BRIEF HISTORY OF SERVETISM
We must begin this summary by noting that Calvin always wanted to condemn Michael as “Michael Servetus” because Michael had signed three dangerous works with that name. Calvin believed that Michael was hiding behind the “De Villanueva” surname, and that this name referred to the city where he was born. Calvin describes "Michael Servetus" in his De Scandalis treatises. In this book, Calvin says that Servetus assumed the name of Michael de Villanueva, that he practiced medicine and that he could be Portuguese. We don't know what kind of slanted and uncertain information Calvin had, because if there is one thing Michael says clearly, it is that he was Spanish.
After the Judgement and sentence against Michael in Geneva his name was fixed as Michael Servetus alias Revés, from Villanueva in Aragon, as his executioner, Calvin, wanted.
During all of the 16th century and almost half of the 17th, Michael was known only as Michael Servetus alias Revés from Villanueva in Aragón. This name appeared in the Catalogues of Forbidden Books in Spain and was denounced as a heretic in France for centuries. The Spanish and French Inquisitions buried the memory of Michael's life and work. The Socinians, Unitarians, Calvinists, and anti-Calvinists came to know him through Geneva by the name “Michael Servetus,” and he remains so in their works.
In 1694, while reading the Restitution of Christianity, an Englishman named Wotton discovered that, in that book, Michael Servetus described the minor circulation of the blood for the first time. Later, in 1737, Leibniz helped to spread this fact by affirming that Michael Servetus discovered the minor circulation of the blood.
In 1749 Antoine Gachet D' Artigny, a French abbot, published the Judgement of Vienne Isère, and stated that Michael claimed that his name was Michael de Villanueva, born in Tudela in Navarre. By that time, 200 years of oblivion had passed. Until then, logically, even the researchers had just a single source for his name, Michael Servetus born in Villanueva in Aragon. After D'Artigny's discovery, other servetologists researched this previously unknown identity.
- D'Artigny copied the Judgement of Vienne Isère in his book, Nouveaux memoires d’histoire, before the document disappeared during the French Revolution. Here Michael was referred to as 'Michael de Villanueva, born in Tudela in Navarre,' during the first questioning. D' Artigny also published the second questioning in which Michael said that “… he was not Servetus at all, but he was happy of taking the person of Servetus for arguing with Calvin and for answering him as Servetus.”
- In the third questioning Michael confirms his written answers during the previous questionings, affirms that they “contain truth,” and he signs them with the scribe (this latter adds “for them not to be changed”: ne varientur).
- ' Artigny also published the letters of De Trie (actually written by Calvin). De Trie was from Lyon, but he was living in Geneva and was a member of Calvin's inner circle. De Trie wrote three letters to his cousin Arneys, who lived in Lyon. De Trie wanted Arneys to send those same letters to the French Inquisition, which he did. In these letters, specifically in the first one, 26th Feb, De Trie/ [actually Calvin] writes: “ .. He is a Spanish-Portuguese called Michael Servetus by his own last name, but he is called Villanueva nowadays..” In the third letter, 31st March, De Trie/ Calvin writes:
“ .. in the last letter you have received, he [Michael] declares on his name, he says he has disguised it, for he apologizes he is called Villanueva, though his last name is Servetus alias Reves, and says he has taken his name from his native village..”
Nevertheless, just 7 days back, 26th March, De Trie/ Calvin had sent the second letter and it does not mention anything on that issue. It only mentions that Calvin gave letters and some other material to De Trie, for him to send them to Lyon, to his cousin Arneys. De Trie/Calvin never provided the documentation he mentions in the third letter, which does not appear in the second one, nor in any of the rest of the documents that were sent to the Inquisition by De Trie/Calvin through Arneys.
Calvin -via De Trie- only sent the following to Vienne Isère:
1-The first 16 printed pages from the Restitution of Christianity by Michael. These were torn from one of the copies that “someone” had sent to Calvin. No first, last name or birthplace appears in the first 16 pages (the Restitution of Christianity has the initials M.S.V. in the colophon, and the name Servetus is mentioned in the inner dialogue of page 199).
2-Various pages from Calvin's work, The Institution of the Christian Religion, hand corrected by Michael, which Calvin himself sent to Michael. Michael expressed his opinions in written manuscript interlinear notes on the printed work. No first, last name or birthplace of Michael appear here either.
