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.

 

Fig. 1 First questioning. Michael de Villanueva, native from Tudela in the Kingdom of Navarre, a city under the Emperor's rule.

Fig. 2 Second questioning,  In his theological works, Michael uses the term “person”  to mean: mask,face, aspect (as he describes it in On the errors of the Trinity, the judgement of Geneva, etc)

 

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 workThe Institution of the Christian Religionhand 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.
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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.

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Fig. 3
The basic and obvious point here is that 1504 does not belong to the dates of the legal documents of the ecclesiastical studies of Juan in 1529, nor to the medical studies of Michael in 1537 (see documents Fig. 13, Fig. 17, Fig. 18 in the Life of Michael Servetus section). Keep in mind that a notarial protocol is a legal instrument which cannot be altered by pre-existing or subsequent documents (not 33 years later, not even a year later). (In 1504 Michael was not even born!This is a historical falsification.



 


  • 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.

 

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. Nevertheless, certain servetologist did not stop trying to discredit and libel me with every discovery I have made, and always without checking my work against material from the archives. Archives--not opinions--are the nuts and bolts of our research. 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.