Giordano Bruno: His Life and Thought

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MARTYRDOM (1591-1600)

a. Padua and Venice (1591-92)

THE recall of Mauvissière to

AMONG those of exalted rank who hoped to obtain from Bruno the hidden secrets not only of knowledge but of power, one has earned unenviable fame. This is Zuane [1] Mocenigo, a Venetian of noble birth. Bruno received in Frankfurt two letters from Mocenigo, inviting him to Venice to teach him "the art of memory and invention." Bruno gave to the Venice Inquisition in May 1592 an account of the events which followed. [2] He accepted Mocenigo's invitation and came to Venice in September or October 1591, [3] staying first in rooms. [4] He was soon again discoursing to a group of gentlemen and Besler was acting as his secretary. There survive from this period several fragments of a work, On Links in General, [5] of which the first section was probably drafted in Frankfurt or Zurich. Though prolix and obscure, these fragments reiterate Bruno's faith which he so gloriously vindicated in the supreme victory of the spirit. The earlier section bears the title, "Concerning the Link of the Spirit, Natural, Animal and Divine." "Without these," Bruno declares,

there is no physician, no soothsayer, no operator, no lover, no philosopher. By virtue of these all persons are all things. Nothing is absolutely beautiful so that it binds, but is beautiful in relation to something else.... Similarly nothing which attracts is absolutely good, but since all things or the universe and being is composed of contraries, so good is also composed of contraries.... [6]

The argument is continued that love binds all and is the urge to all good. The Paduan fragments, On Links in General, open with the statement: "For him who needs to bind, it is necessary to have in some sort the universal Reason [7] of things, that he may be strong to bind man (who is as it were the Epilogue of all things)." [8] This gives the key to the consideration of "Links" in this curious work.

Presently Bruno moved to Mocenigo's own house. When, however, he informed Mocenigo of his desire to return to Frankfurt to get certain of his works printed, Mocenigo expressed jealous fear that Bruno's real intention was to impart his precious knowledge to others. To deter Bruno from leaving him, Mocenigo threatened the unfrocked monk several times with the Holy Office. This Mocenigo could do with the more confidence since he had himself held high office, perhaps attached to the Venice Inquisition. [9] Bruno hardly took the threats seriously, but Mocenigo protested angrily that he had still not been initiated according to promise into the secret of Bruno's memory system, and he threatened that if his victim persisted in his intention to depart, he would "find means to keep him." On the next night, Bruno having persisted with preparations for departure, threats were translated to action. Bruno was roused from his bed by Mocenigo, accompanied by a stalwart band who seized and imprisoned him, [10] Mocenigo still protesting that he demanded only to be taught Bruno's secrets of memory and of geometry. After twenty-four hours, the prisoner was removed to another dungeon. That evening he was conducted to the jail of the Holy Office. This was on Saturday, 23rd May, 1592. [11]

The wretched Mocenigo in his own account states that he acted "by the constraint of his conscience and by the order of his confessor." Was it his desire from the first to lure the philosopher to express dangerous views? Or what black deeds had he hoped that he would be enabled to perpetrate by means of Bruno's mysterious powers?

Mocenigo stated that Bruno had been accused of throwing into the Tiber his accusers at Rome "or those whom he thought to have accused him to the Inquisition." In denouncing Bruno, Mocenigo felt it necessary to explain that when he wished to learn from this criminal he was unaware of his true views. But when he heard these during the two months that Bruno passed in his house, he determined to incarcerate and at the same time to denounce him. [12]

Mocenigo invoked as witnesses two booksellers of Venice, Ciotti [13] and Britano. [14] Both these men, and especially Ciotti, when summoned to give evidence, made on the whole a courageous effort for Bruno.

