Giordano Bruno: His Life and Thought

Graphic Rule


1 The name Zuane is a form of Giovanni.

2 Doc. Fen. VIII. See supra, P. 4, n. 2.

3 The bookseller Ciotti, testifying before the Venice Inquisition in May 1592, stated that he first met Bruno in Frankfurt "two years ago come next September," that is, in September 1590. He then describes how subsequently Mocenigo gave him a letter of invitation to take to Bruno "who appeared here seven or eight months ago," i.e., in September or October 1591 (Doc. Fen. VI). Bruno himself also testified in May 1592 that he had come to Italy "seven or eight months ago" (Doc. Fen. VIII).

Since Ciotti states that Mocenigo first approached him on the matter after the appearance of De minimo (Doc. Fen. VI, f. iv), the first letter cannot have been conveyed before the spring of 1591. But Ciotti also asserts (Doc. Fen. VI, 12V) that, after the arrival of Bruno Mocenigo approached him, asking him, during his visit to Frankfurt at Easter z592, to make enquiries about Bruno's character.

4 In Venice and subsequently in Padua. Cf. pp. 161?2, Ciotti's evidence. Bruno's action in coming to Italy appeared incredibly rash to his contemporaries as it does indeed to the observer today. For there have survived two letters written from Bologna by Valens Havekenthal (Acidalius) to Forgacz (Cf? P? 144, n. 28) who was then in Padua. On 21St January, 1592, Acidalius is writing to Forgacz of the report that their mutual friend Lipsius had received an invitation from the great Duke of Etruria to come to Pisa under splendid conditions. "It is incredible, but I am assured by Mercurialis that it is true that he is to have complete liberty of religion and freedom to believe whatever he in fact believes [quidquid sentiat, sentirej." He continues: "I would enquire concerning a certain jordanus Brunus the Nolan, the same whom thou knewest in Wittenberg, who is said now to be living among you and lecturing. Is it indeed so? And what sort of a man is this who ventures into Italy whence, as he himself was wont to tell us, he had been exiled? I am amazed and hitherto I have not credited the rumour even though I heard it from those most trustworthy sources. Thou, however, wilt definitely inform me whether it be true or false."

On 3rd March he writes again marvelling at such incredible news. Cf. Christianus Acidalius frater Valentis Acidali, Epistolarum Centuria (Hanover, printed by Wechel, 16o6), EpiSt. 2, P. 10.

Valens Acidalius 0567?1595) was a humanist writer. Born at Weistock in Brandenburg, he studied successively at Rostock and Helmstedt and then spent three years in Italy. After his return to Germany he settled at Breslau and adopted the Catholic faith.

5 App. 1, xxx. Cf. App. 1, xxvi.           

6 Op. lat., 111, 637­

7 Rationem, perhaps better rendered "principle."

8 Op. lat, 111, 653­

9 Domenico Berti (Vita di Giordano Bruno del Nola [Florence, Turin and Milan, 1868], App. 11), was the first to identify the persecutor of Bruno with Giovanni Mocenigo, the correspondent of the literary courtier, G. Battista Leoni, whose Lettere familiari were published by Ciotti himself in 1592 (and a further volume in the following year). In September 1583, Leoni was congratulating Mocenigo del Saviato, and hoping that this would be but the beginning of further honours. He writes of Mocenigo's "first entry into the Collegio." In 1594 he refers to his labours "among the Pregadi" and to his responsibility as a Senator to lead a virtuous life. Spampanato (Vita di Giordano Bruno, 11, 459) states that Mocenigo was elected in 1583 a Savio agli ordini, citing Lconi's letter Of 24 September, 1583, "cominciar facilioribus." For the grades of the members of the Collegio, cf. S. Romanin, Storia documentata di Venezia (18 books in io vols., Venice, 1853?6o), VIII, 331?32? J. Lewis McIntyre, (op. cit., p. 68) and William Boulting (Giordano Bruno, His Life, Thought and Martyrdom [London, 1916], pp. 225?26) both suggest that Mocenigo was a Savio all'eresia.

10 At this first stage of the proceedings there appears the ominous co?operation of State and Church, since Mocenigo employed for both the arrest and the consignment of Bruno to the prison of the Holy Office one Mattheo de Avantio, captain in the service of the Council of Ten (Doe. Ven. V). For the establishment and function of the Venice Inquisition, see Marco Ferro, Dizionario del diritto comune e Veneto (2 vols., Venice, 1847); and Paolo Servita. (i.e., Sarpi), Historia della sacra inquisizione (Serravalle, 1638), PP? ig seqq.

