"[that Servetus] was not subject to [Geneva's] laws, has to be considered as a barbaric act and an insult to the Right of Nations.” - Voltaire
A heightened consciousness during the sixteenth century of the potential problems inherent in the Orthodox Trinity galvanized certain reformers to critique the Athanasian formulation in the Nicaean Creed. Perhaps the most significant critique came from Michael Servetus. Had Servetus kept his views to himself Calvin and others might have left the issue of the Trinity alone. But considering the various areas antitrinitarianism was developing in Poland, in Italy, and in the Swiss Confederacy, it is unlikely the Reformation could have bypassed addressing issues related to the orthodox Trinitarian. Likewise, it is unlikely that the Continental Reformers would have discarded the orthodox Trinity. But the Reformers almost did.
This was, according to Wilbur, Servetus’ legacy. He played a key role in the development of the unique antitrinitarianism of the Socinians. Had Calvin not treated Michael Servetus as he was treated by the Inquisition, it is quite possible even fewer reformers would know about his teachings. But Calvin did behave the same as his theological enemies in the Catholic Church. Servetus was burned at the stake. From this event Western Europe began to take small steps towards religious toleration.
In 1908, a monument was dedicated to Servetus, not in Geneva but in a neighbouring French town Annenmasse. On it was an inscription written by Voltaire.
“The arrest of Servetus in Geneva, where he did neither publish nor dogmatize, hence he was not subject to its laws, has to be considered as a barbaric act and an insult to the Right of Nations.”
As a final affront to freedom of thought everywhere, the Vichy government under the yoke of the National Socialists of Germany destroyed the monument. It was restored in 1960. When Geneva got around to erecting a monument to Servetus in 2011, the honoured guests at the ceremony was noted by the absence of the National Protestant Church which was the modern descendent of the church of John Calvin.