Dreams of al-Andalus; A Survey of the Illusive Pursuit of

Religious Freedom in Spain



Robert Edward Johnson

             Baptist World Alliance

                 Seville, Spain

                  July 10, 2002


© 2002 by the American Baptist Quarterly a publication of the American Baptist Historical Society, P.O. Box 851, Valley forge, PA 19482-0851.



Around 1481, a local chronicler from Seville narrated a most incredible story centering around one of the city’s most prominent citizens, Diego de Susán.  He was among Seville’s wealthiest and most influential citizens, a councilor in city government, and, perhaps most important, he was father to Susanna—the fermosa fembra (“beautiful maiden”).  He was also a converso, and was connected with a group of city merchants and leaders, most of whom were conversos as well.  All were opponents to Isabella’s government.

According to this narration, Susán was at the heart of a plot to overthrow the work of the newly created Inquisition.  He summoned a meeting of Seville’s power brokers and


other rich and powerful men from the towns of Utrera and Carmona.  These said to one another, ‘What do you think of them acting thus against us?  Are we not the most propertied members of this city, and well loved by the people?  Let us collect men together…’  And thus between them they allotted the raising of arms, men, money and other necessities.  ‘And if they come to take us, we, together with armed men and the people will rise up and slay them and so be revenged on our enemies.’[1]


The fly in the ointment of their plans was the fermosa fembra herself.  Fearful for the safety of her Christian lover, she revealed the plot to authorities.  Those involved were quickly arrested, thus giving reason for imprisoning some of Seville’s most prominent leaders.  Andrés Bernáldez recounts that:


A few days after this they burned three of the richest leaders of the city, namely Diego de Susán, who was said to be worth ten million maravedis and was a chief rabbi, and who apparently died as a Christian; Manuel Sauli; and Bartolomé de Torralva.  They also arrested Pedro Fernández Abolafia, who had been chief magistrate and was a great lawyer; and many other leading and very rich citizens, who were also burnt.[2]


Seeing the consequences of her betrayal, Susanna was reported to have entered a convent.  But her tormented soul would give her no peace even there.  She degenerated to a life of absolute poverty and shame, roaming the streets without a home or a friend.

Although this story has been widely believed, and by now has circulated for generations, Henry Kamen has demonstrates that it is a total fabrication.  For one thing, Diego de Susán died well before 1479 (when the events were supposed to have taken place), the plot is absolutely undocumented in any official records, and there was no Susanna.  But, while untrue, the story did serve its purpose—it furnished good reasons for a subsequent repression of the conversos by the Inquisition.  It raised in the popular mind the belief that Spain was under attack by highly placed traitors who were spinning clandestine plots to control the government.  Thus, the work of the Inquisition came to be seen as being essential for the nation’s survival.  In this, the Susán story joins the ranks of many similar narratives associated with this epoch of Spanish history.


The Ornament of the World


Between the Second and Third Punic Wars, Rome conquered Carthaginian Spain.  Roman legions gradually brought the area into submission in a series of wars extending from 154 to 133 BC.  This was the source of an economic boon for Rome because the area was rich in silver and lead mines among other things.  It also created a window of economic opportunity for entrepreneurs, including communities of Jews who began to immigrate into the province, probably as early as the first century BC.  Called Hispania by the Romans, the region flourished materially and culturally, developing important connections with the empire’s power centers.

Spain was also an early center of Christianity.  The probability that significant Jewish communities already existed in Spain may have been a source of the Apostle Paul’s strong interest in preaching there.  The details of when and how Christianity came to the province are not clear, but Tertullian in the early third century wrote that: “all regions of Spain know the faith of Christ.”[3]  The entire population by no means embraced Christianity at that time, but the faith was widely dispersed in significant urban centers.

In the fifth century, hordes of “barbarian” tribes repeatedly overran Spain—first, the Vandals, then the Sueves, followed by the Alans, and finally the Visigoths. With the Visigoths, came radical changes to the culture and church of Spain.  A Gothic kingdom was created within the Roman state.  Under Visigothic rule, the administration in general remained Roman and the language of government continued to be a Latin vernacular.  But, most of the non-Gothic Christian population and clergy remained rather hostile to the new governors since the new rulers were Arian in their Christology.  The Visigoths ruled Spain from 507 to 711, and their administration brought several important changes to the social interaction of the province’s population.

In 587, King Reccared (586-601) converted from Arian Christianity to Roman orthodoxy.  This brought an end to religious separateness in Hispania and accelerated the process of romanization.  After Reccared, Visigothic kings functioned as the masters of the Spanish church. They were regarded as divinely authorized to control ecclesiastical affairs.  Somewhat reminiscent of the Byzantine emperor in the East, royal supervision of all aspects of life within the kingdom was considered inherent in the king’s very position as head of the Christian community. Thus, the king’s position depended upon the existence of a body united in its Christian faith over which he might rule and within which excommunication might effectively function.  Consequently, a necessary concern of the king was to prevent activities that might threaten or undermine the faith which held society together.[4]  The stage was now set for policies which would make life difficult for Spanish Jews.

Reccared was the first king to implement an active anti-Jewish policy, and certain of his successors extended those policies even farther.  Eventually, Jews were forced to either be baptized as Christians, or face exile.  As unwilling “converts,” some Jews continued to practice their Jewish faith in secret. These so-called “Judaizing Christians” became the focus of further royal action as exemplified in several Visigothic law codes, among them the code of King Recceswinth (649-672) and the code of King Erwig (680-687).   Erwig’s Code was especially oppressive, for not only did Jews have to choose between baptism or exile (after flogging and confiscation of property), they also had to report arrival and departure to local officials whenever they traveled.  Local clergy were made responsible for seeing that local Jews were under worthy Christian supervision—especially during time of Jewish festivals—so that secret Jewish worship could not take place.  A Visigothic king’s power to enforce such decrees, however, was largely dependent upon the disposition of local officials willing to carry them out.  This legislation was frequently not enforced, especially when it threatened the economic interests of the king’s subjects. By the eighth century, Spanish Jews lived under conditions close to “enslaved squalor.”[5]

 Isídore of Seville was among Spain’s few intellectual luminaries of this period. He perceived that some sort of Christian order had to fill the vacuum left by the collapse of Roman civil institutions.  His renowned Etymologies was an effort to elevate the Visigothic regime to a level worthy of Roman succession.  However, Visigothic rulers were not even remotely capable of such attainment.[6]  Royal administration was so ineffective by the eighth century that when the Islamic conqueror-immigrants forced their way onto the scene, very little core was left holding Spanish society together.[7]

Between the eighth and eleventh centuries, a semblance of the political order and prosperity which had existed under the Romans returned to Spain.  Maria Rosa Menocal describes this period in her recent book entitled, The Ornament of the World.


There was a vast economic revival: the population increased, not just in the invigorated and ever more cosmopolitan cities, but even in the once decimated country side, where new crops and new techniques, including irrigation, made agriculture a prosperous concern; and the pan-Mediterranean trade and travel routes that had helped maintain Roman prosperity, and which were vital for cultural contacts and continuities, were reconfigured and expanded.[8]


The new conquerors constituted the remnant of what had earlier been the mighty Umayyad Dynasty.  Between 661 and 750, the Umayyads had ruled the Islamic world from their capitol in Damascus. They had extended Islamic rule westward from Tripoli to Tangier, northward throughout the Iberian Peninsula, and eastward to include modern Pakistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. But, in 750, their fortunes had turned.  The rival Abbasids managed to seize control of the Islamic empire, moved the capitol to Baghdad, and slaughtered the entire Umayyad family except for Abd al-Rahman, who alone managed to escape. He fled to the farthest outpost of the Islamic territories, arriving in al-Andalus in 755. The following year he led a band of loyal Syrian and Berber soldiers to defeat the local emir in a battle near Córdoba, and became the new governor of this westernmost province of the Islamic world.

