Johann Sylvan (
Sylvan was one of the Heidelberg Antitriniarians, along with Adam Neuser, Matthias Vehe, Jacob Suter, and Johann Hasler.
According to Christopher J. Burchill,
- Nothing is known of Sylvan's background other than that he came from a German speaking family from the Etschland in the Austrian Tirol and was thus raised within the diocese of Trent. According to Werner Seeling his original name was probably Holzer, though there is no firm evidence to support this claim. Other than to confirm the fact that he enjoyed a humanist training, it would be difficult to read very much into his decision to adopt the Latin style of address. He moved to study at the university of Vienna in 154$, where he met and befriended Paul Skalich, a member of the Croatian nobility with a pronounced interest in the occult. Having acquired the elements of a humanist training, it would appear that the two young men turned to the study of theology as a means of following a promising career within the church. It may be noted that the curriculum in Vienna was already strongly Thomist in character, a point that was to come across in some of Sylvan's later work. The fact that he went on to become a licentiate in theology provides not alone evidence of ability, but also an indication that he possessed sufficient financial resources to complete the seven year course. It is also significant that he never sought to enter a religious order, evidently preferring to seek promotion within the secular sphere.
Burchill then describes how Sylvann thought and lived, ending with how he died for his views:
- Sylvan was not alone in underestimating the seriousness of his predicament. As late as November 1571 Erastus confidently expected that he would be granted a conditional discharge. It was only after the Elector's personal decision to have the prisoner transferred to the dungeons at Mannheim that the prospect of the death penalty was raised. It would appear that the warrant was actually signed the following April after the receipt of a letter of support from Herzog August of Saxony. Even so a further eight months were to elapse before it was announced that a trial would take place on 23 December. The fact that the scaffold was erected on the market place the day before only serves to confirm that the verdict was a foregone conclusion. The brief proceeding was held in camera early in the morning and three hours later Sylvan was led out to face his executioner. Although accounts vary, it does not seem likely that he made an undue scene at the end. A more plausible interpretation of the evidence would be to suggest that he was given an assurance that his wife and children would be looked after provided he behaved properly to the end. After decapitation, his body was burned together with the offensive manuscript and the remains were then dispatched in the Neckar.