Life and Trial of Giordano Bruno: A Chronology
|Copernicus proposes a sun-centered
|Pope Paul III establishes a Roman branch of
the Inquisition called The Holy Office. The Holy
Office is charged with investigating Protestants, witches,
and heretics, as well as approving books for publication.
|Copernicus publishes On the Revolution
of Heavenly Spheres.
|Filippo (name later changed to Giordano)
Bruno is born in Nola, Italy, a hamlet located east of
|Bruno moves to Naples (then the fifth
largest city in the world).
|Bruno enters the convent of San Domenico
Maggiore in Naples. The convent is the center of
resistance to Spanish rule, and while living in the
convent Bruno begins to link theological and political
ideas. Bruno's actions, such as removing religious
decorations from his cell (except for a single crucifix)
and reading a book that friars believed showed
insufficient reverence for the Virgin Mary, raise
eyebrows. Privately, Bruno begins to have doubts
that Jesus is the son of God incarnate in human flesh, as
Catholic teaching insists.
|Bruno takes the name Fra Giordano.
|Bruno develops a reputation for having an
amazing memory using "artificial memory" techniques
(techniques that link words orphrases with images) from
ancient Greece and Rome. He is sent to Rome to
perform feats of memory before Pope Pius V.
|Bruno becomes a deacon.
|Bruno gains admission as a formal student
in theology at the prestigious College of San Domenico in
Naples. (Thomas Aquinas, in the thirteenth century,
was a professor at the College.) Meanwhile, a new
star (a supernova) appears in the night sky, casting doubt
about the theory that stars are fixed to a sphere that
encircles the Earth.
|Bruno receives his license as a reader in
|Under investigation for an unknown reason
(the charge seems to have been defending certain alleged
heretics), Bruno leaves Naples and moves to Rome and the
convent of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. Later, Bruno
heads north to Genoa, traveling not as a friar but at
Filippo Bruno, gentleman. After a several month stay in
Genoa, Bruno moves on to the seaside village of Noli,
where he teaches grammar to children.
|Bruno travels to Venice, with short stays
on the way in Savona and Turin. In Venice he publishes a
booklet, The Signs of the Times. In the
fall, Bruno heads to the Protestant city of Geneva. While
in Geneva, Bruno converts to Protestantism.
|Bruno enrolls at the University of Geneva
as "Phillipus Brunus Nolanus, professor of sacred
theology." He publishes a broadsheet attacking the
ideas of a philosophy teacher at the university, Antoine
de La Faye. As a result, he is arrested and spends
two-plus weeks in jail, before apologizing on his knees to
the professor. Bruno leaves Geneva and heads to
Lyon, and then Toulouse, France. In Toulouse, Bruno
lectures for two years at the University of Toulouse on
Aristotle's On the Soul.
|Bruno moves to Paris. Bruno writes a
book (published in 1582) about memorization techniques, On
the Shadows of Ideas, and King Henri III makes Bruno
an adjunct professor, instruction in the art of
memorization and royal reader. He also served as a private
tutor to the king.
|Bruno publishes a black comedic play about
Neapolitan life called The Candlemaker. The play
introduces others to Bruno's philosophy. The same year,
the Gregorian calendar is implemented.
|With rumors in the air of the Inquisition
coming to France, Bruno moves to England. Bruno
finds, in a theology debate at Oxford, that many people
laugh at him because of his gestures, physical appearance,
and accent. Beginning in August, Bruno lectures at
Oxford on the cosmos, suggesting in his teaching that the
Copernican system offers good support for a version of
Platonic theology. The dons of Oxford suggest is
ideas are not original, but stolen, and Bruno heads to
London. He publishes a dialogue, The Ash Wednesday
Supper, in which he suggests a larger universe than
Copernicus imagined, one with millions of inhabited
planets circling millions of suns. In subsequent
dialogues, he argues that awareness of a vast, inhabited,
and infinitely old universe will and should
transform human lives.
|Bruno publishes The Expulsion of the
Triumphant Beast, a book that will become the
primary evidence against him in his future trial.
