VALDES, Juan de

(c. 1500-1541)
Juan de Valdes was a Spanish humanist and religious writer who played a significant role in the intellectual and religious framework of Spain and its em­pire. Valdes was of converso descent on both sides; his father was the regidor of Cuenca. He had several brothers and was close to an older one, Alfonso, with whom he carried on frequent correspondence. Alfonso later became a Latin secretary to Emperor Charles V*; Juan himself may have been a page to the imperial court.
In 1523 Valdes went to Escalona, where he entered the service of Diego Lopez Pacheco, an Erasmian who encouraged the alumbrado (spiritually en­lightened) movement. During this time Valdes began to broaden his religious education, reading the Bible and Desiderius Erasmus,* but also some of the works by Reformers such as Martin Luther.*
By December 1527 he had entered the University of Alcala, where he studied humanities and gained proficiency in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. Valdes became acquainted with many Erasmian scholars in Alcala and in 1529 published his Dialogue on Christian Doctrine, which highlighted many flagrant religious abuses. This work was not well received by the Inquisition, and Valdes found it prudent to leave Spain.
Valdes arrived in Rome, where he accepted a post from Charles V and ob­tained the position of papal chamberlain at the court of Pope Clement VII. He spent the rest of his life in Italy, writing in Spanish for an Italian audience. At Clement VII's death in 1534, Valdes moved to Naples and was shortly thereafter appointed inspector of fortifications by the viceroy. In 1535-36 Valdes experi­enced a deep religious experience perhaps provoked by a Lenten sermon of Bernardino Ochino.* Valdes afterwards moved toward open evangelical belief and created the so-called Valdesian circle at Naples, which consisted of several well-known like-minded associates. Valdes's house soon became a locus for literary and religious discussions; his conversations and his writings stimulated a desire for a spiritual reformation within the church. In 1534 Giulia Gonzaga* went to Naples and made Valdes her spiritual advisor. Several of his works are dedicated to her.
In 1535 Valdes published his Dialogue on Language, a philological treatise that circulated only in manuscript form until the eighteenth century. In this work, Valdes combined the Spanish language with his own grace, wit, and common sense in a masterfully humanistic spirit.
Throughout his stay at Naples, Valdes continued to write. He translated the Psalms and commented upon the first forty-one. He also translated and com­mented upon Matthew, Romans, and I Corinthians. Before his death in Naples in 1541, Valdes allegedly stated that he died in the same faith in which he had lived. He criticized the Protestant Reformers for disrupting the unity of the church, yet he also condemned or toned down certain ceremonies of the Catholic church.
Valdes's death scattered his band of associates. Most of his literary work, however, only became apparent after his death when some of his writings were published and admirers began to popularize his teaching. Valdes remains a dif­ficult character to pinpoint doctrinally and has alternately been labeled a Cath­olic, an Anabaptist, and an Antitrinitarian.
J. Longhurst, Erasmus and the Spanish Inquisition: The Case of Juan de Valdes, 1950.
B. Wiffen, Life and Writings of Juan de Valdés, 1865.
Andrew G. Traver

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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