" Life of Michael Servetus or Michael de Villanueva (1511-1553)."

In this biography of Michael Servetus we wanted to go through his life, walking through the years chronologically

This is a summary of Michael' life but our analysis is not limited to the years in which he lived (1511-1553). In order to provide background to his life, we cover the years prior to his birth. We also cover the years after his death to show the impact his life made on the 16th century

For readers interested in a more detailed study of Servetus's life, we recommend the work of the author González Echeverría, Francisco Javier, The Love for truth. Life and work of Michael Servetus (El amor a la verdad. Vida y Obra de Miguel Servet) (2011), col.Goverment of Navarre, 607pp (543 pages and 64 additional illustrations and footprints on them). It contains 1177 footprints, twenty appendixes, bibliography, onomastic and toponymic index, general index, etc.

Though Michael's works appear in this biographical summary, they are more developed and better documented in the “Works” section.

-1483 On 17th of October, Friar Thomas of Torquemada is appointed first General Inquisitor of Aragón. Previously, he had been inquisitor in Castile since 1482, and the confessor of Queen Isabel the Catholic.

-1484 On May 4th Torquemada appoints Gaspar Juglar and Pedro Arbués alias Épila, inquisitors of Aragón. Pedro Arbués will be the canon of the metropolitan
church La Seo of Zaragoza. Soon after, the Inquisition begins persecuting Jewish conversos.  these were Jews who converted to Christianity, though some
continued to practice Judaism in secret. Jews are arrested, detained and stripped of their property. If a defendant was not detained, he was burned in effigy (that is, they burned a figure of him).

-1485 On September 14th, Jewish Conversos attack the cathedral of La Seo at Zaragoza, mortally wounding Pedro Arbués alias Épila. Arbués's helmet, coat mail and spear proved useless against the Aragon conversos, and he died of his wounds on September 17. After the attacks, there are brutal reprisals in Zaragoza: The conversos are dragged, beheaded, left dismembered in four pieces on the paths, etc. Aragon conversos make their way to Tudela because it was close by and because during those years it belonged to another kingdom, Navarre.

-1486 A year after Inquisitor Arbues alias Épila died, the Catholic Kings write from Cordoba to Tudela ordering that the heretic from Aragón be delivered to the inquisitors. The Tudelans proclaim that if any inquisitor enters their city, he will would be thrown into the Ebro river.

In the following years Tudelans' resistance to the inquisitors is so strong that the  aldermen order commissioners and attorneys ask the Catholic Kings to limit the power of the Inquisition. That power was penetrating from Tarazona of Aragón. Tudela of Navarre belonged to the bishopric of Tarazona in those times,

Tudela's attorneys write  in the legislative assembly manifest of 1510: “ Take away from here that friar who calls himself Inquisitor”

  Cf. Salcedo Izu, Joaquín, Gran Enciclopedia Navarra, Caja de Ahorros de Navarra, Pamplona 1990, Tomo VI, voz Inquisición, pp. 131-134.

The year before Michael's birth, Jewish conversos in Zaragoza are being killed and burnt , even the deceased ones. Their bones are removed from the graveyards and burnt posthumously. Fugitive conversos were burnt in effigy. During 1510 and 1512, (close to Michael's birth in 1551) 10 conversos are burnt. Many others were condemned by the Inquisition , but were finally forgiven, with some other kind of punishment. This was the situation in Zaragoza during those years.

  Cf. El libro verde de Aragón, Presentación y estudio preliminar de  Motis Dolader,  Miguel Ángel,  and introducción y transcripción  de Combescure Thiry, Monique  Ed. Certeza, Zaragoza, pp. LIX –LX ; pero especialmente, p.211 y 217.

-1492 Edict on the expulsion of Jews from Castile and Aragón, issued at Granada. This same year Huesca Jews make their way to Tudela in Navarre along the Ejea route. They are accompanied by Ramón de Sijena (Xixena), lieutenant of the judge of the Huesca (a city of Aragón) brotherhood. It is estimated that about 12,000 Jews pass to Navarre, mainly from Aragón. Data suggests that there were about 180 Jewish households in Tudela, that is nearly 1000 people out of a population of 5000 to 6500. This last number almost coincides with the number of names inscribed on the entrances of the “Manta of Tudela” (the list of converso names of the town of Tudela), which are 182.

But a higher percent should be calculated. Many names got lost , for “The Manta” refers to people from the XVI century, but it was written in the XVII century. As a result we calculate that Tudela had at least 1500 Jewish inhabitants out of a total population of about 5750.  That made Jews 35.3% of the town's population. Other authors refer an even greater augmentation of population at Tudela. Whatever the exact number, Tudela became a refugee town for the pursued Aragón Jews and Jewish conversos.

-1498 Expulsion of Jews from Navarre. Most of Tudela's Jews are “converted.” Though they are conversos, in practice many of them are Cryptojews (people who practice Judaism in secret).

-1505 The presence of nuns of the monastery of Xixena (Sijena) of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem is noted in documents of Tudela of Navarre up to 1519. These nuns had family at Tudela. This is specifically stated in the “anniversaries” of 1505-1507 of Costanza Bardají, and in the testament of 1519 of María Murguti, who recovered from her sickness in the town of Tudela and came back to Xixena (Sijena). This can be observed in the figures 1, 2, 3 and 4. The great priors of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Navarre stayed at Tudela in Navarre during the XVI century.

This connection between Tudela and Xixena (Villanueva de Sijena in Aragon) is important because Anton Servetus alias Reves and his family will live there.

 According to our research, Anton Servetus was the step father of Michael de Villanueva (Michael Servetus)

Maria de Murguti, one of the nuns from  Villanueva de Sijena's monastery, was originally from Tudela ( Sister of Fray Gregorio de Murguti, Great Prior of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem in Navarre, the same order of the monastery. She also had two sisters in Tudela, Graciana and Isabel, and her parents were buried in Tudela, in the church of Saint Francis, according to the documents. This same nun, Maria de Murguti, will appear in notarial protocols of Anton Servetus himself.

-1511 Michael de Villanueva (Michael Servetus) is born at Tudela of Navarre, a haven for conversos from Aragón. Navarre is a kingdom independent from France and Spain until 1512. It will lose its independence after the Castilian-Aragonese invasion of Fernando the Catholic King.

Tudela is a town located very close to Aragón,  specifically the city of Zaragoza. Tudela is less than 51 miles from Zaragoza, and the two cities are connected by the river Ebro. The year of Michael's birth is not known for certain. According to some testimonies he might have been born in 1509. However 1511 is the the year that best fits the arrangement of his life and works, and so is the most probable. As for the day of birth, it is also unknown, though  servetologists infer it from the day of the start of his work Restitution of Christianity (29th of September, Saint Michael's day)

We don't know if Michael was circumcised in Tudela, though it is very probable, because Jewish tradition clearly says it must be performed on the 8th day after birth


Tudela is famous because of its architectural features.  These include the cathedral with its Romanesque cloister and Gothic portico from the XII century, the Magdalena Church and several beautiful renaissance palaces with artistic motifs from Aragón (Marquis of Saint Andrew Palace, Admiral's House-M.Forcada Foundation), etc. However, Tudela is also the birthplace of important historical figures.


These include Muslims such as the poet “ The blind of Tudela”, and many historically important Jews such as Yehuda Halevi, also a poet, and well known in the Hebrew world; Abraham ibn Ezra (who will be quoted several times by Michael in his The Restitution of Christianity, printed in 1553), Benjamin of Tudela,  and the Talmudic experts Shem-Tov ibn Falaquera and Shem-Tov ibn Isaac Shaprut. Also it is good to name the cabalist Abraham Abulafia (his father was from Tudela), born at Zaragoza but resident of Tudela in Navarre, and the mathematicians and astronomers of the Tornamira family, who also appear in the Manta of Tudela, especially Francisco de Tornamira who is born in the XVI century subsequently to Michael de Villanueva.

