Giordano Bruno

Eyridiki Sellou | Dec 26, 2022

Table of Content


Giordano Bruno, born Filippo Bruno (Nola, 1548 - Rome, February 17, 1600), was an Italian philosopher, writer and Dominican friar who lived in the 16th century.

His thought, which can be framed philosophically in the ranks of Renaissance naturalism, arose from the original mingling of different theoretical disciplines and philosophical traditions-ancient materialism, Averroism, Copernicanism, Lullism, Scotism, Neoplatonism, Hermeticism, mnemonics and Hebrew-Cabalistic assumptions-imprinted on a single idea: the infinite, understood as an infinite universe composed of infinite worlds, realized by an equally infinite God, to be loved infinitely.


Not many documents exist about Bruno's youth. It is the philosopher himself, in the interrogations to which he was subjected during the trial that marked the last years of his life, who gives the information about his early years. "I have the name Giordano of the family of Bruni, of the city of Nola near Naples twelve miles, born and reared in that city," and more precisely in the district of San Giovanni del Cesco, at the foot of Mount Cicala, perhaps the only son of the soldier, the standard bearer Giovanni, and of Fraulissa Savolina, in the year 1548 - "as far as I have understood from my own." Mezzogiorno was then part of the Kingdom of Naples, included in the Spanish monarchy: the child was baptized with the name Philip, in honor of the heir to the Spanish throne, Philip II.

His house-which no longer exists-was modest, but in his De immenso he remembers with moved fondness the surroundings, the "most pleasant Mount Cicala," the ruins of the 12th-century castle, the olive trees-perhaps partly the same as today-and in front, Vesuvius, which he, thinking that beyond that mountain there was nothing more in the world, explored as a boy: he would take from it the lesson not to rely "solely on the judgment of the senses," as the great Aristotle did, in his words, learning above all that, beyond all apparent limits, there is always something else.

He learned to read and write from a priest from Nola, Giandomenico de Iannello, and completed his grammar studies in the school of one Bartolo di Aloia. He continued his higher studies, from 1562 to 1565, at the University of Naples, which was then in the courtyard of the convent of St. Dominic, to learn letters, logic and dialectic from "one called Sarnese" and private lessons in logic from an Augustinian, Friar Theophilus of Vairano.

Sarnese, i.e., Giovan Vincenzo de Colle, born in Sarno, was an Aristotelian of the Averroist school, and to him is traced Bruno's antihumanistic and antiphilological training, for whom only concepts matter, no importance having the form and language in which they are expressed.

There is little information on the Augustinian Theophilus of Vairano, of whom Bruno always had admiration, so much so that he made him the protagonist of his cosmological dialogues and confided to the Parisian librarian Guillaume Cotin that Theophilus was "the principal teacher he had in philosophy." To delineate Bruno's early education, it suffices to add that, introducing the explanation of the ninth seal in his Explicatio triginta sigillorum of 1583, he writes that from a very young age he devoted himself to the study of the art of memory, probably influenced by reading the 1492 treatise Phoenix seu artificiosa memoria by Pietro Tommai, also called Pietro Ravennate.

In the convent

At "14 years of age, or 15 or so," he renounced the name Philip, as imposed by the Dominican rule, took the name Giordano, in honor of Blessed Giordano of Saxony, successor of St. Dominic, or perhaps of Friar Giordano Crispo, his teacher of metaphysics, and thus took the habit of Dominican friar from the prior of the convent of St. Dominic Maggiore in Naples, Ambrogio Pasca: "having finished the year of probatione, I was admitted by him himself to profession," he was actually a novice on June 15, 1565 and professed on June 16, 1566, at the age of eighteen. Evaluating retrospectively, his choice to wear the Dominican habit can be explained not so much by an interest in religious life or theological studies-which he never had, as he also affirmed at his trial-but in order to be able to devote himself to his favorite studies in philosophy with the advantage of enjoying the privileged condition of security that membership in that powerful Order certainly guaranteed him.

That he had not joined the Dominicans to protect the orthodoxy of the Catholic faith was immediately revealed by the episode-narrated by Bruno himself at the trial-in which Friar Giordano, in the convent of St. Dominic, threw away the images of the saints in his possession, keeping only the crucifix and inviting a novice who was reading the Historia delle sette allegrezze della Madonna to throw away that book, a modest devotional operetta, published in Florence in 1551, periphrases of verses in Latin by Bernard of Clairvaux, perhaps replacing it with the study of the Vita de' santi Padri by Domenico Cavalca. An episode which, although known to his superiors, did not provoke sanctions against him, but which demonstrates that the young Bruno was completely foreign to Counter-Reformation devotional themes.

It seems that around 1569 he went to Rome and was introduced to Pope Pius V and Cardinal Scipione Rebiba, to whom he would teach some elements of that mnemonic art that would play such a large part in his philosophical speculation. He was ordained a subdeacon in 1570, a deacon in 1571, and a presbyter in 1573, celebrating his first mass in the convent of St. Bartholomew in Campagna, near Salerno, at that time belonging to the Grimaldi family, princes of Monaco, and in 1575 he graduated in theology with two theses on Thomas Aquinas and Peter Lombard.

It should not be thought that a convent was exclusively an oasis of peace and meditation of chosen spirits: from 1567 to 1570 alone, eighteen sentences for sex scandals, thefts and even murders were issued against the friars of St. Dominic Major. It should therefore come as no surprise that Bruno always flaunted his contempt for the friars, whom he reproached in particular for their lack of culture; and not only that, but, according to a hypothesis by Vincenzo Spampanato commonly accepted in critical circles, in the protagonist of his play Candelaio, Bonifacio, he most likely alluded precisely to one of his confreres, a friar Bonifacio da Napoli, defined in the dedicatory letter Alla Signora Morgana B. "candlestick maker in the flesh," i.e., sodomite. However, there was certainly no shortage of opportunities to form a broad culture in the convent of San Domenico Maggiore, famous for the richness of its library, although, as in other convents, the books of Erasmus of Rotterdam were forbidden, which, however, Bruno obtained in part by reading them in secret. Bruno's convent experience was in any case decisive: there he was able to carry out his studies and form his culture by reading everything from Aristotle to Thomas Aquinas, from St. Jerome to St. John Chrysostom, as well as the works of Ramon Llull, Marsilio Ficino and Nicholas Cusanus.

The denial of the Trinitarian doctrine

In 1576 his independence of thought and his impatience with the observance of dogma were unequivocally manifested. Bruno, discussing Arianism with a Dominican friar, Augustine of Montalcino, who was a guest in the Neapolitan convent, argued that Ario's views were less pernicious than they were believed to be, declaring that:

And in 1592 to the Venetian inquisitor he expressed his skepticism about the Trinity, admitting that he had "doubted about the person name of the Son and the Holy Spirit, not understanding these two persons to be distinct from the Father" but considering the Son, neo-Platonistically, to be the intellect and the Spirit, Pythagorean, to be the love of the Father or the soul of the world, thus not distinct persons or substances but divine manifestations.

The escape from Naples

Denounced by Friar Augustine to the provincial father Domenico Vita, the latter instituted a trial for heresy against him and, as Bruno himself would tell the Venetian inquisitors, "doubting that I would not be put in prison, I left Naples and went to Rome." Bruno reached Rome in 1576, a guest of the Dominican convent of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, whose procurator, Sisto Fabri da Lucca, was to become general of the Order a few years later, and in 1581 censured Montaigne's Essays.

These were years of serious unrest: in Rome there seemed to be nothing else going on, wrote the Marche chronicler Guido Gualtieri, but "stealing and killing: many thrown into the Tiber, nor of the people only, but monsignors, sons of magnates, put to the torment of fire, and grandsons of cardinals were levelled from the world," and he blamed the old and weak Pope Gregory XIII for this.

Bruno, too, is accused of murdering and throwing a friar into the river: the librarian Guillaume Cotin wrote on December 7, 1585, that Bruno fled Rome because of "a murder committed by one of his friars, for which he is blamed and in danger of his life, both because of the calumnies of his inquisitors who, ignorant as they are, do not conceive of his philosophy and accuse him of heresy." In addition to the charge of murder, Bruno in fact received news that works of St. John Chrysostom and St. Jerome annotated by Erasmus had been found among his books in the Neapolitan convent and that a trial for heresy was being instituted against him.

