Giordano Bruno: His Life and Thought

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1 Or Bruni. Cf. E. Mariani, Filippo Bruni (Naples, 1928).

2 For the facts of Bruno's life we are mainly indebted to the record of his evidence before the Venetian Inquisition. His monastic career can be traced in the archives in Italy of the Order of Friar Preachers. Further light is thrown by passages in his works and by the archives of the universities that he visited. There are interesting notes of a few conversations with Bruno in 1585-86 in the diary of one Guillaume Cotin (pp. 136-8), librarian of the Abbey of St. Victor in Paris whom Bruno met in 1586, while entries in the official registers of the universities where he sojourned help to fix the dates of his wanderings. The archives of the Inquisition in Rome have yielded sparse but significant records concerning his seven years in their prison; and there is contemporary evidence, both in the news-sheets and by an onlooker, of the final tragedy in 1600. The various documents have been printed repeatedly, but there has not yet appeared a complete edition of the documents together with an account of their discovery. Vincenzo Spampanato, Vita di Giordano Bruno con documenti editi e inediti (Messina, 1921), Vol. II, gives a detailed account of the discovery and successive publication of many of the documents. This information is omitted in the more complete collection of documents published by him as Documenti della vita di Giordano Bruno (Florence, 1933). Our references will be to this latter volume which, however, lacks also the two German documents discovered by Sigwart. See below, pp. 150-1, 158 seqq., 168, and p. 171 for a further document published from the Papal Archives in 1940; cf. also the manuscripts noted in Appendix III.

3 Archaeologists believe Nola to have been populated in turn by pre-Etruscans, Etruscans, Oscans and Samnites before its conquest by Rome, when it became an Allied City. An Oscan inscription gives the name as NUVLA. Nola retained its importance in the mediaeval period and has been the subject of monographs up to modern times. Cf. especially Ambrosius Leo, Lib. III antiquitatum et historiarum urbi et agri Nolani (Venice, 1514 and 1594), reprinted in J. G. Graevius, Thesaurus antiquitatum hist. ital., Vol. IX, Part iv; and G. S. Remondini, Della Nolana ecclesiastica storia (Naples, 1747 and 1781), and references in later works on the Campania. Cf. also T. Trede, Das Heidentum in der römischen Kirche (Gotha, 1889), especially I, 33-48. In a subsequent chapter Trede recounts the story of Bruno and of the Vatican's attempt to deny the fact of his immolation. Trede's German patriotism leads him to great indignation at the fame acquired by Bruno: "Was such apotheosis granted in Germany to the mystic Nature-philosophers Agrippa von Nettesheim of Salzburg and Jakob Boehme the shoemaker of Goerlitz?"

4 Lib. III, Cap. 1. Cf. I, i, 313 of the National Edition, ]ordani Bruni Nolani opera latine conscripta. Vol. I, Parts i and ii are edited by F. Fiorentino (Naples, 1879 and 1884); Vol I, Parts iii and iv by Tocco and Vitelli (Florence, 1889); Vol II, Part i by Imbriano and Tallarigo (Naples, 1886); Vol. II, Part ii by Tocco and Vitelli (Florence, 1890); Vol. II, Part iii by Tocco and Vitelli (Florence, 1889); and Vol. III by Tocco and Vitelli (Florence, 1891). This National Edition will be cited as Op. lat.

5 Bruno calls the mountain Cicada though modern writers name it Cicala. Both are names of insects common in that part of the world. Cicadas and cicalas are often confused, for both are famous for the shrill note of the male. Ambrosio Leo, however, calls the hill Cicala and, praising it for its beauty and fertility, notes that on it the notes of the cicada never offend the ear! He derives the name from Greek gh kalla (beautiful country), and mentions that his contemporaries name it Cicala or Cecala (Lib. III, Cap. 5). Part of the slope belonged to Nola and part to the town named Cicala.

6 Since Vesuvius is some ten miles from Nola, we must admit a certain degree of reconstruction of the incident in Bruno's mind. But the passage must be based on a vivid childhood experience.

