Michael Servetus Biography Abstract

Michael Servetus is in more than one respect one of the most remarkable men of the sixteenth century; while the tragic death which he suffered made him the first and most conspicuous martyr to the faith whose history we are following. Records of the life of Servetus are scanty and inconsistent, and the gaps in them have often been filled up by conjectures which have later proved to be mistaken.


Servetus, Michael, in Spanish, Miguel Serveto (1511-1553), Spanish physician and theologian, who was executed for his beliefs by the Calvinist government of Geneva. He was born in Villanueva de Sijena, Huesca Province. He studied law at the University of Toulouse, medicine at the universities of Paris and Montpellier. Beginning in 1540 he practiced medicine in Vienne, France, where he also served as the personal physician to the archbishop. About 1545 he began a correspondence with the French Protestant theologian John Calvin.

Although still a nominal Catholic, he described his heretical opposition to the concept of the Trinity. He wrote to Calvin in 1545 about his desire to go there, but Calvin did not answer and in a letter to one of his ministers he condemned him to death, a goal he got in 1553. He was arrested while attending church in Geneva, convicted of heresy and blasphemy against Christianity, and burned at the stake on October 27, 1553.

Servetus's religious opinions were strongly opposed by Catholics and Protestants of his time. In 1531 he repudiated, in his De Trinitatis Erroribus (On the Error of the Trinity), the tripartite personality of God. In 1532 he wrote Dialogorum de Trinitate Libri Duo (Second Book of Dialogues on the Trinity). His scientific contributions were also notable; his Christianismi Restitutio (The Restoration of Christianity), published shortly before his death in 1553, included the first accurate description of the pulmonary circulatory system.