg you sirs, to give me my freedom. . . . Being here is a living death for me, being held her for so long, like an animal in a cage, always locked in except when your jailer brings me to the audience chamber and leads me before you like someone leading cattle to the slaughter, or like those who observe the Law of Moses. Since we are aU Old Christians, for love of Our Lord, make all possible haste. . .
Had his letter convinced the Inquisitors of his orthodoxy? Perhaps they were still wondering about some inconsistency in his testimony.
Perhaps they did not appreciate the mitigating circumstances under which he had been required to testify. The following day he addressed another letter to his judges. He was, he said, greatly distressed and tormented over the delays in his case. He could not understand why the Inquisitors refused to believe him. His present predicament marked the first time he had ever been in trouble with the law. Never having had any experience in such matters he was naturally very upset and fearful of what might happen to him. In such a state of fear and confusion he naturally had contradicted himself, which was probably why the Inquisitors doubted the validity of his testimony. Of one thing, however, he was absolutely certain: he had never said the things of which he stood accused. He had always observed the sacraments of the Church; he was a man of honor and an Old Christian; if he had unintentionally erred in anything at aU, he begged their graces for mercy. After reading this letter the Inquisitors had Diego brought to the audience chamber. What followed was a shabby and dogged farce:
Their graces instructed the accused to tell the truth about what he had done and said against our Holy Faith, and they warned him once more to tell the truth. The accused replied that he had nothing to add to what he had already stated. Their graces then said that his case had been studied and it was agreed he should be put to torture; therefore they admonished him to tell the truth.
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The accused replied that in that case he would confess he had said it, although he really had not. He was told by their graces that he should hold to the truth, and that if he had said what he was accused of, to confess and clear his conscience by telling the truth. However, if he was sure he had not made such statements, he was not to testify falsely by saying that he had. The accused replied that if they were going to torture him he would now state that he had said it, and that he had told the truth on oath before the Inquisitors of Cordoba. The Inquisitors then pronounced sentence of torture. . . .
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that he had said it; then he asked how he could confess to saying something he did not recall. His arms were then tied with a hemp cord and he was stretched out on a wooden trestle. While his arms were being tied he was admonished to tell the truth. He replied that he had said what the witnesses had claimed. He was told to state in what way he had said it. He replied that as God was his witness he could not recall, but he confessed to having said it, and that he had erred in having said it; he had thought at the time that he was speaking well, but he had spoken wrongly and his bad speech now weighed more with their graces than did his good thought, and he asked that they have pity on him.
*This is the first (and only) time throughout his entire trial that Diego de Uceda refers to the one man who denounced him.
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He was asked how long he had held this error. He replied that he had held this error until he had been seized and admonished in this Holy Office, and that now he believed oral confession to the priest is necessary....
Two days after his confession under torture Diego de Uceda requested an audience:
He said that everything he had admitted concerning oral confession he had said because of fear of torture. . . . He had never denied the sacrament of penance. He never had spoken of nor praised the teachings of Martin Luther. . . . Whatever he had said, he had said nothing against our Holy Catholic Faith.
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Their graces ordered that his confession under torture be read to him. . . . He was asked if what was read and what he had confessed and stated under torture were true. He said he swore to God and the Blessed Mother that it was not true, and that it had all been said through fear of torture. He never had denied oral confession; rather he had praised it. Everything he had said under torture was said to give the expected answers to the questions which were asked him so repeatedly by Inquisitor Juan Yanes, and he now renounced his confession under torture. If necessary, he was prepared to die for the truth, and he never had denied the said sacrament of penance.
On the morning of July 22, 1529 - seventeen months after he had been denounced by Rodrigo Duran - Diego de Uceda, bare-footed and bareheaded, with wax candle in hand, abjured his heresy at an auto de fe in the public square of Toledo. He was required to make seven Saturday pilgrimages to a shrine of his choice, there to recite the Pater Noster and the Ave Maria fifteen times each. On any three Fridays he was to fast on a Lenten diet. He was to confess and take Communion on the next three major Church festivals of Whitsuntide, Christmas and Easter, and was required to submit evidence of having done so. He was also fined sixty ducats.
I have dealt at length with the trial of this unimportant man for several reasons. It is the first trial for Erasmism that I know of, and it reflects the fluid nature of the situation immediately following the Valladolid conference. The use of torture, for instance, is most unusual in a case so mild as this one. Yet the Toledo Inquisition tribunal - where most of the action against Illuminism was taking place - seems to have been determined to make much of the matter of Erasmism, despite the fact that the Inquisitor General himself had engineered the Valladolid conference of 1527 in favor of Erasmus. As for the victim, Diego de Uceda hardly knew what his trial was all about. All he wanted to do, particularly under torture, was to confess. But he did not know what to confess, and it seems almost as
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though the Toledo inquisitors were playing the whole thing by ear themselves. However, the situation was about to change, and Erasmus would now be thrust into the limbo of Luther's hell.