3-14 letters that Michael sent to Calvin in which there is no data on the first name, last name or birthplace of Michael. These 14 letters are a part of the draft Michael will later print, entitled “Thirty letters to Calvin” (inside the Restitution of Christianity).
It is clear then that none of these documents contain any data (manuscript or of any kind) on the name and birthplace of Michael, and because of this, no name or birthplace is given in the Judgement of Vienne Isère. The judges do not refer to the data De Trie/Calvin referred to.
We think Calvin made this story up in order to get Michael involved with his first theological works. Calvin sent many documents. If he had anything to prove the so called “disguise” of Michael (Servetus/ De Villanueva) or his birthplace, he would have used it. Faced with the lack of documentation on the Servetus last name, he hatched a plan. Through letters he had designed for De Trie, Calvin made up the existence of some writing he could not demonstrate or send. De Trie also requested the return of the letters he had written against Michael, in order to erase any involvement of Calvin/De Trie in the accusation against Michael. One can see Calvin's interest in denouncing without proofs or risk, to, as the saying goes, "throw the stone and hide the hand.” Luckily, these letters were not returned from Vienne Isère, and they remain as evidence of the cowardice of Calvin/De Trie, and of the absence of any documentary manuscript proof that Michael was named Servetus. For more information on this issue of Michael's name and birthplace (see Letters of Calvin/De Trie in El amor a la verdad. Vida y Obra de Miguel Servet -Love for truth. Life and work of Michael Servetus-).
More than 125 years later, Henri Tollin (1833-1902), a preacher in Magdenburg, Germany, published a book in 1875 in which he claimed that Michael was born in Tudela in Navarre. Tollin wrote more than 75 publications and provided works by Michael that were considered lost. He transcribed Michael's registry in the University of Paris which stated that he was from “the diocese of Zaragoza” (diocese meant residence in those times). Tollin's discoveries about Michael's life and work influenced later servetologists. Tollin was a servetologist who actually used archives, and he found new documents in several cities. His work was very important to our own research.
In Spain, Marcelino Menendez Pelayo (1856-1912), thought Michael was born in Tudela in Navarre, a view he never changed through several editions of his Spanish Heterodoxs. We do not, however, share his personal opinions on Servetus.
1901 Mariano de Pano published documents he found in Villanueva de Sijena which were written by the notary Anton Servetus alias Revés. Pano thought Michael was born in Tudela, and that he later moved to Villanueva de Sijena. Pano wrote that it was odd that Anton Servetus did not have the title of Infanzon during his first 18 years as a notary, for he did not sign any notarial document as Infanzon until 1529.
1911- Pey Ordeix published a biography on Servetus in Spanish, from Geneva. He also transcribed almost completely (the sentence from the beginning “Spanish nation” is missing) Dean Jean Tagault's declaration, where he states that Michael de Villanueva was from Navarre (of birth) and from the Spanish nation (later “residence” in Zaragoza). Pey-Ordeix believed Michael was a native of Tudela. Tagault also claimed that “[Michael] was engendered of a Spanish father.” This was very important in our investigation, for Michael uses two fathers: one of a father named “De Villanueva,” related with the birth of Michael in Tudela in Navarre; and another “Servetus alias Revés,” related to Villanueva de Sijena. According to all the available documentation we say the first one is his biological father, and the second is his adoptive father.
1923- Gustave Vellein, French. He was the first to transcribe a part of the Royal French naturalization, discovered by Saint-Olive in his Castle: Royal letters (he only published 3 out of a total of 21 documents) and a written report. He published in “Quelques mots sur Michel Servet. Sa naturalisation durant son séjour a Vienne” in Grenoble. Vellein wrote that Michael was born in Tudela, Navarre and that the last name “De Villanueva” confuses biographers about his birthplace.
1932- José María Castro y Calvo (1903-1987), was a Doctor in Medicine and Bachellor in philosophy and humanism who later became a professor at the University of Barcelona. He believed Michael was born in Villanueva from Aragón, and he wrote several references with numerous mistakes. Castro y Calvo's mistakes were repeated by other servetologists, because they did not check the original documents from the archives.
