Alonso Tostado

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Most Reverend

Alonso Fernández de Madrigal
Bishop of Ávila
Alonso Tostado.jpg
Alonso Tostado
ChurchCatholic Church
DioceseDiocese of Ávila
In office1454–1455
PredecessorAlonso de Fonseca y Ulloa
SuccessorMartín Fernández de Vilches
Personal details
Bornc. 1410
Died3 September 1455

Alonso Tostado (also Al(f)onso Fernández de Madrigal, variously known as Alphonsus Tostatus, Tostatus Abulensis, and in Spanish as El Tostado or El Abulense; ca. 1410[1] – 3 September 1455) was a Spanish theologian, councillor of John II of Castile and briefly bishop of Ávila.[2]

A leading scholar of his generation, he is particularly known as an early theorist on witchcraft; in his De maleficis mulieribus, quae vulgariter dicuntur bruxas (1440) he defended the possibility of flying witches based on biblical exegesis.[3]


Alonso's father, also called Alonso Tostado, was a ploughman. The nickname Tostado refers to a ploughman's tanned or sunburnt complexion.[4] After a course of grammar under the Franciscans he entered the University of Salamanca, where, besides philosophy and theology, he studied civil and canon law, Greek, Hebrew, and the other branches then comprised in the curriculum of a university. By great application joined to an unusually brilliant mind and an extraordinarily retentive memory, he accumulated such a vast store of knowledge that his contemporaries styled him a wonder of the world. At 22 he began to lecture on a wide variety of subjects to large audiences attracted by his learning.

Later he assisted with distinction at the Council of Basle. During a visit to the papal court at Siena in 1443, he was denounced to Pope Eugene IV as having publicly defended a heretic and some rash propositions, but in an explanatory letter he assured the pontiff of his orthodoxy. On his return to Spain, in 1444, he was appointed Grand Chancellor and councillor of John II of Castile. In 1454, shortly before his premature death (likely in his forties or early fifties),[1] he was named Bishop of Ávila. His sepulcher in Avila was carved by Vasco de la Zarza in 1518.


In his Defensorium, written against Juan de Torquemada and other critics, he gave utterance to views derogatory to the authority of the pope. Besides a Spanish commentary on the chronicles of Eusebius and other minor works, he wrote commentaries on the historical books of the Old Testament as far as Second Chronicles, and on the Gospel according to St. Matthew. These are diffuse, containing many digressions on dogmatic and other subjects. Tostado's works exercised a significant influence on the Jewish Bible commentator and statesman Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508).[5]

An edition of his works in 13 folio volumes was published at Venice in 1507 and 1547; a more complete edition in 24 folio volumes appeared at the same place in 1615, and another in 27 folio volumes in 1728.


  1. ^ a b His year of birth is unknown; it is often estimated as c. 1410, or in some publications as c. 1400–1410; Retratos de Españoles ilustres, Madrid (1791) gives 1415.
  2. ^ Nelson Cartagena, La contribución de España a la teoría de la traducción: introducción al estudio y antología de textos de los siglos XIV y XV (2009), p. 93
  3. ^ Wolfgang Behringer, Hexen: Glaube, Verfolgung, Vermarktung (2011), p. 40. Hansen, Joseph (1901). Quellen und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte des Hexenwahns und der Hexenverfolgung in Mittelalter. Bonn: Carl Georgi. p. 357.
  4. ^ Francisco de Vitoria, Political Writings Cambridge University Press (1991), p. 367.
  5. ^ Solomon Gaon, The Influence of the Catholic Theologian Alfonso Tosado on the Pentateuch Commentary of Isaac Abravanel (Ktav & Sephardic House, 1993).
  • Bechtel, F., Alonso Tostado, The Catholic Encyclopedia (1912).
  • Fontanus, Franciscus (ed).Alphonsi Tostati Hispani ... Opera nuperrime vetustissimo originali configurata (1615) (google books).
  • Hansen, Joseph, Quellen und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte des Hexenwahns und der Hexenverfolgung in Mittelalter, Bonn: Carl Georgi, 1901.
  • Gaon, Solomon, The Influence of the Catholic Theologian Alfonso Tostado on the Pentateuch Commentary of Isaac Abravanel (Hoboken, NJ: Ktav & Sephardic House, 1993).
  • Suarez P.L., Noematica biblico-mesianica de Alfonso de Matrigal, Obispo de Avila (1400-1455), Madrid (1956).

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Alonso de Fonseca y Ulloa
Bishop of Ávila
Succeeded by
Martín Fernández de Vilches