Valdés, Alfonso de


Valdés, Alfonso de
(ca. 1500-1532)
   Spanish humanist, the leading figure among Spanish admirers of Erasmus. His family were Spanish conversos, and one of his uncles, a priest, was burned at the stake by the Inquisition in 1491 on charges of secretly continuing Jewish religious practices. Alfonso's education is not well docu-mented, but he was probably tutored by an Italian humanist attached to the royal court in Valladolid, Pietro Martire d'Anghiera. He may have studied at the new University of Alcalá. Valdés was a member of the Emperor Charles V's secretarial staff at Brussels and Aachen in 1520 and then at Worms in 1521, where he witnessed the hearing of Martin Luther before the Imperial Diet. He returned to Spain in 1522 and entered the service of the imperial chancellor, Mercurino Gattinara. In 1525 he edited official reports of the battle of Pavia in which Spanish troops captured King Francis I of France. By early in 1526 he was secretary for Latin correspondence in the imperial chancery. During the rapid spread of Erasmus' popularity in Spain in the middle 1520s, Valdés was one of the Dutch humanist's warmest supporters, helping to organize the defense of Erasmus' orthodoxy by the court humanists against the unsuccessful attempt of the Spanish religious orders to secure a condemnation of Erasmus' writings. Valdés' Diálogo de las cosas ocurridas en Roma (subtitled Lac-tantiö), an exculpatory and pro-Spanish account of the notorious Sack of Rome by the imperial army in 1527, caused the papal nun-cio at the imperial court, Baldassare Castiglione, to attack Valdés (and Spanish policy) as disrespectful of the Supreme Pontiff. Valdés' other major work was his Diálogo de Mercurio y Carón / Dialogue Between Mercury and Charon, completed in 1528. It combines the Erasmian concept of the "philosophy of Christ" with sharp criticism of the clergy. This dialogue also reflects a kind of inward spirituality that is reminiscent of the contemporary popular Spanish mystics known as alumbrados (the enlightened ones).
   Valdés accompanied the imperial court to Italy in 1529, attended the coronation of Charles V by the pope at Bologna, and accompa-nied the emperor on his trip to Germany in 1530. After the death of the chancellor Gattinara in 1530, Valdés took over his role as the leading mediator at the imperial court between Catholics and Protes-tants. He attended the imperial diet at Augsburg in 1530, negotiated directly with Philipp Melanchthon and other Protestant leaders, and joined Melanchthon in the vain effort to seek a peaceful reunification of the church. At the emperor's request, Valdés prepared a Spanish translation of the Lutheran Augsburg Confession. Despite the failure at Augsburg, he remained active in court service, attending the coro-nation of Charles' brother Ferdinand as king of the Romans, accom-panying the court on its travels in the Netherlands and Germany, and attending the imperial diet at Regensburg in 1532. In October of that year, he contracted plague while in Vienna and died.

Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. . 2004.

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