Thus, in the same year, 1576, Giordano Bruno abandoned the Dominican habit, reassumed the name Philip, left Rome and fled to Liguria.

Peregrination in Italy

In April 1576 Bruno is in Genoa and writes that at that time, in the church of Santa Maria di Castello, the tail of the donkey that carried Jesus to Jerusalem was worshipped as a relic and made the faithful kiss it. From here, he then goes to Noli (now in the province of Savona, then an independent republic), where for four or five months he teaches grammar to children and cosmography to adults.

In 1577 he was in Savona, then in Turin, which he judged to be a "deliciosa città" but, not finding employment there, by river he made his way to Venice, where he stayed at an inn in the Frezzeria district, having his first, now lost, writing printed there, De' segni de' tempi, "per mettere insieme un pocco de danari per potermi sustentar; la qual opera feci veder prima al reverendo padre maestro Remigio de Fiorenza," a Dominican from the convent of Santi Giovanni e Paolo.

But a plague epidemic was under way in Venice that had claimed tens of thousands of victims, including illustrious ones such as Titian, so Bruno went to Padua where, on the advice of some Dominicans, he resumed his habit, then left for Brescia, where he stayed in the Dominican convent; here a monk, "a prophet, great theologian and polyglot," suspected of witchcraft for prophesying, was cured by him, returning to being-ironically writes Bruno-"the usual donkey."

In Savoy and Geneva

From Bergamo, in the summer of 1578, he decided to go to France: he passed through Milan and Turin, and entered Savoy, spending the winter in the Dominican convent of Chambéry. Later, also in 1578, he is in Geneva, a city where there is a large colony of reformed Italians. Bruno again laid down his habit and donned cape, hat and sword, adhered to Calvinism and found work as a proofreader, thanks to the interest of the Neapolitan marquis Galeazzo Caracciolo who, a transfugee from Italy, had founded the Italian evangelical community there in 1552.

On May 20, 1579 he enrolled at the university as "Philip Bruno nolano, professor of sacred theology." In August he accused philosophy professor Antoine de la Faye of being a bad teacher and called Calvinist pastors "pedagogues." It is likely that Bruno wanted to be noticed, to demonstrate the excellence of his philosophical training and teaching skills in order to obtain a teaching position, a constant ambition throughout his life. His adherence to Calvinism was also aimed at this purpose; Bruno was actually indifferent to all religious denominations: to the extent that adherence to a historical religion did not prejudice his philosophical convictions and freedom to profess them, he would have been a Catholic in Italy, a Calvinist in Switzerland, an Anglican in England and a Lutheran in Germany.

In France

Arrested for libel, he was tried and excommunicated. On Aug. 27, 1579, he was forced to recant; he then left Geneva and moved briefly to Lyon to move to Toulouse, a Catholic city and the seat of an important university, where for nearly two years he occupied the post of reader, teaching there Aristotle's De anima and composing an unpublished and lost treatise on the art of memory, the Clavis magna, which was based on Llull's Ars magna. In Toulouse he met the Portuguese skeptical philosopher Francisco Sanches, who wanted to dedicate his book Quod nihil scitur to him, calling him a "most acute philosopher"; but Bruno did not return the esteem, if he wrote of him that he considered it "astonishing that this ass should give himself the title of doctor."

In 1581, because of the religious war between Catholics and Huguenots, Bruno left Toulouse for Paris, where he gave a course of lectures on the attributes of God according to St. Thomas Aquinas. And as a result of the success of these lectures, as he himself tells the inquisitors, "I acquired such a name that King Henry the Third summoned me one day, inquiring whether the memory I had and professed, was natural or yet by magic art; to which I gave satisfaction; and by what I told him and had him prove to him himself, he knew that it was not by magic art but by science. And after this I had a memoir printed, under the title De umbris idearum, which I dedicated to His Majesty; and with this occasion I made myself an extraordinary and provided reader."

Actively supporting the political work of Henry III of Valois, in Paris Giordano Bruno would stay just under two years, occupied in the prestigious position of lecteur royal. It was in Paris that Bruno gave to print his first works that have come down to us. In addition to De compendiosa architectura et complemento artis Lullii, De umbris idearum (The Shadows of Ideas) and Ars memoriae ("The Art of Memory"), in a single text, see the light of day, followed by Cantus Circaeus (The Song of Circe) and the vernacular comedy entitled Candelaio.

The volume includes two texts, the De umbris idearum proper, and the Ars memoriae. In the author's intentions, the volume, on a mnemotechnical subject, is thus distinguished into a theoretical and a practical part.

For Bruno, the universe is a single, organically formed body with a definite order that structures each and every thing and connects it with all others. The foundation of this order is ideas, eternal and unchanging principles present totally and simultaneously in the divine mind, but these ideas are "shadowed" and separate in the act of intending them. In the cosmos each individual entity is thus an imitation, an image, a "shadow" of the ideal reality that governs it. By reflecting in itself the structure of the universe, the human mind, which has in itself not ideas but the shadows of ideas, can attain true knowledge, that is, ideas and the nexus that connects each thing with all others, beyond the multiplicity of particular elements and their change over time. It is then a matter of striving for a cognitive method that grasps the complexity of the real, down to the ideal structure that sustains the whole.

This medium is based on the art of memory, whose task is to avoid the confusion generated by the multiplicity of images and to connect the images of things with concepts, symbolically representing all of reality.

In the philosopher's thinking, the art of memory operates in the same world as the shadows of ideas, presenting itself as an emulator of nature. If from ideas the things of the world take shape insofar as ideas contain the images of everything, and to our senses things manifest themselves as shadows of those things, then through imagination itself it will be possible to retrace the reverse path, that is, to go back from shadows to ideas, from man to God: the art of memory is no longer an aid to rhetoric, but a means of re-creating the world. It is thus a visionary process and not a rational method that Bruno proposes.Similar to any other art, that of memory needs substrates (the subiecta), that is, "spaces" of the imagination fit to accommodate suitable symbols (the adiecta) through an appropriate tool. With these assumptions, the author constructs a system that associates the letters of the alphabet with images peculiar to mythology, so as to make possible the encoding of vocabulary and concepts according to a particular succession of images. The letters can be displayed on circular diagrams, or "mnemonic wheels," which by turning and grafting one inside the other, provide gradually more powerful tools.

The work, also in Latin, consists of two dialogues. The protagonist of the first is the sorceress Circe who, resenting the fact that humans behave like animals, works a spell transforming humans into beasts, thus exposing their true nature. In the second dialogue, Bruno, giving voice to one of the two protagonists, Borista, takes up the art of memory by showing how to memorize the previous dialogue: the text is matched by a scenario that is gradually divided into a greater number of spaces, and the various objects contained there are the images related to the concepts expressed in the writing. The Cantus thus remains a treatise on mnemonics in which, however, the philosopher already hints at moral themes that will be widely taken up in later works, especially in Spaccio de la bestia trionfante and De gli eroici furori.

Still in 1582 Bruno finally published Candelaio, a comedy in five acts in which the complexity of the language, a popular Italian that incorporates terms in Latin, Tuscan, and Neapolitan, is matched by the eccentricity of the plot, based on three parallel stories.

The play is set in Naples-metropolis of the second half of the 16th century, in places the philosopher knew well from having stayed there during his novitiate. The candlestick maker Bonifacio, though married to the beautiful Carubina, woos the lady Vittoria by resorting to magical practices; the greedy alchemist Bartholomew is stubborn about turning metals into gold; the grammarian Manfurio expresses himself in an incomprehensible language. Inserted into these three stories is that of the painter Gioan Bernardo, voice of the author himself, who with a court of servants and malefactors mocks everyone and conquers Carubina.

In this classic of Italian literature, an absurd, violent and corrupt world appears, depicted with bitter comedy, where events occur in a continuous and lively transformation. The play is a fierce condemnation of stupidity, avarice and pedantry.