Ciotti stated that he had first seen him when he went to the Frankfurt Book Fair in September 1590, and lodged according to his custom in the Carmelite convent. [15] He had spoken and argued with Bruno several times during his sojourn of a fortnight, recognized him as a much-lettered man who had read many books. And Bruno had subsequently come several times to his shop in Venice to buy books. Ciotti testified that Sir Zuane Mocenigo had bought from him Bruno's book De minimo magno et mensura and had at the same time (i.e., in 1591) asked Ciotti whether he knew Bruno and could tell Mocenigo where he was, saying that he wished to send for Bruno to teach him "his secrets of memory and the other things that he teaches as may be seen in that book." He described how Mocenigo entrusted him with a letter summoning Bruno "who appeared here seven or eight months ago" (i.e., in September or October 1591) and afterwards moved to Padua, where he stayed for some three months, moving freely between the cities. Ultimately he moved to Mocenigo's house, "where I think he is now." Ciotti was interrogated as to Bruno's past life and other works -- on which he made general statements that were no doubt well known to the Tribunal. He testified that he had never heard anything from Bruno that would throw doubt on his being a Catholic and good Christian. Then he bore witness that recently when he was going to Frankfurt for the Easter Fair, Mocenigo had employed him to make enquiries in Frankfurt concerning Bruno, since he was dissatisfied with his teaching. But the bookseller, though he "spoke with various scholars who had attended his lectures there," could not learn that Bruno had done anything with the marvellous memory "and he was regarded in Frankfurt as a man with no religion." Ciotti adds that when he reported to Mocenigo, the latter replied that certainly he had his doubts about Bruno, but that he was anxious to salve what he could of knowledge in return for his outlay on the fellow, after which he would denounce him to the Holy Office. [16]

A later witness, Andrea Morosini, [17] testified that Ciotti had actually arranged that Bruno should lecture to him and to other gentlemen in Padua. [18] Among them no doubt was Michael Forgacz, whom he had known in Wittenberg. [19] The witness maintained that Bruno had never given cause to believe he held any opinion contrary to the Faith. Morosini had not considered the lecturer to be other than a Catholic. Had he entertained the slightest suspicion of him, continued this cautious witness, Bruno would never have been permitted to enter his house. It is noteworthy that Thomas Morosini was present at the Tribunal when Andrea was under interrogation. [20] Thomas was no doubt another member of the same prominent family. [21]

Jacob Britano, called to the witness box, stated that he had known Bruno in Frankfurt three years previously, [22] and later at Zurich and again recently in Venice. He admitted that, having read some of his works, he had been curious to know Bruno, and had taken advantage of the chance of meeting him in the street and walked home with him. Evidently he too had fallen under the spell. In reply to interrogation he stated:

The Prior of the Convent in Frankfurt told me that Bruno was mainly occupied in writing and in devising foolishness and astrology [23] and seeking new things. The Prior said he had a fine talent as man of letters, was a "universal" man. The Prior believed that he had no religion, for the said Giordano declares that he knows more than the Apostles knew and that he would have dared, had he so desired, to bring about that the whole world should be of one religion. [24]

Britano himself had heard nothing from Bruno contradicting Christianity. He says that Giordano lectured to heretical doctors in Frankfurt, since everyone in that town is a heretic: "and he told me that he lectured in Zurich to certain doctors." Thus we learn that in these last stages of his wanderings Bruno was again lecturing to a small but fascinated band just as we have seen him at Noli, at Toulouse, in Paris and in London, as well as to the young Duke at Helmstedt.

These gatherings were evidently a source of Mocenigo's jealousy. Probably he expected to end them when Bruno came to live under his roof, and we may conjecture that Bruno's Padua audience may still have tried to get into touch with him. Probably it was not entirely pleasant for the booksellers or for Signor Andrea Morosini to find themselves involved as witnesses in the case.

Bruno first appeared before his judges on 26th May, 1592. [25] The hearings were protracted through long weeks. Bruno was required to give an account of his whole life. The accuracy and consistency of his story themselves testify to his amazing memory. Few whose lives have run in quieter places for a life course of forty-four years could give so connected and consistent a story. Only concerning his most recent movements is there a certain ambiguity for which it is easy to guess reasons.

