Giordano Bruno Collection
Image: Closeup of Giordano Bruno statue. From Wikipedia.
Giordano Bruno was born in 1548. At age 15, he joined the ministry, but at age 16 he renounced his vows and became a nonbeliever. Since his middle twenties, he had been running around all over Europe avoiding persecution from various religious groups. Finally, in 1592, he was caught. They took him back to Italy and they locked him up in his cell for 8 years. After 8 years of imprisonment, full of vindictive tortures, he was an old man of 51 years of age. The priests then asked him if he would recant. They put a crucifix in his face and asked him to kiss it, but he scorned at it. When they ordered him to execution, he said, 'Perhaps it is with more fear that you deliver my sentence than I receive it.' They then led him to the center of town and tied him to a stake. On February 17, 1600, he was burned to death.
George W. Foote wrote the following of Giordano Bruno....
"THIS glorious martyr of Freethought did not die in a quiet chamber, tended by loving hands. He was literally 'butchered to make a Roman holiday.' When the assassins of 'the bloody faith' kindled the fire which burnt out his splendid life, he was no decrepit man, nor had the finger of Death touched his cheek with a pallid hue. The blood coursed actively through his veins, and a dauntless spirit shone in his noble eyes.
"The Venetian Council transferred him to Rome, where be languished for seven years in a pestiferous dungeon, and was repeatedly tortured, according to the hellish code of the Inquisition. At length, on February 10th, 1600, he was led out to the Church of Santa Maria, and sentenced to be burnt alive, or, as the Holy Church hypocritically phrased it, to be punished 'as mercifully as possible, and without effusion of blood' Haughtily raising his bead, he exclaimed: 'You are more afraid to pronounce my sentence than I to receive it.' He was allowed a week's grace for recantation, but without avail; and on the 17th of February, 1600, he was burnt to death on the Field of Flowers. To the last he was brave and defiant; he contemptuously pushed aside the crucifix they presented him to kiss; and, as one of his enemies said, he died without a plaint or a groan.
"Such heroism stirs the blood more than the sound of a trumpet. Bruno stood at the stake in solitary and awful grandeur. There was not a friendly face in the vast crowd around him. It was one man against the world. Surely the knight of Liberty, the champion of Freethought, who lived such a life and died such a death, without hope of reward on earth or in heaven, sustained only by his indomitable manhood, is worthy to be accounted the supreme martyr of all time. He towers above the less disinterested martyrs of Faith like a colossus; the proudest of them might walk under him without bending." ['Infidel Death-beds,' by GW Foote and AD McLaren]
It has been suggested that Shelley had Bruno in mind when he wrote the following passage....
"'I was an infant when my mother went
To see an atheist burned. She took me there.
The dark-robed priests were met around the pile;
The multitude was gazing silently;
And as the culprit passed with dauntless mien,
Tempered disdain in his unaltering eye,
Mixed with a quiet smile, shone calmly forth;
The thirsty fire crept round his manly limbs;
His resolute eyes were scorched to blindness soon;
His death-pang rent my heart! the insensate mob
Uttered a cry of triumph, and I wept.
'Weep not, child!' cried my mother, 'for that man
Has said, There is no God.''" [Queen Mab, section VII, lines 1-13.]
John J. Kessler has written the following concerning Giordano Bruno...
"He suffered a cruel death and achieved a unique martyr's fame. He has become the Church's most difficult alibi. She can explain away the case of Galileo with suave condescension. Bruno sticks in her throat.
"He is one martyr whose name should lead all the rest. He was not a mere religious sectarian who was caught up in the psychology of some mob hysteria. He was a sensitive, imaginative poet, fired with the enthusiasm of a larger vision of a larger universe ... and he fell into the error of heretical belief. For this poets vision he was kept in a dark dungeon for eight years and then taken out to a blazing market place and roasted to death by fire.
"The 'Church' will never outlive him." [Giordano Bruno: The Forgotten Philosopher, by John J. Kessler.]
M. D. Aletheia has written the following in regards to Giordano Bruno...
"By order of the Congregation of the Holy Office, Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake in 1600 for indulging in astronomical speculations; for supporting the Copernican theory, the reason given being because it was 'contrary to the bible;' and for suggesting that the Bible did not contain the whole of science.... Here we have evidence of two failures on the part of the Christian Church: it condemned the thinkers, who maintained a theory of the universe now everywhere admitted; and it publicly declared its conviction that the Copernican theory ran counter to the science of the Bible." ['The Rationalist's Manual,' by MD Aletheia, part 1, section 2, 1897.]
Charles Bradlaugh has written the following of Giordano Bruno...
"Jesus, according to the general declaration of Christian divines, came to die, and what does he teach by his death? The Rev. F.D. Maurice well said, 'That he who kills for a faith must be weak, that he who dies for a faith must be strong.' How did Jesus die? Giordano Bruno and Julius Caesar Vanini were burned, charged with heresy. They died calm, heroic, defiant of wrong. Jesus, who could not die, courted death, that he, as God, might accept his own atonement, and might pardon man for a sin which the pardoned man had not committed, and in which he had no share. The death Jesus courted came, and when it came he could not face it, but prayed to himself that he might not die. And at last, when on the cross, if two gospels do him no injustice, his last words were a bitter cry of deep despair. 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?'" ['What Did Jesus Teach?' by Charles Bradlaugh.]
Robert Green Ingersoll, the Great Agnostic, a master of wit and intelligence, has said the following in regards to Giordano Bruno...