Interesting in the work is Bruno's description of himself:

In England

In April 1583 Giordano Bruno left Paris and left for England where, in London, he was hosted by the French ambassador Michel de Castelnau, who was to be joined by the Italian-born scholar Giovanni Florio since Bruno did not know English, accompanying him until the end of his English sojourn. In the depositions left with the Venetian inquisitors he glosses over the reasons for this departure, referring generically to the unrest there over religious issues. However, other hypotheses remain open about the departure: that Bruno had left on a secret mission on behalf of Henry III; that the climate in Paris had become dangerous because of his teachings. We must also add the fact that before the Venetian inquisitors, a few years later, Bruno would express words of appreciation for England's Queen Elizabeth, whom he had met by going often to court with the ambassador.

In June Bruno was in Oxford, and in St. Mary's Church he held a public dispute with one of those professors. Returning to London, he published there, in a single text, the Ars reminiscendi, Explicatio triginta sigillorum and Sigillus sigillorum, in which text he inserted a letter addressed to the vice-chancellor of Oxford University, writing that there "they will find there most willing and ready a man with whom to test the measure of their own strength." It is a request to be allowed to teach at the prestigious university. The proposal is granted: in the summer of 1583 Bruno leaves for Oxford.

A work considered to be of mnemotechnical subject matter, the Sigillus, in Latin, is a concise theoretical treatment in which the philosopher introduces decisive themes in his thought, such as the unity of cognitive processes; love as a universal bond; the uniqueness and infinity of a universal form that is expressed in the infinite figures of matter; and "furore" in the sense of impetus toward the divine, topics that would shortly be developed in depth in the later Italian dialogues. Also presented in this seminal work is another of the nuclear themes of Bruno's thought: magic as a guide and instrument of knowledge and action, a topic that he would expand in the so-called magical works.

At Oxford Giordano Bruno gave some lectures on Copernican theories, but his stay there was short-lived. we learn that Oxford did not like those innovations, as witnessed twenty years later, in 1604, by the Archbishop of Canterbury George Abbot, who was present at Bruno's lectures:

The lectures were then discontinued, officially because of an accusation of plagiarism from Marsilio Ficino's De vita coelitus comparanda. These were difficult and bitter years for the philosopher, as is evident from the tone of the introductions to the immediately following works, the London Dialogues: the heated controversies and rejections were experienced by Bruno as persecution, "unjust outrages," and certainly the "fame" that had already preceded him from Paris did not help.

Back in London, despite the adverse weather, in a little less than two years, between 1584 and 1585, Bruno published at John Charlewood six of the most important of his works: six philosophical works in dialogic form, the so-called "London Dialogues," or also "Italian Dialogues," because they are all in Italian: La cena de le ceneri, De la causa, principio et uno, De l'infinito, universo e mondi, Spaccio de la bestia trionfante, Cabala del cavallo pegaseo with the addition of Asino cillenico, De gli eroici furori.

The work, dedicated to the French ambassador Michel de Castelnau, with whom Bruno was a guest, is divided into five dialogues, the protagonists are four and among them Theophilus can be considered the author's spokesman. Bruno imagines that the nobleman Sir Fulke Greville, on Ash Wednesday, invites Theophilus, Bruno himself, John Florio, tutor of the ambassador's daughter, a knight and two Lutheran academics from Oxford: Drs. Torquatus and Nundinius, to dinner. Answering questions from the other protagonists, Theophilus recounts the events leading up to the meeting and the unfolding of the conversation that took place during the dinner, thus expounding the theories of the Nolan.

Bruno praises and defends the theory of the Polish astronomer Nicholas Copernicus (1473 - 1543) against the attacks of conservatives and against those, such as the theologian Andrea Osiander, who had written a disparaging preface to De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, who considered the astronomer's theory to be merely an ingenious hypothesis. Copernicus' world, however, was still finite and bounded by the sphere of fixed stars. In the Supper, Bruno does not merely argue for the motion of the Earth following the refutation of Ptolemaic cosmology; he also presents an infinite universe: without center or boundaries. Theophilus (the author's spokesman) states about the universe, "and we know for certain that being an effect and begun by an infinite cause and an infinite principle, it must according to its bodily capacity and manner be infinitely infinite. it is not possible yet to find any semi-probable reason by which it is the margin of this bodily universe; and consequently still the stars which in its space are contained, are of finite number; and besides being naturally determined a hundred and a half of that." The universe, which proceeds from God as an infinite Cause, is infinite in turn and contains innumerable worlds.

For Bruno, it is vain principles to argue for the existence of the firmament with its fixed stars, the finiteness of the universe and that there is a center in it where the Sun should now be stationary as the Earth was previously imagined to be stationary there. He formulates examples that appear to some authors as forerunners of the Galilean principle of relativity. Following the Docta ignorantia of Cardinal and humanist Nicholas Cusano (1401 - 1464), Bruno argues for the infinitude of the universe as the effect of an infinite cause. Bruno is, of course, aware that the Scriptures support anything but - finiteness of the universe and centrality of the Earth - but, he replies:

Just as a distinction must be made between moral doctrines and natural philosophy, so must a distinction be made between theologians and philosophers: the former are responsible for moral matters, the latter for the search for truth. So Bruno draws a fairly clear line here between works of natural philosophy and sacred scripture.

The five dialogues of De la causa, principio et uno intend to establish the principles of natural reality. Bruno leaves aside the theological aspect of knowing God, of whom, as the cause of nature, we cannot know anything through "natural light," because it "ascends above nature" and one can therefore aspire to know God only by faith. Instead, what interests Bruno is the philosophy and contemplation of nature, the knowledge of natural reality in which, as he had already written in De umbris, we can only grasp the "shadows," the divine "by way of vestige."

Reconnecting with ancient traditions of thought, Bruno elaborates an animistic conception of matter, in which the soul of the world comes to be identified with its universal form, and whose first and principal faculty is the universal intellect. Intellect is the "formal constitutive principle of the universe and of what is contained in it," and form is nothing but the vital principle, the soul of things which, precisely because they are all endowed with souls, have no imperfection.

Matter, on the other hand, is not in itself undifferentiated, a "nothingness," as many philosophers have argued, a brute power, without act and without perfection, as Aristotle would say.

Matter is then the second principle of nature, of which everything is formed. It is "power to be made, produced and created," an aspect equivalent to the formal principle which is active power, "power to make, to produce, to create," and there can be no one principle without the other. Thus placing himself in contrast to Aristotelian dualism, Bruno concludes that formal principle and material principle although distinct cannot be held separate, because "the whole according to substance is one."

Two fundamentals of Brunian philosophy follow from these considerations: one, all matter is life and life is in matter, infinite matter; two, God cannot be outside matter simply because there is no "outside" of matter: God is inside matter, inside us.

In De l'infinito, Universe and Worlds Bruno takes up and enriches themes already addressed in the previous dialogues: the need for agreement between philosophers and theologians, because "faith is required for the establishment of crude peoples that denno be governed"; the infinity of the universe and the existence of infinite worlds; the lack of a center in an infinite universe, which entails a further consequence: The disappearance of the ancient, hypothesized hierarchical order, the "vain fantasy" that held that at the center was the "densest and crassest body" and ascending to the finer and more divine bodies. The Aristotelian conception is still defended by those doctors (the pedants) who have faith in "the fame of the authors who have been placed in their hands," but modern philosophers, who have no interest in depending on what others say and think for themselves, get rid of these antiquities and with more confident step proceed toward the truth.

Clearly, an eternal, infinitely extended universe composed of an infinite number of solar systems similar to our own and lacking a center robs the Earth, and consequently man, of that privileged role that Earth and man have in Judeo-Christian religions within the model of creation, a creation that in the philosopher's eyes no longer makes sense, because as he had already concluded in the previous two dialogues, the universe is assimilated to a living organism, where life is inherent in an infinite matter that is perpetually changing.