In his earliest works Bruno had shewn how little relevance or importance attached in his eyes to the religious controversies of the day. [26] From the first, he had sought reconciliation with the Church so long as he might escape the convent life that held such horrible memories for him, scars of his early life from which his mind would never quite be freed.

May passes into June. He is cross-examined concerning his writings. He mentions that a former German pupil, Herman Besler of Nuremberg, has been acting as copyist for him for the last two months in Padua. [27]

The prisoner admits that his books with the imprint of Venice were in fact printed in England, and states that this is true also of nearly all his other books, though bearing the name of Paris or other places. [28] "The printers preferred to print the name of Venice which facilitated the sales."

Examined at tremendous length on points of doctrine and especially on the Three Persons of the Trinity, he pleaded that he wrote as a philosopher and believed "in the Pythagorean manner," and he quoted in support of his views the Wisdom of Solomon, St. Thomas Aquinas and the Aeneid of Virgil. [29] He acknowledged that he did not regard the Second and Third Persons as entirely distinct from the First, "but in fact, I never wrote or taught this, but merely doubted. And I believed and believe all the teaching of Mother Church concerning the First Person." "And I thought the Arian doctrine less pernicious than was believed" because it had been misunderstood. And again he pleaded that the heretical passages in his works were not in defiance of the Catholic Faith but were philosophic expressions when not merely recitations of beliefs of heretics. Successive points of dogma were raised, and Giordano was required to state his belief concerning them. [30]

He was cross-examined also as to his relationship with heretic monarchs, and especially as to the extravagant praise of Queen Elizabeth in his Italian writings. This he explained was a convention but acknowledged his error. [31]

It is clear that Bruno, always the most unpractical of men, actually cherished at first a wild hope that he could convey to the Inquisitors themselves the message of his philosophy. "In this sense, I understood that divinity was added to the humanity of Christ. For I deemed it unworthy to constrain Infinity within finite number." [32]

But by the end of the first day of his theological cross-examination Bruno was making a desperate effort to placate the judges. He confessed to having transgressed the laws prescribing days for abstention from meat. At the end of a long session on the 3rd June, [33] held within the prison itself, he is asked, does he renounce and detest his errors? "All the errors which I have committed until today," he declares with a sad cynicism which is lost on his judges,

in regard to Catholic life and the profession of a Regular [religious] such as myself and all heresies which I have believed, and the doubts I have entertained concerning the Catholic Faith and in matters determined by Holy Church, I now detest and abhor them all and I repent having done, held, said or believed or doubted concerning anything non-Catholic. And I beseech the Holy Tribunal, knowing my infirmity, to embrace me to the breast of Mother Church, providing me with remedies suitable for my welfare and using me with mercy.

He describes how innocently he first fell under suspicion. He reiterated his never-relinquished desire for absolution. [34] Ever he cherished the strange hope which was, so far as we can see, wholly devoid of foundation, that if only he could get to the Fount of authority at Rome, he would be not only understood but honoured, and his writings accepted. That this extraordinary belief was honestly held by him is confirmed by the evidence at Venice of one of the many Church dignitaries whom he had consulted. [35]

Bruno endures an ominous pause of two months. Not until 30th July is he recalled, and again he maintains the substance of his former statements. The position is becoming desperate. Bruno confesses that he has given grave cause for suspicion. Again he protests his repentance, and pleads his efforts at reconciliation with the Church. Does he wish to say any more? No more. [36] Silence for another two months.

Then in September Cardinal Santaseverina, the Supreme Inquisitor of Rome, addressed letters to the Venice Holy Office demanding that Bruno be consigned forthwith to Ancona to be conveyed to Rome to stand his trial before the Holy Tribunal of the Inquisition there. On 17th September it was decided to comply with this demand. [37] But action was not immediately taken. The matter was not quite simple. Venice had always claimed independence of Papal authority and especially the power to deal independently with her own delinquents.