When Abd al-Rahman began his rule of al-Andalus, the Islamic conquerors constituted perhaps one percent of the overall population.  Unable to appeal to the rival Abbasids for aid, al-Rahman had to take advantage of what he found available from the remnants of the Roman past as the material from which to revive the Umayyad Dynasty.  “What could be salvaged was salvaged and reused; what had to be reinvented was.”[9]  The Muslim rulers intermarried and intermixed with the Christian and pagan populations, “not only making the Andalusian Muslim community vastly larger, but thoroughly interweaving ethnic and cultural heritages.”[10]  This created a distinctive culture, quite unique to the early medieval world; one in which contradictions came to be tolerated and which led to positive and productive results.[11]

For the several centuries of their hegemony over Spain, the Visigoths had remained a minority of outsiders.  The Umayyads, in contrast, became intermixed with the Iberian culture. By 900, for example, the ancestors of a Muslim from Córdoba were as likely to be Hispano-Roman as Berber, or some mixture of each.  The result of this weaving together of cultural and religious threads, was a culture of tolerance which recognized that Jews, Christians, and Muslims had a common history.  Christians and Jews were clearly subordinate in this culture, but their differences were at least tolerated.  This arrangement has sometimes been referred to as convivencia—a living together; a relationship between unequals. In this culture


Arabized Jews rediscovered and reinvented Hebrew; …Christians embraced nearly every aspect of Arabic style—from the intellectual style of philosophy to the architectural styles of mosques—not only while living in Islamic dominions but especially after wresting political control from them; …men of unshakable faith, like Abelard and Maimonides and Averroes, saw no contradiction in pursuing truth, whether philosophical or scientific or religious, across confessional lines.  This vision of a culture of tolerance recognized that incongruity in the shaping of individuals as well as their cultures was enriching and productive.  It was an approach to life and its artistic and intellectual and even religious pursuits that was contested by many…and violently so at times…and yet powerful and shaping nevertheless.[12]


While most Jews, Christians, and Muslims of al-Andalus did not see this at all as a betrayal of their faith, many outsiders, given the mindset of their day, did see this as problematic.[13]  Pope Innocent III, for example, saw Spanish Christianity as “a collection of disunited and all too heterodox Christians so lackadaisical in their faith that they permitted Jews to live indistinguishable from them in their midst….”[14]  The Almorávid Muslims observed the freedom and toleration which characterized Andalusian Islam as heretical and something to be corrected.  Consequently, when the Almorávids conquered and annexed Andalusia to their Moroccan territories in 1090, they attempted to impose a considerably different view of Islamic society on the Andalusians–Muslim, Jew, and Christian. The situation was made still worse when the Almohads gained control in 1144.[15] Their antisecular and religiously intolerant version of Islam was totally irreconcilable with the core of Andalusian tradition.

By the mid-eleventh century the culture of al-Andalus was under serious threat.  The Abbasid center in Baghdad began to lose its hold. In 907, the Fatimids in Tunis broke with the Abbasids, and Andalusia and Tunis became rival kingdoms.  Serious struggles broke out between al-Andalus and Christian kingdoms in the north and Islamic kingdoms to the south. In 1090, the more fundamentalist Berber Muslims from North Africa brought an end to the Umayyad Dynasty and to the culturally tolerant dream of al-Andalus.


The Converso “Problem”


By the fifteenth century, Spain’s layout looked something like the following.  To the west lay Portugal, with a population of under one million and interests strongly focused on maritime exploration and trade. Al-Andalus had a population of about 500,000, mostly farmers and silk traders, and largely Muslim.  To the north lay mostly Christian kingdoms with a total population of about six million, Castile constituting about two-thirds of the territory and three-fourths of the population and the remainder scattered throughout Aragon, Valencia, and Catalona.

Close contact between communities had led to a mutual tolerance among Christians, Muslims, and Jews known as convivencia.  Evidence of this exists in scholarship, politics, and theology.  For example, by the mid-eleventh century, Toledo had become the intellectual capitol of Castile.  It served as a center for the translation into Latin of ancient works on philosophy, science, and mathematics—most of which had been preserved and transmitted to the west via Muslim scholars from their intellectual center at Bayt al-Hikma in Baghdad (founded in 830 by al-Ma’mum). Among the significant philosophers, whose works were translated and circulated in Western Europe, were Avicenna, Ibn Sina, Averröes, and Maimonides. Ferdinand, King of Castile from 1230-1250 called himself the “king of three religions.”  Ramon Lull (d. 1315), the famed Catholic lay missionary to Islam, composed a dialogue in Arabic in which the principle characters were a Christian, a Muslim, and a Jew.  Even when conflict broke out, a thirteenth-century writer argued, it was over land, not religious differences.[16]  This gradually began to change, however, after the Almorávid takeover in 1090, when a different kind of Islam came to rule.

The seeds for religious conflict had been planted as early as 718 when Pelayo, together with Visigothic leaders who had escaped the initial Islamic incursions under Tarik in 710, created the kingdom of Asturias in northwest Spain.[17]  Pelayo’s victory over Muslims at Covadonga in 718 has been identified by some as the beginning of the reconquista, a holy and patriotic campaign to restore Christian rule to Spain. In 899, the “discovery” of the bones of James the Greater, accompanied by the construction of the church of Santiago de Compostela, provided a rallying point for the reconquest.  Santiago Matamoros (James the Moor-slayer) became the national patron saint. The dream of reconquesta was given birth.

Gradually, Christian conquests of territories, together with their forging of alliances among Christian princes, drove the so-called Moors from Spain.  The last Muslim stronghold, Granada, fell to Ferdinand and Isabella on January 2, 1492, ending the centuries-long  reconquesta.

Throughout the period of the reconquest, popular religious understanding was not as clear-cut as one might imagine.  Confusion of belief existed among adherents of all three major religions of Spain.  Religious practices were often a mixture of community traditions, superstitions, folklore, and imprecise dogmatic beliefs.  The church, the synagogue, and the mosque did little to remedy this problem.  A friar lamented the ignorance he found in Castile in the mid-sixteenth century, writing that “out of 300 residents, you will find barely 30 who know what any ordinary Christian is obliged to know.”[18]  In the town of Soria in 1487, a resident commented, “the king is off to drive the Muslims out, when they haven’t done him any harm.”[19]   “The Muslim can be saved in his faith just as the Christian can in his.”[20]  In Cuenca in 1490, inquisitors report that a Christian claimed, “the good Jew and the good Muslim can, if they act correctly, go to heaven just like the good Christian.”[21]  Many Jews and Muslims held similar views.  However, such attitudes of tolerance changed dramatically after Ferdinand and Isabella came to the throne.