Copernicanism, for Bruno, represents the "true" conception of the universe, better, the actual description of celestial motions. In the First Dialogue of De l'infinito, universe and worlds, the Nolan explains that the universe is infinite because such is its Cause, which coincides with God. Philotheus, the author's spokesman, states, "What reason wants us to believe that the agent who can make an infinite good makes it finite? and if he makes it finite, why should we believe that he can make it infinite, possere et fare tutto uno being in him? Because he is inmutable, he has no contingency in operation, nor in efficacy, but from determinate and certain efficacy depends determinate and certain effect inmutably: whence he cannot be other than what he is; he cannot be such as he is not; he cannot possess other than what he can; he cannot will other than what he wills; and necessarily he cannot do other than what he does: since having power distinct from act agrees only with mutable things."

God being infinitely powerful, therefore, His explanatory act must be equally so. In God, freedom and necessity, will and power coincide (consequently, it is not credible that at the act of creation He placed a limit on Himself.

It must be kept in mind that "Bruno makes a clear distinction between the universe and worlds. To speak of a system of the world does not mean, in his view of the cosmos, to speak of a system of the universe. Astronomy is legitimate and possible as a science of the world that falls within the scope of our sensitive perception. But, beyond it extends an infinite universe that contains those "great animals" we call stars, which encloses an infinite plurality of worlds. That universe has no size or measure, no shape or figure. Of it, which is at once uniform and formless, which is neither harmonic nor ordered, no system can in any way be given."

An allegorical work, the Spaccio, consisting of three dialogues on a moral subject, lends itself to interpretation on several levels, among which remains fundamental that of Bruno's polemical intent against the Protestant Reformation, which in the eyes of the Nolan represents the lowest point in a cycle of decadence that began with Christianity. Decadence that is not only religious, but also civil and philosophical: if Bruno had concluded in the previous dialogues that faith is necessary for the government of "uncouth peoples" thus trying to demarcate the respective fields of action of philosophy and religion, here he reopens that boundary.

In Bruno's vision, the link between man and the world, the natural world and the civilized world, is that between man and a God who is not "in the highest heaven," but in the world, because "nature is nothing but god in things." The philosopher, the one who seeks Truth, must therefore necessarily operate there where the "shadows" of the divine are located. Man cannot help but interact with God, according to the language of a communication that in the natural world sees man pursuing Knowledge, and in the civilized world man following the Law. This link is precisely what has been broken in history, and the whole world has decayed because religion has decayed, dragging with it and law and philosophy, "of lot that we are no longer gods, we are no longer us." In the Ouster, therefore, ethics, ontology and religion are closely interconnected. Religion, and this should be emphasized, which Bruno understands as civil and natural religion, and the model he draws inspiration from is that of the ancient Egyptians and Romans, who "did not worship Jupiter, as he was the divinity, but worshipped the divinity as it was in Jupiter."

To reestablish the link with the divine requires, however, that "first we remove from our shoulders the grieve sum of errors that holds them back." This is the "dealing out," that is, the expulsion of that which has deteriorated that bond: the "triumphant beasts."

The triumphant beasts are imagined in the celestial constellations, represented by animals: it is necessary to "pass them off," that is, to expel them from heaven as representing vices that it is time to replace with other virtues: away, therefore, with Falsehood, Hypocrisy, Malice, "foolish faith," Stupidity, Fierceness, Sloth, Vileness, Idleness, Avarice, Envy, Imposture, Adulation and so on, listing them.

There is a need to return to simplicity, truth and industriousness, overturning the moral conceptions that have now imposed themselves on the world, according to which heroic deeds and affections are worthless, where believing without reflection is wisdom, where human impostures are passed off as divine counsels, perversion of natural law is regarded as religious piety, studying is folly, honor is placed in riches, dignity in elegance, prudence in malice, shrewdness in treachery, knowing how to live in pretense, justice in tyranny, judgment in violence.

Responsible for this crisis is Christianity: already Paul had operated the reversal of natural values, and now Luther, the "stain of the world," has closed the cycle: the wheel of history, of the vicissitude of the world, having reached its lowest point, can operate a new and positive reversal of values.

In the new hierarchy of values, the first place goes to Truth, the necessary guide to not err. This is followed by Prudence, the characteristic of the wise man who, having known the truth, draws the consequences with appropriate behavior. In third place Bruno inserts Sophia, the pursuit of truth; then follows Law, which governs man's civil behavior; and finally Judgment, understood as the implementation aspect of the law. Bruno thus makes the Law descend from Wisdom, in a rationalist vision in whose center is man's work in seeking Truth, in sharp contrast to Paul's Christianity, which sees the Law as subordinate to deliverance from sin, and Luther's Reformation, which sees "faith alone" as man's beacon. For Bruno, the "glory of God" is thus overthrown into "vain glory," and the covenant between God and mankind established in the New Testament proves to be the "mother of all forfanteries." Religion must once again become "civil religion": a bond that fosters the "communione de gli uomini," the "civil conversation."

Other values follow the first five: Fortitude (the strength of the soul), Diligence, Philanthropy, Magnanimity, Simplicity, Enthusiasm, Study, Operosity, and so on. And then we shall see, Bruno mockingly concludes, "how apt they are to gain a palm of earth these who are so effusive and prodigal to bestow kingdoms of heaven."

This is evidently an ethic reminiscent of the traditional values of Humanism, to which Bruno never attached much importance; but this rigid scheme is actually the premise for the directions for behavior that Bruno envisages in the shortly following work, De gli eroici furori.

The Cabala of the Pegasus Horse was published in 1585 together with the Cillenic Donkey in a single text. The title alludes to Pegasus, the winged horse of Greek mythology born from the blood of Medusa beheaded by Perseus. At the end of his exploits, Pegasus flew through the sky, transforming into a constellation, one of the 48 listed by Ptolemy in his Almagest: the constellation of Pegasus. "Kabbalah" refers to a mystical tradition that originated within Judaism.

The work, shot through with a clear comic vein, can be read as a divertissement, a work of unpretentious entertainment; or interpreted allegorically, a satirical work, an act of accusation. The horse in the sky would then be an idealized donkey, a celestial figure that refers to human asininity: to ignorance, that of the Kabbalists, but also that of the religious in general. The constant references to sacred texts prove ambiguous, for on the one hand they suggest interpretations and on the other they confuse the reader. One of the interpretative strands, related to the critical work done by Vincenzo Spampanato, identified early Christianity and Paul of Tarsus as Bruno's polemical target.

In the ten dialogues that make up the work De gli eroici furori, published in 1585 also in London, Bruno identifies three species of human passions: that for the speculative life, aimed at knowledge; that for the practical and active life; and that for the idle life. The latter two tendencies reveal a passion of little value, a "low fury"; the desire for a life aimed at contemplation, that is, the search for truth, is instead an expression of a "heroic fury," by which the soul, "rapt above the horizon of natural affections overcome by high thoughts, as dead to the body, aspires to high."

One does not reach this effect with prayer, with devotional attitudes, with "opening one's eyes to heaven, raising one's hands high," but, on the contrary, with "coming to the innermost self, considering that God is near, with oneself and within oneself more than he himself can be, as that which is the soul of souls, the life of lives, the essence of essences." A quest that Bruno likens to a hunt, not the common hunt where the hunter searches for and captures prey, but one in which the hunter himself becomes prey, like Actaeon who in the myth taken up by Bruno, having seen Diana's beauty, turns into a stag and is made prey to the dogs, the "thoughts of divine things," which devour him "making him dead to the crowd, to the multitude, loosed from the knots of the perturbed senses, so that everything sees as one, no longer sees distinctions and numbers."

Knowledge of nature is the purpose of science and the highest purpose of our life itself, which by this choice is transformed into a "heroic fury" by assimilating us to the perennial and tormented "vicissitude" in which the principle that animates the whole universe is expressed. The philosopher tells us that in order to truly know the object of our search (Diana ignuda) we must not be virtuous (virtue as the median between extremes) but we must be mad, furious, only in this way could we come to understand the object of our study (the search and being furious, are not a virtue but a vice. The dialogue is also a prosimeter, like Dante's La vita nuova, a combination of prose and poetry (couplets, sonnets and a final song).

The return to France

The earlier English period is to be considered Bruno's most creative, a period in which he produced the most works until late in 1585 when Ambassador Castelnau being recalled to France induces him to embark with him; but the ship will be attacked by pirates, who rob the passengers of every possession.

