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History is littered with the names of infamous rogues who drank rolling rivers of blood with devilish delight. Among them was the Spanish General Fernando Alvarez de Toledo, the Duke of Alva, whose cruelty can only be described as demonic.
He was born into a noble Spanish family in 1508, at the onset of the Reformation. His grandfather, Frederick of Toledo, dominated his youth and trained him to be a warrior, a soldier, tough as iron. He fought his first battle at age 16 and climbed the military beanstalk with cunning and prowess. As a general, he was brilliant; but like his commander-in-chief, Philip II of Spain, Fernando was also deceitful, fanatical, cruel, and merciless.
The Reformation, especially Calvinism, had found fertile ground in Holland, for the Bible had been translated there into Flemish several years earlier. But the Netherlands was under the control of Spain and its hated King Philip. Philip established the Inquisition in Holland, provoked a rebellion, and in 1567 sent the Duke of Alva with 10,000 troops into the Netherlands to quell the Reformation, to extinguish the evangelical “heresy,” and to regain control of the citizens.
Over the next six years, 6,000 lowlanders were sentenced to death in the duke’s “Council of Blood.” Some estimates put the total number of martyrs at 100,000, including women and children. One historian claims that more Christians lost their lives during this bloodletting than during all the Roman persecutions of the first 300 years of church history. Alva imposed oppressive taxes, destroyed the economy of Holland, violated civil liberties, tortured citizens, and provoked a war of independence that lasted 80 years.
One reaps, however, what one sows. In 1580 Alva was sent against Portugal. He was victorious, but on the way back, a fever developed. A dark foreboding drew itself around him like a curtain. His life drained out of him like sand through the glass, and the man who had gulped the blood of Christians lay in helpless suffering, able to sip only milk drawn from a woman’s breast. On December 12, 1582, his soul was required of him.
Those who plant seeds of evil harvest trouble, and then they are swept away by the angry breath of God. They may roar and growl like powerful lions. But when God breaks their teeth, they starve. (Job 4:8b-11a)
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day: 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Dec 12.
ALSO ON THIS DAY
1666 – The Council of Moscow deposed Russian Orthodox Patriarch Nikon, whose autocratic ways and liturgical reforms had resulted in strife between church and state.
1907 – Evangelist William Durham acquired the property for his North Avenue Mission in Chicago. His Pentecostal meetings were well attended and often ran all night.
1917 – Father Flanagan opened the first house in his work that became known as Boy’s Town.
1931 – Ordination in Basutoland of Raphael Mohasi, its first Black African Roman Catholic priest.
Photo in header: Alba’s Duke palace at Piedrahíta by Aloriel.