By the late medieval period, Spain had the largest Jewish community in the world, which was still very small in comparison to the Christian and Muslim populations. In the thirteenth century, Jews probably constituted just under two percent of Spain’s population. Under the Almorávids, many Jews had fled to other lands to escape the severe persecutions. Civil war and political rivalries served to dissolve the tolerance many Christians had earlier developed for the Jews.  Anti-Jewish canons adopted by the Fourth Lateran Council and the Council of Arles in 1235 sharpened the divisions.  These tensions reached a crisis in the 1370s and 1380s under the fanatical preaching of Ferrant Martinez, archdeacon of Ecijc.  In June 1391, urban mobs vented their frustration over economic hardships by attacking local Jews.  Many died at the hands of these mobs.  In August, those not murdered were forced to accept baptism or face exile.  This is the origin of the conversos (new Christians) in any really significant numbers.

Jewish converts to Christianity in Spain were called conversos.  But the term was not limited to them.  Their decedents were also labeled conversos.  Even after generations, when many descendents retained little knowledge of their Jewish heritage, they continued to be singled out from the rest of the Christian population.  Consequently, the conversos suffered both at the hands of Christians, who doubted the genuineness of their conversion, and of Jews, who saw them as traitors of their ancestral heritage.

The fall of Granada to the forces of Ferdinand and Isabella, seen as a sign of divine favor, encouraged these rulers to issue an order of expulsion for Jews in Castile and Aragon.  The order was given on March 31, 1492, and Jews had until July 31 to either leave or accept baptism.[22]  Likely, the monarchs thought their order would produce mass conversions rather than mass emigrations.  Largely that is what happened.  The reports of mass emigrations by Jews at this time seem unfounded, and many who left found life in other places just as difficult as it had been in Spain. Many émigrés later returned to their homes in Spain.  Henry Kamen has produced statistics to show that there were probably just over 80,000 Jews in Spain when the expulsion order was issued.  Probably, about half of those “converted.” In 1497, Portugal also ordered Jews in its territories to convert, and the province of Navarre did the same the following year.

Likely Ferdinand and Isabella believed they were solving many of the problems of civil division in Spain by forcing all citizens to embrace the same faith.  In reality, the expulsion order only added to the problems.  For generations, many church leaders had imagined that a “converso danger” existed in the Spanish church. Now, what had been imagined as being a problem, indeed became a problem.

The conversos, for the most part, continued to occupy the same professions as before the expulsion order—traders, tax agents, moneylenders, farmers, tailors, cobblers, etc.  Consequently, many people easily identified the conversos with the old Jews, both socially and religiously.  In addition, many conversos gained important public offices now that they were “Christians.”  By the time the Inquisition was being created, conversos held five of the most important posts in Aragon.  In addition, conversos came to hold some of the highest posts in provincial courts and in the Spanish church. This enraged many citizens, especially the “Old Christian” aristocracy. Soon, conspiracy theories began to circulate.

By the mid fifteenth century, many believed that the “New Christians” were intentionally infiltrating the church and threatening to take it over. A tract by friar Alonso de Espina entitled Fortalitium fidei contra Judaeos contributed greatly to this notion. The work planted seeds of hatred against Jews, not just as a religion, but also as a race, which was a new development in anti-Jewish attitudes. Alonso painted the issue in racial terms in order to attack the conversos.  What he, in fact, helped create was an attitude of anti-Semitic ethnic cleansing which Benzion Netanyahu in his book The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth-century Spain presents as an important source for the Nazi Holocaust.[23] Alonso de Espina’s tract also served as a draft proposal for the Spanish Inquisition.[24]

In 1449, the Old Christian faction at Toledo became convinced that Alvero de Luna, King Juan II’s minister, was favoring Jews.  Under the leader, Pero Sarmiento, the Old Christians succeeded in having  a special statute known as the Sentencia-Estatuto passed, legislating that “no person of Jewish descent could hold public office or benefice in the said city of Toledo, or in its territory and jurisdiction.”  Appeal was made to Pope Nicholas who rejected the statute and excommunicated Pero. But, given the unstable political conditions in Castile at the time, Juan II found the Sentencia-Estatuto represented powerful forces which he needed on his team.  He asked Pope Nicholas to suspend the excommunication, which was done on August 31, 1451. This was a major victory for the Old Christian party and, although the meaning of this event was not clear at the time, it marked the birth of political forces which would help usher in the Spanish Inquisition.

What all this suggests is that political events, not heresy, were the true reasons for the Inquisition’s creation.  Was there really a converso danger in the Spanish church?  Nothing in the extant records supports such a conclusion. Although it is clear from those records that a circle of politicians and clerics who influenced crown policy thought this was the case. The converso controversy broke out at a time when the monarchy was occupied in pacifying a realm devastated by civil wars. Threats existed on all sides—local populace, dissident nobles, clergy, the breakdown of law and order. In the midst of this, from 1482 onwards, the monarchy was drawn into a long and expensive war against the Muslim kingdom of Granada.  There were lots of enemies one might identify. So, on September 27, 1480, at Medina del Campo, the Spanish Inquisition came into definitive existence.

The machinery of the Inquisition was regulated in accordance with the needs of the monarchy. Isabella was engaged in efforts to reform the organs controlling Castile’s central government and needed the Inquisition to aid her against established powers which were resistant to her reforms.  In 1481-82, Ferdinand reformed the tribunal, aiming to resurrect the old papal Inquisition, but with a clear intention of bringing it under monarchical control.  After some papal resistance, he eventually succeeded in getting what he wanted. By the mid-1480s, the Inquisition was moving against conversos in Barcelona, Saragosa, and Valencia. 

At first, the general populace was less than supportive of the Inquisition’s work. This created the need for stories like the one told at the beginning of this paper.  When  Pedro Arbués, a strong advocate of the Inquisition was assassinated in Saragossa Cathedral in September 1485, popular attitudes changed dramatically.  Conversos were accused of planning and carrying out the assassination. Whether that was true or not is very questionable.  What is not in question is the impact this had on popular attitudes toward the conversos.  After this event, citizens became more thoroughly and generally anti-converso.  The legacy of al-Andalus’ culture of tolerance was forgotten.


Spanish Iluminismo and Early Protestantism


The generation of Spaniards whose worldview was thus being reshaped with the rise of the Spanish Inquisition, was at the same time stirred by the broadening intellectual horizons of Renaissance scholarship.  Philosophies of Italian and Netherlandish humanists began to impact the cultural and religious life of Spain.  Italian humanism had its greatest impact through Antônio Nebija, Spain’s most noted philologist. After studying in Italy, Nebija accepted a post as professor at Salamanca in 1505, becoming one of the earliest Spaniards to promote Renaissance learning.  Netherlandish Christian humanism most influenced Spanish intellectuals through the writings of Erasmus of Rotterdam.  Both movements placed great emphasis on recapturing New Testament Christian experience through study of the Bible in the original languages. 

Another important promoter of Renaissance learning in Spain was Cardinal Ximénez de Cisneros, archbishop of Toledo from 1495 and Inquisitor General from 1507.  He founded the University of Alcalá in 1509, which became Spain’s center of humanist studies. Among the noted Erasmian professors of this school were Pedro de Lerma, Juan de Vergara, and his brother Francisco de Varga.  Probably the most noted achievement of this body of scholars was the Complutensian Polyglot Bible, published in 1522.  It was a classic of Renaissance scholarship, consisting of six volumes with Hebrew, Greek, and Chaldean texts printed in parallel columns along side the Latin Vulgate.