In Paris, Bruno lived near the Collège de Cambrai, and occasionally went to borrow a few books at the Saint-Victor library on the hill of Sainte-Geneviève, whose librarian, the monk Guillaume Cotin, was in the habit of noting daily what was happening in the library. Having entered into some confidence with the philosopher, we know from him that Bruno was about to publish a work, the Arbor philosophorum, which has not reached us, and that he had left Italy to "avoid the calumnies of the inquisitors, who are ignorant and who, not conceiving his philosophy, would accuse him of heresy."

The monk notes, among other things, that Bruno was an admirer of Thomas Aquinas, who despised "the subtleties of the scholastics, the sacraments and even the eucharist, unknown to St. Peter and St. Paul, who knew nothing but hoc est corpus meum. He says the religious murders would easily be gotten out of the way if such matters were swept away, and he trusts that this will soon be the end of the contention."

The following year Bruno published, dedicated to Piero Del Bene, abbot of Belleville and member of the French court, Figuratio Aristotelici physici auditus, an exposition of Aristotelian physics. He met the Salerno-born Fabrizio Mordente, who two years earlier had published Il Compasso, an illustration of the invention of a newly designed compass, and, since he did not know Latin, Bruno, who appreciated his invention, published the Dialogi duo de Fabricii Mordentis Salernitani prope divina adinventione ad perfectam cosmimetriae praxim, where he praised the inventor but reproached him for not having understood the full scope of his invention, which demonstrated the impossibility of infinite division of lengths. Offended by these remarks, Mordente protested violently, so that Bruno ended up retaliating with the fierce satires of Idiota triumphans seu de Mordentio inter geometras Deo dialogus and Dialogus qui De somnii interpretatione seu Geometrica sylva inscribitur.

On May 28, 1586, he had the anti-Aristotelian pamphlet Centum et viginti articuli de natura et mundo adversus peripateticos printed under the name of his disciple Jean Hennequin, participating in the subsequent public dispute in the Collège de Cambrai, reiterating his criticism of Aristotelian philosophy. Against such criticism rose a young Parisian lawyer, Raoul Callier, who responded violently by calling Jordan the philosopher "Brutus." It seems that Callier's intervention received the support of almost all those who spoke, and a ruckus ensued in the face of which the philosopher preferred, for once, to walk away, but the negative reactions provoked by his intervention against Aristotelian philosophy, then still in great vogue at the Sorbonne, together with the ongoing political and religious crisis in France and the lack of support at court, caused him to leave French soil once again.

In Germany

Reaching Germany in June, Bruno stayed briefly in Mainz and Wiesbaden, moving on to Marburg, in whose University he was matriculated on July 25, 1586 as Theologiae doctor romanensis. But finding no teaching opportunities, probably because of his anti-Aristotelian views, he matriculates at the University of Wittenberg as Doctor italicus on August 20, 1586, teaching there for two years, two years that the philosopher spends in quiet industriousness.

In 1587 he published De lampade combinatoria lulliana, a commentary on Ramon Llull's Ars magna, and De progressu et lampade venatoria logicorum, a commentary on Aristotle's Topica; other commentaries on Aristotelian works are his Libri physicorum Aristotelis explanati, texts published in 1891. He published again, in Wittenberg, Camoeracensis Acrotismus, a reissue of Centum et viginti articuli de natura et mundo adversus peripateticos. A private course of his on Rhetoric will instead be published in 1612 under the title Artificium perorandi; Animadversiones circa lampadem lullianam and Lampas triginta statuarum will also not be published until 1891.

Yates' essay mentions that Mocenigo had reported to the Venetian Inquisition Bruno's intention, during his German period, to create a new sect. While other accusers (Mocenigo will deny this claim) claimed that he intended to call the new sect the Jordanites and that it would greatly attract German Lutherans. The author also raises the question of whether there were any relations in this sect with the Rosicrucians since they emerged in Germany in the early 17th century among Lutheran circles.

The new Duke Christian I, who succeeded his father who died on February 11, 1586, decided to reverse the direction of university teachings that favored the doctrines of the Calvinist philosopher Peter Branch to the disadvantage of classical Aristotelian theories. It must have been this turn of events that prompted Bruno, on March 8, 1588, to leave the University of Wittenberg, not without the reading of an Oratio valedictoria, a greeting that is a thanksgiving for the excellent reception with which he had been gratified:

He was reciprocated by the affection of his pupils, such as Hieronymus Besler and Valtin Havenkenthal, who, in his greeting, called him a "Sublime being, an object of wonder for all, before whom nature itself astonishes, surpassed by his work, flower of Ausonia, Titan of the splendid Nola, decorum and delight of the one and the other heaven."

In Prague and Helmstedt

In April 1588 Bruno arrived in Prague, at that time the seat of the Holy Roman Empire, a city where he stayed for six months. Here he publishes, in a single text, De lulliano specierum scrutinio and De lampade combinatoria Raymundi Lullii, dedicated to the Spanish ambassador to the imperial court, Don Guillem de Santcliment (who boasted Ramon Llull among his ancestors), while to Emperor Rudolf II, a patron and lover of alchemy and astrology, dedicates the Articuli centum et sexaginta adversus huius tempestatis mathematicos atque philosophos, which deal with geometry, and in the dedication he notes how to heal the ills of the world tolerance is necessary, both in the strictly religious sphere-"This is the religion I observe, both out of an intimate conviction and out of the custom in force in my homeland and among my people: a religion that excludes all disputes and foments no controversy" - as well as in the philosophical field, a field that must remain free of pre-established authorities and traditions elevated to normative prescriptions. As for him, "to the free ares of philosophy I sought shelter from the fortunate billows, desiring the sole company of those who command not to close their eyes, but to open them. I do not like to dissimulate the truth I see, nor am I afraid to profess it openly."

Rewarded with three hundred thalers by the emperor, in autumn Bruno, who hoped to be received at court, decided to leave Prague and, after a brief stop in Tübingen, arrived in Helmstedt, at whose University, called Academia Julia, he registered on January 13, 1589.

On July 1, 1589, on the death of the Academy's founder, Duke Julius von Braunschweig, he read there the Oratio consolatoria, where he presents himself as a foreigner and exile: "I scorned, abandoned, lost my country, my home, my faculty, my honors, and every other amiable, desirable, desirable thing." In Italy "exposed to the gluttony and voracity of the Roman wolf, here free. There compelled to superstitious and insane worship, here exhorted to reformed rites. There dead by violence of tyrants, here alive by the amiability and justice of an excellent prince." The Muses should be free by natural right, and yet "they are instead, in Italy and Spain, conculcated by the feet of vile priests, in France they suffer by civil war very grave dangers, in Belgium they are tossed about by frequent storms, and in some German regions they languish unhappily."

A few weeks later he was excommunicated by the superintendent of the city's Lutheran Church, Lutheran theologian Heinrich Boethius, for unknown reasons: Bruno thus managed to collect excommunications from the major European denominations, Catholic, Calvinist and Lutheran. On Oct. 6, 1586, he appealed to the Academy's pro-rector, Daniel Hoffmann, against what he called an abuse-because "he who decided something without listening to the other side, even if he did it justly, was not just"-and a private vendetta. He received no response, however, because it appears that Hoffmann himself had instigated Boethius.

Although excommunicated, he was nevertheless still able to remain in Helmstedt, where he had found Valtin Acidalius Havenkenthal and Hieronymus Besler, formerly his pupil in Wittenberg, who served as his copyist and would see him again briefly in Italy, in Padua. Bruno composed several works on magic, all of which were not published posthumously until 1891: the De magia, the Theses de magia, a compendium of the earlier treatise, the De magia mathematica (which presents as sources the Steganographia of Trithemius, the De occulta philosophia of Agrippa and the pseudo-Albertus Magnus), the De rerum principiis et elementis et causis and the Medicina lulliana, in which he presumed to have found forms of application of magic in nature.