(Names that start with "De" are not capitalized when placed after the first name: De Villanueva, Michael de Villanueva.)

There is constant commerce between Tudela in Navarre and Tarazona In Aragón, just 13 miles away. There is also a constant exchange of people between Tudela in Navarre and Zaragoza. and not just in the 16th century.  There are many commercial, cultural and professional exchanges between Tudela and the two cities today.

The fact that the geography is totally flat, and that the river Ebro bathes both cities explains the human, cultural and commercial exchange between them.

Now we will disgress, explaining the different proofs that are presented by :

A)Those who believe his name was Michael de Villanueva, born at Tudela in Navarre, son of a first marriage of Catalina Conesa Zaporta (mother of Michael) with a De Villanueva.

B) Those who believe his name was Michael Servetus alias Revés born in Xixena(Villanueva de Sijena in Aragón) and biological son of Anton Servetus alias Revés, and that Michael had two brothers, Pedro and Juan.

A) His full name is Michael de Villanueva, as Michael affirms and as stated in:

I) Official documentation (original institutional documents of that period, not abstracts) that required previous legal documentation from Spain (registration in the University of Paris, royal document of French naturalization, see 1537 and 1549 respectively).

II) Abstracts of official documents of Vienne Isére, the city where every important figure knew Michael by his one official name during all his life, Michael de Villanueva. Michael held his documents of Doctor in Medicine, registration in the University of Paris, and French naturalization (judgement of Vienne Isère, see 1553).

III) Document of his enemy, Jean Tagault , dean of the Faculty of Medicine of Paris. Tagault investigated Michael's past in order to find grounds for attacking him. Tagault did not find anything useful, and his declaration contains accurate information he found in documents about Michael (declaration of Tagault, see 1538)

IV) Five works signed as Michael de Villanueva out of a total of eight signed by Michael. Also, this name never appears when the situations become more dangerous, after the University of Paris issues the judgement against Michael de Villanueva in 1538. This judgement was instigated by the dean of the Faculty of Medicine , Jean Tagault, and generated the first death sentence for Michael de Villanueva.

All this requires a father named “De Villanueva”. His mother is Catalina Conesa y Zaporta, niece of Gabriel Zaporta, and daughter of Pedro Conesa, who had the title of knight.

Michael's paternal last name is De Villanueva, according to his French nationalization papers.  While we cannot specify which individual was Michael's biological father, the last name suggests he was a Converso.  In 1509-1511, there were several families in Tudela named De Villanueva, and some of these appear in the Manta of Tudela.  De Villanueva was also a common surname among the Conversos of Zaragoza, some of whom were notaries.  Tagault's (the dean of the Faculty of Medicine of Paris) document notes that “Michael de Villanueva was born in Navarre” and “resided in Spain” but that “he had a Spanish father”.  Tagault does not provide any other information about the father, but it appears that the father (who must have shared Michael's surname, otherwise Tagault would have used the fact to attack Michael) was not a regular resident of Navarre.

We believe it is most likely that Michael and his father resided in the same place: Zaragoza (see diocese, registry in the University of Paris 1537).  In those times, people born in Spain (the combined Crowns of Castille and Aragon) were identified as "Spanish" in French Naturalization papers, but those born in Navarre were not (see 1549 French Naturalization).

B) Some other authors say Michael's name was Servetus alias Revés, son of the notary Antón, and that his birthplace was Villanueva de Sijena (Xixena).

They base their theories on:

1)Abstracts of unofficial documents: Letters of Guillaume de Trieaccomplice and friend of Calvin (the great enemy of Michael). In De Trie's letters, which he sent indirectly to the InquisitionDe Trie (as dictated by Calvin) claims to have documents that are signed by Michael de Villanueva as “Servetus”Calvin never produced any such documents.  There was no name at all on any of the documents that Calvin/De Trie sent to the Judgement of Vienne Isère, 1553, and judges themselves, after checking the documents, pronounced two sentences against Michael de Villanueva, not against “Servetus” (see 1553, Judgement against Michael de Villanueva)( see Brief history of servetism. Letter of Guillame De Trie).

2)An official document (a copy of the Judgement of Geneva against Michael Servetus), which states that Michael Servetus (in this document he does not appear as Michael de Villanueva) did not present any previous document for demonstrating his identity, which would have allowed him to pose as another “person” (see 1553, Judgement of Geneva). Geneva is the residence and core of power of Calvin, who instigated this judgement against Michael at Geneva, as well as the judgement at Vienne Isère.

3) Two works signed as Michael Servetus alias Revés, and one as M.S.V. These names appear on the most risky works he published  (logically the author is always free to choose a pseudonym, especially for the most risky works). The works bearing these names do not list the city in which it was printed, nor does it have the mark of the printer or an imprint mark, because of fear.

4)The conjecture that his real name is Michael Servetus born in Villanueva de Sijena, and that he falsified his identity by calling himself “Michael de Villanueva” and “masquerades as born in Navarre” all to gain the advantages that people from Navarre had in France. Data demonstrates that this conjecture is false:

1- Michael never hid the fact that he belonged to the “diocese of Zaragoza(Kingdom of Spain), in which he was registered as Michael de Villanueva. This is also stated in official documents (see 1537, registry at the University of Paris – fig.17,18,19). In those times Diocese meant place of residence. So Michael never hid his important relation with the Spanish Nation (“natione Hispanus”, see note of Dean Tagault's note -fig.21 ) in which he was residing.

2- Michael even states that his father is Spanish(“hispano” Se Dean Tagault's note -fig.21)

3-As for the advantage of being from Tudela of Navarre, a famous haven of Jewish conversos, that was not advantageous for Michael at all.

If Michael had been interested in generating a false Navarre personality with the aim of hiding, it would have been much more intelligent to claim a a city with much less Jewish Converso influence, for example Pamplona, to claim a Navarrese diocese, such as Pamplona, and to claim a Navarrese father.

De Villanueva was a Converso surname, and very common throughout the Iberian peninsula, ( Tudela and Zaragoza included), as common as the villages called “ Villanueva”, 62 in all the peninsula, (5 in Navarre, and 5 in Aragon)

This conjecture of Navarrese false identity is not a  documentary truth, for as official documents demonstrate his real data were: “ Michael de Villanueva, born in Tudela in the Kingdom of Navarre, resident in the diocese of Zaragoza, and engendered by Spanish father.” (official graphical documents will be shown all through this website)

5) A misinterpretation of the document of Infanzon (pure blood) of Anton Servetus.  They argue that this proves paternal filiation between Anton Servetus and Michael.  However Michael is not mentioned here at all. Logically, the only thing it proves is that a person called Antón Servetus was Infanzon at Sijena; any relation of this pure blood document of Antón Servetus with Michael is an invention.

*There is no existing document of filiation between Antón Servetus and Michael ( notarial or of any kind). Defenders of this claim there is, but they never refer to it and, of course, they never show it graphically. Contrast this with our work The love for truth. Life and work of Michael Servetus in which we give graphical proofs of any document that is mentioned, which is necessary in actual research. It is not serious to say one has something if it is never shown (see 3rd figure and its explanation in the Brief history of servetism section).

End of our digression on Michael's birthplace, name and father.

We come back to the information we have on Michael.


Genealogical Tree of Michael de Villanueva.


Figs. 5,6 y 7. Numbers on the lines show: 1) First marriage. 2) Second marriage. 3) Third marriage. Discontinuous lines show most probable family relations according to our research.


We were able to confirm the Jewish-converso ancestor of the mother of Michael, Catalina Conesa, by notarial protocols.


Fig 8. See aunt of Michael , Beatriz Conesa talking of his brother, already deceased, and of her mother Beatriz Zaporta. She comments with the notary Mateo Solórzano in 1593. “Juan Leonardo, my brother, and his mother, mine and his, Beatriz Zaporta..” At the end of the document, the name Beatriz Conesa appears again.