For instance we do not believe he transcribed a notarial protocol of Juan Servetus alias Revés and his wife Catalina Meler in 1504, in his work Contribution to the study on Michael Servetus and his work Syruporum. Juan and Catalina were the parents of Anton Servetus alias Revés. In that protocol, Anton Servetus appears to be single, for it is noted that if Anton dies his parents will give half of their inheritance to the Prior of the nuns of Sijena; But in that same year, at the end of this paragraph of 1504, it is added that Anton Servetus is married to Catalina Conesa, with three sons who have already “finished their studies” It also mentions them as “Michael physician, Pedro notary, and Juan rector of Poleñino”(!!!) See Fig. 3. These two lines that only appear in this work by Castro y Calvo are clearly illegitimate.
Fig. 4 He mentions Beatriz Conesa Zaporta and Gabriel Zaporta. He does not mention the notarial protocol where he read this, for we looked for it and we didn't find it. Nevertheless we found some new, more important ones. Castro y Calvo not only fails to source his claims, he does not realize how important it is that Michael's grandmother is Gabriel Zaporta's sister, and that they are members of an important Converso family. We see that in this same work Castro y Calvo seems to follow and quote Alwoerden (German servetologist from the XVIII century). In pp. 30 and 40 Castro y Calvo writes: “The belief that Michael was Jewish was spread, that is, that his doctrines came from the Jews and the Turks…” This conflation of Jews and Turks is a strange invention of Castro y Calvo. He goes on “.. that according to this last author [ Alwoerden] it is very possible that the doctrine of Servetus was inspired by Jews, who abounded in Spain then.” But that was already said by Alwoerden. There is not an original word by Castro y Calvo on the Jewish- Converso family Zaporta! We see this in the figure below: (see Fig. 5).
Many servetologists followed this idea without researching it, and many did not consider the possibility that Michael had Jewish- Converso ancestors; and from this error many mistakes followed. Also, as we have said, there is no official document of paternal filiation between the notary Anton Servetus alias Revés and Michael. We consider that Castro y Calvo is (with Nicasio Mariscal, contemporary servetologist) the source of the mistakes and omissions that have remained to this day, without criticism, a part of Spanish and International servetism.
- 1932- Earl Morse Wilbur (Harvard University), the same year that Castro y Calvo published, published the Errors on the Trinity and the Dialogues on the Trinity, in English, from Harvard. In this work, Wilbur writes that Michael was born in Tudela in Navarre, and mentions- possibly due to Tollin's influence- that Michael was registered “from the diocese of Zaragoza” in the University of Paris. This “detail” from the register of the University of Paris was unnoticed by the Spanish servetologists. The Spanish were more inclined to follow Yale University's R. Bainton, who inexplicably did not note this important data- (just as a considerable number of English and American servetologists). Wilbur has a growing importance as a historian and expositor of the Unitarians.
- 1954- Francisco Oliver Rubio arranged several lectures on Michael Servetus in Tudela in Navarre. Participants included Dr. Gregorio Marañón, the professor Valverde, and Francisco Vega Díez. For this occasion Rafael del Real made an oil painting of Michael Servetus. The abstracts were edited in 1958.
- 1961- Medical historians such as Prof. Paniagua from the University of Navarre, published monographs on Michael Servetus, in Geneva.
- 1974- George Mautner Markhof, Austrian, published a work on the trials of Michael Servetus in Geneva. Markhof thought Michael was born in Tudela in Navarre.
- 1976- Julio Arribas Salaberri, an excellent humanist, created the Institute of Sijenense Studies, located in Villanueva de Sijena (Huesca, Aragón), for the study of Michael Servetus. This was a great accomplishment that reinvigorated national and international servetism. However the Institute always operated on the premise that he was named Michael Servetus and that he was born in Villanueva de Sijena, repeating Calvin's thesis on the “disguise of the name and birthplace.” Lectures and studies were developed periodically. Palacios, Vega Diez, Henry Babel, Solsona, José Barón, Vives Coll, and Angel Alcalá, among other servetologists and servetians were part of the Institute.
- Recently, several Socinian and Unitarian servetologists have joined the Institute, showing interest in the figure of Michael Servetus. We presented our lecture in 1996, on the Dioscorides-Materia Medica- a year after we published it- and we kept contributing and communicating discoveries such as the Jewish- Converso family Zaporta in 1999. However, in those days we had not researched the life of Michael yet, and we really thought, until 1999, that he had been born in Villanueva de Sijena; but the discovery of his Jewish Converso origin led us to recheck all of his life and work, which has been our project since then.