"Magician" is a term that lends itself to equivocal interpretations, but for the author, as he makes clear from the very ìncipit of the work, it means first and foremost sapient: wise men as, for example, were the magi of Zoroastrianism or similar repositories of knowledge at other cultures of the past. The magic with which Bruno is concerned is therefore not that associated with superstition or witchcraft, but rather that which is intended to increase knowledge and act accordingly.

The fundamental assumption from which the philosopher starts is the omnipresence of a unique entity, which he indifferently calls "divine, cosmic spirit" or "world soul" or even "inner sense," identifiable as that universal principle that gives life, movement and vicissitude to every thing or aggregate in the universe. The magician must keep in mind that just as from God, through intermediate degrees, such a spirit communicates itself to every thing by "animating" it, so it is likewise possible to tend to God from being animated: this ascension from the particular to God, from the manifold to the One is one possible definition of "magic."

The divine spirit, which by its oneness and infinity connects every thing to every other, likewise enables the action of one body on another. Bruno calls the individual connections between things "vincula": "binding," "binding." Magic is nothing but the study of these bonds, of this infinite "multidimensional" web that exists in the universe. Throughout the work Bruno distinguishes and explains different types of bonds-bonds that can be used positively or negatively, thus distinguishing the magician from the sorcerer. Examples of bindings are faith; rites; characters; seals; bindings that come from the senses, such as sight or hearing; those that come from imagination, and so on.

In Frankfurt

At the end of April 1590 Giordano Bruno left Helmstedt and in June reached Frankfurt in the company of Besler, who continued on to Italy to study in Padua. He would have liked to stay at the printer Johann Wechel's, as he requested on July 2 from the Frankfurt Senate, but the request was rejected and so Bruno went to live in the local convent of the Carmelites who, by privilege granted by Charles V in 1531, were not subject to secular jurisdiction.

Three works, the so-called Frankfurt poems, the culmination of Giordano Bruno's philosophical research, saw the light in 1591: the De triplici minimo et mensura ad trium speculativarum scientiarum et multarum activarum artium principia libri V (De monade, numero et figura liber consequens quinque; the De innumerabilibus, immenso et infigurabili, seu De universo et mundis libri octo.

Three types of minimum are distinguished in the five books of De minimo: the physical minimum, the atom, which is the basis of the science of physics; the geometrical minimum, the point, which is the basis of geometry; and the metaphysical minimum, or monad, which is the basis of metaphysics. To be minimal means to be indivisible - and therefore Aristotle errs by arguing for the infinite divisibility of matter - because, if this were so, never reaching the minimum quantity of a substance, the principle and foundation of all substance, we would no longer explain the constitution, by aggregations of infinite atoms, of infinite worlds, in an equally infinite process of formation. Compounds, in fact, "do not remain identical even for a moment; each of them, by the mutual exchange of the innumerable atoms, changes continuously and everywhere in all parts."

Matter, as the philosopher had already expressed in the Italian dialogues, is in perpetual mutation, and what gives life to this becoming is an "ordering spirit," the soul of the world, one in the infinite universe. So in the Heraclitean becoming of the universe is situated the Parmenidean being, one and eternal: matter and soul are inseparable, the soul does not act from outside, for there is no outside of matter. It follows that in the atom, the smallest part of matter, also animated by the same spirit, the minimum and the maximum coincide: it is the coexistence of contraries: minimum-maximum; atom-God; finite-infinite.

Contrary to atomists, such as Democritus and Leucippus, for example, Bruno does not admit the existence of a vacuum: the so-called vacuum is merely a word by which we designate the medium surrounding natural bodies. Atoms have a "term" in this medium, in the sense that they neither touch nor are separated. Bruno also distinguishes between absolute minima and relative minima, and so the minimum of a circle is a circle; the minimum of a square is a square, and so on.

Mathematicians therefore err in their abstraction, considering the divisibility to infinity of geometric entities. What Bruno expounds is, using modern terminology, a discretization not only of matter but also of geometry, a discrete geometry. This is necessary in order to respect the adherence to physical reality of the geometrical description, an inquiry ultimately inseparable from the metaphysical one.

In De monade Bruno draws on Pythagorean traditions by attacking the Aristotelian theory of the immobile motor, the principle of all movement: things are transformed by the presence of internal, numerical and geometric principles.

In the eight books of De immenso the philosopher takes up his own cosmological theory, endorsing the Copernican heliocentric theory but rejecting the existence of crystalline spheres and epicycles, reiterating the conception of the infinity and multiplicity of worlds. He criticizes Aristotelianism, denying any difference between terrestrial and celestial matter, the circularity of planetary motion and the existence of the aether.

In Switzerland and again in Frankfurt

Around February 1591 Bruno left for Switzerland, accepting the invitation of the nobleman Hans Heinzel von Tägernstein and the theologian Raphael Egli (1559 - 1622), both of whom were passionate about alchemy. Thus Bruno, for four or five months, as a guest of Heinzel, taught philosophy at Zurich: his lectures, collected by Raphael Egli under the title Summa terminorum metaphysicorum, were to be published by him in Zurich in 1595 and then, posthumously, in Marburg in 1609, together with the unfinished Praxis descensus seu applicatio entis.

The Summa terminorum metaphysicorum, or Sum of Metaphysical Terms, is an important record of Giordano Bruno's teaching activity. It is a compendium of 52 of the most frequent terms in Aristotle's work that Bruno explains by summarizing. In the Praxis descensus (Praxis of descent) the Nolan takes up the same terms (with a few differences) this time expounded according to his own view. The text thus allows for a timely comparison of the differences between Aristotle and Bruno. The Praxis is divided into three parts, with the same terms expounded according to the triadic division God, intellect, world soul. Unfortunately, the last part is missing altogether and the remaining part is also not fully edited.

Bruno in fact returned to Frankfurt in July, again in 1591, to publish there again De imaginum, signorum et idearum compositione, dedicated to Hans Heinzel. And this is the last work whose publication was edited by Bruno himself. It is likely that the philosopher intended to return to Zurich, which would also explain why Raphael Egli waited until 1609 before publishing that part of the Praxis that he had transcribed, but in any case in the German city events would evolve quite differently.

Then as now, Frankfurt was the site of a major book fair, attended by booksellers from all over Europe. It had been so that two publishers, Giambattista Ciotti of Siena and the Flemish Giacomo Brittano, both active in Venice, had met Bruno in 1590, at least according to Ciotti's own later statements to the Tribunal of the Inquisition in Venice. The Venetian patrician Giovanni Francesco Mocenigo, who knew Ciotti and had bought the Nolan philosopher's De minimo in his bookstore, entrusted the bookseller with a letter of his own in which he invited Giordano Bruno to Venice so that he could teach him "li secreti della memoria e li altri che egli professa, come si vede in questo suo libro."

The return to Italy

In the context of Bruno's biography it seems at least strange that he after years of wandering in Europe decided to return to Italy knowing how real the risk of ending up under the hands of the Inquisition was. Yates about this argues that Bruno probably did not see himself as anti-Catholic but if anything as a kind of reformer who hoped to have a real chance to affect the Church. Or else the sense of fullness of himself or of his "mission" to be accomplished had altered the real perception of the danger he might be facing. Moreover, the political climate, that is, the victorious rise of Henry of Navarre over the Catholic League seemed to provide a viable hope for the implementation of his ideas in the Catholic sphere.

In August 1591 Bruno is in Venice. That he returned to Italy prompted by Mocenigo's offer is by no means certain, so much so that several months would pass before he accepted the patrician's hospitality. At that time Bruno, who was forty-three years old, was certainly not a man who lacked means; on the contrary, he was considered "omo universale," full of ingenuity and still in the midst of his creative moment. In Venice Bruno stayed only a few days and then went to Padua to meet Besler, his Helmstedt copyist. There he lectured for a few months to German students attending that university and hoped in vain to obtain the chair of mathematics there, one of the possible reasons why Bruno returned to Italy. He also composed Praelectiones geometricae, Ars deformationum, De vinculis in genere, published posthumously, and De sigillis Hermetis et Ptolomaei et aliorum, of uncertain attribution and lost.

