2020-09-08

UU Minute #7

UU Minute #7: Miguel Serveto (Michael Servetus), part 1

Unitarianism in Europe is rooted in two ideas. One of them was critique of the doctrine of the trinity – and that’s the idea we are named after. The other is critique of religious intolerance – and that’s the idea that’s more central to what it means to be Unitarian. Both of those ideas got a significant boost from a man that I grew up calling Michael Servetus.

He went by a lot of names, but the name he and his family probably knew him by best was Miguel Serveto. That’s what he seems to have been called most in his childhood and youth, as he was born and raised in Spain, so that’s what I’ll call him.

Miguel Serveto was born in 1509, was eight-years old when -- 2,000 kilometers away in Wittenberg, Germany -- Martin Luther launched the Protestant Reformation by nailing 95 theses to the church door. Serveto was a brilliant student: earned a BA at age 14, and MA at age 15. He eventually became a leading scholar of his time in a number of fields: mathematics, astronomy, meteorology, geography, human anatomy, medicine, pharmacology, jurisprudence, poetry, and Bible studies.

In Catholic Spain, Protestant books were strictly banned. Young Miguel might have first had access to forbidden Protestant writings at age 18, when he went to France to study at the University of Toulouse. What Miguel Serveto would end up meaning for Unitarianism we will see in future episodes.

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