The scene now changes to the Collegio dei Savii or Cabinet meeting of the Republic. [38] On the 28th September, 1592, appeared a deputation consisting of the Vicar of the Patriarch of Venice and the Father Inquisitor, accompanied by the sinister figure of Thomas Morosini. They brought from the Patriarch information of the arrest and imprisonment of Bruno and the accusations against him. The Patriarch through the Vicar pointed out that Bruno was accused not merely of heresy, but that as a Heresiarch he had composed various books in which he praised the Queen of England and other heretical persons, and had written in a fashion unseemly, even though philosophically intended, concerning their religion. Moreover he had dwelt in many lands and he had been under these accusations in Naples and elsewhere; wherefore the Supreme Inquisitor Cardinal Santaseverina demanded that the Venice Inquisitor should dispatch Bruno forthwith for trial in Rome. Moreover the Vicar read the passage in Santaseverina's letter prescribing that Bruno should be consigned to the Governor of Ancona who would send him on to Rome. But the Patriarch wished first to inform his Serenity (the Doge) and the Collegio and to request their authorization to take advantage at once of a convenient opportunity that presented itself for the safe dispatch of the prisoner. The Savii retired to consider this demand from Rome. The Father Inquisitor, it seems, returned the same afternoon, reiterating his demand, and pointed out that a vessel was ready to convey Bruno. But the Savii refused to be hurried. They pointed out that the matter was important; that the occupations of State were numerous and grave; that they had not yet reached a decision; and they suggested that the vessel should for the present be dismissed. [39] On 3rd October the record was read to the Rogati (or Pregacli, the Senate, which dealt with foreign affairs).

The Senate (in Pregadi) forthwith decided to resist the Papal demands. On the same day, instructions were formulated by them, [40] submitted to the Collegio and dispatched to Donato, the Venetian Ambassador Extraordinary in Rome. He was informed of the circumstances and of the reply given to the Father Inquisitor that the consignment to Rome of prisoners of the Venice Holy Tribunal would gravely detract from the authority of the Venice Tribunal and would be a bad precedent. [41] A week later these instructions were acknowledged. Donato had passed on the matter to the Ambassador in Ordinary. [42]

On 22nd December, the Papal Nuncio, Taverna, himself appeared before the Collegio and again pressed for authorization for the Venice Holy Inquisition to consign Bruno to the Holy Inquisition in Rome. He cited the express request made by the Pope to the Venetian Ambassador in Rome. Donato reported to the Collegio that, having been instructed by the Senate, he had spoken on the matter to His Holiness, pointing out that the Venice Holy Tribunal had always administered justice independently, by the authority of the Pope himself. He thought that His Holiness had accepted these representations although he had raised the matter again before the ambassador's departure from Rome. The Nuncio replied that Bruno was a Neapolitan, not a Venetian, and that proceedings against him had been started in Naples, and continued in Rome. He alleged that in more than two dozen special cases like the present, the accused had been consigned to the Holy Tribunal in Rome which was superior to all the others. He again emphasized that Bruno's was no ordinary case.

Whereupon the reply was finally given to the Nuncio that the Collegio unanimously desired always to give every possible satisfaction to His Holiness. Bruno's fate was thus sealed. [43] On the same day, the Papal Nuncio was reporting his success. [44]

The Doge then commanded that the Collegio should summon Federico Contarini, Procurator (Magistrate), and should expound him the circumstances concerning Bruno. Thereafter, on 7th January, 1593, Contarini submitted to the Doge a written opinion. He repeated the points raised by the Nuncio, and remarked that Bruno, a foreigner to the city, had been received in the house of a gentleman here in Venice who had denounced him "for the discharge of his Christian conscience." Quite without evidence as it seems, he accused Bruno of breaking prison, and even alleged that he had done so twice. The Nuncio himself had brought no such accusation. "The crimes of this person," Contarini declared, to be "most serious as regards heresy, although he is otherwise one of the most excellent and rare talents that can be desired, and of exquisite doctrine and knowledge." While submitting to the prudent decision of his Serenity (the Doge), the magistrate opined "that it would be convenient to satisfy the desire of His Holiness" as had been done in other similar cases. He then related that he had informed the accused of the opinion that he was about to pronounce. Bruno, it seems, had yet again expressed his fatal confidence and desire to present his last work to the Pope, and he had declared that he would rejoice to be remitted to the justice of Rome. Contarini recommended that this surprising reaction of Bruno should be kept profoundly secret. [45]