In November, with Besler's return to Germany for family reasons, Bruno returned to Venice, and it was not until late March 1592 that he settled in the home of the Venetian patrician, who was interested in the arts of memory and magical disciplines. On May 21, Bruno informed the Mocenigo that he wanted to return to Frankfurt to print some of his works: the latter thought Bruno was looking for a pretext to abandon his lessons and the next day had his servants seize him at home. The next day, on May 23, Mocenigo submitted a written complaint to the Inquisition, accusing Bruno of blasphemy, of despising religions, of disbelieving in the divine Trinity and transubstantiation, of believing in the eternity of the world and the existence of infinite worlds, of practicing magical arts, of believing in metempsychosis, and of denying Mary's virginity and divine punishments.

That very day, on the evening of May 23, 1592, Giordano Bruno was arrested and taken to the prisons of the Inquisition in Venice, in San Domenico a Castello.

The trial and sentencing

Of course, Bruno knows that his life is at stake, and he cleverly defends himself against the accusations of the Venetian Inquisition: he denies as much as he can, keeps silent, and even lies, about some delicate points of his doctrine, trusting that the inquisitors could not be aware of everything he did and wrote, and justifies the differences between the conceptions he expressed and Catholic dogmas by the fact that a philosopher, reasoning according to "the natural light," can come to conclusions discordant with matters of faith, without having to be considered a heretic for that. In any case, after asking forgiveness for his "mistakes," he declares himself willing to recant whatever is found to be contrary to Church doctrine.

However, the Roman Inquisition requested his extradition, which was granted, after some hesitation, by the Venetian Senate. On February 27, 1593, Bruno is locked up in the Roman prisons of the Palace of the Holy Office. New texts, however unreliable, all being charged with various crimes by the same Inquisition, confirm the charges and add new ones.

Giordano Bruno was possibly tortured at the end of March 1597, according to the Congregation's decision made on March 24, according to the hypothesis put forward by Luigi Firpo and Michele Ciliberto, a circumstance denied instead by historian Andrea Del Col. Giordano Bruno did not deny the foundations of his philosophy: he reaffirmed the infinity of the universe, the multiplicity of worlds, the motion of the Earth and the non-generation of substances - "these cannot be other than what they have been, nor will they be other than what they are, nor to their greatness or substance is ever added, or will any account be lacking, and only happens separatione, and congiuntione, or compositione, or division, or translatione from this place to that other." In this regard, he explains that "the manner and cause of the motion of the earth and the immobility of the firmament are produced by me with its raggioni et authority and do not prejudice the authority of divine scripture." To the objection of the inquisitor, who disputes with him that it is written in the Bible that the "Earth stat in aeternum" and the Sun rises and sets, he replies that we see the Sun "rising and setting because the Earth if spinning about its own center"; to the objection that his position contrasts with "the authority of the Holy Fathers," he replies that those "are less than 'prattish philosophers and less attentive to the things of nature."

The philosopher argues that the Earth is endowed with a soul, that the stars have an angelic nature, that the soul is not a form of the body, and as the only concession, he is willing to admit the immortality of the human soul.

On Jan. 12, 1599, he is invited to abjure eight heretical propositions, in which were included his denial of divine creation, the immortality of the soul, his conception of the infinity of the universe and the movement of the Earth, which is also endowed with a soul, and of conceiving of the stars as angels. His willingness to abjure, on condition that the propositions be recognized as heretical not for all time but only ex nunc, is rejected by the Congregation of Inquisitorial Cardinals, including Bellarmine. A subsequent application of torture, proposed by the consultors of the Congregation on September 9, 1599, was instead rejected by Pope Clement VIII. In interrogation on September 10 Bruno still said he was ready for abjuration, but on the 16th he changed his mind and finally, after the Tribunal received an anonymous complaint accusing Bruno of having had a reputation as an atheist in England and of having written his Spaccio della bestia trionfante directly against the pope, on December 21 he recisively refused any abjuration, having, he declared, nothing to repent of.

On Feb. 8, 1600, in the presence of the inquisitor cardinals and consultants Benedetto Mandina, Francesco Pietrasanta and Pietro Millini, he is forced to listen on his knees to the sentence that expels him from the ecclesiastical forum and delivers him to the secular arm. Giordano Bruno, having finished the reading of the sentence, according to the testimony of Caspar Schoppe, stands up and addresses the judges with the historic phrase, "Maiori forsan cum timore sententiam in me fertis quam ego accipiam" ("Perhaps you tremble more in pronouncing this sentence against me than I in hearing it"). After refusing religious comforts and the crucifix, on Feb. 17, with his tongue in giova - clamped by a gimp so that he could not speak - he was led to Campo de' Fiori square, stripped naked, tied to a pole and burned alive. His ashes will be thrown into the Tiber.

Giordano Bruno's God is on the one hand transcendent, insofar as he ineffably surpasses nature, but at the same time he is immanent, insofar as he is the soul of the world: in this sense, God and Nature are a single reality to be madly loved, in an inseparable panentheistic unity of thought and matter, in which from the infinitude of God is inferred the infinitude of the cosmos, and thus the plurality of worlds, the unity of substance, and the ethics of "heroic fury." These hypostatizes a God-Nature in the guise of the Infinite, infinitude being the fundamental characteristic of the divine. He has Philotheus say in the dialogue De l'infinito, universo e mondi:

For these arguments and his beliefs about Holy Scripture, the Trinity and Christianity, Giordano Bruno, already excommunicated, was imprisoned, judged a heretic and then sentenced to be burned at the stake by the Inquisition of the Catholic Church. He was burned alive in Campo de' Fiori Square on February 17, 1600, during the pontificate of Clement VIII.

But his philosophy survived his death, led to the breaking down of Ptolemaic barriers, revealed a multiple and noncentralized universe, and paved the way for the Scientific Revolution: for his thought Bruno is therefore considered a precursor of some ideas of modern cosmology, such as the multiverse; for his death, he is considered a martyr of freethinking.

Giordano Bruno and the Church

400 years later, on Feb. 18, 2000, Pope John Paul II, through a letter from Vatican Secretary of State Angelo Sodano sent to a conference held in Naples, expressed deep regret for the atrocious death of Giordano Bruno, while not rehabilitating his doctrine: even if the death of Giordano Bruno "constitutes today for the Church a reason for profound regret," nevertheless "this sad episode of modern Christian history" does not permit the rehabilitation of the work of the philosopher from Nola who was burned alive as a heretic, because "the path of his thought led him to intellectual choices that progressively revealed themselves, on some decisive points, incompatible with Christian doctrine." Moreover, even in Yates's essay, Bruno's complete adherence to the "religion of the Egyptians" stemming from his hermetic knowledge is reiterated several times as well as asserting that "the hermetic Egyptian religion is the only true religion."

The reception of Bruno's philosophy

Despite the placing of Giordano Bruno's books on the Index decreed on August 7, 1603, they continued to be present in European libraries, although misunderstandings and misconceptions remained about the positions of the philosopher from Nola, as well as deliberate mystifications about his figure. Already the Catholic Kaspar Schoppe, a former Lutheran who witnessed the pronouncement of the sentence and Bruno's burning, while disagreeing with "the vulgar opinion that this Bruno was burned because he was a Lutheran," ended by asserting that "Luther taught not only the same things as Bruno, but others even more absurd and terrible," while the Minim friar Marin Mersenne identified, in 1624, in Bruno's cosmology the denial of God's freedom, as well as of human free will.

While astronomers Tycho Brahe and Kepler criticized the hypothesis of the infinity of the universe, which was not even considered by Galileo, the libertine Gabriel Naudé, in his 1653 Apologie pour tous les grands personnages qui onté faussement soupçonnez de magie, extolled in Bruno the free seeker of the laws of nature.

Pierre Bayle, in his 1697 Dictionary, went so far as to doubt Bruno's death by burning and saw in him the forerunner of Spinoza and all modern pantheists, an atheistic monist for whom the only reality is nature. He was answered by the Deist theologian John Toland, who was familiar with the Oath of the Triumphant Beast and praised in Bruno the scientific seriousness and courage he showed in eliminating from philosophical speculation all reference to positive religions; he pointed out the Oath to Leibniz-who nevertheless considered Bruno a mediocre philosopher-and to de La Croze, who was convinced of Bruno's atheism. Budde agrees with the latter, while Christoph August Heumann mistakenly returns to the assumption of Bruno's Protestantism.