7 The historical record of Paulinus is as follows. Born about the year 353, he was the son of a Roman Prefect of Gaul, a patrician and a pagan. Paulinus came to Rome where he gained fame both in affairs and as a poet and scholar. He attained the position of Consul. Soon after, he embarked on a period of western travel that lasted more than fifteen years. He was baptized in Bordeaux in the year 391 and presently travelled to Barcelona where his wife Thebasia (or Theresa) owned estates. They now sold all their possessions and presently Paulinus was received into the priesthood. He and Thebasia travelled to Milan where he studied with St. Ambrose. They proceeded to Rome, and thence to Nola where husband and wife led the lives of solitary recluses until, on the death of their bishop, the Nolans elected Paulinus to take his place.

8 Sabine Baring-Gould (Lives of the Saints [Edinburgh, 1914], VI, 304-6) places the date of the Feast as 22nd June. He also states that the pious deed thus celebrated was enacted by Paulinus III, Bishop of Nola from 513 to 535. Without attempting to establish the claim of either bishop, we would point out that Genseric landed in Africa in 428, and was engaged in war against Rome at least from 429.

9 A vivid account of his own experience of the celebrations at Nola was published by F. Gregorovius in 1861 in the volume Siciliana; Wanderungen in Neapel und Sicilien, and was translated by Mrs. M. Hamilton (London, 1914). Those who read the exquisite sketch of the celebrations by Mr. Sacheverell Sitwell in Primitive Scenes and Festivals (London, 1942) will be well rewarded. This is not the celebration chosen by Ambrosio Leo for detailed description. But the last chapters of Leo's work on Nola relate annual frolics and mummeries led by the priests and bishop in which Leo truly discerns "as it were the shadows of ancient institutions."

10 The towers are named guglie or steeples of San Paolino. Mr. Sitwell describes them as follows: "Each obelisk is in the pattern of the guglia, that Neapolitan invention which was derived from the great machinery of the old Italian theatre, with its 'clouds' and the 'heaven' or 'Parnassus' of its transformations. The guglia belongs, in fact, to the school of Bibbiena, and is related to the huge funeral catafalques, or to the staged mysteries of the Passion erected in their churches by the Jesuits. But here, at Nola, the guglia is not static. It has been given movement." Mr. Sitwell has seen somewhat similar guglie at Naples. There they are permanent edifices, one outside the church of il Gesù nuovo, one in the Piazza San Gennaro and one outside the church of San Domenico. All three, however, are attributed to the seventeenth or eighteenth century and therefore cannot have been seen by Bruno. Cf. also Mary Hamilton, Greek Saints and Their Festivals (London, 1910), p. 111, where the ceri or dancing images of Gubbio and the guglie (sometimes translated lilies) of Nola are traced to Dionysiac revels.

11 Interesting accounts of Nola and of its varied celebrations will also be found in Thomas Ashby, Some Italian Festivals (London, 1929), which has information on the guglie or gigli; and in J. Beloch, Campanien in Altertum (Breslau, 1890). F. Ughelli, Italia sacra sive de episcopis Italiae et insularum adjacentium (2nd ed., revised by Nicolus Coletus, Venice, 1720) has much of interest concerning Nola in Vol. VI. This work mentions a Johannis Franciscus Bruno, "apostolicus protonotharius successit Orlando" (Ursino) 4 July, 1503. This bishop has not been shown to be connected with Giordano Bruno's family. Further information is in A. Ferraro, Del cimeterio Nolano (Naples, 1644).

12 Detailed references to identifications and conjectures will be found in Giovanni Gentile, Opere italiane di Giordano Bruno (Bari, 1908 [Vols. I and II by Gentile, Vol. III by Spampanato]). This work will be cited as Gentile, Op. ital.; and Lagarde's edition of the Italian works (2 vols., Götingen, 1888 [a literal transcription without notes]) will be cited as Lagarde, Op. ital.

