January 1548 -17 February 1600
A brief biography.
Filippo Bruno was born in Nola (in Campania, then part of the Kingdom of Napoli) in January 1548, the son of Giovanni Bruno, a soldier, and Fraulissa Savolino.
As a youth, he was sent to Napoli for education. He was tutored privately at the Augustinian monastery there, and attended public lectures at the Studium Generale.
At the age of 17, he entered the Dominican Order at the famous monastery of San Domenico Maggiore in Napoli, taking the name Giordano, after Giordano Crispo, his metaphysics tutor. He continued his studies there, completing his novitiate, and became an ordained priest in 1572 at age 24.
During his time in Napoli he became known for his skill with the art of memory and on one occasion travelled to Rome to demonstrate his mnemonic system before the Dominican Pope Pius V and Cardinal Rebiba. Bruno in later years claimed that the Pope accepted his dedication to him of the lost work On The Ark of Noah at this time.
After his ordination things reached such a pass that, formal accusation of heresy was brought against him in 1576. Thereupon he went to Rome, but, apparently, did not mend his manner of speaking of the mysteries of faith; the accusations were renewed against him at the Dominican priory of the Santa Minerva in Rome.
Within a few months of his arrival he fled Rome and cast off all allegiance to his order. He tarried awhile in several Italian cities, and in 1579 went to Geneva, Toulouse, and Lyon, where he completed his "Clovis Magna", or "Great Key" to the art of remembering.
In Paris (1581) he published several works, which further developed his art of memory training and revealed the two-fold influence of Raymond Lilly and the neo-Platonists.
In 1582 he published a characteristic work, "Il candela", or "The Torchbearer".
While at Paris he lectured publicly on philosophy, under the auspices, as it seems, of the College of Cambria, the forerunner of the College of France.
In 1583 he crossed over to England, and, for a time at least, enjoyed the favour of Queen Elizabeth and the friendship of Sir Philip Sidney. To the latter he dedicated the most bitter of his attacks on the Catholic Church, "Il spacious della bestial triumphant", "The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast", published in 1584.
He visited Oxford, and, on being refused the privilege of lecturing there, he published (1584) his "Coena delle scenery", or "Ash-Wednesday Supper", in which he attacked the Oxford professors, saying that they knew more about beer than about Greek.
In 1585 he returned to France, and during the year, which he spent in Paris at this time made several attempts to become reconciled to the Catholic Church, all of which failed because of his refusal to accept the condition imposed, namely, that he should return to his order.
The year 1591 found him in Frankfurt. Apparently, during the Frankfurt Book Fair, he received an invitation to Venice from the patrician Giovanni Mocenigo, who wished to be instructed in the art of memory, and also heard of a vacant chair in mathematics at the University of Padua. Apparently believing that the Inquisition might have lost some of its impetus, he returned to Italy.
He went first to Padua, where he taught briefly, and applied unsuccessfully for the chair of mathematics, which was assigned instead to Galileo Galilei one year later. Bruno accepted Mocenigo's invitation and moved to Venice in March 1592. For about two months he functioned as an in-house tutor to Mocenigo. When Bruno announced his plan to leave Venice to his host, the latter, who was unhappy with the teachings he had received and had apparently developed a personal rancour towards Bruno, denounced him to the Venetian Inquisition, which had Bruno arrested on May 22, 1592.
Among the numerous charges of blasphemy and heresy brought against him in Venice, based on Mocenigo's denunciation, was his belief in the plurality of worlds, as well as accusations of personal misconduct. Bruno defended himself skilfully, stressing the philosophical character of some of his positions, denying others and admitting that he had had doubts on some matters of dogma. The Romen Inquisition, however, asked for his transferral to Rome. After several months and some quibbling the Venetian authorities reluctantly consented and Bruno was sent to Rome in February 1593.
In the spring of 1599 the trial began, and he was finally condemned (January, 1600), handed over to the secular power (8 February), and burned at the stake in the Campo de' Fiori in Rome on 17 February 1600.
The bronze relief of the trial
by the Romen Inquisition by Ettore Ferrari,
Campo de' Fiori, Rome.
Bruno was not condemned for his defence of the Copernican system of astronomy, or for his doctrine of the plurality of inhabited worlds, but for his theological errors, among which were the following: that Christ was not God but merely an unusually skilful magician, that the Holy Ghost is the soul of the world, etc.
He had a high degree of respect for Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas.
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 Napoli, led by the Nolan Domenico Sorrentino, to obtain a full rehabilitation from the Catholic authorities.
PHILATELY OF G. BRUNO, click here
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