The doctrines of the gospel were slowly spreading in Spain their advance was silent, but it was none the less rapid. The Catholic Illescas, in his Historia Pontifical , asserts that ‘so great were the number, the rank, and the importance of the culprits, that if the application of the remedy had been delayed for two or three months, the whole of Spain would have been on fire.’ The Reformation would have wrought the salvation of this people, not only in a moral and religious sense, but also in respect, to national prosperity and greatness. Unfortunately the papacy and Philip II had the last word, and they ensured its ruin.
We have seen that the gospel had been well received at Seville, in the south; it was likewise welcomed at Valladolid, in the north, the usual seat of the king. There was one man who at this epoch, by reason of his ability, the offices with which he was invested, the missions which were entrusted to him, and his religious character, played an important part in Spain. He passed for one of the most violent enemies of evangelical truth; and such indeed he was, but ultimately he became himself an evangelist, at least in essential points. This was Bartholomew Carranza, who was born in 1503, at Miranda, in Navarre, and was at this time teaching theology at Valladolid with great applause. He had completed his studies at the university of Alcala, and in 1520 had entered the Dominican order. While he was at the college of St. Gregory of Valladolid, in 1527, he had undertaken the defense of Erasmus, and had consequently been denounced to the Holy Office. At a still earlier period he had conversed with a Dominican older than himself, Professor Michael de Saint Martin, on matters pertaining to the conscience. The doctor found that the young monk greatly limited the power of the pope. For this he had been rebuked and ultimately denounced to the Holy Office (November 19, 1530). But these two denunciations came to nothing. It was found that the evidence was not sufficient to support an accusation. On the revival of the denunciations at a later period, Carranza, who by this time had become an archbishop, was placed under arrest. At an early age he had felt some relish for the truth. Had he lived in the midst of gospel light he would have joyfully received it; but the darkness of Rome withheld him and for a long time led him astray. In 1534 he was appointed professor of theology at Valladolid, and in 1539 he was named a delegate to Rome to attend a chapter of his order. He maintained there some theses with so much success that Pope Paul III gave him permission to read prohibited books.
The reading of these was afterwards of advantage to him. At this time he enjoyed the reputation of a fervent Catholic. His opposition to heretics, his olive-colored complexion, and the somber costume of his order, earned him the surname of the black monk. Nevertheless he displayed altogether a superior mind; and in consequence of this he was early distinguished by Charles the Fifth. If he were then strongly attached to Roman doctrines it was with sincerity, because held them to be true; and he was, moreover, a stranger to petty ecclesiastical superstitions.’ f175 Carranza’s teaching, perhaps, contributed to make the gospel attractive to younger minds at Valladolid. At first they showed some timidity; but the cruel death of one of the most earnest Spanish Christians them, about the middle of the century, with more zeal and courage. Among the disciples of Carranza was Don Domingo de Roxas, son of the marquis of Poza — a name rendered illustrious by a great poet — and whose mother was a daughter of the count of Selinas. This young man, who was destined by his parents for the church, was amiable, upright, a lover of truth, keenly susceptible and impressible, endowed likewise with courage, but not with that immovable firmness which belongs to powerful characters. He listened with enthusiasm to the lectures of Carranza, who in certain cases made use of the phrases of the reformers, while condemning their doctrines. The same was afterwards done by the Council of Trent, to which Carranza was sent as delegate by Charles the Fifth. He used to say that man, since his fall, could not be justified by the power of nature; but that he is justified by Jesus Christ. To these assertions, however, he added explanations which weakened them. ‘The moral power of man,’ he said, ‘is indeed diminished but not destroyed; he is able to incline himself to righteousness, and faith justifies only so far as charity is added to it.’
Ere long Domingo showed less timidity than his master. He laid aside everything that weakened the doctrine and embraced the pure faith drawn from the Word of God. At the same time that he listened to Carranza he was reading Luther and Melanchthon, and he thought their doctrines more evangelical and more powerful than those of his master. The professor trembled lest his disciple should become a heretic and should raise up others. What to Roxas appeared a friendly light, seemed to Carranza the signal of a conflagration. In vain he endeavored to prove to young de Roxas the mass and purgatory. The latter, understanding that the truth was the property of all, communicated it to those around him. He put into circulation the works of the reformers; he composed others himself.
