This website was developed by Francisco Javier González Echeverría. (See author profile) I decided to create my own website in December 2011 to communicate, in my own words, my research on Michael de Villanueva ("Servetus"). There had been websites that discussed and reproduced some of my works, but they were created by others.
All of our research is aimed at increasing knowledge about Michael and the contributions he made to humanity throughout his life. For this reason we think it is important to dig deep into his circumstances, his birth, origin, family relationships, education, etc. All of these factors, as in every human being, are involved in the generation and evolution of his ideas, his human, social, theological and scientific preoccupations.
We think this is the right way to study of Michael de Villanueva (“Servetus”) who we consider a universal figure, belonging to whole of mankind.
Image of the history of cardiology, first mural of Diego Rivera (1886-1957) painted in 1943, in the “Ignacio Chávez” Institute of Cardiology of Mexico, Tlapan delegation.
Almost seventeen years ago we started on a path that led to our involvement in the passionate and difficult research on the life of Michael Servetus or Michael de Villanueva. This research required an exhaustive search through the archives and libraries of many countries. It also required correspondence with experts in diverse fields
It all started in January, 1995. The village of Sesma in Navarre had asked us to give lectures as part of their historical conference. While preparing for the lectures, we could not find enough information in the archives and libraries, so we asked the parish priest of the village if he knew where there could be more documentation.
The parish priest said that he had seen sheets and some books in the loft of the parish house, annexed to the church of Sesma. We went up to that cold and dusty place, and there, piled on the wood floor, we found books of notes on Sesma, works of Father Feijoo, inquisition documents, some medicine books and the will of the last cabildo responsible, clerig Mr Manuel Ezquerra Barinada, dated in 1890. There was also a Materia Medica Dioscorides of small size, edited at Lyon by the printer Thibaut Payen, bearing his last name in Latin, Paganus. It was dated 1546 on the cover and 1547 at the colophon
We then gave our lectures on a part of the history of the village of Sesma, and later we dedicated ourselves to investigate this Dioscorides. Our knowledge of Latin and Greek were of great help, for we could translate the content and personal data that this work held. We also contacted the expert of the National Library of Madrid, Mr. Julián Martín Abad, the Head of Manuscript, and Rare Books.
He told us that the book was unusual for having a cover from 1546 and a colophon from 1547. Mr Abad also said It was not cataloged in the known indexes, and suggested that we contact libraries in France and the UK which might have copies of it . He also told us we should contact the German specialist on Lyon printers, Sybille Koerner v. Gültingen.
This first book happened to be by Michael Servetus (1511-1553). We have found many other editions with other printers, but the first who printed it were the brothers François and Jean Frellon in 1543 at Lyon . Since then we have worked on discovering more lost works of Michael, many of which were detailed in his contracts, or in declarations of Lyon printers. Among all of the Lyon printers, we note Jean Frellon, in whose printing workshop Michael worked as as corrector, developing enriched revisions of other works. Jean Frellon called Michael de Villanueva (Servetus) “his brother and friend ”. Because of all this, we chose one of Jean Frellon's printer's marks as the logo for our website: the Crab and the Moth and its motto in Latin, matura, whose meaning is “hasten”. This printer, Jean Frellon, was so affected by the death of Michael Servetus in 1553 that he never printed after that year, he worked only as an editor.
We became interested in the data of Michael's life after we observed that, in his theological work, Servetus used Hebrew and referred to Hebrew sources that were not in print in those times. According to expert hebraists, his Hebrew was Mediterranean, different of the Central European Hebrew, that was used by important hebraists Michael meet with near 1530.
We were not the first investigators to think that Michael might have had Jewish heritage, though most Servetologists denied this possibility. Since an idea or opinion is a worthless hypothesis if it is not demonstrated with documentary data, we decided to research Servetus's ancestors. As we where investigating his maternal line we discovered protocols in the notarial archives of Zaragoza that demonstrated that the maternal family of Michael belonged to the Jewish-converso family the Zaporta. In 1999 by a newly discovered notarial protocol on the aunt of Michael, Beatriz Conesa, we established that his maternal grandmother, Beatriz Zaporta, was the sister of the important merchant (banker) Mr Gabriel Zaporta. Once we demonstrated in 1999, for the first time with verifiable documents, the Jewish converso heritage of Michael, we thought it was necessary to check all the existing data on his life; for we thought that his story, which many presented as a truth without fissures, could be a fiction. So we studied the data of “ Michael Servetus” and of “Michael de Villanueva”. We saw that some important data had been partially transcribed by some servetologists. In order to authenticate this research we sought the original manuscripts of the official documents of Michael's registration at the University of Paris; the complete original royal document of French Naturalization of Michael de Villanueva; the diocese registry of his brother, Juan Servetus;resgister of the Crown of Castilla's retinue for the coronation of Charles V, declaration of the Dean of Paris University, Jean Tagault, against Michael de Villanueva; Jewish-converso notaries from Zaragoza named De Villanueva; Jewish conversos named De Villanueva at Tudela de Navarre, Nuns from Villanueva de Sijena at Tudela, etc.
Finally, in March 2011, we published the result of all our research into Servet's life and work in one book, The love for truth. Life and work of Michael Servetus. (El amor a la verdad. Vida y obra de Miguel Servet). We believe, based on Michael's own words, that it was his love for truth that made Michael confront, once and again, intolerance and injustice. The work has more than 600 pages and 1000 footnotes. It also contains graphical documents some of them appearing for the first time, for we do not think it is valid or serious to claim a document exists without showing it. For this reason in this website we show a summary of his life and work, followed by graphical reproduction of the related documents.
The truth is that before going inside that old loft our knowledge of Servetus was limited to what we had been taught at the Faculty of Medicine: that he had discovered the minor circulation of the blood and some general data. There is an episode that Maite and I remember. It happened 30 years ago, in 1982. While touring France we stopped in the town of Annemasse. We were strolling by a garden when we spotted a statue in the distance. We felt curious and we got closer to it. We were moved and touched by the view of Michael with a suffering expression, dressed in rags, serenely waiting...We also remember saying : “Poor man! But, how did they do this to him? He had done nothing!...”
Even now, Maite and I are moved when we remember that image and what we felt before it. Perhaps it is better that Michael ends this presentation with his very words, some of the many he transmitted to us in his writing. Maybe if mankind would take this words up again, many of the conflicts that ravage us would be peacefully solved, and we would learn to tolerate the different, and different opinions.
“Inherent of human condition is the sickness of believing the rest are impostors and heathen, and not ourselves, because nobody recognizes his own mistakes[..]If one must condemn everyone that misses in a particular point then every mortal would have to be burnt a thousand times. The apostles and Luther himself have been mistaken[..] If I have taken the word, by any reason, it has been because I think it is grave to kill men, under the pretext that they are mistaken on the interpretation of some point, for we know that even the chosen ones are not exempt from sometimes being wrong”
Translated by Otis Towns & Miguel González Ancín