13 Luigi Tansillo, poet and soldier, was born at Venosa. His Life and Lyrical Poems was published by Fiorentino, Naples, 1882. He was the author of many poetical works. The first was condemned as licentious and placed on the Index, but at the end of his life Tansillo's name was removed from the Index by Pope Paul IV.

14 Cf. pp. 247-9.

15 The Venetian deposition states: "at fourteen or fifteen when Master Ambrosio Pasqua was prior." Spampanato has pointed out that the records of the Monastery show that Bruno was received in June 1565. He would then have been about seventeen years old. (Cf. Archivio di Stato di Napoli, monasteri soppressi, Vol. 581, "Catalogo de 'ricevuti all' abito dal 1524 al 1622," f. 31). Pasqua did not become prior till April 1565 (cf. Monasteri soppressi, Vol. 582, f. 46v).

16 In accordance with the usual custom of adopting a "name in religion," the young Filippo was given the religious name of the second head of the Dominican Order.

17 About ten miles from Salerno.

18 Cf. F. Tocco, "Le fonti piu ricenti della filosofia del Bruno" in Reale Accad. Naz. dei Lincei Rendiconti della classe di scienze morali, storiche e filologiche, I, Ser. V (Rome, 1892), 503-38, 585-602.

19 There is a record that Bruno's Roman judges, having visited him after two years' imprisonment, granted him a coat, a pillow and a copy of the Summa of St. Thomas (cf. Doc. Rom. I [Spampanato, Documenti della vita di Giordano Bruno, p. 154]).

20 Cf. R. Klibansky, On the Continuity of the Platonic Tradition (Warburg Institute, London, 1939).

21 See App. I, i.

22 Our authority for the episode of Bruno's visit to the Pope is the diary of his friend Cotin, to whom it was related by Bruno. See Doc. Par. V.

23 Doc. Ven. VIII.

24 An additional danger to Bruno appears to have been confided by him to Cotin, who, in his diary, states of Bruno: "Est fuitif d'Italia jà par huict ans, tant pour un mertre commis par un sien frère, dont il est odieux et en peril de sa vie, que pour éviter les calumnies des inquisiteurs qui sont ignorans, et, ne concevans sa philosophie, le diroyent hérétique." Since there is no mention of this murder during the gruelling cross-examinations at the Venice trial, we may assume that no fragment of responsibility had attached to Bruno for this crime.

25 Remigio Nannini (or Nanni) Fiorentino (d. 1580 or 1581), one of the great Dominican figures of the sixteenth century, was a humanist scholar and a voluminous writer. He made translations from classical writers, as well as of the De remediis utriusque fortunae of Petrarch and other works. From 1569 to 1578 he was employed by Pope Pius V on the great annotated edition of Thomas Aquinas. For details of the life of Remigio Nannini, see Quétif-Échard, Scriptores ordinis praedicatorum (Paris, 1719-21), II, 259-60 and 825; Monumenta ordinis praedicatorum, IX, 355 and X, 67; and G. Negri, Istoria degli scrittori fiorentini (Ferrara, 1722), pp. 481-83.

26 Bruno's name appears in a list, compiled one hundred years later, of Italian refugees who had belonged to the Protestant church of Geneva. Such evidence is of little value.

27 The route is well conjectured by Spampanato.

28 Unfortunately, the University Registry prior to 1682 has not survived, so our only source concerning Bruno's sojourn in Toulouse is his evidence at the Venice trial.

29 The latter work, Clavis magna, written either in Toulouse or Paris, is frequently cited by Bruno, and a section of it is probably represented by the Sigillus sigillorum published in London in 1583. (Cf. p. 34, n. 19, and cf. App. I, vi and vii.)