On the same day the Senate (in Pregadi) together with the Doge's Council, by 142 out of 172 votes, passed their Resolution [46] which was read to the Collegio. The Resolution repeated the accusation of prison-breaking as well as of heresy. The Nuncio was to be informed on the following day that Bruno would be handed over to him that he might be consigned to the Pope, for trial by the Inquisition at Rome, it being expedient -- especially in so exceptional a case -- to gratify His Holiness. Moreover, the Republic Ambassador in Rome was to be informed of the decision that he might report it to His Holiness as a sign of the continued readiness of the Republic to give him pleasure. [47]

Finally, there is the dispatch dated 16th January from Paolo Paruta, statesman scholar of the type of Andrea Morosini, whom he preceded as Historiographer of the Republic. Paruta had just been appointed Venetian Ambassador to the Papal Court. He recounts how he had impressed on the Pope that the surrender of Bruno was a demonstration of the desire of the Doge to gratify His Holiness, and had received corresponding courteous assurances of the Papal desire for co-operation with the Republic. [48]

So on 27th February, 1593, Bruno passed through to the dungeons of the Inquisitors of Rome. [49]

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b. Years of Endurance [50] The End

Almost two years have passed. In December 1593, in congregation of the Roman Inquisitors, there is brought before the assembled illustrious Cardinals and General Inquisitors "Brother Jordanus, son of the late John Bruni of Nola, apostate from the Order of friars preachers, priest, imprisoned in the prisons of the Holy Office." He is cross-examined on his heresies and other matters. His judges also visit him in prison. They graciously hear him concerning his necessities and it is commanded that he be provided with a cloak and a pillow and with the Summa of St. Thomas. [51] What had been his condition during those two years?

Months pass. In April 1594 Bruno is again "visited and heard." It is determined to proceed with his trial, and the order is given for the preparation of the documents. [52] The order is repeated on 31st May, and in September the Inquisitors again enact that the proceedings against Bruno shall be pursued. [53]

In December 1594 Jordanus is yet again "visited and heard." He presents "pages of writings" rebutting the accusations against him. [54] It is January 1595 before the accusations are again considered at two meetings of the Inquisition. In the following month the case is read once more before the Holy Congregation. [55] In March 1595 there is again the ominous record: "Brother Jordanus ... was brought before the Lord Cardinals and was visited and interrogated by them and heard concerning his necessities." [56]

The visits and the appearance in Court as well as the consideration of his necessities were repeated in April 1596. In September his propositions in defence of himself were censured. In December the process was repeated and he was heard "concerning the merit of his cause and concerning food." It was decided that he should be examined concerning the propositions extracted from his writings and concerning the censures on him. [57] In March 1597 Bruno was again brought before the august Congregation and they visited him yet again. Again that terrible implication, "they heard him concerning his necessities." Then he was admonished that he should relinquish the vanities concerning diverse worlds and it was commanded that he be strictly cross-examined. Thereafter judgement should be delivered. [58]

In December 1597 the ghastly process is repeated. [59] After another three months it is decided that his cause cannot be determined before the departure of His Holiness. [60] In December 1598 it is commanded that Brother Jordanus be given writing paper and advice how to use it with the Breviarium as used by the Friars Preachers. [61]