With the Enlightenment, Bruno's interest and notoriety increased: the German mathematician Johann Friedrich Weidler is familiar with the De immenso and the Spaccio, while Jean Sylvain Bailly calls him "bold and restless, a lover of novelties and a mocker of traditions," but reproaches him for his irreligiousness. In Italy, Giordano Bruno is highly regarded by Matteo Barbieri, author of a History of the Mathematicians and Philosophers of the Kingdom of Naples, where he states that Bruno "wrote many sublime things in Metaphysics, and many true things in Physics and Astronomy" and makes him a forerunner of Leibniz's theory of preestablished harmony and much of Descartes' theories: "Descartes' system of vortices, or those globules revolving around their centers in the air, and the whole physical system is Bruno's. The principle of doubting sagely introduced by Descartes into philosophy to Bruno is due, and many other things in Descartes' philosophy are Bruno's."

This thesis is denied by Abbot Niceron, for whom the rationalist Descartes can take nothing from Bruno: the latter, irreligious and atheist like Spinoza, who identified God with nature, remained bound to Renaissance philosophy by still believing in magic and, however ingenious, is often convoluted and obscure. Johann Jacob Brucker agrees with Descartes' incompatibility with Bruno, whom he considers a very complex philosopher, placed between Spinozian monism and neo-Pythagoreanism, whose conception of the universe would consist in its creation by emanation from a single infinite source, on which created nature would not cease to depend.

It was Diderot who wrote for the Encyclopedia the entry on Bruno, whom he considered a forerunner of Leibniz-in preestablished harmony, in the theory of the monad, in sufficient reason-and of Spinoza, who, like Bruno, conceives of God as an infinite essence in which freedom and necessity coincide: compared to Bruno "few philosophers would be comparable, if the rush of his imagination had allowed him to order his ideas, uniting them in a systematic order, but he was born a poet." For Diderot, Bruno, who got rid of the old Aristotelian philosophy, is with Leibniz and Spinoza the founder of modern philosophy.

In 1789 Jacobi first published extensive excerpts in German of De la causa, principio et uno by "this obscure writer," who had nevertheless been able to give a "clear and beautiful sketch of pantheism." The spiritualist Jacobi certainly did not share the atheistic pantheism of Bruno and Spinoza, whose contradictions he considered inevitable, but he did not fail to recognize its great importance in the history of modern philosophy. From Jacobi, in 1802, Schelling takes his cue for his dialogue on Bruno, to whom he acknowledges having grasped what for him is the foundation of philosophy: the unity of the Whole, the Absolute, in which subsequently finite individual things are known. Hegel knows Bruno second-hand, and in his Lectures he presents his philosophy as the activity of the spirit "disorderly" taking on all forms, realizing itself in infinite nature: "It is a great point, to begin with, to think unity; the other point was to try to understand the universe in its unfolding, in the system of its determinations, showing how externality is a sign of ideas."

In Italy, it is the Hegelian Bertrando Spaventa who sees in Bruno the forerunner of Spinoza, although the philosopher from Nola oscillates in establishing a clear relationship between nature and God, who appears now to identify with nature and now to maintain himself as a supermundane principle, observations taken up by Francesco Fiorentino, while his pupil Felice Tocco shows how Bruno, while dissolving God in nature, did not renounce a positive evaluation of religion, conceived as a useful educator of peoples.

In the first decade of the twentieth century the edition of all his works was completed in Italy and biographical studies on Giordano Bruno were accelerated, with particular emphasis on his trial. For Giovanni Gentile Bruno, in addition to being a martyr of freedom of thought, had the great merit of giving a strictly rational, and therefore modern, stamp to his philosophy, neglecting medieval mysticism and magical suggestions. An opinion, the latter, which is questionable, as the English scholar Frances Yates recently sought to highlight, presenting Bruno in the guise of an authentic hermetic.

While Nicola Badaloni has noted how the ostracism decreed against Bruno contributed to marginalizing Italy from the innovative currents of great seventeenth-century European philosophy, among the greatest and most assiduous contributions in defining Bruno's philosophy currently include those brought by scholars Giovanni Aquilecchia and Michele Ciliberto.


Frances Yates wondered, in the text Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, how much the figure and role of the magician that Shakespeare presents with Prospero, in The Tempest, was influenced by the formulation of the magician's role implemented by Giordano Bruno. Also in Shakespeare, the identification of Berowne's character in Pene d'amor perdute with the Italian philosopher is now accepted by most.

A much more explicit reference is found in The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, by the English playwright Christopher Marlowe (1564 - 1593): the character Bruno, the antipope, summarizes many features of the philosopher's story:

The very story of the Marlowian Faust calls to mind the figure of the Brunian "furioso" in De gli eroici furori.

A poem by Trilussa is also dedicated to Giordano Bruno.


  1. Giordano Bruno
  2. Giordano Bruno
  3. ^ Si tratta di un'incisione settecentesca dall'opera di T. A. Rixner e T. Siber, Leben und Lehrmeinungenberühmter Physiker.
  4. ^ Nicolaus Hieronymus Gundling, Neue Bibliothec, oder Nachricht und Urtheile von Neuen Büchern (Frankfurt and Leipzig, 1715) 622, fig. 38: File:Earlierbruno.jpg.
  5. ^ Edward A. Gosselin, A Dominican Head in Layman's Garb? A Correction to the Scientific Iconography of Giordano Bruno, in The Sixteenth Century Journal, Vol. 27, No. 3 (Autumn, 1996), p. 674.
  6. ^ Virgilio Salvestrini, Bibliografia di Giordano Bruno, Firenze, 1958.
  7. ^ Frances Yates, "Lull and Bruno" (1982), in Collected Essays: Lull & Bruno, vol. I, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
  8. ^ Leo Catana (2005). The Concept of Contraction in Giordano Bruno's Philosophy. Ashgate Pub. ISBN 978-0754652618. When Bruno states in De la causa that matter provides the extension of particulars, he follows Averroes.
  9. ^ Bouvet, Molière; avec une notice sur le théâtre au XVIIe siècle, une biographie chronologique de Molière, une étude générale de son oeuvre, une analyse méthodique du "Malade", des notes, des questions par Alphonse (1973). Le malade imaginaire; L'amour médecin. Paris: Bordas. p. 23. ISBN 978-2-04-006776-2.
  10. ^ Gatti, Hilary. Giordano Bruno and Renaissance Science: Broken Lives and Organizational Power. Cornell University Press, 2002, 1, ISBN 0-801-48785-4
  11. ^ "Giordano Bruno | Biography, Death, & Facts | Britannica".
  12. ^ [a b] Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, 1960, läs onlineläs online.[källa från Wikidata]
  13. ^ [a b] Bruno, Dictionnaire Infernal, 6:e upplagan, 1863.[källa från Wikidata]
  14. ^ [a b] arkiv Storico Ricordi, Archivio Storico Ricordi person-ID: 13007, läs online, läst: 3 december 2020.[källa från Wikidata]
  15. a et b Catholic Encyclopedia en ligne, article Giordano Bruno.
  16. Giordano Bruno, L'Infini, l'univers et les mondes (1584), trad. B. Levergeois, Berg International, 1987, p. 86.
  17. Documents de Venise sur le procès de Giordano Bruno publiés par Vincenzo Spampanato, Documenti della vita di Giordano Bruno, Florence, L.S. Olschki, 1933, rapporté par Yates, cf. bibliographie.
  18. Cardinal Angelo Mercati Sommario del Processo di Giordano Bruno, Vatican, 1942, rapporté par Yates, cf. bibliographie.

Please Disable Ddblocker

We are sorry, but it looks like you have an dblocker enabled.

Our only way to maintain this website is by serving a minimum ammount of ads

Please disable your adblocker in order to continue.

Dafato needs your help!

Dafato is a non-profit website that aims to record and present historical events without bias.

The continuous and uninterrupted operation of the site relies on donations from generous readers like you.

Your donation, no matter the size will help to continue providing articles to readers like you.

Will you consider making a donation today?