30 Bruno stated before the Inquisitors that he stayed "perhaps five years" in Paris. But the Rector's Book of Geneva University gives May 1579 as the date for his visit there, which was followed by the period in Toulouse. Bruno's statement gives six months of private lectures and eighteen months in the occupation of his Chair at Toulouse. Spampanato would allow twenty months for the sojourn in Toulouse, which brings Bruno to Paris in 1581. By the summer of 1583, he was in Oxford. While this book is passing through the press, there appears Frances Yates, The French Academies of the Sixteenth Century (Warburg Institute Studies, Vol. 15, London, 1947). This most penetrating and learned work traces the relationship between Bruno and these Academies. It also suggests that Bruno had certain political activities and connections in Paris leading to a secret political mission to London.

31 Natural Magic was a common book-title as late as the eighteenth century. It corresponded somewhat to the popular works that now appear on the Wonders of Science.

32 De umbris idearum (Paris, 1582). Cf. App. I, (a).

33 J. L. Bünemann, Catalogus MSStorum membranaceorum et chartaceorum item librorum ab inventa typographia (Minden, 1732), pp. 117-18. It appears from the entry that lot 72 in Bünemann's sale included:

1) Artificium Aristotelico -- Lullio Rameum in quo per artem intelligendi Logicam; Artem agendi practicam; Artis loquendi partem de Inventione Topicam methodo et terminis Aristotelico -- Rameis CIRCULIS modo LULLIANO inclusis via plura quam CENTIES MILLE argumenta de quouis themate inueniendi cum usu conveniens ostenditur, ductu Io. a. NOSTITZ, IORDANI BRUNI genuini discipuli elaboratum a CONRADO BERGIO. Bregae typis Sigfridianis 1615. Opus RARISSIMUM lectu dignissimum cum figuris.

Jo. a NOSTITZ lectori Sal. Annus nunc agitur tertius et tregesimus, cum Lutetiae Paris. primum IORDANUN BRUNUM arte Lulliana et Mnemonica -- MULTOS ad se discipulos atque auditores allicere memini. Quo factum ut ego quoque, quid illud esset mirificae artis cogniturus, non semel interfuerim. Ac. IPSIUS -- IORDANI peritiam et promtitudinem, quam postulato quouis disputandi et ex tempore copiose de eo perorandi argumento ostentabat, vehementer admirabar -- quae iuuenis olim propter obscuritatem neglexeram, gestiebam nunc maturiori aetate -- recognoscere. Neque me facti poenitet -- quem olim obieceram IORDANI BRUNI NOLANI libellum, de COMPENDIOSA ARCHITECTURA ET COMPLEMENTO ARTIS LULLII. anno 1582 Parisiis editum quorum to IRUM, ILE, ARE, et bonificabilitates -- reseram, ita mihi charos reddidi ut quamuis illos delicatos Ciceronianos sermones horriditate offendant, artis tamen ipsius iucunditate non parum in legendo me retinuerint etc. Dat in Domo mea Glumbovitze prope Strenitzium maius sita 10 Nov., 1615.

2) IORDANUS BRUNUS NOLANUS de Progressu et Lampade Venatoria Logicorum ad promte atque copiose de quocumque propos, problemate disputandum A. 1587 cum figur, rar.

3) IORD. BRUN. NOLANUS de Lampade Combinatoria Lulliana.

4) IORD. BRUNI. Nolani summa Terminorum Metaphysicorum.

5) EIUSD. PRAXIS Descensus, Applicatio Entis ex Manuscripto Marp. Catt. ea off. Rodolphi Hutwelcker rar.




It will be noticed that item 4 of the sales catalogue is a posthumously published work of Bruno, presumably the 1609 edition to which the editor Raffaele Eglinus joined the Scale of Practise here given as item 5. Cf. App. I, xxix.

John â Nostitz died in 1619. There survives in the British Museum a small volume of funeral elegies of John â Nostitz. The family Library was still extant at Prague at least until 1938. A holograph of the work of Copernicus is its greatest treasure. The complicated â Nostitz family genealogy is given in Quido Vetter, Sur les destins du manuscrit prajois, de Kopernik, "De revolutionibus orbium calestium libri sex," in Mémoires de la Soc. Roy. de Bohème, Classe des Sciences (Prague, 1931). Conrad Berg (1592-1614), theologian and Lutheran pastor, had a varied career. After travelling as tutor to various young noblemen through France, Holland, Italy and Germany, he succeeded an elder brother as professor of theology at Frankfurt on the Oder where he also became pastor. Later he became professor of theology at Bremen, and also Dean and Pastor of the Collegiate Church of St. Ansgar. Besides the Artificium he published several theological works.