This broadening of intellectual horizons through Renaissance learning became threatened in the 1520s by the appearance of two other movements—illuminismo and Protestantism.  The Inquisition became alarmed over both and set about to eradicate any trace of each.

Early in his career, Cisneros had been generally supportive of the spiritual and devotional movements in Castile. Among those who benefited from his patronage was a Franciscan friar named Francisco de Osuna, author of the Tercer abecedario espiritual.  His followers developed a mystical spirituality known as recogimiento­—“gathering up” of the soul to God.  Out of this movement a unique adaptation developed known as dejamiento, whose adherents were known as alumbrados (also as dejados or illuminists).  The alumbrados came primarily from among the reformed Franciscans and Jesuits, but their doctrines influenced a wide range of persons. Their most noted leader, Pedro Ruiz de Alcaraz, began teaching his distinctive views around 1511.  A primary emphasis of the alumbrados was “God’s love and humanity’s utter incapacity.” Alcaraz’s views led him to reject the Roman church’s system of indulgences, meritorious works, and adopt the theological concept of “sola gracia.”  He came to these convictions well prior to the publication of Luther’s Ninety-five Theses.[25]  These views, together with the extravagant visions and revelations claimed by the alumbrados, caused them to be strongly persecuted and especially sought out by the Inquisition.

The mixing of mystical, Erasmian, and heretical influences made the third decade of the sixteenth century both a creative and dangerous period for Spanish Christians.  By that time, Charles V had become both king of Spain and the Holy Roman Emperor.  His pivotal role in the empire’s handling of Martin Luther contributed to Spanish inquisitors’ heightened sensitivity to Lutheran ideas.  They were vigilant to detect and eradicate any Lutheran ideas in Spain before they might take root, and felt they had found them in the alumbrados.  In light of the historical context we have developed to this point, it was incredibly devastating to the fledgling illuminist and Protestant movements in Spain that so many of the persons implicated were conversos—Isabel de la Cruz, Pedro de Alcaraz, Francisco Ortiz, Bernardino Tovar, Juan de Cazalla, and Agustín de Cazalla.  In Germany, no ecclesiastical or imperial machinery was in place to move definitively against Luther in his early attempts to reform the church.  A generation passed before truly serious counter measures were taken.  By then, Luther’s theological reforms were too deeply embedded to be wiped away.  Protestants encountered a very different situation in Spain.  The Inquisition was already organized and functioning when Lutheran views began to surface.  The embryonic reforms stood little chance.[26]

Juan de Valdez (d. 1541) is sometimes given the distinction of being the first “Lutheran” author in Spanish.  In reality, his doctrine was not Lutheran, but a combination of Spanish mysticism (perhaps with some alumbrado influence) and Erasmian-style humanism.  His brother, Alfonso (d. 1532), also embraced Erasmian views and served as a secretary of Charles V.  He is best known for his Dialogue between Lactantio and an Archdeacon in which he strongly criticized papal immorality and secularism.  Juan exerted considerable illuminist influence through his emphasis on the importance of Bible study and individual conscience.  When the Inquisition began investigating his views, and it became clear that Alfonso would not have sufficient influence at court to protect him, Juan fled Spain and moved to Naples.  He spent the rest of his life dedicated to spiritual meditation.  A group of Italian aristocrats was drawn to his teachings, which centered more around individual sanctification than church reform.  Following his death, his work was carried on by Julia de Gonzaga.

Juan’s emphasis on personal spiritual life and Bible study tended to diminish the importance of the liturgical rites of the church, a tendency also found in Protestantism. However, his views were distinct from those preached by Lutheran and Calvinist reformers.  Several of his followers, on the other hand, did become genuinely Protestant; the most noted being Bernardino de Ochino.  Ochino was General of the Capuchin Order in Italy, who had to flee to Geneva after embracing Protestant doctrines.  Perhaps Juan’s distinctive views on Christ’s atonement contributed to Ochino’s adoption of concepts of the Trinity that were similar to those of Migel Servetus. His support of Servetus in the confrontation with John Calvin forced Ochino to move to Poland and finally to Austerlitz, where he died in 1564.[27]

Spanish commercial, academic, and political  relations with Germany and the Netherlands meant that Protestant views were certain to find their way into Spain in spite of the king’s efforts to the contrary.  In 1519, some of Luther’s earliest writings appeared in Spain.  The following year, Luther’s commentary on Galatians was translated into Spanish.  Over the next several years, other of Luther’s writings reached Spain, mostly via the Netherlands, which was under Spanish control at this time.  Part of the reason for this was early confusion over the differences between Erasmus’ views of church reform and those of Luther.  Consequently, Luther’s works became quite popular among Spanish humanists, and the Inquisition took measures to stop this.[28]

By the end of Charles V’s reign, the first Protestant communities (or churches) had been established in Spain—mostly in Valladolid and Seville.   A small evangelical circle emerged in Valladolid, evidencing the influence of Valdesian and Protestant writings.  Seville was most open to penetration of Protestant ideas since it was Spain’s center of international commerce, and a larger “Protestant” circle developed there.  Consisting of more than one hundred persons, it was divided into small groups for security reasons.  For the most part, however, these congregations do not show evidence of embracing genuine Lutheran or Calvinist doctrine as much as they do Catholic views under the inspiration of Protestant writings.

Julián Hernández, a member of the Protestant congregation in Seville, was among the most courageous and significant advocates of Protestantism in Spain.  He made trips to Geneva and Germany where he bought Bibles and Protestant books, transporting them back to Spain on mules and hidden among cargos of fine wines.  In his travels throughout Spain, he distributed these works, planting seeds of Protestantism wherever he went.  He was assisted in this effort by Juan Ponce de Leon, who distribute the books, and by the monks at the monastery San Isidro del Campo, located three kilometers outside Seville.  Around 1560, Julián gave a New Testament to a [29]man pretending to be his friend and was reported by him to the Inquisition.  His faithful witness during the three years of interrogation and torture, which followed, became a lasting inspiration to the Protestant community in Spain and attracted the admiration of many Spanish Catholics as well.[30]  “Courage, brothers,” he wrote to some friends while in prison. “This is the hour in which we must show ourselves to be valiant soldiers of Jesus Christ.  We must give faithful witness of that faith before men, and in a few hours we will receive the witness of [Christ’s] approval before the angels.”[31]  He was burned at the stake on December 22, 1560, in Seville.

Two noted preachers of the Seville cathedral at this time were Juan Gil and Constantino Ponce de la Fuente.  Juan, commonly known as Egidio, came under suspicion by the Inquisition after being nominated by Charles V as bishop of Tortosa.  He influenced Diego Derojas and Augustín Cazalla, who became influential in reform efforts at Valladolid.  In 1552, Juan was forced to recant ten propositions, but he died a natural death in 1555.  Constantino took an interest in Protestant writings, although he probably never became fully Lutheran in his theology.  How his attraction to these writings originated is unknown, but already by 1543 he was active among “Protestant” sympathizers in Seville.   Following a trip in the entourage of Philip II through the Netherlands and lower Germany in 1548, his study of Protestant writings was renewed.  He became Seville’s new cathedral preacher in 1556 over the objections of the Inquisitor General, Fernando de Valdés.  His writings were examined for heresy, and he was arrested by the Inquisition.  He died in his cell of dysentery two years later. 