Fig 9. Another protocol of the notary Mateo Solórzano, also of 1593. In this one Beatriz Conesa talk of her grand-uncle, Mr Gabriel Zaporta.

Hence, Beatriz Conesa and Juan Leonardo are half siblings through their mother Beatriz Zaporta, who was Michael's grandmother.  Michael's mother is Catalina Conesa Zaporta, sister of Beatriz Conesa Zaporta.

Beatriz Zaporta ( the grandmother) belongs to the important Jewish converso family Zaporta, and she married several times. Her brother was the well-known Jewish converso merchant (banker) Gabriel Zaporta. We documented her story for the first time in 1999 to magazines on History of Madrid (Pliegos de Bibliofilia, Roots: Jewish magazine of culture) and at the congress Andres Laguna at Segovia. In 2000, we presented it to the 37th congress of the International Society for the History of Medicine in Galveston, Texas. No previous research had confirmed a converso link to Michael, though many suspected it, the first being John Calvin himself. Suspicion is one thing, but it is quite another to demonstrate it with protocol, bundle and folio.

In 1529, someone called Pedro Serveto alias Revés, appeared in Sijena.  He was listed as a notary. Because of his age, we doubt that he is Michael's brother, but we believe he is a direct relative of Michael's step father, Anton Servetus. (During the persecution of “Servetus” the Inquisition only names one brother, Juan, a priest in 1529).Many servetists believe that Pedro Servetus was Michael's brother despite the many doubts that arise about him.( See work : The love for truth. Life and work of Michael Servetus)

If Michael's brother Juan Servetus was ordained before the regulation of Trento, then, despite being younger, he could have been a priest at the same time that his older “brother” Michael was still studying in Toulouse, France.

So there are only two brothers, Michael and Juan . Michael had the “De Villanueva” last name, and Juan had another one, “Servetus”. It indicates that Michael is the son of Catalina Conesa Zaporta's first marriage, with a “De Villanueva.” According to data Michael was born in 1511, his name was "De Villanueva," and his brother Juan is Catalina's son with her second husband, Anton Servetus.

De Villanueva” was a converso name. First, as we said earlier, it appears in 1510 in the historical archive of protocols of Tudela of Navarre

Fig10 Documents of Tudela. At the left the whole document. At the right, detail of this document where appears the last name “De Billanueva”
( B and V were used without distinction in those times)



Second, the last name “De Villanueva” also appears 4 times in the list of the Jewish conversos of the city, the so called “La Manta de Tudela.”


Fig11.A ©A. Zardoya.. General image of “La Manta of Tudela”

Fig11.B part of La Manta de Tudela. We note one of them is named "De Villanueva."




Third, it is also a converso name in Zaragoza (Green Book of Aragón) maybe belonging to the important family of notaries De Villanueva. There are even homonyms, such as the notary Michael de Villanueva of Zaragoza.


Fig12 Archive of notarial protocols of Zaragoza, Miguel de Villanueva. We will keep researching and opening possibilities for finding out the truth about our genius.


What seems proven is that Anton Servetus was old Christian (without Jewish converso ancestors).

-1512 Invasion of the independent kingdom of Navarre by the army of King Fernando the Catholic. Tudela is the last town of the kingdom to surrender to the troops of Archbishop Alonso of Aragón. The town surrenders on the 9th of September after a long siege. On October 4th Fernando the Catholic swears the privileges of Tudela. The Council of the Inquisition is established, with headquarters at Pamplona. Later it will be located at Estella, but finally it will be based in Tudela of Navarre, the city with the most conversos, many of them of Aragón origin. By decision of Fernando the Catholic, the Kingdom of Navarre is incorporated into the Crown of Aragón until 1515. It will be the last Kingdom of the Iberian Peninsula that will incorporate to the rest of Spain (by invasion of Fernando the Catholic, husband of Isabel the Catholic).

-1515 There is war at Navarre from 1512 to 1529, though the war is attenuated in the last years. In 1515, the “aeque principal” is formed between the Kingdom of Navarre and the Kingdom of Castile. This creates two kingdoms with equal conditions. The Council of the Inquisition of Navarre moves its headquarters to Tudela of Navarre, from 1515 to 1521.

-1516 Extension of the Castilian Pragmatic of 1502, and the forced conversion of Tudela's mudejars (Muslims who lived in Christian lands). There were few conversions to Christianity. About 1000 people leave Tudela, mostly to Aragón, leaving nearly 200 empty houses in the city. Michael very possibly was circumcised  this year, resulting in an inguinal hernia on one side, and a “cut” in the other( according to the very words of Michael, doctor in Medicine). This operation might have created a physical handicap for Michael. Michael was probably taken from Tudela to the city of Zaragoza or to Villanueva de Sijena. The latter is more probable, in view of Michael's age and the necessity of being close to his mother (Michael's mother lived in Villanueva de Sijena from the time of her marriage to Antón Servetus). In any case he could have moved from Tudela before of after this year. During this period It is very probable that Michael's family from Zaragoza--perhaps the Zaporta, the De Villanueva, both families, or other relatives--were present. Thus, Michael's registry at the University of Paris reads: “from the diocese of Zaragoza.”

-1520 The 9th of February, Charles V swears the privileges of the city of Tudela, before Villalón de Calcena, Dean of Aragón. Among those present is Friar García de Padilla, great commander of the order of Calatrava. De Padilla will investigate “Michael Servetus alias Revés from Aragón, Spanish” after Michael publishes his first and second dangerous works (1531 and 1532) under that name. We will explain this fact in detail later.

Diverse converso families originally from Aragón live in Tudela, which is an independent kingdom until 1512. These families include the Vidal, Santángel, Gómez, Miranda, etc. They often appear in notarial protocols as “neighbors of the city of Caragoca(sic)(Zaragoza) and at present time, habitants at the town of Tudela in the Kingdom of Navarre”. These Jewish residents of Tudela in Navarre have excellent relations with the Court of Aragón along with social and economic power.

-1521 Uprising against the imperial troops of Charles V in Navarre, especially in the city of Tudela. The headquarters of the Inquisition of Navarre leaves Tudela for Calahorra.

-1522 The elected Pope Adriano VI is received in Tudela of Navarre and Zaragoza. Michael, now 11 years old, could have seen these receptions.

-1525 Michael begins to work for Juan de Quintana. We don't know if this is thanks to the influence of the family of his stepfather, Antón Servetus, his mother's family, the Zaporta, or his father's family, De Villanueva. It is very possible that Michael lives in Zaragoza at this point (see “Zaragoza diocese” in the registration of Michael de Villanueva in the Faculty of Medicine of Paris in 1537). To date there are no registered documents that place Michael in Granada, Toledo or Valladoliz, all cities where Juan de Quintana lived.

-1527 Michael moves farther and farther from his mother's house in Villanueva de Sijena. He goes to Toulouse (France) to study Law, on his stepfather's recommendation. We think he studied Civil and Canonical rights, and that Juan de Quintana could have influenced Michael's choice of a French University. Michael studied there for about two years.


-1529 Anton Servetus begins using the title of Infanzón (pure blood), which will appear in all of his later notarial protocols. Anton Servetus had never used this title before this year, though he had been a notary in Villanueva de Sijena since 1511. This title of Infanzon will be inherited by his son Juan, the cleric, according to the altarpiece built in 1558/1598, by Juan and the widow, Catalina Conesa, Michael's mother. It does not seem that Anton Servetus is Infanzon by birth, nor by place, for no ancestor or neighbor used it, so the title had to be granted by a Royal Letter. To date we don't know why Anton Servetus was ennobled in 1529 and not before. This opens several hypotheses.