Among the latter was an Exposition of the faith . By these means he gained over to the gospel several inhabitants of Valladolid. He encountered opposition on the part of some members of his own family; but he found access to others, as well as to several noble houses of Castile. f176 Another young Castilian, Augustine Cazalla, a contemporary of Roxas, at the age of seventeen had had Carranza as his confessor; and he attended, at the same time as Domingo, the lectures of this illustrious master at the college of St. Gregory at Valladolid. His father was director of the royal finances; and his mother Leonora (whose maiden name was de Vibero), a friend of the friends of the gospel, opened her house to them, and freely welcomed the refugees who were driven by persecution from their own abodes. On this account the house of Leonora was afterwards razed, and on its ruins fanaticism erected a monumental stone, which remained there till our own days. Cazalla completed his studies at Alcala, became canon of Salamanca, and attained a position in the first rank of Spanish preachers. The circumstances in which he was placed, and particularly the hospitality of his mother, prepared him to receive the gospel, he was even accused of having ‘openly taught in the Lutheran conventicles of Valladolid.’ It appears, however, that he did not publicly declare himself for the Word of God until the emperor, having nominated him his preacher and almoner, took him with him into Germany, where he had frequent intercourse with the Lutherans. f178 Even before Cazalla decided for the gospel Don Domingo de Roxas had found a powerful assistant in the evangelization of Valladolid and its neighborhood. An Italian noble, Don Carlos de Seso, born at Verona, of one of the first families of the country, had distinguished himself in the service of the emperor, and had, it seems, learnt something at an early age of the doctrine of the Reformation. He settled in Spain, and during his residence at Valladolid became intimate with the evangelical Christians of that city. He had a cultivated mind, great nobility of character, gentlemanly manners, and much zeal for the truth. Having become a Spaniard, he discharged in his adopted country certain civil functions; and this afforded him opportunities of diffusing with more freedom the knowledge of the gospel. He did this zealously in some towns situated to the east of Valladolid, on the banks of the Douro; at Toro, where this river is spanned by the numerous arches of an immense bridge, and where Seso was corridor; and, somewhat further eastward, in the melancholy and somber Zamora, which the Cid had reconquered from the Moors, and where the ruins of his palace were to be seen. His active exertions were next put forth in another quarter. We find him proclaiming the love of God in Jesus Christ at Valencia, to the north of Valladolid, and under the very walls of its beautiful cathedral. He afterwards married Dona Isabella de Castilla, niece of the bishop of Calahorra, and a descendant of King Pedro the Cruel; and took up his abode at Villa Mediana. Here he became very successful in the evangelization of Logrono, and the rich and fertile districts lying around, which are watered by the Ebro. Don Carlos de Seso was remarkable for the energy of his faith, the vigor of his language, and the devotion of his whole being to Jesus Christ. He was to give evidence of his courage at the time of his death, by apostrophizing the cruel Philip II himself, whose fanatical answer became celebrated. f179 Don Domingo de Roxas had a sister, the marchioness of Alcagnices, whose character bore much resemblance to his own, and who, like him, attached herself to Carranza, but with still more enthusiasm. She found in him a faithful, pious, and disinterested guide; not a director, but a Christian friend. She as well as her brother had frequent conversations with Carranza. Domingo on one occasion was speaking with joy about the complete justification of the sinner by the grace of Christ. ‘But,’ he added, ‘I do not see how this truth is to be reconciled with purgatory.’ ‘It would be no great harm,’ said Carranza, ‘if there were no purgatory.’ Domingo was astonished, and replied by citing the decisions of the church. His master then closed the discussion by saying: ‘You are not at present capable of thoroughly understanding this matter.’ In a little while, Domingo, convinced that the justification of man is the essence of Christianity, returned to the subject; and Carranza told him that he did not see in Holy Scripture any clear proofs of the existence of purgatory. f180 De Roxas rejoiced to hear this, for he desired above all things that his master should unreservedly accept the doctrines of the gospel. But this was not so easy as he thought, and whenever he made a timid attempt to induce him to adopt them, Carranza at once checked him. ‘Beware,’ said he, ‘lest you allow yourself to be carried away by your talents.’ The disciple then withdrew disheartened. Carranza’s refusal to follow him in all the evangelical doctrines ‘excited his deepest compassion,’ and also occasioned him the greatest grief. ‘For,’ he said, ‘if Don Bartholomew entirely received the true faith, he would induce my sister to adopt it, so completely does the Marchioness yield to his opinion.’ Filled with confidence, Roxas added: ‘I am still in hope of seeing this change effected;’ and allured still further and further by his hopes he exclaimed: ‘If so great a change as this be wrought in Carranza, the king and all Spain will embrace this religion.’ f181 The faith of Carranza seemed in fact to become brighter and more real, so that the fine castles in the air which the young and ardent De Roxas was building were not altogether unfounded. One day, not long afterwards, Carranza, when preaching at Valladolid in Passion week, was suddenly carried away by the liveliness of his faith and the warmth of his love for the Savior; and speaking as if he saw heaven opened, as if he discerned not only the image of the Savior, but the Savior himself crucified, he spoke, with enthusiasm of the unutterable blessedness of such contemplation for faithful souls, and extolled with all his power the justification of men by a living faith in the passion and the death of Jesus Christ. ‘Really,’ said the bishop Peter de Castro, who was present, ‘Carranza preached today as Philip Melanchthon might have done.’ The bishop informed the illustrious orator of his own way of thinking; the latter replied only by keeping profound silence. Carranza afterwards preached a sermon of a similar kind before Philip II in London, whither he had accompanied the king, and where he prosecuted the evangelical teachers of Oxford and other places, while sometimes preaching the same doctrines as they did. The fanaticism of Catholic unity and universality stifled in his soul the claims of Christian faith. The man, formed within by divine grace, was in his kept down by the natural man, whose instincts been rendered more cruel by the influence of and the Inquisition.
The marchioness of Alcagnices could not do without him. The piety of Carranza met her deepest wants, and his attachment to Rome was a ground of confidence to her that in adopting his faith she was not separating from the church. Anxious to enjoy his teaching even when he was absent, she caused copies to be made of his Spanish works, and had translations made of those which were in Latin. In this task she employed the friar Francis de Tordesillas. This monk, who was a strictly orthodox man, was occasionally shocked, while making these translations and copies, by certain phrases which, appeared to have a Lutheran tendency.
He was very much grieved about it, and so much the more because it was not only for the marchioness that he did this work, but also for several other ladies, admirers of Carranza. What a calamity if he should become an agent of the Lutheran heresy! And yet there were many fine things in those books, and Carranza was so illustrious a doctor! The monk of Tordesillas bethought himself of a means of preventing the evil. At the head of the manuscript he put a notice to the reader, in which he said, — ‘that in reading the works of Don Bartholomew, all the propositions which they contain must be understood in the Catholic sense, and particularly those which relate to justification, which it seems possible to interpret in an opposite sense; that in this way there would be no danger of falling into any error; that he had seen the author practice good works, fasts, almsgiving and prayers, so that he, the speaker, was sure that everything which the doctor had written was in the spirit of the Catholic religion.’ But the religious devotee labored in vain. Most readers took simply and in the natural sense what they read. Moreover the notice to the reader was counteracted by more powerful advice. Domingo de Roxas told both the nuns with whom he was connected, particularly those of the convent of Bethlehem, and other persons who showed any leaning to piety, that the evangelical doctrines, and he did not scruple to say to many the maxims of Luther, were approved by a man so virtuous and so learned as Carranza. f184 Far from being moved to retract his doctrines by the reproaches which he incurred on account of them, Carranza, who was of a resolute and determined character, re-asserted them in more and more positive language.