11 Docc. Ven. V and VIII.

12 Mid., I?IV. Mocenigo's letters of accusation against Bruno are addressed to the Father Inquisitor of Venice, J. Gabriele of Saluzzo. The Tribunal that proceeded to investigation consisted of the Father Inquisitor; the Papal Nuncio Ludovico Taberna?somctimes represented by his "auditor" Livio Passero; and Laurentio Priolo, the Patriarch of Venice, on one occasion represented by his Vicar, Aloysio Foscari, who was of a noble family, was present at many of the sittings and on two occasions also "the illustrious Sebastiano Barbadico." One session is described in the record as cum licentia of this Sebastian Barbadico (Doc. Ven. XIV). The Barbadico or Barbarigo were one of the most powerful of the Venice noble families, tracing their descent from a certain Arrigo, an Istrian who had repelled the Saracens from Trieste with great valour in the year 88o. Two of the family had occupied the Dog6's seat in Venice in the fifteenth century. Giovanni Superanti joins Thomas Morosini on one occasion in attending the Tribunal (Doc. Ven. XVIL See also below, n. 17)

13 "Joannes Baptistus Ciottus scnensis [i.e., of Siennal, bookseller, at the sign of Minerva, living in Venice" (Docc. Ven. VI, VII and XVI).

14 "Jacobus Brictanus de Antwerpia, living in Venice" (Doc. Ven. VII). Spampanato calls the booksellers Ciotti and Britano (Vita, 11, 450; McIntyre calls Brictanus "Bertano" (op. cit., p. 69).

15 He described Bruno as small and lean with small black beard, about 40 years old. Bruno, however, is officially described at the Venice trial (Doc. Fen. VIII) as of average stature and with a chestnut beard.

16 Doc. Fen. VI.

17 Andrea Morosini (the Latin form of the name was Mauroceno) (1557?1618) belonged to a noble family that had migrated at least as early as the tenth century from Moresini in Hungary to Venice, and had already produced three Doges. His father Jacob was a senator of Venice. Andrea was an eager student of the New Learning. He held office at various times both at Padua (the University of Venice) and as ambassador from the Republic. In 1598 he became Official Historiographer, in j6oo Senator and in 1605 member of the Collegio dei Savii or Cabinet of Ministers.

18 Doc. Ven. XV.

19 Cf. supra, pp. 158?9, n? 4­

20 Doc. Ven. XV.

21 See above, notes 12, 17, and 2o, and below, p. 167, n? 38. Thomas Morosini was present again at the September meetings of the Tribunal when Cardinal Santaseverina's letters were considered, and he accompanied the deputation conveying the demand of the Papal Tribunal to the Venice Council Chamber of the Rogati for consent to the consignment of Bruno to Rome (Docc. Ven. XVIII, XIX). On that occasion he is described as "uno dei signori assistenti al santo Tribunale dell' Inquisizione."

22 Doc. Ven. VII. For this date of 1589, when Bruno was at Helmstedt, cf. supra, p. 158, n? 3

23 "Chimerizando e strologando cose nove" (Doe. Fen. VII).

24 "Gli bastava I'animo de far, se avesse voluto, che tutto il mondo sarebbe d'una religione" (Doc. Fen. VII).

25 Doc. Fen. VIII.

26 Doc. Par. 11.

27 Doc. Fen. XI. Cf. PP. 147?8 seqq., and App. III.

28 Doc. Fen. XI. While many of the Paris imprints, like all those of Venice, were false, no surviving books bearing the imprint of other towns can be attributed to England. None of Bruno's books bears the imprint of an English town or printer.

29 Doc. Fen. XI.         

30 Docc. Fen. XI?XIV.

31 Doc. Fen. XIII, Spampanato (1933), PP. 115, 121?2.

32 Ibid., p. 117?          

33 Ibid., pp. 123?24.

34 Doc. Ven. IX 0933), P. 87; X, P. 89; XVII, PP. 132?34,

35 On the 31st May the Inquisitors summoned Fra Domenico da Nocera, Friar Preacher of the Province of the Kingdom (of Naples) and Regent of the Stadium of St. Dominic at Naples. He testified that the Inquisitor of Venice had brought him from the convent of St. John and St. Paul, and ordered him to write down whether he had spoken to Fra Jordano di Nola in Venice and what Jordano had said. He described how he had been accosted as he left the sacristy of the church, and had realized that his interlocutor was jordano Bruno, one of the brothers of his province and a literary man (literato). jordano led him to a secluded corner of the church, told him his history and that he was comfortably off in Venice, and hoping to compose and write a book which he had in mind, and that he proposed to present it to his Holiness personally and to implore permission to dwell in Rome as a Scholar and thus to shew his merit and perhaps to give some lectures (Doc. Yen. X).