In this year Pedro was already a notary, so we calculate he is older than Michael, who was around 18 years old. Juan, Michael's brother, is a priest in Zaragoza, but belongs to the diocese of Lerida, Illerdensis, while  Michael is from the diocese of Zaragoza. We revealed this for the first time in 2002.


Fig 13. “Juan Servetus alias Revés from the Lérida diocese Illerdensis dioc. The village of Villanueva the Sijena belonged to this diocese.





Fig 14 In the left: Comparison of the document of Michael de Villanueva with the document of his “brother” Juan Serveto alias Revés (note their different surnames and dioceses).

In the right: Detail of the diocese of Michael de Villanueva from the registry of the Universityof Paris. Michael de Villanueva, from the diocese of Zaragoza, “Caesaraugustanensis dio”. The village of Villanueva de Sijena did not belong to this diocese. The term “ diocese” reflected the place of residence, in those times


Michael was with Quintana in the imperial retinue in the Spanish procession Charles V's coronation. While journeying to Bologna for the coronation, each member of the imperial retinue, from the confessor to the most humble workers (servants, cleaners, etc) was registered by first and last name and corresponding pay.



Fig. 15 List of the members of the Royal retinue, General Archive of Simancas. Crown of Castile.



-1530 Charles V has his double coronation in Bologna.



Fig. 16  In the left the painting of Vasari on the coronation of Charles V. In the right some documents of Juan de Quintana who is not yet Charles V's confessor.


Later, Quintana will be appointed confessor of Charles V. It is very possible that Michael would be at the Diet of Augsburg (meeting of catholics and protestants). It appears that he met the hebraist Melanchthon (hebraist of Martin Luther). Michael leaves the retinue and stays with the protestants. In October of the same year, Michael goes to Basel (Switzerland) where he stays at the house of another great hebraist, Oecolampadius. Michael is already in contact with with important hebraists when he is just 19 years old. The Hebrew used in  Basel was Central European and very different from Sephardic Hebrew, which was used in the Mediterranean. According to current Hebrew teachers from Jerusalem, Michael's Hebrew was Mediterranean Hebrew, and a very perfect one. Therefore it seems evident that Michael learned  Hebrew from Jewish converso circles, and not from studying works written in Biblical Hebrew, as some servetologists say. They claim that Michael learned Hebrew from biblical texts provided by Quintana, or from studying in the Monastery of Montearagón, even though there is no proof Michael was ever there. It also seems evident that Michael knew Hebrew remarkably well before he left Spain, so well that a hebraist of the stature of Oecolampadius (hebraist of Erasmus of Rotterdam) could appreciate it. Later Michael will correct Melanchthon's Hebrew in his Christianismi Restitutio (Michael Servetus 1553).

-1531  Michael goes to Strasburg with Capito and Bucer, both reformed/ protestants. He publishes first work De Trininatis Erroribus (On the errors of the Trinity) by “Michael Servetus alias Revés from Aragón, Spain” in Haguenau, birthplace of the great hebraist Capito, and the place where Melanchthon worked in his youth. This work does not bear the name of its printer, Hans Setzer, nor his printer's mark (the illustration that represented the printer) nor the name of the city where it was printed, Haguenau. It was a very dangerous work; the issue was considered a serious heresy. As can be seen, the first time that the name “Servetus alias Revés” appears, it is on this dangerous work, where all the rest of data remain concealed. It seems that, according to Juan de Quintana , Michael had sent a copy several times to Archbishop Juan II of Aragón, deceased. It has not been possible to verify Juan de Quintana's declaration. We will see later why Quintana's declaration concerning Michael is not necessarily a reliable source . It should be pointed out that “Bucer,” “Capito,” “Melachthon” and “Oecolampadius” are pseudonyms, which was typical for renaissance writers (e,g. Erasmus, etc). Michael de Villanueva uses one in these protestant lands, “Servetus(Serveto) from Villanueva,” which resembles his stepfather's name and origin.

-1532 Besides Quintana and Michael, Charles V's coronation retinue included nobles and religious leaders such as friar García de Padilla, commander of the Order of Calatrava, and Hugo de Urriés, Lord of Ayerbe and “for the issues of Aragón” (a high nobleman, delegate of the Empire, specially for issues concerning Aragón). Both García de Padilla and Hugo de Urriés claim that they do not know “Michael Servetus alias Revés, from Aragón, Spanish” the name that appears on the cover of Michael's first work. No one in the  royal retinue knows who “Michael Servetus alias Revés from Aragón” is, which shows he was not called by that name, even before publishing any risky work

The Inquisition of Medina del Campo, at Valladolid, Spain, is ordered to investigate who “Servetus” is, his family, where he studied, and who provides for him. This order comes from Germany, where Charles V's retinue is and where Michael's first book is being sold. The Inquisition also requested a search for Servetus in Aragón. The information on Michael's book cover made it very easy for the Inquisition to locate the family of  the Servetus alias Revés in Villanueva de  Sijena (Spain).

It seems the Inquisition does not harm Michael's step father, Antón Servetus alias Revés.  Anton keeps working as a notary and signing as “Inzanfón”( title granted in 1529) to the end of his life, which can be seen in documents of the nuns of the important monastery of Sijena. However, it seems the Inquisition did harm Michael's  half-brother, Juan. We believe that the Inquisition's order reached Zaragoza and there they located Juan, who appears in documents of this period as Juan Servetus alias Revés from the diocese of Lerida. This led the Inquisition to the Servetus alias Revés family at Villanueva de Sijena, that belonged to the diocese of Lerida. The Inquisition showed great interest in Juan, perhaps because he was Michael's half-brother. In fact, the Inquisition will send Juan to Germany to find Michael and bring him to Spain by deceiving him, if it was possible. No one knows what happened on Juan's trip to Germany, according to declarations of the Inquisition itself. Nevertheless, Juan, who had been secretary of the archbishop of Santiago, will end his career as the priest of a small village, Poleñino, which is next to Sijena. The Inquisition does not seize Michael's family's property or burn him in effigy, which is what it normally did  to fugitives. This is how it had to proceed, as the Nuncio (the Pope's representative) Girolamo Aleandro will say. To date, we don't know why the Inquisition did not proceed as usual, but it could be related to a deal that resulted in Juan seeking his half-brother in order to bring him back.

Later the Inquisition also requests a search for “Servetus alias Revés” in Toulouse from the Kingdom of France. As we have said, Michael studied in Toulouse for about two years. We checked that all of the documents from Michael's time at the University of Toulouse( registry, etc) were destroyed or lost. It should be mentioned that the University of Toulouse had many Spanish students  (mostly from Aragón and Navarre), students from  other counties and, of course, students from France. It was typical to move from University or residence. Many of these students will go on to study in Paris, Montpellier, Avignon, etc. If Michael had changed his name from "Servetus alias Reves" to "De Villanueva," he could have been denounced by students, teachers, or any person in the cities, places and universities of France. It t is stated in documents that Michael stayed in France from 1533 at the latest, and he published important works and was very famous in this country (see years 1533-1539). This seems to show that Michael was called De Villanueva--not Serveto alias Revés, Servetus or Servet --while he was at the University of Toulouse.