Something more must be done. The long months and years have drifted to 14th January, 1599. Eight heretical propositions extracted from his works are read to the prisoner. Will he recant? [62] On 18th January he is given six days to make his decision; On 25th January he declares his readiness to accept the personal decision of His Holiness, but still insists on defending his views. [63] On 4th February it is decreed by the Pope in full Congregation, "after mature and diligent consideration" of the charges against Brother Giordano Bruno, that there shall be pointed out to him by the Theological Fathers, namely by the General of his Order, by Cardinal Bellarmini and by the Father Commissar, [64] all those propositions (from his works) that not only are heretical but have been declared so by the earliest Fathers, by the Church and by the Apostolic See. If he will recognize these propositions as heretical, then, well and good. If not, he shall be condemned after 40 days for repentance to the treatment usual for impenitent and pertinacious persons in that fashion or any better one which can and should be applied to them. [65]

On 18th February, 1599, the propositions are duly read to the prisoner. [66] Then darkness descends again. It is April before the next visit by the Inquisitors is recorded; Bruno shews something written in his hand. [67] His name figures in two lists of prisoners of the Holy Office apparently drawn up in the same month. [68] In August he is given pens, paper, ink and a pencil "but no knife or compasses (circinnus)" and is commanded to retract two heretical propositions shewn the previous April. [69] In September and again in November, his case is under consideration. [70] On 21st December he is visited but declares that he neither should nor will retract, nor has he aught to retract. [71] On the same day

he was brought forth into the presence of the most Illustrious, the members of the Congregation by whom also he was visited; and he was heard concerning his universal pretensions and concerning the merits of his cause and concerning his necessities for food and other things; and afterwards, he having been withdrawn from the Hall of the Congregation, it was decreed by the illustrious Lord Cardinals there present that the Reverend Father Hippolytus Maria the General, and the Reverend Father Paul, Vicar of the aforesaid Order [of Friars Preachers] [72] should act on Brother Jordanus and should shew him the propositions to be adjured, that he might acknowledge his errors, reform, and dispose himself to recantation, and that they should gain him over (ipsumque lucri faciant) so that he might be liberated. [73]

On 20th January, 1600, Bruno's Memorial to the Pope is "opened but not read." It is reported to the Holy Office by their reverend emissaries that Brother Jordanus de Nola

refused to consent, declaring that he had proffered no heretical propositions but that they had been unadroitly excerpted [from their context] by the Ministers of the Holy Office. Wherefore he was ready to give an account of all his writings and sayings and to defend them against any theologians: but he would not abide by the decision of the theologians, but only by the decision of the Apostolic See concerning things said or written by him, if any such decision were given; or by the sacred canons, if it should be proved that there was in his writings or sayings anything contrary to them.

"Notwithstanding," reported the angry dignitaries, "that he had already been informed by the Holy Office and that judgement would be given, that manifest heresies were contained in his writings and theses." Whereupon "the most holy Lord, Pope Clement VIII, decreed and commanded that the cause should be carried to extreme measures, servatus servandis [i.e., with all due formalities] sentence should be pronounced and the said Brother Jordanus be committed to the secular court." [74]

The months and years of suffering reached their dreadful close. Bruno is now fifty-two. On the 8th February, 1600, the Inquisitors once more summoned their prisoner and the long indictment was read. The accused was reminded (as though there were need) that "already some eight years ago" he had been accused of naming as blasphemy belief in transubstantiation of the holy bread; that on 18th January of the previous year he had been given six days to recant. The agony of that month was rehearsed. On the 25th January the prisoner had declared that if the Apostolic See and His Holiness definitely declared those eight propositions to be heretical, if His Holiness knew them to be such or by the Holy Spirit declared them so to be, then he was disposed to retract. But immediately he had presented a long written defence, addressed to His Holiness and to the Inquisitors.

