By a curious coincidence, Diego de Uceda appeared at the same auto de fe in which the Illuminist leaders Ruiz de Alcaraz and Isabel de la Cruz were sentenced to life imprisonment. The coincidence is symbolic of a new development in the Erasmian movement; for several years a kind of fusion had been taking place between the Erasmists and the outlawed Illuminists, which would greatly strengthen the hand of Erasmus' enemies.
In some ways this fusion was paradoxical. Erasmism was an imported product, representative of Christian humanism. Its leaders were intellectuals, men of influence and learning who felt that external practices were too strongly emphasized in contemporary religious devotions to the neglect of their inner meaning. Their approach to this problem was literate, satirical, and emphasized the reasonableness of things. The Illuminists, on the other hand, were a native product, essentially non-intellectual (and in some instances, anti-intellectual), emotional and intuitive. The leaders were mostly women of little learning, and their membership was predominantly converso. They actually denied the validity of external practices, and their approach to religious matters had none of the light, satirical touch and the reasonableness of the Erasmists. Consequently the fusion between these two movements was never complete. There were some Illuminists, such as Isabel de la Cruz and Alcaraz, who either had no knowledge of Erasmism or no taste for it. And there were Erasmists like Alfonso de Valdes and Juan de Vergara who had no interest in Illuminism.
Despite these differences, there were certain bases on which some Erasmists and Illuminists found a common meeting ground, and in
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the latter 1520s and the 1530s we find people who belonged in both camps - Juan de Valdes, Marra de Cazalla, Juan del Castillo, Miguel de Eguia and Bernardino de Tovar. Limited accommodation of views was possible largely through the nature of the Enchiridion of Erasmus, which was published in Spanish in 1526 at the press of Miguel de Eguia in Alcala. More than any other work of Erasmus, the Enchiridion emphasized the inner significance of Christianity, with a heavily Pauline mystical approach. The common core of belief among the Illuminists centered about their direct approach to God on a purely individual and intuitive basis. In the Enchiridion of Erasmus, which bore the official approval of Inquisitor General Manrique, they found expressed essentially the same quasi-mystical approach that they had been emphasizing for some years.
In 1526 or 1527 a group of Erasmists and Illuminists formed a self-styled Christian reform movement under the sponsorship of Admiral Fadrique Enriquez of Cm,tile, a Spanish nobleman with a penchant for unusual causes. (1) This group was to consist of twelve apostles with headquarters at the Admiral's home in Medina de Rioseco. Their plan was to obtain a papal bull authorizing them to spread the true gospel throughout the Christian world. At the head of the group were Bernardino de Tovar, the humanist professor of Greek at the University of Alcala, and Juan Lopez de Calain, who was later burned at the stake in Granada as an Illuminist. Others in the group included Miguel de Eguia, printer at the University of Alcala, who had published the Spanish translation of the Enchiridion, along with many others of Erasmus' works, and Juan del Castillo, who was burned at the stake in Toledo in 1535 as an Illuminist! Lutheran. The movement itself came to nothing; its sponsor, Admiral Fadrique Enriquez, soon became tired of the whole thing (or disenchanted, perhaps) and found himself another cause to support. But it was precisely this kind of cooperation between Illuminists and
1. The apostolate of Medina de Rioseco is described at greater length in John E. Longhurst, "The Alumbrados of Toledo: Juan del Castillo and the Lucenas," in Archiv fuer Reformationsgeschichte, vol. 45 (1954), heft 2, pp. 233-253.
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Erasmists which was to be the final undoing of the Erasmian movement in Spain.
In its roundup of the Illuminists in the late 1520s, the Inquisition had seized, among others, one Francisca Hernandez, erotic genie of the Illuminists of Valladolid, and (no relation) Diego Hernandez, a libidinous peripatetic who raised a ruckus wherever he went. Francisca Hernandez, at periodic intervals in the 1530s, denounced as Lutherans and Illuminists all the leading Erasmists in Spain. Diego Hernandez was equally fertile: in May of 1532 he named twenty eight persons - both Erasmists and Illuminists - whom he described as bedfellows in heresy. One year later his memory had improved greatly; this time he listed some seventy persons as Lutherans, which included all the leading humanists at the imperial court and the University of Alcala.
The Inquisition now had much bigger game than a Diego de Uceda to pursue. On the basis of these shotgun denunciations the Toledo tribunal began a full scale prosecution of all Erasmists and Illuminists in Spain. By 1533 most of them had either fled the country or they were in the Inquisition jails. By 1535 at least four (2) had been burned at the stake, while many more had made public abjuration of their sins. And by 1540 the Inquisition had run out of victims. A few, like Alfonso de Valdes, had been spared by an early death.
Others, like his twin brother Juan de Valdes, had found refuge in other Catholic lands. It was clear that by 1540 Erasmism was no longer an articulate force in Spanish intellectual life.