36 Doc. Ven. XVIL

37 Ibid., XVIII.

38 Spampanato (Vita di Giordano Bruno, 11, 531) gives the names of these 16 Savii del collegio, noting that one was a brother of Mocenigo. For the function of the various governmental bodies in Venice, see S. Romanin, op. cit., VIII, 323?50? See also Donato Ciannotti, Libro de la republica de Fenitiani (Rome, 1592) and G. Contarino, Conciliorum magis illustrium summa, et de magistratibus et republica Venetorum (Paris, 1543)? Cf. also Cambridge Modern History, I, 27x?76.

39 Doe. Ven. XIX. It was in I a44 that Ranke published from the Venice Archives the letter of Cardinal Santaseverina to the Venice Inquisition demanding the sur­render of Bruno to Rome, and the deliberations of the Collegio when asked for authorization for this procedure. Gradually the other documents regarding this episode were discovered and published. The story is told by Spampanato (Vita di Giordano Bruno, 11, 669) in introducing the documents, which have been printed several times. The records of the Venetian Inquisition were found in 1849 among the Papal Archives.

40 The record of votes bears the numbers + 117; ?2; ?6. Perhaps the last six abstained.

41 Doc. Fen. XX.       

42 Ibid., XXI.   

43 Ibid., XXII.

44 In a letter to the Pope's nephew, Monsignor Cinzio Aldobrandini (Doc.Ven. XXIlb).

45 Doc. Ven. XXIII.

46 The votes recorded for the momentous decision were + 142; ?10; ?20. Again we conjecture that 20 may have abstained from this act of appeasement of the Papal power.

47 Docc. Ven. XXIV and XXV.         

48 ibid., XXVI.

49 Docc. Rom. XX, XXI.

50 The record of Bruno's remaining years remained buried in the Vatican until 1849, when the Archives of the Vatican were examined on the proclamation of the cessation of the temporal power of the Papacy. There came a time when repre­sentatives of the Vatican were at pains to deny the judicial burning of Giordano Bruno. The discovery and publication of the relevant documents from the Archives of Venice and of the Vatican and of other contemporary evidence has finally established the record of Bruno's trials both in Venice and in Rome.

The Archivi dei savii sopra eresia were first discovered in 1844?48, and most of the remaining Vatican documents concerning Bruno were published in 1864. Many of the records of the Inquisition in Rome concerning Bruno, including the final sentence on him, were first discovered in 1849 when the Archives of the Vatican were thrown open by the Republic under Mazzini; the remainder of these records have gradually been brougl;t to light. See Spampanato, Vita, 11, 581. 86, 765 ?qq?, 769; Salvestrini, loc. cit., no, 432, P? 2og; Boulting, loc. Cit., 293; McIntyre, loc? cit., 93?5, 301?4, etc.; as well as the Documenti.

In quite recent times, a further document has been published by the Vatican under the title Sommario del processo di Giordano Bruno, Docc. Rom. XX, XX3, ed. by Angelo Mercati in Studii e testi, No. ioi (Citta del Vaticano, 1940). The editor furnishes a long introduction. He gives certain Vatican records of the events of i8io, 1815?17 and 1849 and states his opinion that the full record of the trial has disappeared. He describes his discovery of the Sommario as follows: In 1925 when he became Prefect of the Secret Vatican Archives, he learned of the discovery in 1887 of the document concerning Giordano, and also that Pope Leo X had then ordered that it should be sent immediately to himself and should be revealed to none ("che non vole assolutamente che detto Processo sia dato al alcuno"). Mercati accordingly instituted a search which lasted until November 1940, when he discovered the document in the personal Archives of Pope Pius IX. Mercati expresses the opinion that the document was compiled not earlier than the spring of 1597. The document itself as printed gives no dates and no account ot the composition of the Court. It opens abruptly: "Quod frater jordanus male sentit de sancta fide catholica contra quam et cius ministros obloquutus est." There follows evidence given by Mocenigo and the booksellers. The account as here published comprises 34 articles of accusation of heresy, and is in sections numbered from i to 261. Part of the ground covered in the Collection of Documents published by Spampanato and others is covered here also. There are more detailed doctrinal accusations from attestations by Mocenigo and by Bruno's fellow?prisoners. This use of his fellow?prisoners by the Court and the report of theological discussions and accusations comprise the only new facts that emerge from the record. The editor gives a running picture of the course of the interrogations, based on the Documenti already known and on the new Sommario. He concludes: "The Church could intervene, was bound to intervene and did intervene," an elegant phrase for the years of imprisonment and final burning of Bruno.