In 1558, the Inquisition began to prepare for a decisive move against the growing number of humanists circles with inclinations toward Protestantism.  A letter Charles V wrote to his daughter, Juana, on May 25, 1558 when she was serving as regent in Spain while Philip II was in the Netherlands, supplied the motive for this.  “Believe me, my daughter,” he wrote, “if so great an evil is not suppressed and remedied without distinction of persons from the very beginning, I cannot promise that the king or anyone else will be in a position to do it afterwards.”[32]  This letter marked a turning point in Spain’s policy for dealing with religious innovators—they would be treated as threats to the state as well as to the established church. 

In Valladolid, Protestantism had made inroads among the nuns at Santa Clara and San Belén.  In Seville, it had passed from San Isidoro to neighboring monastic houses, and was beginning to take root among the citizens of the region.  Those who saw Protestantism as a serious threat to the Catholic Church, felt that desperate measures were needed.

Warned of the impending danger, the monks at San Isidoro discussed their situation and decided to allow each to do what he thought best under the circumstances.  Twelve decided to leave the monastery, split up, and take different routes out of Spain.  They agreed to meet the following year in Geneva.  Among these were Juan Pérea de Pireda, Casiodoro de Reina, and Cipriano de Valera, each of whom played an important role in the history of the Spanish Bible.

Shortly after these monks had departed Seville, the Inquisition took swift action.  In Seville, eight hundred persons were arrested by the Inquisition. In Valladolid eighty were imprisoned.  Many of those condemned, confessed their “heresy,” denounced it, and were sentenced to various punishments.  Many others died in prison before they ever received a final verdict.

The first auto de fe against the Protestants occurred in Valladolid on May 21, 1559.  Fourteen persons were burned as heretics, dozens of others were given public punishments less severe.  The second auto de fe was conducted in Valladolid on October 8.  The first auto de fe in Seville took place on September 24. Among those burned at the stake were four monks from San Isidoro who had decided to remain in Spain.  Seville’s second auto de fe occurred on December 22, 1560.  Fourteen persons were executed this time, among them Julián Hernandez.  These autos de fe continued for the remainder of the century, with about a dozen people being put to death for “Lutheranism” each decade.  Besides this, others suffered less severe punishments, such as confiscation of property, imprisonment, and public disgrace.

The Spanish “Protestants” destined to have the most lasting impact were among those who decided to flee Spain.  Communities of Spanish refugees soon appeared in Antwerp, Strasbourg, Geneva, Hesse, and London.  As political fortunes shifted, these refugees had to continue their flight to other places.  Even in exile, they were not safe.  The Spanish crown tried to repatriate such persons by various means, including occasional seizures outside Spain.  Those captured were sent home to face the consequences there and provide a message of warning to others who might be contemplating similar flight—the long arm of Spain’s Inquisition could potentially reach you anywhere you might choose to flee.  In a few cases Spanish Protestants in exile were even assassinated, Juan Díaz being the most noted example.

Francisco de Enzinas is probably the most noted figure among the Spanish Protestant exiles.  In 1543, he published his Spanish translation of the New Testament, based on the Greek text produced by Erasmus.  Francisco dedicated this translation to Charles V, personally presenting the emperor a copy in Brussels.  Charles promised to study the work himself.  The result was Enzinas’ arrest for spreading heresy.  Francisco remained in prison for over a year, when he managed to escape and make his was to Wittenberg.  He spent the remainder of his life moving from place to place among the refugee centers.

In 1556, Juan Pérez de la Pineda published his version of the New Testament.  This was soon followed with a translation of the Psalms.  When he died, he left his entire estate to be used to publish Spanish versions of the Bible.  Even so, Alonso del Canto, an agent for the crown, was able to inform Madrid that this translation was in the works prior to its release, thus enabling Spanish authorities to be on the lookout for copies as they made their way to Spain.[33]

Casiodoro de Reina was the most outspoken of the group to flee the San Isidoro monastery.  Arriving in Geneva, he did not hesitate to criticize Calvin and the city fathers for burning Servetus.  He said that in so doing, Geneva had become a “new Rome.”  After that, he spent the remainder of his life moving from place to place—Frankfurt, London, Antwerp, and other places.  Finally, in 1569, he managed to publish his Spanish translation of the New Testament.  In 1602, Cipriano de Valera revised Casiodoro’s translation, which became the most used version of the Spanish Bible among Protestants into the twentieth century.

With the great autos de fe to the year 1562, Protestantism in Spain was almost totally extinguished.  The Inquisition became so vigilant in its search for any seed of Lutheranism that it moved in full force against anything even remotely similar to Protestantism.  Probably most of those accused of Lutheranism were in no real sense Protestant.  For example, any disparaging remark against images, clergy misconduct, required fasts, or the Inquisition was taken as a sign of Protestantism.  In 1568, a peasant woman’s comment that “all those who die go straight to heaven,” was interpreted as a rejection of the doctrine of purgatory, and thus an indication of Lutheranism.[34]  As these examples illustrate, most cases reveal the ignorance of the inquisitors rather than a serious presence of Protestantism.  In this, the anti-Protestant Inquisition of the sixteenth century was reflective of the tactics used against the conversos in prior ages.


Modern Protestants in Spain


Because the Inquisition’s severe autos de fe literally burned Protestantism out of Spain, there was little dissent upon which to build or with which to connect when Protestants became active again in the nineteenth century.  Yet, several persons of evangelical conviction made valiant evangelistic efforts, even though they had to begin a completely new work in a very hostile environment. 

In 1834, unwittingly, certain Protestants and Spanish liberals revived the dream of al-Andalus following Spain’s dismantling of the Inquisition. A few extraordinarily courageous people began to test the waters of toleration by distributing Bibles and evangelical books.  It was in this environment that the British and Foreign Bible Society sent evangelist George Borrow to Spain.[35]  Apparently, his sole mission was to distribute Bibles, for he did not attempt to establish a church of any sort.[36]  The effect of such efforts is largely unknown, although around 1860 several Spaniards who had somehow come to embrace the evangelical faith went to the English colony of Gibraltar to further their training in Christian vocation. This was providential, for when a short-lived republic was created in 1868;[37] these evangelicals were prepared to move quickly in establishing Protestant communities in several major cities.[38]  Manuel Matamoros García was the acknowledged pioneer of this so-called “Second-Reformation”.

Matamoros was the son of a career army officer and anticipated a military career for  himself.  He attended the Academia Militar de Toledo, but his father’s death and the subsequent loss of financial support forced him to drop out.  He returned home to Málaga, but was forced to enlist in the Seventh African Regiment, headquartered in Seville.  Apparently, during the interval between leaving school and entering the army, he had visited Gabraltar where he had been introduced to the Gospel. Once in the army, he shared his Protestant convictions with a few trusted friends and with the chaplain.  Someone eventually reported his confidential conversations to superiors, who forced his dismissal. When he returned to Málaga, he began preaching.  Soon he was preaching secretly throughout Andalusia, at great personal risk.  A group of young Spaniards was attracted to his preaching and joined in his evangelical commitment.  Francisco de Paula Ruet and Antonio Carrasco were the most noted among these disciples. Matamoros was apprehended in 1860, and testified that he no longer accepted the Catholic faith.  He was sentenced to 9 years in prison.  Serious health problems led to his release in 1863, after which he spent the rest of his life in France and Switzerland writing and directing the secret publication of the edición malagueña del Nuevo Testamento de Reina y Valera.  He died in 1866 at thirty-two years of age.