The trial of Juan de Vergara was the most important event in the destruction of Spanish Erasmism by the Inquisition. Vergara, a long time friend of Erasmus and one of the latter's chief supporters in the
2. Diego de Barreda, Juan Lopez de Calain, Alonso Garzon and Juan del Castillo.
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Valladolid affair of 1527, was a figure of major importance in the Erasmian movement of Spain. He was also secretary and confidant of Archbishop Alonso Fonseca of Toledo, which made him a very difficult man to prosecute. It took a strange set of circumstances to create such a golden opportunity for the enemies of Erasmus in Spain.
Bernardino de Tovar was the brother of Juan de Vergara, and it was Tovar who unwittingly provided the means for the Toledo Inquisition to build a case against the archbishop's secretary. When Tovar was a student at the University of Salamanca he became enchanted by the Illuminist Francisca Hernandez - she seemed to enchant a great many people, including her chief biographer, who fell in love with Francisca Hernandez three hundred years later. (3) Tovar took his place in the circle of male admirers around Francisca, and when the latter transferred her operations from Salamanca to Valladolid in 1520, Tovar followed her, to the great annoyance of Juan de Vergara.
In Valladolid the activities of Francisca and her friends excited the interest of the Inquisition. An investigation led to an inquisitorial order forbidding Francisca and her men friends from having any further contact with each other, but the order was ignored. Tovar's brother, Juan de Vergara, was much distressed at these undignified events, and sought to separate Tovar from the clutches of Francisca, an annoyance which Francisca would not forget. Vergara finally managed to persuade Tovar to move to Alcala; once free from personal contact with his Francisca, Tovar eventually broke with her . - which was something else Francisca would not forget.
Meanwhile, Francisca Hernandez pursued her winning ways in Valladolid, living comfortably at the home of Leonor de Bivero and Pedro de Cazalla, and widening her group of admirers. In 1523 she gained a zealous devotee in the person of the celebrated Franciscan preacher Francisco Ortiz, who hailed her as his "new Susanna" and who was so rapturous in his praises of her that he antagonized his colleagues and superiors to the point of despair.
3. Eduard Boehmer, Franzisca Hernandez und Frai Franzisco Ortiz, Leipzig, 1865.
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Finally, in 1529 the Inquisition of Toledo seized Francisca Hernandez in an unsuccessful effort to put a stop to the ravings of Francisco Ortiz. After remaining silent in jail for over a year, Francisca suddenly began to denounce on a mammoth scale. Her chief targets were Bernardino de Tovar and Juan de Vergara. Having known Tovar intimately for many years, she was quite specific about his heresies; having known Vergara not at all, she simply attributed to him all the heresies which she associated with Tovar.
The Toledo Inquisition immediately began accumulating information against Vergara and, after several unsuccessful attempts, succeeded in jailing him in 1533, despite the repeated efforts of the Archbishop of Toledo to have him freed. On the basis of Francisca's testimony, which was supported verbatim by her maid Maria Ramirez, the Toledo prosecutor accused Vergara of being a Lutheran, an Illuminist and an Erasmist, the clear implication being that there was little difference among them. Vergara's protests availed nothing. In vain he pointed out that the testimony of Francisca Hernandez was motivated by personal vengeance, that Erasmus had never been condemned as a heretic, that he knew nothing about Illuminists, and that he was accused of heresy for statements and opinions to be found in the writings of the Church fathers and Pope Adrian VI. In an auto de fe on December 21, 1535, Vergara publicly abjured his "errors" and was sentenced to a year of seclusion in a monastery in order to cleanse himself of heresy.
The trial of Juan de Vergara not only made a public example of one of Spain's leading Erasmists, but it established clearly the principle that Erasmism was part and parcel of the same heresy found in Lutheranism and Illuminism. Vergara was certainly not a Lutheran, and it is doubtful that the Inquisitors thought so, either. He was a Catholic reformer; he stood for Erasmism, intellectualism, critical scholarship (including the study of the Bible and the writings of the Church fathers); he emphasized the importance of inner convictions over outer observance, but he was none the less a Catholic. However, in the days of Lutheran heresy in Europe, the lines of orthodoxy in
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Spain were being drawn ever tighter. The Inquisitors were prosecuting certain types of liberal Catholic reform, not necessarily because they disapproved of it as such, but because in those restless and difficult times, with the spectre of Luther constantly before them, they could not tolerate criticism from within the ranks, lest it give aid and comfort to the enemy. In happier days, when there was no Luther, it is very unlikely that men like Juan de Vergara would have been in trouble. But in the sixteenth century it was inevitable that he would be.
In any case, it is a remarkable trial, and Vergara shows himself to have been a remarkable man in the face of a pertinacious piety.