Undoubtedly, the arrival of the Knights of St John in Malta in 1530 left a great social and economic impact which opened wide the door to a continuous influx of new ide-as, customs and traditions and created a cosmopolitan environment. By the mid-sixteenth century, the humanistic movement was at its peak in Europe, and Malta was no exception. Foremost among those who practised, taught and disseminated these Reformist ideas, which the Catholic Church regarded as heresy, where also priests like Notary Don Brandano Caxaro who ended up before the Inquisition tribunal at least twice. In 1563 he was found guilty of spreading heretical teachings and was giv-en a sentence that stripped him from most of his privileges, including any income derived from ecclesiastical benefices. He was also prohibited from carrying out his duties as a priest and as a notary.
From the depositions given during the various cases heard at the Tribunal of the In-quisition it becomes evidently clear that these Reformists used to read and discuss the Holy Scriptures together with other prohibited works like those of Luther, Melanch-thon and Erasmus. Ever since the end of the fifteenth century, Erasmus’s books, espe-cially the Colloquia or Dialogues were used as textbooks. Up to 1553 around 12 in the series of these books were issued until eventually these totalled about 50. Malta also formed part of this dissemination of new ideologies as can be verified from the multiple depositions made by witnesses before the Inquisitor. These testified that such prohibited literary works were read in grammar schools and that these were also discussed during secret meetings held purposely for this aim. The impact of such ide-ologies on Notary Caxaro may be seen from his notarial registers where, at times, he used to insert phrases taken from these works. Such is the case in a register dated 1541 where he left for posterity a verse from Erasmus’s Colloquia which reads: “Am-aracus ait abstine sus no tibi spiro”, meaning, “the marjoram said to the pig, go away, I do not breathe for thee”.
Source: Notarial Archives Malta, Notary Brandano Caxaro, R 175/8, f. 1 (1541)