On the 4th February, 1599, a year ago it was determined that the eight heretical propositions should once more be presented to thee, and this was done on the 15th; [75] that, shouldst thou recognize them as heretical and abjure them, then thou wouldst be received for penitence; but, if not, then shouldst thou be condemned on the fortieth day from then for repentance; and thou didst declare thyself ready to recognize these eight propositions as heretical and to detest and abjure them in such place and time as might please the Holy Office, and not only these eight propositions, but thou didst declare thyself ready to make thine obedience concerning the others which were shewn to thee. But then, since thou didst present further writings to the Holy Office addressed to His Holiness and to Us, whereby it was manifest that thou didst pertinaciously adhere to thine aforesaid errors; and information having been received that at the Holy Office of Vercelli thou hadst been denounced because in England thou wast esteemed an atheist and didst compose a work about a Triumphant Beast, therefore on the 10th September, 1599, thou wast given forty days in which to repent, and it was determined that at the end of these days proceedings should be taken against thee as is ordained and commanded by the holy Canon law: and since thou didst nevertheless remain obstinate and impenitent in thine aforesaid errors and heresies, there were sent unto thee the Reverend Father Hippolytus Maria Beccaria, General of thine Order and Father Paul Isaresio della Mirandola, Procurator of the Order, that they might admonish and persuade thee to recognize thy most grave errors and heresies. But thou hast ever persisted with obstinate pertinacity in these thine erroneous and heretical opinions. Wherefore the accusation brought against thee has been examined and considered with the confessions of thy pertinacious and obstinate errors and heresies, even while thou didst deny them to be such, and all else was observed and considered; thy case was brought before our General Congregation held in the presence of His Holiness on 20th January last, and after voting and resolution we decided on the following sentence.

Having invoked the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ and of his most Glorious Mother Mary ever Virgin in the cause and aforesaid causes brought before this Holy Office between on the one hand the Reverend Giulio Monterenzii, doctor of laws, Procurator Fiscal of the said Holy Office, and on the other hand thyself, the aforesaid Giordano Bruno, the accused, examined, brought to trial and found guilty, impenitent, obstinate and pertinacious; in this our final sentence determined by the counsel and opinion of our advisers the Reverend Fathers, Masters in Sacred Theology and Doctors in both Laws, our advisers: We hereby, in these documents, publish, announce, pronounce, sentence and declare thee the aforesaid Brother Giordano Bruno to be an impenitent and pertinacious heretic, and therefore to have incurred all the ecclesiastical censures and pains of the Holy Canon, the laws and the constitutions, both general and particular, imposed on such confessed impenitent pertinacious and obstinate heretics. Wherefore as such we verbally degrade thee and declare that thou must be degraded, and we hereby ordain and command that thou shalt be actually degraded [76] from all thine ecclesiastical orders both major and minor in which thou hast been ordained, according to the Sacred Canon Law: and that thou must be driven forth, and we do drive thee forth from our ecclesiastical forum and from our holy and immaculate Church of whose mercy thou art become unworthy. And we ordain and command that thou must be delivered to the Secular Court -- wherefore we hereby deliver thee to the Court of You [sic] the Governor of Rome here present -- that thou mayest be punished with the punishment deserved, though we earnestly pray that he will mitigate the rigour of the laws concerning the pains of thy person, that thou mayest not be in danger of death or of mutilation of thy members. Furthermore, we condemn, we reprobate and we prohibit all thine aforesaid and thy other books and writings as heretical and erroneous, containing many heresies and errors, and we ordain that all of them which have come or may in future come into the hands of the Holy Office shall be publicly destroyed and burned in the square of St. Peter before the steps and that they shall be placed upon the Index of Forbidden Books, and as we have commanded, so shall it be done. And thus we say, pronounce, sentence, declare, degrade, command and ordain, we chase forth and we deliver and we pray in this and in every other better method and form that we reasonably can and should.

