- Valdés, Juan de
- (ca. 1509-1541)Spanish humanist and reli-gious writer, younger brother of Alfonso de Valdés. He shared his brother's reformist religious interests but was much closer to the heretical alumbrado movement that was becoming widespread in Spain. Like Alfonso, he probably was tutored by the Italian humanist Pietro Martire d'Anghiera. Unlike his brother, he was directly in-volved with the mystical alumbrados ("the enlightened ones"). In 1523-1524 he attended religious meetings at Toledo that would later be defined as centers of heresy. About 1526 Juan entered the Uni-versity of Alcalá, where he remained until 1531, establishing close connections with the influential circle of Erasmian humanists and reformers there. It remains uncertain whether he ever completed an academic degree at Alcalá. Valdés' first published book, Diálogo de doctrina cristiana (1529), led to his being summoned before the Inquisition, though he initially escaped any penalty. His opinions, however, were dangerous in the Spain of this time, and when he learned that a second set of charges was being prepared, he fled to Italy, arriving at the papal curia in Rome in August 1531. His position at Rome, unlike that in Spain, was not precarious since he was well-connected through his brother and his humanist contacts. He acted as an imperial agent while in Rome. Popes Clement VII and Paul III granted him the revenues of two churches in Spain, though he never was ordained as a priest.Valdés settled permanently at Naples in 1535. There he became close to a former papal protonotary, Pietro Carnesecchi, who many decades later would be executed for heretical doctrines that probably derived from Valdés. Valdés' connections in Spain and Naples brought him into the highest levels of Neapolitan intellectual society, and he be-came leader of a religious conventicle known as "the Kingdom of God." Some of this group became Protestants and eventually fled north of the Alps, while others became leading figures of the early Catholic Reformation. Valdés' own beliefs upheld justification by faith and re-jected good works as a way to salvation, but there is no evidence that his theology was derived from German Protestant theologians.The conventicle included intellectuals and aristocrats of the high-est rank, including the young widow Giulia Gonzaga, Bernardino Ochino (general of the new Capuchin order, who was already secretly Protestant and fled to Geneva in 1542), Pietro Martire Vermigli (who joined Ochino in his flight to Geneva), and the Roman noblewoman and poet Vittoria Colonna. Other members of the Neapolitan con-venticle, including the humanist cardinals Reginald Pole and Gas-paro Contarini, remained Catholic but inclined to an "evangelical" emphasis on justification by faith. One of the most influential spiri-tual books of the 16th century, the anonymous Il beneficio di Cristo / The Benefits of Christ (1543), was the work of someone in touch with the Valdesian group at Naples. It is usually attributed to an "evangel-ical" Benedictine monk, Benedetto da Mantova, and the text was pre-pared for publication by the humanist Marcantonio Flaminio, one of the members of Valdes' conventicle at Naples.Valdés' Diálogo de doctrina cristiana is a catechism, perhaps the first of the century, published several months before Martin Luther's Shorter Catechism. In it he used Erasmian terminology but went beyond Erasmus' ideas and promoted the illuminist ideas of the Spanish alumbrados. Valdés wrote another statement of his spiritual views, his Alphabeto cristiano, which may have been published in 1536 (though no surviving copy antedates 1545). Other, shorter works on religion, published only posthumously, included a cate-chism for children, first published in 1544 or 1545; Le cento e dieci divine considerazioni / A Hundred Ten Divine Considerations (pub-lished by his Italian follower Celio Secondo Curione in 1550); and a collection of five short theological treatises (published in 1545). He also produced commentaries on Psalms 1—41, not published until the 19th century; on Paul's epistle to the Romans and on 1 Corinthians (published at Geneva by a Spanish refugee in 1557); a Spanish trans-lation of the gospel of Matthew (not published until 1880); and sev-eral short tracts. In addition, Valdés left a significant collection of un-published letters. He probably wrote commentaries on additional books of the New Testament, but these have not survived. He also wrote Diálogo de la lengua / Dialogue on Language (ca. 1535), a pi-oneering linguistic study of the Spanish language.Valdés died at Naples in August 1541; his will, of which only a summary survives, affirms his belief in the doctrines by which he has lived but does not make it clear what those doctrines are. It is proba-bly significant, however, that his will makes no mention of papal au-thority, does not invoke any saints, and does not contain the pious phrases used in traditional Catholic wills.
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.