Back in Germany, where the imperial retinue is staying, Girolamo Aleandro sends a letter to the confessor Juan de Quintana asking about “Michael Servetus alias Revés.” (Juan de Quintana is from Aragón, and this is probably the reason why they contacted him after reading “Servetus alias Revés from Aragón”). Quintana says he knows Servetus only slightly, and underestimates him (or maybe tries to diminish his heresy) by saying that he could have not written the work De Trinitatis Erroribus without the aid of the Protestants. According to Aleandro, Quintana states that Servetus was older (much older than Michael was, according to historians) and that he belongs to the diocese of Huesca, which does not appear on any of Michael's official documents. According to Michael's official documents, he is from the diocese of Zaragoza. In this same conversation, Quintana also says that Michael sent a copy of his work to Juan II archbishop of Zaragoza, but archbishop Juan II of Aragón had passed away, and this statement of Quintana has never been proved. It seems that Quintana is pretending, trying to divert the Inquisition away from Michael de Villanueva.  Quintana had been close to Michael de Villanueva, and if the Inquisition discovered that De Villanueva and Servetus were the same person, that intimacy might have damaged Quintana's career. The statements might also show that Quintana is trying to protect Michael, giving false information on his age and especially his diocese. This led the Inquisition to a diocese (Huesca) that had no information on “Servetus alias Revés”.  These events did not damage Quintana in the end,  for he remained the Emperor's confessor to his last days. Aleandro finishes his letter by calling for a meeting of theologians, Spanish ones included, for burning “the book and the effigy of the heretic, as it is done in Spain” and inciting the reformed to punish him in their lands.

Meanwhile,Michael orders the printing of another work from the same printer in Hagenau. This work is entitled Dialogorum de Trinitate (Dialogues of the Trinity) and he uses the name “Michael Servetus alias Revés from Aragón, Spanish” again. The work bears no other names, no marks of printers, no imprint marks, nor the name of the city where it was printed (Setzer –Secerius in Latin- and Haguenau). It is difficult to understand why,once again, Michael uses this name which would mean double jeopardy for his family in Villanueva de Sijena. The works by “Servetus“ are criticized and rejected by the protestants who had previously befriended Michael, such as Oecolampadius, Capito and Bucer, among others. Also Melachthon, who lived in another city, joins the group that excoriates the works by Servetus and attacks Servetus himself.  It should be pointed out again that ““Melachthon,” “Bucer,” “Capito” and “Oecolampadius” are also pseudonyms.  Michael abandons Basel, proving a sentence from the end of his Dialogs of the Trinity, “nor with these, nor with those. All seem to me to have part of the truth and part of the mistake” in reference to catholics and protestants.


-1533 After passing through several cities, Michael de Villanueva settles in Paris.  While there, he studies in the school of Calvi (it has nothing to do with John Calvin) then becomes a teacher in the Lombard School.


-1534  In 1554 Calvin will affirm that during this year,1534, Michael did not attend a meeting that was arranged with him in Paris. There is no documentary evidence that the two knew each other at this point. Michael goes to Lyon where he meets Symphorien Champier and Monteux Mntuus, among other important figures of the city. Michael de Villanueva (Villanovanus) is hired to write the first French-Latin edition of the Geography of Ptolomei.

Saint Ignatius of Loyola (founder of the Jesuits) begins his theological studies at the University of Paris

-1535 The first edition of Ptolemy's  Geography is published in Lyon. The cover bears the name “Michael de Villanueva” or “Villanovanus”. The second edition will be printed at Vienne Isère in 1541. The author mentions many cities: Zaragoza, Lérida, Pamplona and Tudela, among others. This works shows Michael de Villanueva's social concerns. When he writes about Germany, he describes the German peasants as servants who feel cold and live in huts and holes while being exploited and oppressed by their rulers. He also notes that poor people always lose in struggles, as in the recent rebellion of the German peasants. Michael's work runs counter to Martin Luther, whose work supported the repression of the peasants. Michael also describes a Spanish Inquisition, that “cruelly rages against the heretics, the Conversos (Marranos) and Muslims ( Saracens)”


-1536 Michael publishes his Defense of Leonhart Fusch, in Lyon, with prologue in Paris, as Michael de Villanueva. It is a defense of his friend Champier (see Works section). In this work Michael mentions one of the pupils and a teacher from the the school of Beauvais, Francisco de Javier, better known as Saint Francis Xavier (jesuit).

-1537 Michael studies medicine in Paris. In the registry of the University of Paris he appears as “Michael de Villanueva, from the diocese of Zaragoza”. This is an official document that required previous legal official documentation from Spain.

The original document is shown for the first time below


Fig.17 View of the whole document of the registry at the University of Paris.




Fig. 18 Detail of the document magnified. 




Fig. 19 Detail of the document of Michael Villanueva from the diocese of Zaragoza. 


We show how the documentation on the relation of father and son was issued from the metropolitan church La Seo of Zaragoza. We can observe that last names coincide. Tagault checked a document similar to this one when he investigated Michael de Villanueva (see 1538).


Fig. 20 Example of the document of another person, issued from the La Seo of Zaragoza. It is pointed the name of the father, town and diocese of residence.


This year Michael de Villanueva publishes the first edition of his Universal explanation of Syrups (Syruporum universia ratio) with the printer Simon Colineus of Paris. In this work he mentions Galen, Manardus, his teachers Andernach and Sylvius ( Jaques Dubois), etc.. Michael also mentions all of them in his later medical works. Michael also declares his “Love for Truth” in the prologue of this work. There are subsequent editions in Venice by Valgrise, and the last ones at Lyon in 1546, 1547 and 1548. Michael teaches astrology in Paris. These lectures are attended by pupils and teachers of the University of Paris, and also by Pierre Palmier, primate Archbishop of the Gaul, resident at Vienne Isère, who Michael will later call his protector. Michael predicts an eclipse of the moon interposing Mars. The event occurs exactly according to his calculations, which impresses the people of Paris.


Michael predicts an eclipse of the moon interposing Mars.


-1538 Michael's classes on astrology at the University of Paris are suspended on order of the Faculty of Medicine Dean Jean Tagault. Michael is also accused of explaining the treatise On divination by Cicero. Michael thinks of printing a defense of astrology. It seems that Dean Tagault heard of this for he interrupts a class where Michael de Villanueva and a surgeon were dissecting a corpse in front of medical students. Tagault admonishes Michael in front of the class. Michael quickly prints his Discourse in favor of Astrology Against A Certain Physician (Michaelis Villanovani in quedam medicum apologetica disceptatio pro Astrologia) without a cover or initial capital ...”. This “certain physician” of the title  was Dean Tagault, and this gives rise to a judgement of the University of Paris against our Michael. It will also inspire Tagault's accusatory note against Michael de Villanueva. Tagault writes abundantly on the judgement. His note starts with “certain student of medicine, Michael de Villanueva, of Spanish nation, from Navarre as he declares, but engendered by a Spanish father, in 1537...”


See Fig. 21. Acussatory note of  Dean Tagault.


If we analyze Tagault's document , we see that it matches with Michael's birth in Tudela of Navarre, and also that the term “Natione Hispanus” ( Spanish Nation) matches with his residence in the Zaragoza diocese ( very possibly in Zaragoza city itself), already mentioned in the University of Paris' registry. We see that Tagault was Michael's enemy, and if he had seen any document in the University's registry which showed that Michael's surname (“De Villanueva”) did not match his father's (for example “Servetus” or any other) he would have pointed it out or used it in the judgement against Michael de Villanueva. Father and son had to share the last name, “De Villanueva.”

Michael de Villanueva is sentenced to die by the University of Paris. It is the first of three death sentences Michael will receive in his life (one more after his death). However, this time Michael is just punished by the withdrawal of his work. He is also forbidden to attack ( the term “ attack” was very subjective, and could be applied to any commentary)  any Parisian physician in speech or writing or face fines and prison. His name will never appear again in any cover of any new work.


Because of the difficulty of continuing his studies at the University of Paris, Michael de Villanueva leaves the city. He remains in France, in Montpelier, and very probably in Avignon as well, according to his statements in the judgement of Vienne Isère. Michael attains the title of Doctor of Medicine before 1539.

Michael writes his Manuscript of the Complutense (c. 1538-1539). It contains hundreds of handwritten notes, as commentaries on a Materia Medica Dioscorides of Jean Ruel. The book was corrected by Dionysus Corronius, and printed in Paris by Simon Colineus in the very year of  Jean Ruel's death. Michael de Villanueva writes several notes that will coincide with his own Materia Medica Dioscorides of 1543. It is an unpublished, extensive compendium of Michael's ideas (see Works section).

