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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

More particularly in Seville and Valladolid


[Sidenote:

Failure of Protestantism to gain a substantial footing in Spain.]

The kings of Spain combated heresy within the peninsula to the fullest extent of their ability, supported by the general opinion of Spanish Christians, who were almost unanimously opposed to the new ideas. Measures were taken to prevent the dissemination in Spain of the works of Martin Luther or other heretical thinkers. In 1546 Charles I caused the first _Index_, or list of prohibited works, to be published, and this was reproduced, with the addition of some other volumes, by the Inquisition. Later the Bible was included in the _Index_, except the authorized Latin version, on the ground that the reading of the scriptures by uncultivated persons might result in misconceptions as to the true religion. Nevertheless, Protestantism gained devotees in the various cities of Spain, more particularly in Seville and Valladolid. The number of heretics was at no time great, but it was recruited from the highest ranks of society. Churchmen, more often friars, were the principal element, and they found converts in not a few members of noble families. Foreigners from northern lands frequently cast in their lot with the Protestant groups. As was natural, proselytism on a wide scale could not be carried on; the Valladolid group numbered only about fifty and that of Seville one hundred and thirty (although there is some evidence to the effect that the latter body attained a membership of eight

hundred), while those of other cities were still fewer in numbers. The greatest name in the Sevillian movement was that of Constantino Ponce de la Fuente, whom a modern writer has ventured to compare with Martin Luther for his high qualities, within the Protestant movement. Ponce, who was at one time the confessor of Charles I and Philip II, was the author of various heretical works. Discovered, at length, he was imprisoned, and shortly afterward was found dead. In the year 1559 great activity was displayed by the Inquisition in ferreting out and punishing the Protestant communities. Some individuals escaped to foreign countries, but many were condemned to die at the stake, meeting their fate, almost without exception, with admirable fortitude. The most celebrated case was that of Bartolom? Carranza, archbishop of Toledo. Head of the Spanish secular church though he was, only the efforts of Pope Pius IV saved him. After more than seven years of imprisonment he was allowed to go to Rome. Some years later he was required to forswear some of his writings which had figured in the original proceedings against him in Spain, shortly after which he died. In all of this vigorous persecution of Protestantism, Charles I and Philip II took the lead. By the end of the sixteenth century the new faith was no longer a problem in Spain. Under Philip IV a degree of toleration which would not have been dreamed of in earlier years began to be allowed. By that time Catholic France was Spain's principal enemy, and this tended to soften the attitude of Spaniards toward Protestants, although the restrictions of the laws were still enforced. In 1641 a treaty was made with Denmark, permitting Protestants of that country to enter the peninsula. From this time forward Spain was to evolve toward a more lenient policy still. A discussion of Spanish Protestantism would not be complete without a reference to the numerous Spaniards who took refuge in Protestant lands, and even for a time in Italy and France. They wrote a number of works which were remarkable for the excellent literary qualities of the Castilian they employed and for the scientific value of their content. While most of their writings were of a controversial, religious type they also made translations into Castilian or even wrote volumes of a scientific character dissociated from religion. Juan de Vald?s and Juan D?az were outstanding names among them. Miguel Servet and Pedro Gal?s, whose heresies were equally in disfavor with Catholics and Protestants, were also men of great distinction.


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