Friday, January 21, 2011


“Aiori forsan cum timore sententiam in me fertis quam ego accipiam?”
(Perhaps you pronounce this sentence against me with greater fear than I receive it)
Bronze relief by Ettore Ferrari (1845-1929), Campo de' Fiori, Rome
 Originally, I intended to write about the trial of Galileo. However, during my research, I came across an amazing figure. I had never before heard of Giordano Bruno. He was an amazing genius. Compared to him, Galileo was a candle shining in a search beacon. many years before Galileo was tried his discoveries that confirmed a heliocentric belief that the earth was one of many planets circling the sun, Bruno had already recognized that the earth and other planets advanced around the sun, which he noted was a star, like other stars in the sky. He propounded that the Universe was infinite. Bruno's genius was not limited to astronomy or physics. He was famous across Europe for his amazing memory. Giorgano Bruno was heralded, demonized, excommunicated, tried, and executed. His trial demonstrated many things. Justice was not one of them.

Giordano Bruno
He had been a Dominican Monk. Bruno was an absolutely brilliant man, who hungered for knowledge of religion and science. His trial by the Roman Inquisition instead force fed him pagan dogma. In retrospect, it was the Church that was tried and convicted. However, its punishment paled in comparison with that of Giordano Bruno and other Christians who suffered for daring to question ancient Greco-Roman polytheistic beliefs. 

The Inquisition revealed a startling fact about the Holy See and his Church. The Roman Empire did not become Christian. Rather, Catholicism became Roman. It's not a coincidence that the Vatican remains in  what once was the capital of the Caesar's Rome. It was a gift from Emperor Constantine to Pope Miltiades in 313 AD. It was not the only thing given by the Romans. Even the name "Vatican" predated Christianity.

Others had viewed the Christian world as paganized. For instance, in the “Sunna,” the Muslim Prophet Muhammed called Christians “Pagans” and "Romans," because they worshipped Saints. The Church embraced other pagan views, such as Aristotle’s genocentric view of the universe. In the King James Bible, Chronicles 16:30 states that "the world also shall be stable, that it be not moved." Obviously, the Earth had to be an unmoving center point for all of the moving heavenly bodies. Although the Church allowed some debate about the matter, it never allowed scientific discoveries to prove it wrong. 

Aristotle -Engraved in Stone?
There were other Aristotelian views which the Church embraced. For example, it  also believed that there was a "universal" method of reasoning. Of course, the Church believed its reasoning was to be universally accepted - or else! The word, "catholic," means "universal."

During the height of the Renaissance Period, the Vatican saw its monopoly on truth being eroded by science. So, it repressed the flood of ideas and knowledge with its infamous Roman Inquisition. Popes during that terrible period wanted everyone to believe they shared God’s omniscience. They were the gatekeepers of His Kingdom. That was the foundation of their power. Without it, there was no reason for anyone to follow them, or feed their coffers.

The Church was threatened by the Renaissance. It clung to Aristotelian thought. After all, the philosopher's belief that the world was a sphere had been proven right by the voyages of Christopher Columbus in 1492.  There was comfort in the notion that the Church's adopted beliefs were true. 

The charge against Bruno was heresy. Ironically, the beliefs he challenged were of pagan origin. Aristotle himself would have been offended by Bruno’s 120 theses against the ancient philosopher's “natural science.” Aristotle struggled to accept the idea of a heliocentric universe, much less one in which the sun was one of a sky full of stars in an infinite universe, or that the earth revolved around the sun while rotating on its own axis. Ironically, the Vatican felt it had to punish its own followers for challenging outdated pagan notions.

Pope Pius V
The trial was not the first time Bruno answered to authorities. During His adulthood, Bruno was summonsed by Heads of State who were astonished and concerned about his ideas and abilities. He had to explain mneumonics to Pope Pius V (now a Saint; he was also the Pope who excommunicated Queen Elizabeth I) and French King Henry III (who was involved in the Wars of Religion against the Huguenots). They suspected his amazing powers of memory were some sort of witchcraft. He explained to them, and others, his system of mneumonics, so that others could enjoy advanced powers of memory. Unfortunately, the Church never forgot rumors that Bruno was a “spy” against Catholic conspirators in England, or that he may have been a “Calvinist,” nor did it forget or forgive his abrasive sarcasm. Bruno's quest to discover God through science brought the wrath of religious leaders across Christendom. Not only was he persecuted by the Holy Catholic Church, but Bruno was excommunicated by the Lutheran Church, as well. 

Not all charges against Bruno’s involved science. He also was charged for having religious ideas. Unfortunately for him,.those were the province of the Church, any Church! Among other things, he questioned the notion of immaculate conception. Even today, that is heresy to many. Church dogma held that Jesus was born of a virgin birth, although Christ was quoted in the scriptures as saying he was "the Son of Man." However, scholars who translated the Gospels chose to translate the word “aalmah,” as “virgin.” The word actually meant “young woman,” and most scholars believe that Mary was less than 20 years old He was born. So, she certainly was an aalmah. That did not mean the conception of her child was immaculate.

