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Giordano Bruno(1548-1600)

on February 16, 1600, the Roman Catholic Church executed Giordano Bruno, Italian philosopher and scientist, for the crime of heresy. He was taken from his cell in the early hours of the morning to the Piazza dei Fiori in Rome and burnt alive at the stake. To the last, the Church authorities were fearful of the ideas of a man who was known throughout Europe as a bold and brilliant thinker. In a peculiar twist to the gruesome affair, the executioners were ordered to tie his tongue so that he would be unable to address those gathered.
Throughout his life Bruno championed the Copernican system of astronomy which placed the sun, not the Earth, at the centre of the solar system. He opposed the stultifying authority of the Church and refused to recant his philosophical beliefs throughout his eight years of imprisonment by the Venetian and Roman Inquisitions. His life stands as a testimony to the drive for knowledge and truth that marked the astonishing period of history known as the Renaissance—from which so much in modern art, thought and science derives.
In 1992, after 12 years of deliberations, the Roman Catholic Church grudgingly admitted that Galileo Galilei had been right in supporting the theories of Copernicus. The Holy Inquisition had forced an aged Galileo to recant his ideas under threat of torture in 1633. But no such admission has been made in the case of Bruno. His writings are still on the Vatican’s list of forbidden texts.
A theological commission headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the modern successor of the Inquisition, has completed an inquiry entitled “The Church and the Faults of the Past: Memory in the Service of Reconciliation”, which proposes making an apology for “past errors”. Cardinal Ratzinger is now known to the world as Pope Benedict XVI. When the Pope still waxes eloquent about ‘gay marriage,contraception, abortion we know that in the world of errors the Church is still living in the past. The world has moved on merrily despite the Church meddling in the areas she is least competent to add or keep the flow unimpeded.
The current attitude of the Roman Catholic Church to Bruno is defined by a two-page entry in the latest edition of the Catholic Encyclopaedia. It describes Bruno’s “intolerance” and berates him, declaring “his attitude of mind towards religious truth was that of a rationalist”. The article describes in detail Bruno’s theological errors and his lengthy detention at the hands of the Inquisition, but fails to mention the best-known fact—that the church authorities burnt him alive at the stake.
Bruno has long been revered as a martyr to scientific truth. In 1889 a monument to him was erected at the location of his execution. Such was the feeling for Bruno that scientists and poets paid tribute to him and a book was written detailing his life’s work. In a dedication for a meeting held at the Contemporary Club in Philadelphia in 1890, American poet Walt Whitman wrote: “As America’s mental courage (the thought comes to me today) is so indebted, above all current lands and peoples, to the noble army of old-world martyrs past, how incumbent on us that we clear those martyrs’ lives and names, and hold them up for reverent admiration as well as beacons. And typical of this, and standing for it and all perhaps, Giordano Bruno may well be put, today and to come, in our New World’s thankfulest heart and memory.”
And it is characteristic that Protestants outdid Catholics in their own way. Calvin had Servetus burnt at the stake when the latter was on the point of discovering the circulation of the blood, and indeed he kept him roasting alive during two hours; for the Inquisition at least it sufficed to have Giordano Bruno simply burnt alive.”What is most characteristic of Bruno is his vigorous appeal to reason and logic, rather than religious dogma, as the basis for determining truth. In a manner that anticipates the Enlightenment thinkers of the eighteenth century, he wrote in one of his final works, De triplici minimo (1591): “He who desires to philosophise must first of all doubt all things. He must not assume a position in a debate before he has listened to the various opinions, and considered and compared the reasons for and against…. but he must proceed according to the persuasion of an organic doctrine which adheres to real things, and to a truth that can be understood by the light of reason.”
Bruno believed reality of the universe is of the same substance. He boldly spoke by listening to his inner voice (intuition) the existence of an infinite universe, which contained an infinite number of worlds similar to the Earth. In doing so, he rejected the limits of the Copernican system, which posited a finite universe limited by a fixed sphere of stars just beyond the solar system.(The Ash Wednesday Supper )Bruno’s other three works published in England— The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast, Cabal of the Cheval Pegasus and On Heroic Frenzies —contain a biting critique of the Counter Reformation. It was in England that Bruno had his most profound impact.
He wrote a book on mnemonics—systems of memory training. He arrived in Paris by 1581, where he came to the attention of King Henry III who was attracted by his reputation of having a prodigious memory. The King found a position for him at the College de France after he had been forbidden entry to the Sorbonne by the ecclesiastical authority.
During his stay in Paris he wrote three books, two on mnemonics and a play entitled The Torch-Bearer by Bruno the Nolan, Graduate of No Academy, Called the Nuisance. In this play Bruno described his time in the Dominican convent in Naples and presented a withering indictment of the Church. Giovanni Gentile’s commentary on the play describes Bruno’s characterisation of the Church as follows: “You will see, in mixed confusion, snatches of cutpurses, wiles of cheats, enterprises of rogues; also delicious repulsiveness, bitter sweets, foolish decisions, mistaken faith and crippled hopes, niggard charities, judges noble and serious for other men’s affairs with little truth in their own; virile women, effeminate men and voices of craft and not of mercy so that he who believes most is most fooled—and everywhere the love of gold.”
Bruno was forced to leave France in 1583 and wandered from place to place and was betrayed in the end.
(ack: an article by Frank Gaglioti
 of 16 February 2000 )
benny

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