Thus pronounce we, the undermentioned Cardinal General Inquisitors:


The above sentence made and given by the aforesaid most Illustrious and Reverend Lord Cardinals, General Inquisitors, sitting in Rome as a tribunal in the general Congregation of the Holy Roman and Universal Inquisition in the presence of the aforesaid Illustrious and Reverend Cardinal Madrutius in the Church of St. Agnes in Agony, in the year of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ 1600, on the 8th day of February, having been recited yesterday to the aforementioned Giordano Bruno who was brought by one of the police of His Holiness our Lord the Pope in order to hear the aforewritten sentence.

On the same day after it had been signed, the aforesaid Brother Jordanus having been summoned by the aforesaid most illustrious and Reverend Lord Cardinals of the General Inquisition and having been brought forth from the said prisons of the Holy Inquisition and removed to the palace which is the usual residence of the aforesaid most Illustrious and Reverend Cardinal Madrutius and having been brought into the Hall of the aforesaid Congregation into the presence of the said most Illustrious and Reverend Cardinals, then in his presence and while he did listen, the said sentence was by their order promulgated and read by me the notary hereaftermentioned, in a loud and clear voice, the doors of the hall of the said Congregation being open, there being present the most Reverend Father Benedictus Manninus, Bishop of Caserta, the most Reverend Father Petras Millinus of Rome I.U.D. and Referendario of each of the Signatures of His Holiness Our Lord the Pope and the Reverend Father Franciscus Petrasancta de Ripalta of the Order of the Friars Preachers, prelates and counsellors of the said Holy Inquisition, several other persons being present as witnesses. [77]

Yet one more document in the Roman Archives records the transference of the prisoner to the Secular Arm on the 8th February. [78]

The day appointed for the martyrdom was 12th February. Yet again there was postponement. Finally, on Saturday 19th February, 1600, the judicial burning took place in the great Square of Flowers at Rome.

The intense interest and public excitement concerning Bruno is reflected in a copy of three paragraphs from the contemporary manuscript Awisi e ricordi, the earliest form of news-sheet. One of these records that Bruno declared that he died a willing martyr and that his soul would rise with the smoke to paradise. [79]

A gloating account of the whole ritual is given in a letter written on the very day by a youth named Gaspar Schopp of Breslau, a recent convert to Catholicism to whom Pope Clement VIII had shewn great favour, creating him Knight of St. Peter and Count of the Sacred Palace. Schopp was addressing Conrad Rittershausen. He recounts that because of his heresy Bruno had been publicly burned that day in the Square of Flowers in front of the Theatre of Pompey. He makes merry over the belief of the Italians that every heretic is a Lutheran. It is evident that he had been present at the interrogations, for he relates in detail the life of Bruno and the works and doctrines for which he had been arraigned, and he gives a vivid account of Bruno's final appearance before his judges on 8th February. To Schopp we owe the knowledge of Bruno's bearing under judgement. When the verdict had been declared, records Schopp, Bruno with a threatening gesture addressed his judges: "Perchance you who pronounce my sentence are in greater fear than I who receive it." Thus he was dismissed to the prison, gloats the convert, "and was given eight days to recant, but in vain. So today he was led to the funeral pyre. When the image of our Saviour was shown to him before his death he angrily rejected it with averted face.... Thus my dear Rittershausen is it our custom to proceed against such men or rather indeed such monsters." [80]

A yet more minute description was discovered in the Records of the Company of St. John the Beheaded, [81] called also the Company of Mercy and Pity, whose duty it was to follow condemned heretics to the stake. It is recorded that information was sent to them at two o'clock in the morning, wherefore at six they betook themselves to the Nona Tower where Bruno was now held. He was handed over to them and they "exhorted him in all charity," reciting his errors, in which occupation they were accompanied by two Holy Fathers from the Dominicans, two from the Jesuits, "two from the new Church" and "one from St. Jerome."

Through the early hours of Thursday, the 16th February, their solicitations were continued. At length the prisoner, nude, bound to a stake, accompanied by the mocking solemnity and chanted prayers of his tormentors and held to a terrible silence, [82] was brought forth to the Square of the Flowers in Rome. His body was consigned to the flames. His Message has re-echoed down the years.

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule