by Alessandro from Rome
Giordano Bruno (1548 – February 17, 1600) was an Italian philosopher best-known as an early proponent of heliocentrism and the infinity of the universe. In addition to his cosmological writings, he also wrote extensive works on the art of memory, a loosely-organized group of mnemonic techniques and principles. He is often considered an early martyr for modern scientific ideas, in part because he was burned at the stake as a heretic by the Roman Inquisition.
More recent assessments, beginning with the pioneering work of Frances Yates, suggest that Bruno was deeply influenced by magical views of the universe inherited from Arab astrological magic, Neoplatonism and Renaissance Hermeticism. Other recent studies of Bruno have focused on his qualitative approach to mathematics and his application of the spatial paradigms of geometry to language.
He was imprisoned for seven years in Rome, during his lengthy trial, lastly in the Tower of Nona. Some important documents about the trial are lost, but others have been preserved, among them a summary of the proceedings that was rediscovered in 1940. The numerous charges against Bruno, based on some of his books as well as on witness accounts, included blasphemy, immoral conduct, and heresy in matters of dogmatic theology, and involved some of the basic doctrines of his philosophy and cosmology. Luigi Firpo lists them as follows:
• Holding opinions contrary to the Catholic Faith and speaking against it and its ministers.
• Holding erroneous opinions about the Trinity, about Christ's divinity and Incarnation.
• Holding erroneous opinions about Christ.
• Holding erroneous opinions about Transubstantiation and Mass.
• Claiming the existence of a plurality of worlds and their eternity.
• Believing in metempsychosis and in the transmigration of the human soul into brutes.
• Dealing in magics and divination.
• Denying the Virginity of Mary.
In these grim circumstances Bruno continued his Venetian defensive strategy, which consisted in bowing to the Church's dogmatic teachings, while trying to preserve the basis of his philosophy. In particular Bruno held firm to his belief in the plurality of worlds, although he was admonished to abandon it. His trial was overseen by the inquisitor Cardinal Bellarmine, who demanded a full recantation, which Bruno eventually refused. Instead he appealed in vain to Pope Clement VIII, hoping to save his life through a partial recantation. The Pope expressed himself in favor of a guilty verdict. Consequently, Bruno was declared a heretic, and told he would be handed over to secular authorities. According to the correspondence of one Gaspar Schopp of Breslau, he is said to have made a threatening gesture towards his judges and to have replied: "Perhaps you, my judges, pronounce this sentence against me with greater fear than I receive it." He was quickly turned over to the secular authorities and, on February 17, 1600 in the Campo de' Fiori, a central Roman market square, "his tongue imprisoned because of his wicked words" he was burned at the stake. When the fire had died out his ashes were dumped into the Tiber river. All Bruno's works were placed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum in 1603.
Four hundred years after his execution, official expression of "profound sorrow" and acknowledgement of error at Bruno's condemnation to death was made, during the papacy of John Paul II.Attempts were made by a group of professors in the Catholic Theological Faculty at Naples, led by the Nolan Domenico Sorrentino, to obtain a full rehabilitation from the Catholic authorities.