The book is an indictment of the Church that contains
reference to Egyptian religion, Greek mythology,
mysticism, the art of memory, metaphysics, science,
ethics, and philosophy.
|Bruno's friend and patron in London, French
Ambassador Castlenau, is recalled to Paris, and Bruno has
little choice but to follow him to Paris
|With a religious civil war on the verge of
breaking out in France, Bruno flees to Germany, where he
delivers lectures at the University of Wittenberg.
|Bruno moves to Prague, and then to the
Lutheran University of Helmstedt.
|With fights breaking out at Helmstedt
between Calvinist and Lutheran faction, Bruno moves to
|Bruno publishes two more works further
developing his unique philosophy. A wealthy Venetian
gentleman, Giovanni Mocenigo, impressed by Bruno's
writings, invites Bruno to come to Venice and stay in his
|Bruno moves to Venice and takes up
residence in Mocenigo's home. Mocenigo, however,
comes to believe that Bruno holds heretical beliefs.
He discloses his concerns about Bruno to his father
confessor, who urges him to denounce him to The Holy
Office. When Bruno announces his intention to return
to Germany, on May 22 Mocenigo locks him in his attic and
reports him to civil authorities, who in turn deliver him
to the Inquisition. Bruno is interrogated in jail
and deposed six times by three judges in the chamber of
the Ducal Palace. At his final deposition, on July
30, Bruno makes a confession. The Holy Office in Rome
requests Bruno's extradition from Venice.
|On February 20, Bruno is put on a ship and
extradited to Rome. A week later, he is placed in a prison
near St. Peter's Square, where he will spend the remaining
seven years of his life.
In the fall, a (mentally unbalanced) former cellmate from
Venice, Celestino Arrigoni da Verona, convinced wrongly
that Bruno had incriminated him, writes a letter to the
Roman Inquisition reporting incriminating things that he
said Bruno had told him in prison. Based on
Celestino's testimony, and statements gathered from other
former cellmates in Venice, Bruno is charged and tried on
29 charges of heresy.
|The trial is in a state of suspended
animation. Church inquisitors continue to
investigate the possible heresies of Bruno, trying to
identify and study his prior writings, some of which only
exist outside of Italy. Bruno, meanwhile, tries to
prepare his defense. In 1597, Bruno's books are censored.
|Church officials draft a summary of the
trial of Giordano Bruno. (The Summary is
later lost, but discovered again in 1940.)
|Pope Clement VIII makes Jesuit theologian
Robert Bellarmine, a consultant to the board of
inquisition since 1592, a cardinal. This allows
Bellarmine to make appointments to the board of
inquisition. Bellarmine prepares a list of Bruno's eight
heresies, as he identifies them, and on January 18 invites
Bruno to abjure each of the eight "propositions."
Bruno, in his reply a week later, demands that Bellarmine
prove that the Pope agrees with Bellarmine's list of
heresies, in what Bellarmine likely took to be an insolent
challenge to his authority. On February 4, the
inquisitors demand abjuration a second time. In September,
Bruno sends the Pope a letter reasserting his beliefs,
including some he had indicated a willingness to abjure
previously. Bruno is given 40 days to make abjure
all his identified heresies, but Bruno refuses.
|A bishop performs Bruno's "solemn
degradation" ceremony. The ceremony strips Bruno of
his symbols of the priesthood, his deacon's stole, his
subdeacon's alb and maniple, his acolyte's candle, his
Dominican scapular, and his habit. He is shaved, dressed
in the clothes of a layman, and turned over to a bailiff
representing the secular arm of the Roman government. He
is transported to the prison of Tordi Nona. For the next
eight days, various friars make appeals to Bruno to
|Bruno is stripped naked, manacled, gagged,
and burnt at the stake in the Campo de' Fiora in Rome.
|A statue of Bruno, sculpted by Ettore
Ferrari, is erected in the marketplace of Campo de' Fiora.
|Pope John Paul, through a letter written by
Cardinal Angelo Sodano, declines to give Bruno an official
pardon, but the letter expresses "profound regret" for
"aspects of the procedures" and the "violent result" of
the proceeding against him.
Giordano Bruno was imprisoned in Rome for seven years, from 1593
when he was transferred from his heresy trial in Venice into the
hands of the Roman Inquisition until his auto-da-fé in
1600. His trial took place between 1593 and the censoring of his
books in 1597. That’s where the summary ends. In 1598 the Curia
left Rome, following Clement VIII to the Duchy of Ferrara which he
claimed for the Papal States after the death of the childless
Alfonso II d’Este, Duke of Ferrara. They left Bruno idling in
jail. By the time the trial resumed with interrogatory number 20
in February 1599, Bruno was willing to offer a partial abjuration
of the beliefs deemed heretical in return for his neck. He
reiterated that willingness during the 21st interrogation in early
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