Pope Paul V
However, the early Church had its own reasons to translate the word otherwise. The Apostle Paul spread the teachings of Christ across the Pagan world, where virgin births were common among legendary figures. As examples, Augustus Caesar was supposedly fathered by the god, Apollo.  Romulus and Remus, were fathered by the god, Mars, and Plato, who was Aristotle’s Mentor, supposedly was born from the union of Apollo with a young maiden. For centuries, the belief that Jesus was conceived by a virgin birth blended well with popular Pagan culture. In the year, 1600 AD, the Catholic Church didn't want to contradict 1300 years of accepted dogma.

The Church intended to preserve its traditions by prosecuting anyone who questioned them. Its fear of being proved a wrong prompted Saint Peter's Church to torture and execute its followers. Even that approach was of pagan nature. Peter himself was tortured and crucified upside-down for challenging accepted religious dogma. In any event, many believe today that Jesus's gift was His Golden Rule, not an immaculate conception. To others, His birth made His death more important, for God had sacrificed His only begotten Son to cleanse the sins of humanity. Neither can be proved by science. So, instead of trying to punish those who questioned the immaculate conception, the Church could have simply pronounced that it was a matter of “Faith.” 

The Execution of Giorgano Bruno, 1600
Bruno’s heresies did not end with his ideas about the Universe or the birth of Christ. He also questioned the Holy Trinity. He was not the first Christian to do so, and the Vatican did not want to revisit its belief that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit were all One. It was another example of the Vatican clinging to its Greco Roman roots. Indeed, it was a Roman Emperor, who settled the issue of The Holy Trinity. Constantine, a pagan convert to the faith, called the First Council of Nicaea. He exiled anyone who did not reject the notion that Jesus was inferior to God. He ordered the books of Aryus, who advanced that heretical idea, to be burned. That was 12 centuries before the Vatican ordered the books of Bruno burned and banned. However, unlike Pope Clement VIII, Constantine later ordered that his heretic, Aryus, be readmitted to communion. Unfortunately, Aryus died on his way to that event as a notable Catholic Bishop prayed for his death.
Pope Clement VIII, Bruno is Guilty

12 centuries later, the Church wished Giorgio Bruno dead. He had committed multiple offenses of TWI (Thinking While Intelligent). The Church had yet to learn that Faith and Science were not enemies. So, it treated men like Bruno as invaders. Bruno was imprisoned during his Inquisition from 1592 until it ended soon after Christmas in early 1600. 

Among his Inquisitors was Cardinal Bellarmine, who later judged the works of Gallileo, and Cardinal Borhese. The latter later became Pope Paul V, who enjoined Galileo from advancing the notion of a heliocentric universe. They offered Bruno a chance to recant everything, which could have saved his life, but the stubborn Priest refused. Instead, he offered a partial recantation to Pope Clement VIII. Unfortunately, that didn't relieve the Holy Father's concerns, so he expressed himself in favor of a guilty verdict. 

Bruno was declared to be a “heretic.” His Inquisitors handed him over to secular authorities for punishment, much as did the Sanhedrin with Jesus. Bruno’s reply to certain death was, “aiori forsan cum timore sententiam in me fertis quam ego accipiam."(Perhaps you pronounce this sentence against me with greater fear than I receive it).

Campo de Fiori

Giorgano Bruno’s execution took place at a central Roman market square (Campo de' Fiori ) on February 17, 1600. He was led naked through the streets. His tongue was gagged, as a warning to anyone else who may wish to speak freely. The former Dominican Priest was hung upside down and fastened to a stake surrounded by wood and kindle. It is said that he did not have a friend among the crowd who gathered to watch him roasted to death. There were no concerns about capital punishment in those days and no appeal. His death was designed to be painful and humiliating.

400 years later, the Church remains unrepentant. Cardinal Angelo Sodano declared Bruno's death to be a "sad episode," but he defended the Inquisitors. He said they acted properly. The clerical party in Rome sharply opposed a proposed monument for Bruno at the site of his execution, but the monument was finally erected by the Rome Municipality and inaugurated in 1889.

Monument of Giordano Bruno
Giorgio Bruno was a master of mneumonics, the science of memory. That's not why he is remembered more than 500 years after his death. It was his search for truth and God, despite pain of death that gives life to his memory. Those who tried him are remembered, too. The Inquisition of Giordano Bruno revealed the truth about them. His trial proved those who offered themselves as spokesmen of God did the work of His adversary. It is a lesson well-remembered today.


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  2. Quote "His trial proved those who offered themselves as spokesmen of God did the work of His adversary. It is a lesson well-remembered today".

    That is well said! I believe that is true also, from my own experience of people who hold high positions in Church/Religion.

    Poor Giorgio Bruno, what a horrible death to suffer.