A brief biography.
Giovanni Domenico Campanella was born in Stilo, a village in Calabria, Italy, in 1568. At a tender age (13 or 14 years), he entered the Dominican Order. He was a great admirer of Saint Thomas Aquinas, in whose honour he assumed his name Thomas. Campanella was a prolific author, who started writing at the age of nineteen.
In his writings he insists that we can arrive at an understanding of reality and of nature exclusively through our senses. This was totally opposed to the Aristotelian and scholastic method, founded on blind faith and pedantic abstraction divorced from any experimental verification.
Already in 1592 he was condemned, in an ecclesiastical trial in Naples, to return to his native Calabria, as punishment for having left the monastery.
His intellectual appetite knew no boundaries. As he himself declared,
he had studied the philosophies of Pythagoras, Epicurus, Plato, Thales,
the Stoics and the Peripatetics [Aristotelians], of all ancient and modern sects, the laws of ancient peoples and of Hebrews, Turks, Persians, Moors, Chinese, Brahmins, Peruvians, Mexicans, Abyssinians and Tartars.
This was no empty boasting, because in his writings Campanella introduces numerous details and demonstrates his knowledge of the most diverse subjects.
Campanella’s modernist and renovating spirit can be summarized in his observation, made in The City of the Sun (1602), that ‘this century of ours has more history in a hundred years that the world has had in four thousand, and in these hundred years more books have been written than in five thousand.'
The writer is deeply impressed by the recent discoveries and sees in them signs of the approaching millennium; the discovery of the new world, the compass, the printing press, the harquebus, receive philosophical explanations. In 1600 another Italian thinker, Giordano Bruno,O.P. was burned at the stake as a heretic. Campanella did not suffer the same fate, but he was persecuted for his views and remained in prison in the fortification San' Elmo, Naples, till 1626, subject to privation and tortures, during no less than 27 years.
His last years he spent in a priory of his order in France, where he died on 21 May 1639.
Portrait of Thomas Campanella, O.P.
(1568-21.05.1639) of Nicholas de l' Armessin,
alias Larmessin Père (1640-1725).
Perhaps derived from the painting (1530)
by Francesco Cozza, preserved in the Casa dei
Gaetani di Sermoneta in Rome.
Italy 1968, Mi 1280, Sc 985. FDC
The Colegio Tommaso Campanella in Reggio,
Italy 2005, Mi 3035, Sc 2670.
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