In addition to Matamoros and his followers, other Protestant evangelistic efforts came from missions in Britain, the United States, Holland, Sweden, and France.  This uncoordinated aid had the effect of splintering the fledgling Protestant presence in Spain.  Among the competing efforts were those of the Presbyterians, Methodists, Episcopalians, Darbyites, and Baptists.

After the monarchy was restored in 1874, things became more difficult for Spain’s Protestants. Twenty-one of their leaders were arrested and given long prison sentences on charges of plotting against the state.  Only negative world opinion succeeded in having their sentences commuted to exile.  Much of the ensuing century would be trying for Spain’s evangelical churches.  Legislation, civil institutions, and popular attitudes permitted little tolerance for non-Catholic people.  They were often misunderstood, maligned, and accused of subversive activities.  Yet, they somehow manage to survive under the monarchy.

During the years between the royal restoration in 1874 and the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, Francisco Giner and Don Miguel de Unamuno became pivotal visionaries for reviving the dream of al-Andalus.  They are exemplary of a small minority of Spanish Catholic liberals during this era that promoted religious toleration and pluralism.[39]  They exerted important influence on a rising group of students, teachers, writers, and statespersons.  Giner taught law at the University of Madrid, and sought to remain within the Catholic tradition.  However, his liberal views on democracy, personal freedom, and toleration were incompatible with the hierarchical ideals of both the Spanish government and church.  When he died in 1915, he could not even be buried in consecrated soil.  Yet, he left a legacy of toleration which influenced some of his disciples to become leaders in founding of the Second Republic in 1931.  Miguel de Unamuno never became Protestant, but was ecumenical and evangelical in spirit.[40]  He rejected the widely held notion that “the Roman Church and the Spanish soul were made for each other,” and spent the last years of his life in exile for various of his convictions.[41]

The Civil War years (1936-1939) were especially hard for Spanish Protestants.[42]  They were strong supporters of the Republic, which became a source for many of their political problems when Franco won the contest.[43] Under the Franco regime, Protestant religious activities were severely restricted.  Protestants could not display any external sign identifying their meeting places as churches.  No publicity could be given for their services.  Congregations could not publish literature for distribution.  They could not legally propagate their faith nor have schools for their children, even though Protestant children suffered great discrimination in public schools.  In some regions, they could not even have religious services for burial of their dead.  Only in rare cases could Protestants be legally married (only if one of the two had been baptized as a Catholic).[44]  In addition, Protestants were effectively eliminated from certain professions because the training could only be obtained in schools requiring at least a nominal assent to the Catholic faith.[45]

Spanish Protestant survival under these very difficult circumstances was possible only because of their incredible faith commitment and their strong links to sister churches abroad.[46]  In 1978, a new constitution, with guarantees of individual and collective rights to religious freedom and the separation of church and state, began a new day in Spain’s religious history. The Organic Law of Religious Freedom of 1980 implemented the constitutional provision for religious freedom.  This freedom introduced new possibilities for Protestant churches in Spain, but also included certain restrictions.  In order to enjoy the full benefits of the law, it was necessary for religious organizations to be listed in the Register of Religious Entities.  This created a complicated legal impediment for some religious groups and fell somewhat short of full religious freedom.


Baptists in Spain


Baptists have constituted a very small group since their beginnings in Spain in the latter half of the nineteenth century.  The country’s first known Baptist presence came via two students from Spurgeon’s College.  Soon after their arrival, they decided that uniting with the Brethren, who were already established in Spain, would be their best avenue for ministry.[47]  Thus, they did not initiate any Baptist work.  William Ireland Knapp, a Baptist from America, was the first person to undertake a specifically Baptist witness.  Having served as a professor of modern languages and only recently graduating with his Ph.D. from New York University, Knapp arrived in Spain in 1867.  He began independent evangelistic effort soon after his arrival, but his most successful work began in 1869—during the years of the short-lived first republic when the “Second Reformation” launched by Matamoros was reaching its apex.  Knapp conducted a seven-month evangelistic effort in Madrid, resulting in 1,325 professions of faith.  By 1870, he had organized five small Protestant congregations.

Early in his work, Knapp wrestled with the issue of whether he should form these congregations as part of a united Protestant church in Spain, or organize them as a specifically Baptist work.  He decided initially to cooperate with the Presbyterian Church in Spain.  While not changing his Baptist convictions, he felt the success of his work depended on a wider Christian unity.[48]  Soon a Presbyterian congregation of 1,400 members was functioning in Madrid.  By mid 1870, however, Knapp’s views had changed.  He writes: “On August 3rd I called the Presbyterian church together, laid before them all the facts of the case, with which they were fully acquainted before, and asked them to decide by a perfectly free vote whether the church should continue as a Presbyterian one or a Baptist.  The vote was unanimous in favor of baptism in its true sense.  I then asked them to dissolve formally the Presbyterian church, which they did.”[49]  By the end of August, 1870, Knapp had baptized thirty-eight people and organized the first Baptist church in Spain.

With the support of the American Baptist Missionary Union, Knapp initiated work in Alcante and Valencia.  As late as 1873, he was highly optimistic about the future of Baptist work in Spain.  In 1874, everything changed abruptly.  The restoration of the monarchy brought renewed opposition and repression.  Few people would attend Protestant services any longer.  Knapp grew increasingly discouraged over the lack of results, and in 1876 decided to return to the United States.  The Spanish Baptist pastors he had trained to continue the work were unable to meet the demands of this ministry, and Knapp’s churches and missions soon disappeared.

Eric Lund, a Swedish Baptist, took up Baptist work in Spain in 1877.  He initiated his efforts in Galicia, but soon moved to Figueiras in Catalonia where a Baptist church was organized in 1881.  Supported first by the Swedish Baptist Union, then by the American Baptist Missionary Union, Lund started other missions which had resulted in ten churches and 115 members by 1896.  In 1900 Lund left Spain to begin Baptist work in the Philippines.

Other Swedish Baptists joined Lund’s evangelistic work in Spain.  Charles A. Haglund, John Uhr, and Nils John Bergtson focused attention on the region of Valencia, organizing a church there in 1888.  The missionary strategy of this group involved establishing numerous small churches in the villages.  By 1915, there were 350 Baptists in this province.

In 1921, as a consequence of the London Conference a year earlier, Southern Baptists assumed responsibility for the work in Spain. In 1922, a seminary was opened in Barcelona with the vision of making the work more permanent and indigenous through training national leaders.  However, the school was closed in 1929 due to a lack of students and funds.  Southern Baptists decided to limit their work to evangelistic programs until a larger community of Baptists could be developed.  The Unión Evangélica Bautista Española was formed by Spanish Baptists in 1922.  In 1929 the Union was reorganized into the Spanish Baptist Convention, which itself was renamed Unión Evangélica Bautista Española in 1957.  By 1930, Spanish Baptists numbered about 1,000 members.[50]

In 1931, the Second Republic was founded.  Although the new government offered increased religious liberty, Spanish Baptists were still too small to effectively sustain the work alone.  The Great Depression of the 1930s, meant very limited funds and personnel support from Baptists in America.  This was worsened by the Spanish Civil war from 1936-1939, followed by the Fascist regime under Francisco Franco.  Since Baptists were overwhelmingly loyal to the republican government, they were looked upon with disfavor by the new regime.  The war resulted in the loss of equipment and members.  By 1940, Spanish Baptists had declined by twenty-five percent.[51]

Under Franco, Baptist work declined further.  Between 1939 and 1945, only the Baptist church in Madrid was able to remain open.  The end of World War II brought some relief, but Baptists and other Protestants continued to suffer government closure of churches, fines and prison sentences for even low-key evangelistic activities, exclusions from many jobs and universities, and prohibitions from public identification of church buildings and services.  In 1956, Spanish Baptists helped organize the Committee of Evangelical Defense to influence the government to grant greater religious freedom.  Despite the hardships, by 1958, Spanish Baptists had grown to 2,200.[52]

In 1967, the Law on Religious Liberty was passed, granting greater religious toleration.  However, the Unión Evangélica Bautista Española perceived that this law still relegated Baptists to a second-class status.  The Union urged its churches not to register with the government under the law.  Several churches disagreed with this tactic, and registered anyway, thereby creating major controversy within the Union.  In 1978, a new constitution, followed by the Organic Law of Religious Freedom of 1980, gave Protestants full rights.  This does not mean, however, that Protestants enjoy the same privileges at all levels as the Catholic Church.

