February 17, 2015

February 17, 1600: Giordano Bruno Burned at the Stake

Bronze statue of Giordano Bruno by Ettore Ferrari, Rome.
 Photograph is by "Jastrow", and has been released into
the Public Domain by its creator on Wikimedia Commons.
Filippo Bruno was an Italian Dominican friar who was tried and found guilty by the Roman Inquisition, and burned at the stake. What were his offenses?

According to contemporary sources, Bruno's sins included holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith about the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Virginity of Mary, Transubstantiation and the Mass. He was also charged with dealing with magick and the occult arts. And, most interestingly to me, at least, he claimed the existence of a plurality of worlds.

Like Copernicus (whom he credited and praised), Bruno believed that the Earth resolves around the sun. He also thought that the stars were actually suns like our own, and that they had their own planets revolving around them. He thought that everything -- not just the things on Earth -- were made up of the four elements, and that space and time were both infinite, and that comets were part of the whole system, not heavenly messengers from God.

Was Bruno condemned for his Science, or for his Faith? No doubt his scientific views had a great deal to do with it, but it should be remembered that his religious views were pretty heretical, too. When he refused to recant, he was sentenced to death and burned at the stake. His ashes were thrown into the Tiber.

As recently as 2000, then-Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano defended the actions of the Inquisition. They "had the desire to serve freedom and promote the common good and did everything possible to save his life," he said.

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