In September 1559, Don Juan Ponce de Leon was led around the Plaza San Francisco in Seville, Spain, to take his place upon the platform where the Inquisitors would hear his confession. The public spectacles known as the autos da fe ("acts of faith") attracted huge crowds that came to witness the fate of those indicted for heresy. Don Juan, according to the documents of that time, had spent two years in prison for being "a damned Lutheran."

Don Juan said: "I wish to God that I had an income of 20,000 ducats and could use them to spread our faith all over Spain so that people might be enlightened to become Christians and know their faith." For this, "Don Juan was sentenced to die at the stake."

While Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli changed the face of Europe, the Spanish crown refused to give ground to the "Protestant Revolt." The country held out as the last bastion of Catholicism and ruthlessly guarded the faith. Emperor Charles V, the grandson of Ferdinand and Isabela (of Christopher Columbus fame), issued this decree in 1550:

No one, whatsoever his rank or condition, shall print, transcribe, copy, or knowingly have by him, receive, carry, keep, conceal, have in his possession, sell, buy, give, distribute, scatter, or let fall in churches, or on the street, or in other places, any books or writing composed by Martin Luther, Johann Oecolampadius, Huldreich Zwingli, Martin Bucer, John Calvin, or other heretics.

Despite the opposition, Juan de Valdez and Francisco de San Roman, most notably, could be considered Spanish "Reformers" who attempted to advance Protestantism. But the former was exiled in Italy while the latter was burned at the stake in Valladolid in 1540.

Today the continent that spawned the Reformation is considered ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.