- 1539 Michael de Villanueva lives in Charlieu, France, where he will be listed as a witness- and as a Doctor of Medicine for the first time- in a testament. In Charlieu he lives in the house of the Rivoire, thanks to the influence of Jérôme Monteux, Montuus. It seems Michael has a French girlfriend, but he does not marry because he considers himself “unable”, according to his testimony in the judgement of Geneva. The probable reason behind Michael's “incapacity” was damage from the genital operation he had when he was about five years old.

During his time in Charlieu, an envious physician ambushes Michael with friends and relatives. In the ensuing sword fight, Michael is wounded and wounds one of his attackers. Michael is sent to prison for two or three days.

-1540 On February 14th, Michael de Villanueva, (“Villanovanus”) signs a contract with the “Fellowship of Booksellers” for developing a Bible with commentaries by Robert Estienne (Roberti Stephani). the printers Hugues de la Porte, Luxembourg de Gabiano, Antoine Vincent, and Jaques de la Joncte appear in the contract. Gaspard Trechsel and Jean Rambert sign as witnesses. Ymagenes de las historias del Testamento Viejo (Historiarum veteris instrumenti Icones. Images of the stories of the Old Gospel) is published anonymously in Latin and Spanish. It is prose with woodcuts by Hans Holbein the Younger, printed in Antwerp by Johannes Stelsio. There were previous Latin editions with the same woodcuts, printed by two sets of brothers, F. and J. Frellon and the G. and M. Trechsel. The Spanish translation was made to order and carried out by Michael de Villanueva in the the Frellon brothers workshops (see Works section).

-1541 Near the end of 1540 or beginning of 1541 Michael moves to Vienne Isère, a town close to Lyon. He practices medicine, motivated by Pierre Palmier, primate Archbishop of the Gaul.

-1542 The Sacred Bible according to Santes Pagnini ( Biblia Sacra ex Santes Pagnini) appears. This Bible is not illustrated, and it is edited by Hugues de la Porte and printed by Gaspard Trechsel. Michael de Villanueva does not appear on the cover, but within, in a long prologue. From now on his name will not appear in any first edition.

This same year, The Sacred bible according to the old doctors (Biblia sacra ex poxtremis doctorum) is published anonymously. It has some new pages, and the same editor and printer as the previous bible, H. de la Porte and G. Trechsel. This work has many other editions in subsequent years by other Lyon printers such as Boulle, De Joncte( Giunta), Poullon alias de Trin, Rovillium (Rouillé), Paganus ( Payen) and G. Millis, among others.

This Bible is illustrated, but not with Holbein the Younger's woodcuts. We think the first woodcut is by Holbein, p1r (a), at the beginning of Genesis. The rest of the illustrations are by other artists.


-1543 Michael publishes his first edition-prínceps- of his Materia Medica Dioscorides, edited and printed by the Frellon brothers (see Works section). Later this year Michael publishes a pharmacopoeia, a complementary work to this Materia Medica Dioscorides. This pharmacopoeia is entitled Enquiridion (handbook) or Dispensarium, and was also printed by the Frellon brothers. The preface mentions the previous work, Dioscorides (see Works section).

Michael de Villanueva publishes the work Retratos o tablas de las historias del Testamento Viejo. (Portraits or printing boards from the story of the Old Testament).

Michael versifies the Spanish text from his work Ymagines of 1540. This work contains two more woodcuts by Hans Holbein. It is printed by the Frellon brothers, with words from Aragón and Navarre of the Ebro river valley area (see Works section).

This same year, Michael publishes another Spanish-Latin translation, printed by the Frellon brothers, entitled Los dísticos sobre las costumbres, titulados con el nombre de Catón, con traducción latina y española. (The distichs on customes, entitled with the name of Cato, with Spanish and Latin translation). We will abbreviate this work as, “Distchis of Cato.” It is the first of Michael's “grammatical-Spanish” works  printed by Jean Frellon (see Works section).

Michael was very prolific this year, according to the research to date. The works he printed this year were not very extensive, but we have to bear in mind that Michael de Villanueva was also a practicing physician at Vienne Isère.

-1545 The Sacred Bible with commentaries (Biblia Sacra cum glossis) is edited by A. Vincent and printed by G. Trechsel. It is a work in 7 volumes ( six volumes and an index), illustrated with woodcuts by Hans Holbein the Younger- some of them shared with Ymagines and Retratos o Tablas- and other artists. This is the work Michael promised to the "Fellowship of Booksellers" in the contract signed in Lyon in 1540 (see Works section). Several servetologists have acknowledged this bible, but they do not describe it or reproduce it graphically. The servetologist Alcalá goes to the point of denying its existence and of calling it Ghost Bible( see Works section).

-1546 Michael has exchanged letters with Calvin. These letters are exchanged through Jean Frellon, who was friends with both men. Calvin writes these letters under a pseudonym, Charles d'Espeville. Michael sends a draft of his Christianismi Restitutio, but Calvin never returns it. Curiously, there is a manuscript dated from this same year that matches perfectly with the document that Michael sent to Calvin, with theological ideas, some sections written in Hebrew and Greek, which also includes the description of the pulmonary circulation of the blood. This document is called “Manuscript of Paris.” (see Works section) Neither “Servetus” nor De Villanueva names appear in this document . Calvin will say in 1553, through his friend De Trie, that Michael sent him a writing in which the name “Servetus” appeared, but curiously it does not appear in any part of this document. The correspondence between Michael de Villanueva and Calvin stops that same year.


-1548 Michael begins the process of obtaining French Naturalization. The document states that he is “Michael de Villanueva, Doctor in Medicine, native from Tudela in the Kingdom of Navarre” throughout the process. We can see it in the Royal Letters, sent in October from Moulins (France), by the Dauphin of France (the King), the bishop of Mande and by the Master of the ordinary Requirements, Burgensis”. This grant was “sealed with green wax, with hanging green and red silk ribbons”. It was ratified in the Court of Finances (Chambre des comptes) by Ferrand, with diverse government officers and royal attorneys (in the year 1549 there are more documents on the naturalization.

Fig. 22, 23, and 24. Part of the documents of French Naturalization of Michael de Villanueva.


Michael de Villanueva seems to be interested in architecture. He approves the construction of a bridge over the river Gère, a tributary  of the Rhone in Vienne Isère.

Start of the French edition of the Opera Omnia of Galen (1548-1551) by Michael and the printer Jean Frellon, at Lyon. The Giunta edition of the Opera Omnia will not be printed again in France for more than 80 years. This work (5 volumes : 4 tomes and an index) has commentaries and will be printed by Jean Frellon, as we said. This work is original and different from other “Opera Omnia of Galen” works, edited in Venice and Basel. Michael de Villanueva mentions intellectual authorities that live in that period, such as Vesalius, Winter von Andernach, Jaques Dubois (Sylvius), Janus Cornarius, John Caius, etc (see Works section).

-1549 Michael's French Naturalization, a process which took 8 months, continues. Witnesses give statements for it during the verbal processes. Tudela is given as his birthplace three times in the 21 page document: “Michael de Villanueva, Doctor in Medicine, native from Tudela in the Kingdom of Navarre,” which is verified verbally by Artus Prunier, the King's counselor, with other masters and auditors in the Court of Finances of France, the 5 of July of 1549. It is also ratified by Ferrand. Figs. 25,26,27 and 28.

Libro infantil de notas sobre la elegancia y variedad de la lengua latina(Children's book of notes on the elegance and variety of the Latin language) is published (see Works section). This  is Michael de Villanueva's translation of Mathurin Cordier's “On the correction of the perverted word..”. It was printed in Louvain by S. Sassenus and the widow of A. Byrckmann. This work will be reprinted in 1551 by Jean Frellon with covers by Antoine Vincent and Frellon himself, who appear as booksellers or editors. 

