Who Was Giordano Bruno?

In the midst of Campo dei Fiori, one of Rome’s oldest marketplaces in downtown, stands a monument of a sternly hooded man.

Wrists bound, a book gripped in the right hand, and the face nearly concealed by his cloak, the monument of the man injects a somber and introspective note into the otherwise vibrant mood of this famous piazza.

Upon closer inspection, you can notice Giordano Bruno—a philosopher and Italy’s most famous heretic after Galileo—who was renowned for his adventurous forward thinking and even had to pay with his life for it.

Early Life

Bruno was born in 1548 in Nola, a small town east of Naples.

After receiving his primary and secondary schooling in Naples, Bruno began studying Aristotelian philosophy at 17 years old and was ordained as a priest at 24.

By this time, he had established an interest in free thought and had taken part in denouncing religious ideas. He freely addressed the Arian heresy, which rejected Christ’s divinity, and as a result, the provincial father of the order organized a trial for heresy against him.

Of course, he had to leave Naples in 1576.

Monumental Works

Bruno spent considerable time traveling around Italy before publishing his work, ‘On the Signs of the Times,’ in 1577. He then relocated to France, where he gained the support of several influential benefactors.

Bruno dedicated his book ‘De Umbris Idearum’ (The Shadow of Ideas) to the French monarch, King Henry III, in 1582. This move piqued the King’s interest in his work, and he began to receive attention from the French court and patrons.

He published some of his most significant works during this time, including Ars Memoriae (The Art of Memory) and Cantus Circaeus (Circe’s Song).

Bruno also authored ‘De l’Infinito, Universo e Mondi’ (On the Infinite Universe and Planets) in 1584, in which he proposed the universe as an unlimited body containing an infinite number of worlds.

His “Two Things” Doctrine laid bare a number of key concepts. According to it:

Two things resolve almost any problem:

  1. Changing point of view
  2. Empathy

Two things will stop you from making mistakes:

  1. Reasoning out and sifting people and matters through the heart
  2. Avoiding being unfair

Two things make you fall from grace:

  1. Demagogy
  2. Feign reluctance

Two things make you a decent person:

  1. Being strong-willed
  2. Being nice

Two things add value:

  1. Studying the art of elocution and rhetoric
  2. Learning speed reading

Two things are the secret to success:

  1. Learning from the masters
  2. Refreshing your knowledge

Two things make you an explorer:

  1. Qualified environment
  2. Some craziness

Two things bring solution:

  1. Smiling
  2. Quietness

Two things are worth reaching:

  1. Love
  2. Knowledge

Two things are for everything that’s important in life:

  1. Breathing in
  2. Breathing out

Bruno was also one of the first to propose the contemporary concept of an infinite world. Bruno also considered that the universe is a manifestation of God himself, hence claiming that God resided everywhere.

Throughout this time, he switched countries frequently, but his challenging and outspoken demeanor drew hostility wherever he went.

Final Years

In August 1591, upon the request of Venetian aristocratic Giovanni Mocenigo, Bruno decided to return to Italy. He participated in the talks of progressive Venetian aristocrats who, like Bruno, valued intellectual discussions regardless of their theological ramifications.

His fate took a turn in May 1592, when Mocenigo, dissatisfied with his private lessons from Bruno, complained about him to the Venetian Inquisition for his heretical views. Bruno was arrested and put on trial.

For seven years, he made several desperate attempts to show that his beliefs were not incompatible with the Christian notion of God and creation. The inquisitors rejected his reasonings and demanded a formal retraction from him.

Tired of defending himself, Bruno’s refusal led to him being sentenced to death.

When his sentence was formally read to him on February 8, 1600, he addressed his judges, saying, “Perhaps your fear in passing judgment on me is greater than mine in receiving it.”

 

Conclusion

Bruno was a symbol of freedom of thought. His views impacted 17th-century scientific and philosophical thought and, since the 18th century, have been absorbed by many modern philosophers.

If there’s one thing that there’s no doubt about, it’s that Bruno’s legacy will continue to live on