On Sunday the 13th of March, 1622, in front of the Door of Pardon of the Cathedral (on the Plaza of the Proclamation) for the very first time in the history of the Inquisition in Cartagena de Indias a person was burned alive.
The condemned man was a young 32-year-old Englishman named Adam Haydon (in the Spanish chronicles written as Adan Edón) who, in the year 1619, had been sent by an English merchant based in Seville to South America to buy tobacco in Cumaná, Venezuela where his company had a contact to do business.
According to documents concerning the trail of Haydon, during the trans-Atlantic voyage the crew and passengers would gather on the deck of the galleon to celebrate the mass daily and on these occasions Haydon always separated himself from the group. Nevertheless, when an image of the Virgin was being passed around for everybody to kiss, some of the more zealous worshipers in the makeshift congregation would test his obstinacy (and confirm his deviance in their own minds) by taking the image of the Virgin over to him and asking him to kiss it. His response to this gesture, predictably, was always to turn the proffered image away and refuse to do so. On arrival in Cumaná the same zealots among those on board during the crossing denounced the Englishman before the Inquisition authorities who promptly arrested him on suspicion of the crime of offending the Holy Catholic Faith and without delay sent him to Cartagena where he spent more than two years in prison here before he was found guilty and executed.
Adam Haydon was undoubtedly a person who was spiritually evolved or advanced, and he must have been a very skilled practitioner of mental exercises entailing deep meditation. Because, in the knowledge that he was signing his own death warrant he steadfastly refused at his trial to abjure his own faith and ended his life in an extraordinary episode of unsung martyrdom – dying with the detachment of a Cathari priest or Buddhist monk.
On the morning of the execution Englishman requested that he not be blindfolded and tied to the stake and his request was honored. Then he sat down calmly on the faggots and remained perfectly immobile until the flames had extinguished his life, and this despite the fact – also duly noted in the chronicles – that he’d been up all night arguing with two friars – one of whom was Pedro Claver, later cannonized by the church in Rome – who were trying to talk him out of it.