One day when he was at the village of Alcagnices, probably on a visit to the castle, he felt it incumbent on him to make it distinctly understood that nothing would induce him to renounce the faith which inspired him, and that to leave no room for doubt he was even prepared to sign a legal instrument, bond, or contract, to that effect. For this reason, and remembering that according to a popular proverb ‘where notary has passed there is no going back,’ he exclaimed in the presence of Domingo de Roxas, Peter de Sotelo, Christopher Padilla, and others: ‘At the time of my death I will have a notary to attest the renunciation which I make of all my good works and all the merit of them. I rely the works of Jesus Christ; and knowing that he expiated my sins I look upon them as annulled.’ f184a It is remarkable that Carranza, after declarations so evangelical, should have been elected, and this in Spain, and against his own will, to the highest of the church, the primacy. True, Rome made up for this gentle treatment by severity. This illustrious doctor and distinguished prelate, who had caused so many evangelical Christians to be imprisoned, himself spent the last seventeen years of his life in prison. He exalted the pope, his government, and his ministry, as much as more than any other man; but he committed the crime of exalting Jesus Christ still more. The punishment was only retarded, not averted, by his submission to Rome. Even at the time when Carranza was still in the enjoyment of the highest favor Valladolid saw a memorable example of punishment instantly awarded to anyone who should magnify Jesus Christ, without caring for the pope his church.
The young San Romano, who had been converted Bremen, and had been arrested after making great efforts to induce Charles the Fifth to countenance the Reformation, arrived in ill health at Valladolid at time when the gospel was working in private and even in general society, but had not yet been boldly preached there as at Seville. He had been roughly treated, and compelled to follow in the emperor’s suite as a captive, some say even into Africa; but the treatment which he had to undergo at the hands of the inquisitors of Valladolid, to whom he was delivered up, far surpassed in harshness that of Charles. They confined him in a dark and horrible dungeon; they sent to him incessantly wicked and ignorant monks, who were instructed to worry him and to induce him to abandon his faith; they frequently made a spectacle of him, exposing him to the laughter and contempt of the populace, and daily loaded him with reproaches and insults, in the hope of thereby terrifying him, breaking down his spirit, and leading him to retract his faith. But their attempt was frustrated. They found, on the contrary, that in some marvelous way which they could not understand, his strength, his earnestness, and his resolution day by day increased. He confuted the arguments of the monks, and courageously avowed the doctrines which were the objects of their anathemas. The sacrifice of the mass, said the monks, procures ex opere operato the remission of sins. ‘Horrible abomination,’ said San Romano. ‘Auricular confession,’ resumed the inquisitors, ‘the satisfaction of purgatory, the invocation of saints’... But he stopped them and cried out: ‘Blasphemy against God and profanation of the blood of Jesus Christ!’ These monks, of orders gray, brown, or black, who buzzed about him like wasps, and were incessantly stinging him, were amazed at such language, and asked him what then he did believe. He replied: ‘I maintain and will openly and clearly maintain to my latest breath that there is no creature who by his own strength, his own works, or any worthiness of his own can merit the pardon of his sins and obtain the salvation of his soul. The mercy of God alone, the work of the mediator, who by his own blood has cleansed us from all sin, these save us.’ His condemnation was henceforth certain.
San Romano, and with him a great number of criminals, appeared before a multitude of the people ‘to receive sentence. He was condemned to be burnt alive as a heretic, the others were absolved. ‘Ah!’ said one of his friends, Dat veniam corvis, vexat censura columbas.
After sentence had been passed, they put upon the head of the martyr a paper crown, on which were depicted many horrible figures of demons, and then led him away to the place of execution.
San Romano walked on, surrounded by the mob, who heaped on him insults harder to bear than just beyond the suburbs of the town he came to a wooden cross. The crowd stopped and the inquisitors wished to compel him to adore it. ‘It is not wood,’ he replied, ‘which Christians adore but God. He is present in my heart and I adore him where with all reverence.
