are still many biographical and conceptual misconceptions
about Michael Servetus, especially amongst the average man. These
brief lines, drafted in telegraphic style, would like to
set aside some errors about Michael Servetus which mislead
about his origins and belittle the scope of his thought:
The family of Michael Sevetus did not move from somewhere
else to Villanueva de Sijena (Huesca) in 1511. To the contrary,
the presence of the Servetus’ family in Villanueva
de Sijena has been documented before 1511 in several public
deeds of that time. The birth house of Michael Servetus
was inaugurated by Prince Philip of Spain on July 10, 2002
and it is now the siege of the Michael Servetus Institute.
Servetus was not condemned to be burnt at the stake for his discovery of pulmonary circulation. The only testimony which we have about such discovery is found in its “magna opus”, The Christianismi Restitutio. It must be pointed out that his discovery, however important, remained unnoticed until 140 years after his death. It was an English theologian, Willian Wotton, who referred to Servetus as the first scientist
who described the pulmonary circulation in Western Europe.
Servetus was condemned for interpreting the dogma of the
Trinity in a way opposed to the interpretation of such dogma
by the official church since the Council of Nicaea, and
for opposing infants’ baptism. His medical practice
and his scientific research are unrelated to his death sentence.
Michael Servetus was not put on trial in
Paris for combining medicine and astrology. The influence
of the stars in the human body had been recognized even
by the Scholastic theologians. Michael Servetus was accused
of practicing judiciary astrology, i.e. astrology aimed
at foretelling. Practicing judiciary astrology was a criminal
offence punished with death, since it was considered that
such practice hindered human beings’ free will.
Michael Servetus was neither an atheist
nor a pantheist. Nobody that it has at least read the front
page of his theological books can have the slightest doubt
that Servetus was a fervent Christian, who combined in a
extraordinary manner the textual review, the philosophical
lucubration and the mystical devotion for Christ. Therefore,
Servetus believed deeply in Christ, like the Son of the
Servetus was not an Anabaptist in the political sense
of this term, despite being against infants’ baptism.
Although it maintained a very critical attitude towards
the Roman hierarchy, and considered that the true restitution
of Christianity required, from his point of view, the demolition
of the ecclesiastical structures, which he judged impious,
and the return to the original evangelical purity, he never
intended to create a political movement against the political
establishment of his time, as the more radical part of the
Anabaptism movement did.
Servetus argued in favour of works as a way of
salvation, which radically separated him from the postulates
of the first generation of the Reformation.
Although Servetus did not found any church, it
must not be overlook that his Antitrinitarian ideas influenced
the creation of the Unitarian churches, initially in Poland
and Transilvania, and later in England, the United States
and other countries. Churches that today continue existing.
Therefore, it is accurate to state that Servetus is the
spiritual pioneer of the Unitarian Universalists. The Unitarians
Universalists are very liberal in dogmatic questions and
insist on the primacy of the ethical aspect of religion,
charity and tolerance. As a tribute to Servetus, the First
Unitary Church of Brooklyn (New York) has a stain glass
window showing his image, along with other stain glass with
other pioneers of the Unitarian faith.
Scholars and admirers of Servetus do not
keep resentment to Calvin’s descendants. The Swiss
Calvinists also accept dialogue about Servetus, overcoming
old resentments. As a sign of reconciliation Dr Henri Babel,
the Pastor at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Geneva was
invited to give a lecture at the Michael Servetus Institute
already in 1980. Dr. Babel also attended the events organized
by the Government of Aragon, the Michael Servetus Institute
and other relevant cultural institutions in Zaragoza and
Villanueva de Sijena in October 2003 to conmemorate the
450th anniversary of the death of Servetus.
2004 Jaume de Marcos / Sergio Baches Opi