51 Doc. Rom. 1.         

52 Ibid., II.        

53 Ibid., III, IV.

54 Ibid., V.       

55 Ibid., VI, VII, VIII.   

56 Ibid., IX.

57 Docc. Rom., X, X1, XIL   

58 Ibid., XIII.

59 Ibid., XIV.   

60 Ibid., XV.

61 Ibid., XV1.

62 Ibid., XVII and XVII(2). The formulation of these propositions is among the Vatican documents that have not yet come to light.

63 Of these events on 18th and 25th January, the record is in the final recapitula­tion of the case in Doe. Rom. XXVI, and an allusion in Doc. Rom. XV1112 to Bruno's written defence.

64 R.P.D. fr. Albertus Tragagliolus Episcopus Thermolensis Commissarius Generalis Sancti Officii (Doc. Rom. XXIV2).

65 Docc. Rom. XVIII and XVIII(2).    

66 Ibid., XIX.

67 Ibid., XX2.  

68 Ibid., XX, XX3.

69 Ibid., XXI.

70 Ibid., XXII, XXIII. According to Doc. Rom. XXVI, his condemnation was determined on ioth September, 1599 (Spampanato, Documenti della vita di Giordano Bruno 119331, (P. 1911)?

71 Doc. Rom. XXIV.

72 Called, in Docc. Rom. XXV and XXV2, "a Procurator General of the Order."

73 Docc. Rom. XXIV(2) and XXIV(3)

74 Ibid. XXV, XXV(2)

75 Or on the 18th February, acording to Docc. Rom. XIX.

76 There has survived the account of the payment duly made by the Inquisition of two scudi to the Bishop of Sidonia for the service of "actual degradation" of Giordano Bruno the heretic. The Bishop was rewarded on the same day by a further two scudi for the "degradation" of a second prisoner (Doc. Rom. XXXIII).

77. Docc Rom. XXVI

78. Doc Rom. XXVII

79 We read that on Saturday 12th February the public expected to be entertained by the judicial burning (Doc. Rom. XXVIII). On 19th February the martyrdom is recorded with horrible detail: "His tongue imprisoned on account of his wicked words." The transcript is in the Vatican MS. Urbane io68 (Docc. Rom. XXXI and XXXII).

80 Doc. Rom. XXX. This letter was first published in a version not quite complete, in 1621, in a volume entitled Macchiavellizatio, qua unitorum animos dissociare nitentibus respondetur; in gratiam Dn. Archiepiscopi castissimae vitae: petri Pazman-succincte excerpta . . . addita est epostola Casp. Scioppii, in qua hercticus jure infelicibus lignis cremari concludid . . . (Saragossae Excudebat Didacus Iba ra. MDCXXI). Salvestrini states that the volume was printed at Ingolstadt, and not at Saragossa. The authenticity of this letter was hotly contested prior to the publication of the Documents concerning Bruno from the Archives of the Venetian Republic and of the Vatican. The procedure related with such odious unction by Schopp was then undoubtedly confirmed. Moreover the original letter was found in the Communal Library of Breslau and was published in full by B.G. Struve in the Acta litteratia (Jena ,1707), V, 67-74. The letter has been published many times in several languages. It was translated into English by M. de La Roche, Memoirs of Literature (London, 1722), II, 244, and by J. Toland, a Collection of Several Pieces (London, 1726), I, 307. Schopp again took occasion to gloat over Bruno’s martyrdom in a volume, Serenissimi D. Jacobi magnae Britanniae regis oppositus (Hartbergae, 1611) (Doc Rom. XXX). Salvestrinni states that this volume was printed at Meitingen, and not at Harteberg as stated on the frontpiece.

81. XVI, 87. Cf. Doc Rom. XXIX. The document has been published elsewhere and is printed “by command of the Royal Ministry” in the Introduction to the final volume of the National Edition of Bruno’s Latin Works (Op lat., III, xi-xii)

82. See above, n. 79

Graphic Rule