In 1949, a division occurred among Spanish Baptists when the Southern Baptist mission informed Samuel Vila, president of the Spanish Baptist Convention, that he and his church could no longer continue in the convention because of funds they were accepting from another Baptist denomination.  Two churches with 400 members withdrew from the convention immediately.  These and like-minded churches formed the Federacion de Iglesias Evangélicas Independentes de España in 1957.  Today this body constitutes the Second largest Baptist denomination in Spain.

In 1955, World Baptist Fellowship became the first of several fundamentalist Baptist groups from the United States to initiate church planting efforts in Spain.  They organized their work under the Comunión Bautista Independiente, which in 1990 numbered about 825 members in 36 churches.  Other Baptist bodies active in Spain include A Convenção Batista Brasileira (1977), Strict Baptists (Asociación de Iglesias Evangélicas Bautistas Independentes de España), Free Will Baptists (1976), Conservative Baptists International (1985) and the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches in Canada (1985).


Beyond al-Andalus


None of the writings of either Spanish Protestants or Catholic liberals reflects any perception that in pursuing the illusive goal of religious toleration and freedom they are attempting to recapture a dream which was once a reality in Spanish culture—the dream of al-Andalus.  It was the vision of al-Andalus that laid the foundations of modern Spanish culture—the interweaving of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim bloodlines into a distinctive new culture.  In that culture of convivencia, religious communities were allowed to embrace and practice the convictions of their own faith, while being invigorated and inspired to creative heights through the challenging perspectives of divergent groups.  That cultural anomaly enabled Spanish Jews to reach new levels of literary and philosophical achievement.  It influenced European Christians toward new accomplishments in philosophy, theology, architecture, and science.  It spurred Umayyad Muslims to some of the greatest cultural achievements of their entire history.  Yet, neither the wider Muslim, Christian, nor Jewish communities could see this as a positive thing.  Each, when it had the power, attempted to force religious uniformity regardless of individual faith conviction.

In many ways, since the 1978 constitution and the 1980 Organic Law of Religious Freedom, Spain has recaptured the dream of al-Andalus.  According to the Register of Religious Entities, the Federation of Protestant Churches represents 350,000 Protestants, the Federation of Spanish Islamic Entities, located in Córdoba, represents 450,000 Muslims (not counting illegal immigrants who may constitute another 250,000), and the Federation of Israelite Communities of Spain representing approximately 25,000 Jews.  However, at least 50,000 Jews regularly attend religious services in 13 of the 17 provinces of Spain.  There are also 3,000 Buddhists registered (although there may be another 6,000 who practice that faith, but are not registered).

The first section of the Register of Religious Entities includes 11,081 entities created by the Catholic Church and 570 non-Catholic churches, confessions, and communities.  The second section (called the general section) includes 329 entities which do not have an agreement with the government.  The third section contains canonical foundations of the Catholic Church and includes 153 such entities.

The Register contains a total of 899 non-Catholic churches, confessions, and communities in all its sections.  These include 747 Protestant church entities with 1,643 places of worship, 5 Orthodox entities with 5 places of worship, 3 Christian Science entities with no place of worship, 1 Jehovah’s Witnesses entity with 873 places of worship, 1 Mormon entity with 30 places of worship, 15 Jewish entities with 15 places of worship, 99 Muslim entities with 45 places of worship, 2 Baha’is entities with 12 places of worship, 3 Hindu entities with no place of worship, and 13 Buddhist entities with 13 places of worship.  In a sense, al-Andalus has been revived.

However, many people sense a need to move beyond convivencia—a living together in a relationship between unequals—to one of full equality.  For example, a senior Protestant leader argues that Protestants should have “the same tax exemptions as Catholics, the same access to legal services, the same right to establish foundations, the same presence in the communications media, and better treatment in the matter of religious groups.”[53]  In 1999, a senior Muslim leader complained that thirty Muslim girls in Granada had been required to remove their veils for their national identity card photos, while Catholic nuns were not required to remove their head coverings for their cards.[54]  The government income tax includes a box that allows taxpayers to assign 0.5239 percent of their taxes to the Catholic Church.  Protestant and Muslim leaders would like their adherents to have a similar option. [note, negotiations underway in 1999].

Jewish leaders, on the other hand, would like for their adherents to be able to make the same designations, but do not want the information included on the income tax forms.  Their reluctance stems from past treatment, which included persecution and expulsion from the country for persons identified by the government as Jews.  The Jewish community has also asked for a one-time reparations payment for their community’s historic experience of suffering.  A spokesman says, “Jews would not claim compensation for their lost patrimony, but would like the State to take back part of what was once theirs and is now in the hands of the Catholic Church.  These properties could then be used jointly by Jews and Catholics.”[55] 

In April 1999, the Helsinki Human Rights Federation presented a report to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that included criticism of Spain for failing to implement its commitment in the 1984 Budapest Document on freedom of religion and conscience.  The report criticized Spain for discrimination against “new religions,” which are often considered by authorities to be dangerous and destructive, while older, established religions receive financial and other privileges from the State.[56]

For decades, Spanish Protestants survived very difficult circumstances through exemplary faith commitment and strong ties to sister churches abroad.  In the latter half of the twentieth century, many of those churches became largely self-sufficient.[57]  In 1975, the Unión Evangélica Bautista Española assumed greater responsibility for the administration and support of its work, and today is essentially independent. The 1978 constitution and subsequent laws have helped guarantee individual and collective rights to religious freedom and to the separation of church and state.  That freedom has introduced new possibilities for Protestant churches in Spain, but also forces them to rethink their relationships.  This is never an easy process.  Most Spanish Protestants come from traditions and/or have had experiences in their struggles for survival that cause them to be reluctant to trust ecclesiastical alliances or ecumenical cooperation.  For example, in 1990, of all the Baptist groups in Spain, only the Unión Evangélica Bautista Española was a member of the Baptist World Alliance.  Lack of appropriate cooperation among Protestants can be a hindrance to their work and augment fragmentation—a potentially serious problem in light of the fact that they make up such a small percentage of the Spanish population.

In significant ways, the early medieval experiment of al-Andalus provides a good model for the pluralistic world in which we live today.  Spanish history offers the world’s religious communities insight into both the creativity which is possible through learning to live together in pluralistic diversity, and the paralysis and stultification which comes with religious intolerance and repression.  We can, and likely will, pursue many possibilities as we confront an increasingly diverse and pluralistic world.  In my view, however, history cautions against exclusivistic, isolationistic, and intolerant approaches.  Our best options require interaction, communication, and appropriate cooperation, even across confessional lines.  If the dream of al-Andalus teaches us anything, it is that cultures prosper best when people of differing faith convictions learn to respect each other’s  basic human rights, allow personal and collective freedom of conscience and appropriate religious expression, and learn what might appropriately be shared and what must be carefully guarded.  Baptists have historically dreamed of their own version of al-Andalus.  We need to preserve that dream in the face of reactionary forces which have emerged with a very different agenda for our world today.  As an alliance of Baptists who share the challenges of pluralism and secularism, the Spanish dream of al-Andalus could help inspire us to our noblest ideals and encourage us to renew our commitment to be advocates of religious freedom, which has been a guiding principle from our birth.





[1] Relación histórica de la Judería de Sevilla, Seville: n.p., 1849, p. 24, cited in Henry Kamen, The Spanish Inquisition; A Historical Revision, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997, p 46.

[2] Andrés Bernáldez, Memorias del reinado de los reyes Católicos, ed. M. Gómez-Moreno and J.M. de Carriazo, Madrid: ?, 1962, p. 99, cited in Henry Kamen, The Spanish Inquisition; A Historical Revision, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997, p. 47.

[3] Tertullian, An Answer to the Jews, vii, trans. in Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 3, p. 158.

[4] P.D. King, Law and Society in the Visigothic Kingdom. Cambridge: University Press, 1972, p. 129.

[5] María Rosa Menocal, The Ornament of the World; How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain. Boston, New York, London: Little, Brown and Company, 2002, p. 25.

[6]Ibid., p. 26.

[7] See, Gabriel Jackson, The Making of Medieval Spain, ?: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1972.

[8] Menocal, Ornament of the World, p. 27.

[9] Ibid., p. 54.

[10] Ibid, p. 28.

[11] See Anwar G. Chejne, Muslim Spain; Its History and Culture, Minneapolis: The University of Minnesota Press, 1974.

[12] Ibid., pp. 11-12.

[13] See Thomas F. Glick, Islamic and Christian Spain in the Early Middle Ages. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1979.

[14] Menocal, Ornament of the World, p. 46.

[15] See W. Montgomery Watt, A History of Islamic Spain, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1965.

[16] Kamen, Spanish Inquisition, p. 1.

[17] See Joseph E. O’Callaghan, A History of Medieval Spain, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1975.

[18] Norman Roth, Conversos, Inquisition and the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain, Madison: ?, 1995, pp. 34-35.

[19] Kamen, Spanish Inquisition, p. 6.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] See J. H. Elliott, Imperial Spain, 1469-1716, London: Edward Arnold Publishers Ltd., 1963.

[23] Benzion Netanyahu, The Origins of the Inquisition in fifteenth-century Spain, New York: Random House, 1995.

[24] Kamen, Spanish Inquisition, p. 33.

[25] Justo L. Gonzalez, Uma História Ilustrada do Cristianismo, vol. 6, A Era dos Reformadores, São Paulo, Brasil: Vida Nova, 1980, p. 202.

[26] See Edward Boehmen, Spanish Reformers of Two Centuries from 1520, 3 vols, New York: Burt Franklin, 1965, and Alfredo de Castro, História de los Protestantes españoles. Cádiz: Inmprenta, Librería, y Litografia de la Revista Médica, 1851.

[27] See M. Menendez y Pelayo, Hist”oria de los heterodoxos españoles, 2 vols., Madrid: Bibloteca de Autores Cristianos, 1956.

[28] John E. Longhurst, Luther’s Ghost in Spain. Lawrence, KS: Coronado Press, 1969.

[29] Thomas McCrie, Reformation in Spain, Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publishers, 1842.

[30] See John Stoughton, Memories of the Spanish Reformers, London: The Religious Tract Society, 1883, and  Daniel Vidal, Nosotrios los Protestantes españoles. Madrid: Cuadernos y Ensayos Marova, 1968.

[31] Cited by Gonzalez, Era dos Reformadores, p. 201.

[32] Archivo General de Simancas, section Patronato Real, leg 28, f. 37, cited in Kamen, Spanish Inquisition, p. 95.

[33] Camto to Eraso, Brussels, 12 May 1564, in Archivo General de Sinamcas, section Estado, leg, 526, f. 125, in Kamen, Spanish Inquisition, p. 99.

[34] Kamen, Spanish Inquisition, p. 98.

[35] George Brown, A History of the British and Foreign Bible Society, vol II, London: Bagster & Sons, 1859.

[36] George Barrow, The Bible in Spain; or The Journeys, Adventures, and Imprisonments of an Englishman in an attempt to Circulate the Scriptures in the Peninsula, New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1896.

[37] Richard Herr, The Eighteenth Century Revolution in Spain, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1969.

[38] Dale G. Vought, Protestants in Modern Spain; the Struggle for Religious Pluralism, South Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 1973.

[39] See Arajuo C. Gardia and Kenneth Grubb, Religion in the Republic of Spain, London: World Dominion Press, 1933.

[40] Jaques Delpech, The Oppression of Protestants in Spain, Boston: Beacon Press, 1955, p. 9.

[41] Jorge Cesar Mota, D. Miguel de Unamuno e a Bíblia, Boletim No. 14 (Nova Série), Departamento de História No. 9, Curso de História das Religiões No. 1, São Paulo, Brasil, 1978.

[42] Antonio Montero Moreno, La Persecusión religiosa en España; 1936-1939, Madrid: Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, 1961.

[43] See Ray Alan, “Franco’s Spain and the New Europe,” Commentary (September, ?): 233-236.

[44] See Juan A. Monroy, Defesa de los Protestantes españoles, Tonger: Ediciones Luz y Verdad, 1958.

[45] Delpech, Protestants in Spain, p. 13-14.

[46] Aimé Bonitas, The Church in Spain, trans from Franch, Commission on Inter-church Aid, Refugee, and World Service, Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1984, p. 3.

[47] Ian M. Randall, “’The Blessings of an Enlightened Christianity’: North American Involvement in European Baptist Origins,” American Baptist Quarterly XX (March 2001): 20.

[48] W.I. Knapp, circular letter published in Missionary Herald of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (1 June 1870): 83-84, in O.E. Simmons, “A Critical History of Southern Baptists in Spain with Implications for Future Ministry,” D.Min. thesis, San Francisco Theological Seminary, 1982, p. 75.

[49] W.I. Knapp, letter published in Baptist Missionary Magazine (December 1870): 448, cited by Simmons, “Southern Baptists in Spain,” pp. 75-75.

[50] See Albert W. Wardin, ed., Baptists Around the World, Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995, pp. 282-83.

[51] See Robert G. Torbet, A History of the Baptists, 3rd ed., Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1963, p. 194.

[52] See John David Hughey, Religious Freedom in Sapin; Its Ebb and Flow, Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1970 (reprint).

[53] U. S. Department of State, Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 1999: Spain, Washington, D.C.: Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, September 9, 1999.

[54] Ibid.

[55] Ibid.

[56] Ibid.

[57] See Juan A. Monroy, Liberdad religiosa y Ecuminismo, Madrid: Editorial Irmayol, 1967, and José Desumbila, El Ecumenismo en España, Barcelona: Editorial Estela, S.A., 1964.