Miguel Servetus arrived in Geneva in mid 1553 with what Calvin saw as a death wish. Indeed, Calvin remarked to a friend upon hearing of the heretic’s arrival:
“I know not what to say of him, except that he was seized by a fatal madness to precipitate himself upon destruction.”
Servetus arrived under these circumstances:
… in the middle of the month of July, a man was seen, on foot, entering the gate of the old city; he turned into a little inn used by strangers, called the Auberge de la Rose, and situated on the lake. The night before he had slept in the village of Le Louyset, where he arrived on horseback. It was easy to recognize in the traveller a man of education; in the southern expression of his eye, there was deep thought and dreaming phantasy, and somewhat of passionate excitement: he indulged in some light expressions. The people of the inn wishing to learn more about him, asked if he was married; he answered, that a man could find women enough without marrying. Some one observed him going to the church where Calvin preached.
Servetus the philanderer meandered around the town, listened to Calvin’s sermons, and basically stayed to himself.
After remaining about a month at Geneva, he resolved on making a journey to Zurich. For this purpose he engaged a boat to carry him across the lake; but just as he was on the point of departing an officer appeared, and took him prisoner in the name of the council. This event occurred August 13, 1553.*
Today is the anniversary of that arrest. What follows is the infamous trial and execution of the man who went to the hornet’s nest and shook it and poked it and provoked it and acted surprised when the hive broke out and stung him to death.
Servetus really did have a death wish. Happy “Arrest A Heretic” Day.
*The Life and Times of John Calvin, the Great Reformer (Vol. 2, p. 192).