Librito sobre la construcción de las ocho partes de la Oración con comentarios y traducción española. (Book on the construction of the 8 parts of the sentence, with commentaries and Spanish translation), is printed by Jean Frellon (see Works section). This is Michael's Spanish translation of a French work by Junien Ranvier. 

Jean Frellon described these works in the Judgement of Vienne Isère. Frellon declared on  the 23rd of October of 1553 that Michael de Villanueva had completed some Latin-Spanish grammatical works in his printing work.

 Michael de Villanueva's interest in Spanish children's education and for the Spanish tongue can be observed from these works.

-1550 On October 18 Michael de Villeneuve is chosen as Prior of the Saint Luke Brotherhood for two years, at Vienne Isère. This brotherhood provided medical treatment to sick people who had no means of support.

Meanwhile, in Geneva, Calvin edits his “Des scandales qui empeschent…” (De Scandalis), in Latin and French, printed by J. Crespin. In this book, Calvin denounces Michael de Villanueva as Servetus (with no proof), and calls for the Catholics to detain him at Vienne Isère. Calvin is an important protestant theologian at this point.

-1551 Calvin edits a new French edition of Des scandales where he again accuses Michael de Villanueva of having the last name “Servetus,” again without any result.

Michael de Villanueva is summoned to a meeting of dignitaries (aldermen, lawyers, intellectuals, bourgeois...) in order to decide the location for a print shop of Balthasard Arnoullet in Vienne Isère. Michael assists in the gathering which  approved the establishment of the printing works at Vienne Isère.


-1552 Michael starts printing the Restitution of Christianity in a hidden print shop on the outskirts of Vienne Isère, the 29th of September the day of Saint Michael. Michael's position as the Prior of the Saint Luke's Brotherhood ends on the day of Saint Luke, October 18, after two years of service in that position in Vienne Isère.

-1553  Restitution of Christianity is printed on January 3rd. The book bears no name, printer's mark or city. The author appears as M.S.V. in the colophon, which corresponds to Michael Servetus Villanueva. The unbound book is distributed in Lyon and Frankfurt.

Michael de Villanueva is reported to the authorities of Lyon, and they report him to Vienne Isère. The reporter is the French resident of Geneva Guillaume de Trie, a close associate of Calvin.  De Trie accuses Michael de Villeneuve of being Michael “Servetus” in a letter to his cousin Arneys.  De Trie wrote the letter under the Calvin's direction. (see Brief history of Servetism section)

Finally, the French Inquisition is informed, and they imprison Michael de Villanueva and Arnoullet, the printer of Restitution of Christianity. The book's editor flees Vienne Isère for Geneva.

The judgement of Vienne Isère against Michael de Villanueva begins. It must be pointed out that Michael was one of the dignitaries of the town; he was part of its circle of intellectuals, adviser, physician of the Archbishop of the Gaul, and naturalized on the authority of the King of France( See year 1548-1549). Everyone knew him, and what his name was at Vienne Isère.

In the first questioning, on April 5, after swearing to tell the truth before the Holy Gospels, Michael states that he is “...Michael de Villanueva, Doctor of Medicine, near 42 years old, native from Tudela in the Kingdom of Navarre, which is a city under the Emperor's control..” This accords with his official documents of naturalization, registry at the University , Doctor in medicine, etc.

In the second questioning,  on April 6, after again swearing that he was “saying the truth before the Holy Gospels”, Michael confronts De Trie's  accusation that Michael was Servetus. Michael answers that he “.. was not 'Servetus ' at all, but nevertheless he would be happy to take the “person” of Servetus for arguing -with Calvin-, and answer him as 'Servetus'”.


Fig.29 First questioning. “.. Michael de Villanueva, born at Tudela in the Kingdom of Navarre, which is a town under the Emperor's control...”



Fig.30 Second questioning. Michael uses the word “person” in all of his theological works, and it means “mask”, “face”, “aspect”, “ image”, “substance”, “appearance”.., according to his description in The Errors of the Trinity, The Dialogs of the Trinity, The Restitution of Christianity, and also during the later Judgement at Geneva, in which he mentions it constantly.


Brief disgression

(There is a sentence in the third phase of the later judgement that is especially revealing on this aspect of the term “ person”, which Michael uses in this way all throughout the judgement:

“..But because this concept of “ personis unknown to Calvin, and the whole matter depends on it, I will show here the points of the old doctors of the Church”.)

We come back to the judgement of Vienne Isère. The same day, during the third questioning, Michael de Villanueva says that his previous declarations “contain truth.”

Michael does not acknowledge that he is the author of “Michael Servetus'” previous works. He says that he heard talk about that “Servetus”,  and that, when he expressed Servetus's ideas in his letters with Calvin, Calvin accused him of being “Servetus”. Michael's explanation was intended to avoid the accusation that he had written Servetus's published works, something that Calvin was fervently wishing.

-On April 7 Michael escapes from prison in Vienne Isère and hides for three months. It is unknown where he stays during this period.

-On May 2 two printing presses are found in a remote house in Vienne Isère. Three officers of the printer Balthasard Arnoullet were there as well.

-On May 23rd, Jean Frellon, the printer from Lyon is questioned in Vienne Isére. In his declaration, Frellon states that Michael de Villanueva developed with him, “among other works,” some Latin-Spanish grammatical works, and a “Spanish Sum” with summaries and arguments . He says that he printed these works in Lyon. That “Spanish Sum” is, according to us, the so called “Spanish summary” with his “summaries” or arguments (see Works section).

-The judges order Michael de Villanueva to be burnt in effigy, as a result of the pronunciation of the civil death sentence against Michael de Villanueva. The effigy is burned on June 17th in Vienne Isère, along with copies of the Restitution of Christianity.


Since Michael had escaped from prison at Vienne Isère, he is burnt in effigy in this city.



-We don't know where Michael is hiding at this point, but some of his printer friends were being questioned (Jean Frellon) and imprisoned (Balthasard Arnoullet at Vienne Isère) and the corrector Guèroult had fled Geneva; the clandestine workers at Arnoullet's printing works had been detained at Vienne Isère, and some mediators such as Jacques Charmier were sentenced to imprisonment for 3 years in Lyon. This is then the background. Michael comes out from hiding, and he goes to Geneva of all places, where he is detained on August 13th, apparently at Guest-house of the Rose , where he was staying on his trip to Italy, according to his statements from the later Judgement. Michael is imprisoned in this city and later Guéroult will also be imprisoned, but he will be set in free after a day. During the Judgement of Geneva Michael always exonerates Arnoullet and Guéroult of any responsibility for printing his work Christianismi Restitutio. We still really don't know what motivated Michael to go to Geneva, the city where his enemy Calvin lived and wielded great power.

-August 14 to October 26 The Judgement of Geneva. The official document from Geneva indicates that Michael has no medical documentation and, it seems, no other kind of documentation.  The judges state that Michael left all of his documentation in Vienne Isère.

-Michael is imprisoned and maltreated for two and a half months. The windows of his cell are bricked up, his clothes are not changed, and his cell is cold and wet, which damages his health. During this period of questioning he affirms that he is “Michael Servetus alias Revés, native of Villanueva, in the Kingdom of Aragón, 44 years old.

-There are incongruities between the statements from Vienne Isére and those from Geneva.  However, in Geneva, the declarations are made without any official documents: registry at the University, title of Doctor in Medicine, Royal French naturalization, or some more already mentioned. All these remained in Vienne Isére, as the Geneva judges stated. Therefore, as nobody in Geneva knows who Michael is, he can claim to be another “person”.

-On August 31 the officials from Vienne Isère request Michael's extradition from Geneva. He is not extradited.

-On October 27 Michael Servetus is sentenced to death.


