Little Bits of History

Sacrificial Lamb

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 27, 2014
Michael Servetus

Michael Servetus

October 27, 1553: Michael Servetus dies. Also known at Miguel Serveto Conesa, Miguel Servet, Miguel Serveto, Reves, or Michel de Villeneuve he was a Spanish theologian, physician, cartographer, and humanist. He was born in 1511 in Aragon, Spain. Some sources say he was born in 1509 and other sources also give his true name as De Villanueva. His father was of the lower nobility who worked at a nearby monastery. He had two brothers, one of them a priest and the other a notary. His mother’s side of the family came from the Zaportas, a wealthy Jewish converso family meaning they converted during the 14th or 15th centuries to the predominant religion of Spain – Catholicism.

Michael was gifted in languages and was employed by the Franciscan friar, Juan de Quintana. Michael studied law at the University of Toulouse in 1526 and may have had access to forbidden books while there. Quintana became the confessor of Charles V in 1530 and Servetus was brought to the imperial retinue and made a page (secretary). In that capacity he was able to travel to Italy and Germany and attend the coronation of Charles as the Holy Roman Emperor. Servetus was appalled by the opulence of the Papal retinue and chose a path of reformation. It is not known for certain when he left his royal post, but he was soon in touch with Johannes Oecalampadius in Basel working as a proofreader and in that capacity was introduced to “heretical” printings.

In July 1531, Servetus published On the Errors of the Trinity and the next year he had Dialogues on the Trinity as well as On the Justice of Christ’s Reign in print. Under threat of the Inquisition, he changed his name and moved to France to continue his studies. He expanded his areas of interest to include medicine and was the first to correctly describe the function of the pulmonary circulation. He also became interested in pharmacology, mathematics, astronomy, meteorology, and geography. He published several books and helped by proofreading several more, expanding his areas of expertise.

On February 16, 1553 he was denounced as a hereticy by Guillaume de Tri while in Vienne, France. He fled to Geneva for safety but was handed over when the French inquisitor Matthieu Ory demanded his return. Servetus escaped and stopped in Geneva on his way to Italy. He was arrested there again and brought to trial on charges of heresy. Both Protestants and Catholics were appalled by his treatment of the Holy Trinity. Since he was not a citizen, the most that should have been expected was banishment when he was found guilty. Instead, Servetus was burned at the stake as beheading was seen as too benevolent for such a criminal as this heretical demon.

May the Lord destroy all the tyrants of the church. Amen. – Michael Servetus

I beg you, shorten please these deliberations. It is clear that Calvin for his pleasure wishes to make me rot in this prison. The lice eat me alive. My clothes are torn and I have nothing for a change, nor shirt, only a worn out vest. – Michael Servetus

I will burn, but this is a mere event. We shall continue our discussion in eternity. – Michael Servetus

The arrest of Servetus in Geneva, where he did neither publish nor dogmatize, hence he was not subject to its laws, has to be considered as a barbaric act and an insult to the Right of Nations. – Voltaire

Also on this day: Fancy Dry Goods Store – In 1858, Macy opened his first NYC store.
Underground – In 1904, the first section of the New York City subway opened.
Paris Riots – In 2005, riots broke out in Paris.
Single – In 1936, Wallis Simpson was divorced.

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