Pass on; go straight to the place of my destination.’ At these words the people uttered loud cries, and loaded him with insults, considering his refusal to be a crime. ‘The cross,’ said some of them, ‘the cross would not allow a heretic to adore it.’ Then, fancying that there was some divinity in the wood, the crowd pressed round it; some drew their swords, and clove the cross into a thousand pieces. Most happy did anyone think himself who could secure the smallest fragment, for the wood was to heal them of every disease.
San Romano was accompanied by a numerous escort. He was surrounded by archers of the Imperial Guard. Some great personages belonging to both parties had desired to be witnesses of the last moments of this man, whose convictions were so deep. Amongst them was the English envoy. San Romano was placed in the midst of a great heap of wood, which was forthwith set on fire in several places. When he began to feel the fire he raised his head, looking up to heaven, which was about to receive him.
But the inquisitors imagined that he was calling them and would yield to their entreaties. ‘Draw away the wood,’ they said, ‘he wants to retract his doctrine.’ The burning pieces were removed, and San Romano was set as it were at liberty, without having taken any harm from the fire. Turning then a look of indignation upon the inquisitors, he said: ‘What malice urges you to this? Why envy me my happiness? Why snatch me from the true glory which awaits me?’ The inquisitors then, confused and irritated, ordered him to be again cast into the fire, which had by this time risen to great violence, and instantly consumed him.
The sermon at this auto-da-fe had been preached by Carranza, but it does not appear that he had convinced all his hearers. Some of the archers of the Imperial Guard carefully collected the ashes of the disciple of the gospel. The English ambassador avowed that he recognized in him ‘a true martyr of Jesus Christ.’ In consequence of this saying he was obliged to absent himself from court for several months. The archers who had gathered up the ashes were sent to prison. Meanwhile the inquisitors declared everywhere that San Romano was damned, that none was permitted to pray for him, and that whosoever should dare to hope for his salvation would be considered a heretic. This martyrdom took place about the year 1542. f192 The times of the Reformation abound in martyrs; and we might well ask whether primitive Christianity, which came to an end when the reign of Constantine began, had so great a number of them as the renovated Christianity of the sixteenth century; especially we take into account the different length of the periods. The impulse which led the martyrs of the Netherlands, of France, England, Hungary, Italy, Spain, and other lands to give up their lives calmly and even joyfully, proceeded from the depth of their convictions, the holy and sovereign voice of conscience, enlightened, purified, and strengthened by the word of God. In the souls of these lowly heroes there was a secret and mighty testimony to the truth of the gospel which vividly manifested to them its grandeur, impelled them to sacrifice all for its sake, and gave them courage to obey, although it cost them not only goods and worldly greatness, but also the good opinion, the affection and esteem even of those whom they most tenderly loved. Obedience, indeed, was not always instantaneous. Sometimes there were hindrances, conflicts, hesitation, and delay. There were also some weak consciences which were overcome. But wherever the conscience was sound, it acquired in the midst of difficulties more and more force, and when once its voice was heard the victory was won. It must be understood that we do not mean here a conscience which a man has made of himself; that of which we speak was the highest expression of truth, justice, and the divine will, and it was found to be the same in all regions. The souls of these martyrs were exempt from all prejudices, pure as a cloudless sky. They were conscientious men; and herein we have the complete explanation of the grand phenomenon presented to us in the Reformation. Here was a force sufficient to break through stubborn bonds, to surmount passionate opposition, to brave torture, and to go to the stake. No concessions were to be made, no agreement with error. The noble martyrs of the first centuries and of the sixteenth were the select spirits and the glory of the human race.
The death of San Romano was not fruitless. The saying current in the first centuries was once more verified, — the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. His faith, his renunciation of the world, his courage at the stake, his rejoicing at the near approach of death, deeply affected such of the spectators as had a conscience not yet seared. The evangelicals of Valladolid, who had hardly avowed their convictions except to their most intimate friends, were emboldened. They expressed their sympathy with the martyr, and zeal and decision took the place of timidity and lukewarmness. No church, however, was formed in Valladolid till some years afterwards.