The Protestant Reformation in Sixteenth-Century Italy

By Salvatore Caponetto; Anne C. Tedeschi et al. | Go to book overview

5
JUAN DE VALDÉS AND VALDESIANISM

VALDÉS, "KNIGHT OF CHRIST"

IN 1535 A NEW AND ORIGINAL element made its appearance on the stage of the Italian Reformation. In that year a Spanish gentleman by the name of Juan de Valdés, the brother of one of the secretaries of Charles V, came to live in Naples, where he remained until his death, as imperial agent.

Juan de Valdés ( 1509?-41) was one of the most important Christian thinkers of the sixteenth century and one of the greatest writers in the Castilian language prior to Miguel de Cervantes. A fervent admirer of Erasmus, Juan contributed, together with his brother, to the diffusion of the Dutch humanist's thought in Spain. Juan was still a young man when he was received at Escalona as a member of the household of the marquis of Villena, where he was able to hear the alumbrado Pedro Ruiz de Alcaraz, the marquis's lay preacher, whose teachings can be summed up as "You will be lost, if you do not surrender yourself to God's love." When in his sovereign freedom God grants his love to humankind, the latter will be saved, despite the persistence of sin. From this freely given justification ensue the rejection of meritorious works and devotions, the denial of the ecclesiastical state, and even the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

The youthful Valdés left Escalona in February 1524, after the arrest of Alcaraz. At home, Valdés passed a period of intense study of Holy Scripture, reflecting on the spiritual crisis of European society by meditating upon his master's teaching and reading works by Erasmus and Luther. In 1526 Valdés attended the celebrated University of Alcalá de Henáres. He remained there roughly four years immersed in the study of Greek, Hebrew, Latin, and Italian and Spanish literatures. But in 1529, after the publication of his Didlogo de doctrina cristiana, a first inquisitorial trial was mounted against him, followed by a second early in 1531, on the charge of Lutheranism.

In August of that year Juan went to Rome as imperial agent accredited to the court of Clement VII. On 3 October the pope granted him safe-conduct so he could be reunited with his brother Alfonso at the court of Charles V. Apparently the peace

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