- Our biggest objection to the Institute of Villanueva de Sijena, is that it denies any alternate theory of Michael's life without conducting any research. This goes against Michael's idea of tolerance: “each one has a part of the truth.” The Institute has never researched alternatives to the theory that Michael was born in Villanueva de Sijena, and that his name was “Servetus.”
- 1982- Aurelio Pérez González, from Tudela, published in Pamplona a work following Mautner's thesis. González agrees with Mautner that Michael was an illegitimate son of Anton Servetus. Pérez González worked to disseminate data on the life of Servetus in Tudela (Navarre).
- 1983- José Ramón Castro y Álava, physician and director of the Navarre Archive, published a monograph on the people of Tudela. His work had a universal scope, and it included Michael Servetus.
- In the mid eighties the “Michael Servetus Foundation” was created in Pamplona (Navarre). It is an institution that directs teaching and research on the Healthcare Service of Navarre.
- 1999- We found the new notarial protocol on Michael's aunt, Beatriz Conesa. This protocol mentions Michael's uncle Juan Leonardo and Beatriz Zaporta, Michael's grandmother, with reference on protocol, bundle and folio, in Zaragoza. This Jewish- Converso family was very powerful and important in Aragón. The servetologist Angel Alcalá made a comment we found very surprising about this discovery of Jewish-Converso ancestry in Michael Servetus' maternal line. Alcala said “.. some drops of Jewish-converso blood had been found..” (Obras completas 2003 volumen I pag. 29 y 30, on page 370 he refers to our publication in "Pliegos de Bibliofilia", 1999) He seems to ignore the importance of the maternal line in Jewish and Jewish-Converso families.
Our find was communicated in the International Congress Andrés Laguna, in Segovia (Spain) and in the 37th International Congress for the History of Medicine, in Galveston (Texas). It was published in Pliegos de Bibliofilia, Roots. Jewish Magazine of Culture, Herald of Aragón in March of 1999, and in other Navarre newspapers that same year. This find made us research and look for the original sources in order to verify that the transcriptions were not erroneous and in order to publish original documents that had never been graphically reproduced before.
- 2001- We published the facsimile edition and the annexed study of Retratos o tablas de las historias del Testamento Viejo. Portraits or figures from the stories of the Old Gospel, in the XX National Congress of Pathological Anatomy in Pamplona, with the sponsorship and support of the servetologist Dr. A. Puras of Navarre.
- 2003- Commemorative Acts for the 450th Anniversary of Michael Servetus in Tudela and Pamplona, with the Michael Servetus Foundation, the Medical Association of Navarre, and the Studies Center Merindad de Tudela. It was assisted by the servetologists Dr. Viñes Rueda, Dr. Juan Antonio Paniagua Arellano(Navarra University), Alfredo López Vallejos, Manuel de Fuentes Sagaz, secretary of the Spanish Society of Cardiology, and Francisco Javier González Echeverría.
- Our ongoing research has made us understand that Michael de Villanueva's personal life was more complex than had been thought. He only called himself Servetus when involved in very dangerous theological activities, he takes on the "person" of Servetus. The fact that he was born in Tudela in Navarre, and that he later went to Zaragoza (perhaps before going to Zaragoza he could have stayed in Villanueva de Sijena temporarily, though it is not stated in any official document at all) reflects that his life was not like his brother Juan’s. Nor was his education the same. Michael's vast knowledge shows that he got a very early, privileged, and impeccable education, profoundly versed in Mathematics, Geography, Astronomy, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Theology, Linguistics, etc. Michael's great intellectual capacities allowed him to make the most of that education. The result is the many works he completed, and perhaps in some that other researchers will discover.
The author of this website was expelled by agreement of the Council of the Michael Servetus Sijeniense Studies Institute (Villanueva de Sijena, Huesca, Aragón) because of believing Michael de Villanueva was born in Tudela in Navarre. This information was communicated to me by an email sent on 25th May of 2005 to my address. I think that the history of Servetism is still intolerant of critical voices. Perhaps it is easier to talk of Tolerance than to act with tolerance, as Michael taught us. It would be better to accept the documented truths we researchers contribute in order to reach a greater understanding and recognition of Michael Servetus. All in all, that would do justice to his life and work.