Johann Ludolph Bünemann (1687-1759) was a theological scholar and bibliographer, and Director of the State School of Hanover.

34 "Ad eam memoriae praxim ordinatus quam ipse Judiciariam appellat." The adjective judicial is used as in judicial astrology.

35 Henry of Angoulême, illegitimate son of Henry II of France, had been created Duke of Angoulême and given high office by his half brother King Henry III. The Duke's mother belonged to the Scotch family Fleming of Leviston, and was maid of honour to Mary of Scots. Cf. L. Legrd, Le Grand Prieur Henri d'Angoulême, épisode de l'histoire du XVI sièle (Marseilles, 1861); T. L. Hôte in Malherbe et la Provence (Rouen, 1933), p. 3; and W. Hunter, Biggar and the House of Fleming (1862). It is tempting to surmise that Mauvissière's interest in Bruno might first have been aroused through Angoulême and Mary Queen of Scots.

36 For bibliography of Bruno's works, see App. I.

37 Cf. p. 39 and Chapter 4, a.

38 This was close to San Domenico, Bruno's convent. Cf. Benedetto Croce, "I seggi di Napoli" in Nuove curiosità storiche (Naples, 1922), p. 50.

39 "Proprologo" (Gentile, Op. ital., III, 21, 23; Lagarde, Op. ital., I, 13, 14).

40 "Argumento ed ordine della comedia" (Gentile, Op. ital., III, 8; Lagarde, Op. ital., I, 6).

41 "Proprologo" (Gentile, Op. ital., III, 27, 28; Lagarde, Op. ital., I, 16).

42 Cf. De la causa, principio et uno, Dial. III, p. 62 (Lagarde, Op. ital., I, 246; Gentile, Op. ital., I, 202).

43 Cf. pp. 75-6.

44 Cf. Chapter 3, f.

45 Paris, 1576. The author R.A. of the English translation Of the Interchangeable Course of Things in the Whole World (London, 1594), is identified in the Short Title Catalogue (15488) as Robert Ashley.

46 Cf. Chapter 3, a.

47 Joannes Bodinus, Colloquium heptaplomeres de rerum sublimium arcanis abditis. Each of the seven men expounds his views with a friendly frankness. Presently some artificial apples mixed with the fruits on the table deceive at least the Lutherans, and they decide that since the senses can be so easily deceived, it is rash to hope that the spirit, imprisoned in the senses, can reach a certain knowledge of exalted things. Their meeting ends with the singing in harmony of the verse, "Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity" (Psalm CXXXIII). The work circulated in manuscript and aroused much discussion. Both the Jew and the universal theist are represented with special sympathy. Höffding refers to an extant letter from Bodin written some years earlier than the Colloquium in which he says: "Do not let thyself be led astray by different views on religion. Hold fast in thy spirit to this only, that true religion is nothing else than the turning of a purified soul to God. That is my, or rather Christ's religion." This impulse to religious toleration is characteristic of one aspect of Renaissance thought. For example, in an interesting little work on the Koran, Nicolaus of Cusa expounds how the name God has been given by different men differently to their greatest and most exalted conceptions. On this view he bases a plea for religious toleration and for the spread of Christianity by teaching rather than by force.

48 Cf. O. Elton, Modern Studies (London, 1907), p. 334, n. 9; Spampanato, Vita di Giordano Bruno, p. 329. Sir Henry Cobham (1538-1605?) had seen service at the Madrid embassy as well as in Antwerp and Brussels before his appointment as Ambassador to Paris in 1579. He was recalled to England in 1583.

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