Friday, March 23, 2012

Out of the Flames, Indeed!

So I read another rather interesting book lately...another that I would have never chosen on my own but it was recommended by a co-worker and he hasn't steered me wrong yet. =) It was non-fiction - basically about a book that was almost lost to us forever. But it was about SOOOO much more. It takes place during the reformation and I have to tell you that it's made me want to do so much more reading on this period of time. I mean, I knew about Pope Leo and I knew about the Medici family but I had NO idea that Pope Leo was of the Medici family! And I found it so interesting to learn that Martin Luther went to the monastery because he "wasn't the brightest bulb in the box". But I digress...

The book is really about two men and a book...Michael Servetus and John Calvin. (yes, that John Calvin) Michael Servetus was a genius and at 13, his father sent him to university at Zaragossa. There Michael came to the attention of Juan de Quintana who latched on to Michael, and made him his personal secretary. When Quintana left Zaragossa for Toulouse, he took Michael with him. This put Michael in a unique position where he mixed with powerful people. While working for Quintana, Michael was able to attend the coronation of Charles V. This made Michael question some of the things his Catholic church was teaching and doing. So he learned Greek and Hebrew so he could read the original bible and see where the Catholic church could make changes and thereby serve the people more correctly. He wrote a book entitled On the Errors of the Trinity, which, of course, since it took issue with a little something the Catholic church called the trinity, the church and the Inquisition felt was heretical. So at 19, Michael Servetus was condemned to death. He Switzerland and then to France. He changed his name and enjoyed the freedom of humanism which was flourishing at Paris University. He studied and wrote and argued...with among other men, John Calvin. Now John Calvin had his own ideas about religion and wanted to show Michael the errors of his ways. And Michael, naturally, was convinced of his rightness (which, by the way, I was convinced of as well) so he was having none of it. John, seeing the "success" of Michael and his book, thought he'd write his own book and thereby gain the popularity and power that he craved. Calvin's book was NOT a bestseller and Calvin, who was apparently a gigantic narcissist, decided it was Michael's fault in some way and so would spend the rest of his life hunting Michael down in order to have his life and ideas destroyed. 

At some point, Servetus ended up back at the University of Paris and studied medicine this time. He later goes to Vienne and practices as a country doctor there. He also works on a book, Christianismi Restitutio, and corresponds with John Calvin, both of which would bring about his downfall. In the end, Calvin succeeded in his mission to destroy Servetus. He had Servetus burned at the stake along with all the copies of his book he could find. And he ordered that all Servetus' books be collected and destroyed. However, 3 copies miraculously survived...along with John Calvin's personal copy.

As a side story, Michael Servetus, while studying medicine at Paris University, actually discovered how the circulatory system worked...years before Vesalius, who is credited for the discovery. And if this book was never discovered, we'd never have known all the genius of Michael Servetus.

There is so much more to this story...the history of how the printing of books affected the reformation. How much of society that was under the control of the church. And how the church used the Inquisition to try to keep people under their rule while they themselves did things in such excess as to actually disgust those faithful who so loved the church and were so disgusted by the abuse they witnessed the church indulge in. Not to mention the history of how medicine was changed with the discovery of how the circulatory system functioned. And also the beginnings of modern medicine here in America. Oh, and also the history of a little branch of the christian church known as the Unitarian Church. I'm just barely scratching the surface in this review. 

This book was so informative and inflammatory (but in a good way) for me. And it also created more questions for me. Oh, I will have to read more books! So I hope you'll check out this book sometime. And let me know what you think!

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