The various groups known as alumbrados which arose in Spain during the sixteenth century, though different from another, were regarded at the time as parts of a single heresy, which originated in the Iberian peninsula each time it was detected. In fact the members of the movements held beliefs which could also be found in other parts of Europe. The first, known as the alumbrados of Toledo, developed a doctrine which closely resembled in the south of Spain in the second half of the century, distorted the teaching of the great Spanish mystics and indulged in the debauchery and ecstatic worship common in certain groups in northern Europe whose roots were to be found in Anabaptism.
Heresy and Mysticism in 16th Century Spain deals with the spiritual climate of enthusiasm encouraged by the great cardinal and primate of Spain, Jimenez de Cisneros, in which the alumbrados of Toledo first flourished. The author examines the beliefs of those accused of being alumbrados and the way in which the accusation was used to discredit a far wider circle of intellectuals. The first study in English to survey all the different alumbrados movements between 1510 and 1630, it also touches on such major events in Spanish ecclesiastical history as the reception of the writings of Erasmus, the rise of the Jesuits, and the first reactions to the writings of mystics such as St Teresa of Avila.