*This same day, Michael Servetus is burnt alive on the hill of Champel, on the outskirts of Geneva, because of his opinions on the Trinity and the baptism of children. He is fixed to a pole with an iron chain, crowned with a crown of straw and dry leaves covered in sulfur, and burnt to ashes.

-Though Michael was already dead, on December 23 there is a  religious death sentence against Michael de Villanueva ( as was stated in June in the civil death sentence against Michael de Villanueva, in agreement with all the documentation he had) It also sentences all his works to destruction wherever they happen to be. Balthasard Arnoullet, printer and friend of Michael de Villanueva, is sentenced to imprisonment.


Religious death sentence against Michael de Villanueva. Michael had already been burnt two months before in Geneva.


Jean Frellon will never again print from this year forward. He will appear as editor, but never again as printer after the death of his “good brother and friend”, as he used to call “master” Michael de Villanueva.

-1554 After Servetus's death, there is a great conflict over his legacy. Calvin and his followers will continue denigrating Servetus and justifying his death, while those opposed to Calvin will defend Servetus.

A year after the death of Servetus, Calvin edits his Defense of the orthodox faith against the prodigious mistakes of Michael Servetus (Defensio orthodoxae fidei contra prodigiosos errores Michaelis Serveti) in Latin, printed by Robert Estienne I at Geneva. In this work Calvin tries to justify Michael Servetus' death sentence by insulting and denigrating him.

A little later, Calvin reprints this book in French, printed by Jean Crespin, at Geneva, and entitled Declaration for keeping the true faith, against the detestable mistakes of Michael Servetus, Spanish.(Declaration pour maintenir la vraye foy…contre les erreurs detestables de Michel Servet espaignol…). This is the first time that the name “ Servet” appears. The name "Servet" will have a wider diffusion through France than "Serveto," the Spanish version of the name, even though "Serveto" is the name that appeared on the covers and texts.  In fact during many years , the Spanish name Serveto does not appear in Spain, but the French "Servet" does. In other countries he was known as “Servetus”, the latinized version of “Serveto”.  The name Michael de Villanueva will not be widely known  until 1749 when D'artigny discovers the documents of the judgement of Vienne Isère, and with it new biographical data about Michael de Villanueva. Then another polemic on servetism will appear (see Brief history of servetism section).

S. Castellio or Castellion edits his work On if the heretic must be pursued and how one must proceed with them, bearing in mind the opinion of many authors, new and old (De haereticis an sint persequendi et omnimo quomodos sit cum eis agendum multorum tum veterum tum recentiorum sententiae). Castellio uses a pseudonym, Martinus Bellius. Castellio and a friend developed the work as a defense of Servetus against Calvin. This work is not against a particular work of Calvin, but against the death sentence Servetus received. It was edited in Latin and printed in Basel, but as in any dangerous work, as we know, neither the printer nor the city appear in the work. The city of Magdeburg is listed as the place of publication, but this was false.  The same work was edited in French. Treatise of the heretics, on if they can be pursued (Traité des hérétiques, a savoir, si on les doit persecuter), printed at LyonAs in his previous work Castellio uses a false name, “Pierre Frenon, at Ruen” in the printer's mark that appeared on the covers of these two editions. “Magdeburg” and “Rouen” were used out  of fear and for concealing the book's origins.

Theodore Bèze, follower of Calvin, edits On that heretics must be pursued Libelous against the welter of Martin Bellius and the sect of the new academics. (De haereticis a civil magistratu puniendis. Libellus adversus Martini Belli farraginem et novorum Academicorum sectam). Against that 'Martin Bellius' (Castellio)It was printed by Robert Estienne I, at Geneva. This work will be translated into French by Colladon, another follower of Calvin.

Against Calvin appears the manuscript of Castellio entitled Against the libelous of Calvin..(Contra libellum Calvini in quo ostendere conatur haereticos jure gladii coercendos ese), and also the brief History of the death of Servetus. ( Historia de morte Serveti). It was printed many years later, with intentional typographical error in the date of the year, but without any clue that would show the city or the printer. Its author Castellio wrote it in this case, against the already mentioned work of Calvin Defensio orthodoxae fidei.

In those years, 1554 and 1555, the successor of Luther, Melanchthon, explicitly expresses his support for Calvin on his epistles on the death of Servetus. He remarks that the Church owes gratitude to Calvin on this issue, and other of his letters he approves the opinions of the Swiss theologian Bullinger- defender of Calvin- and his 'sense' against the blasphemies of Servetus.

A work that we call “Lyon printers' tribute to Michael de Villanueva edition” appears. This is one shared edition with four different covers (that is, each copy has the same content, but they have four different covers, one per each printer of the shared edition) of a very unique Materia Medica Dioscorides, with interlinear notes by Mattioli, and others from the Dioscorides of 1543 from Michael de Villanueva, that had been printed in Lyon by the brothers Frellon. It is a very unusual book, the most unusual book we found in the Lyonese bibliography we checked. The four different covers bear the names of each of the following printers, but as editors: Jean FrellonGuillaume Roullié (Rovillium), Antoine Vincent, and Balthasard Arnoullet. All four of them were friends of Michael de Villanueva. All made contracts with booksellers and edited works with Michael de Villanueva. But the printer and author of this  book's enigmatic prologue is always Arnoullet, at Lyon. It seems that the printers intended this work to be a tribute and also to perpetuate the Materia Medica Dioscorides of Michael de Villanueva. (see Works section). It should be remembered that Jean Frellon will never print any other work after the death of Michael de Villanueva/Servetus. He will only appear as an editor, paying for the production of the work and appearing on the cover (the printer appears in the colophon). This is one of those works.

Moreover Balthasard Arnoullet will die two years later, at 39 years old.

-1555 Castellio writes a manuscript against Bèze's work.  Castellio's book is titled  On that the heretics should not be punished, in favor of the welter of Martin Bellius, against the libels of Theodore Bèze, by Basil Monfort (De haereticis a civile magistratu non puniendis pro Martini Belli farragine adversus Theodori Bezae libellus. Authore Basilio Monfortio).

This time, Castellio uses a different pseudonym, Basil Montfort. This manuscript was printed later and published in French as De l’impunité des herétiques in the XX century .

A great repression is carried out. The enemies of Calvin are killed and arrested, some of these are supporters of Servetus.

-1559 In August Calvin, in Geneva, prints the definitive Latin edition of his Institutes of the Christian Religion. This work rebukes and reproaches Servetus.

-1564 John Calvin dies in Geneva.

-1597 Cipriano de Valera completes the first Spanish translation of Calvin's 1559 work, LInstitución de la religión cristiana. Some chapters of this work criticize and defame Servet, especially the chapters  on baptism and the Trinity.


The story of Calvin and Servetus is the story of an obsession.  It seems that Calvin's conscience compelled him to try to justify, over and over again, Servetus' execution. 

Many of Servetus' contributions to theology and tolerance did not fall into oblivion, thanks to the Socinians, the Polish Brothers and the Unitarians throughout Hungary, Transylvania, Poland, and, later, United States of America. These gave rise to the Socinian and Unitarian Churches, which contain part of Servetus' legacy.

Some of the ideas Michael provided us:

Inherent in the human condition is the sickness of believing the rest are impostors and heathens, 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”

(Letter of Servetus to Oecolampadius)

Nor with these, nor with those do I agree or dissent. It seems to me that all of them have part of the truth and part of the mistake, and that each one sees the mistake of the other, but none sees his own. May god gives us the wisdom to understand ours, and without obstinacy”.

(Dialogues of the Trinity, 1532 F 7 r)

Christ is near to us, as when he says “ I am a close God”

(Dialogues of the Trinity, C1 r)

These and some other ideas have been developed by the Socinian and Unitarian Church.

I cannot forget any of the printers from several countries Michael met with; but I especially note the Lyon printers. As a great family they allowed and risked and promoted – at times risking their own lives-the works of Michael, and permitted us to know his thought nowadays.