Giordano Bruno

Giordano Bruno (1548 – February 17, 1600), was an Italian Dominican friar, philosopher,mathematician and astronomer. His cosmological theories went beyond the Copernican model in proposing that the Sun was essentially a star, and moreover , that the universe contained an infinite number of inhabited worlds populated by other intelligent beings.

He was burned at the stake by civil authorities in 1600 after the Roman Inquisition found him guilty of heresy for his pantheism and turned him over to the state, which at that time considered heresy illegal. After his death he gained considerable fame, particularly among 19th- and early 20th-century commentators who, focusing on his astronomical beliefs, regarded him as a martyr for free thought and modern scientific ideas.

Some assessments suggest that Bruno's ideas about the universe played a smaller role in his trial than his pantheist beliefs, which differed from the interpretations and scope of God held by the Catholic Church. In addition to his cosmological writings, Bruno also wrote extensively on the art of memory, a loosely organized group of mnemonic techniques and principles. 

The work of Frances Yates, especially influential in anglophone scholarship, argues that Bruno was deeply influenced by the astronomy found in Arab astrology, Neoplatonism and Renaissance Hermeticism. Other recent studies of Bruno have focused on his qualitative approach to mathematics and his application of the spatial paradigms of geometry to language.

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 spaccio della bestia trionfante", "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 "Cena delle ceneri", 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.

Giordano Bruno spent eight years in jail in the Castel Sant’Angelo, where he was routinely tortured and interrogated until his trial. Despite this, he remained unrepentant, stating to his Catholic Church judge, Jesuit Cardinal Robert Bellarmine, "I neither ought to recant, nor will I." Even a death sentence handed down by the Catholic Church did not change his attitude as he defiantly told his accusers, "In pronouncing my sentence, your fear is greater than mine in hearing it."

Immediately after the death sentence was handed down, Giordano Bruno’s jaw was clamped shut with an iron gag, his tongue was pierced with an iron spike and another iron spike was driven into his palate. 

On February 19, 1600, he was driven through the streets of Rome, stripped of his clothes and burned at the stake.