"BRUNO -- one of the greatest and bravest of men -- greatest of all martyrs -- perished at the stake, because he insisted on the existence of other worlds and taught the astronomy of Galileo." ['A Christmas Sermon,' by Robert Green Ingersoll, 1892.]
"Let me show you the difference between the theological and the secular spirit. Nearly three hundred years ago, one of the noblest of the human race, Giordano Bruno, was burned at Rome by the Catholic Church -- that is to say, by the 'Triumphant Beast.' This man had committed certain crimes --he had publicly stated that there were other worlds than this -- other constellations than ours. He had ventured the supposition that other planets might be peopled. More than this, and worse than this, he had asserted the heliocentric theory -- that the earth made its annual journey about the sun. He had also given it as his opinion that matter is eternal. For these crimes he was found unworthy to live, and about his body were piled the fagots [firewood] of the Catholic Church. This man, this genius, this pioneer of the science of the nineteenth century, perished as serenely as the sun sets. The Infidels of to-day find excuses for his murderers. They take into consideration the ignorance and brutality of the times. They remember that the world was governed by a God who was then the source of all authority. This is the charity of Infidelity, -- of philosophy. But the church of to-day is so heartless, is still so cold and cruel, that it can find no excuse for the murdered." ['God In The Constitution,' by Robert green Ingersoll.]
"The First Great Star -- Herald of the Dawn -- was Bruno.
"He was a pantheist -- that is to say, an atheist. He was a lover of Nature, -- a reaction from the asceticism of the church. He was tired of the gloom of the monastery. He loved the fields, the woods, the streams. He said to his brother-priests: Come out of your cells, out of your dungeons: come into the air and light. Throw away your beads and your crosses. Gather flowers; mingle with your fellow- men; have wives and children; scatter the seeds of joy; throw away the thorns and nettles of your creeds; enjoy the, perpetual miracle of life.
"On the sixteenth day of February, in the year of grace 1600, by 'the triumphant beast,' the Church of Rome, this philosopher, this great and splendid man, was burned. He was offered his liberty if he would recant. There was no God to be offended by his recantation, and yet, as an apostle of what he believed to be the truth, he refused this offer. To those who passed the sentence upon him he said: 'It is with greater fear that ye pass this sentence upon me than I receive it.' This man, greater than any naturalist of his day; grander than the martyr of any religion, died willingly in defence of what he believed to be the sacred truth. He was great enough to know that real religion will not destroy the joy of life on earth; great enough to know that investigation is not a crime -- that the really useful is not hidden in the mysteries of faith. He knew that the Jewish records were below the level of the Greek and Roman myths; that there is no such thing as special providence; that prayer is useless; that liberty and necessity are the same, and that good and evil are but relative. He was the first real martyr, -- neither frightened by perdition, nor bribed by heaven. He was the first of all the world who died for truth without expectation of reward. He did not anticipate a crown of glory. His imagination had not peopled the heavens with angels waiting for his soul. He had not been promised an eternity of joy if he stood firm, nor had he been threatened with the fires of hell if he wavered and recanted. He expected as his reward an eternal nothing! Death was to him an everlasting end -- nothing beyond but a sleep without a dream, a night without a star, without a dawn -- nothing but extinction, blank, utter, and eternal. No crown, no palm, no 'well done, good and faithful servant,' no shout of welcome, no song of praise, no smile of God, no kiss of Christ, no mansion in the fair skies -- not even a grave within the earth -- nothing but ashes, wind-blown and priest-scattered, mixed with earth and trampled beneath the feet of men and beasts.
"The murder of this man will never be completely and perfectly avenged until from Rome shall be swept every vestige of priest and pope, until over the shapeless ruin of St. Peter's, the crumbled Vatican and the fallen cross, shall rise a monument to Bruno, -- the thinker, philosopher, philanthropist, atheist, martyr." ['The Great Infidels,' by Ingersoll, 1881.]
"And yet the Italian agent of God, the infallible Leo XIII., only a few years ago, denounced Bruno, the 'bravest of the brave,' as a coward. The church murdered him, and the pope maligned his memory. Fagot and falsehood -- two weapons of the church." ['Myth and Miracle,' by Ingersoll, 1885.]
Upton Sinclair has written the following regarding the death of Giordano Bruno...
"The Church which burned John Huss, which burned Giordano Bruno for teaching that the earth moves round the sun -- that same Church, in the name of the same three-headed god, sent out Francesco Ferrer to the firing-squad; if it does not do the same thing to the author of this book, it will be solely because of the police.
"It is these societies which, in every city and town in America, are pushing and plotting to get Catholics upon library boards so that the public may not have a chance to read scientific books; to get Catholics into the public schools and on school-boards, so that children may not hear about Galilee, Bruno, and Ferrer; to have Catholics in control of police and on magistrates benches, so that priests who are caught in brothels may not be exposed or punished." ['The Profits of Religion,' by Upton Sinclair, 1926.]
Woolsey Teller writes the following of Giordano Bruno...
"Bruno was burned at the stake by the Catholic Inquisition, and the aged Galileo was dragged before the Holy Tribunal to abjure, under threat of torture, the propagation of a doctrine which the Christian Church pronounced false and inimical to the faith. The Aristotelian philosophy, which taught that the earth is the fixed center of the universe, bore the sanction of the Church. To question it was to go counter to papal decree and the God-inspired wisdom of popes." ['The Atheism of Astronomy,' by Teller Woolsey, 1938.]
There was an anonymous writing called 'Getting Into Heaven' that records conversations between Christ and souls. Here is the conversation between Bruno and Christ...
"'What is your name?'
"'Were you a Christian?'
"At one time I was, but for many years I was a philosopher, a seeker after truth.
"'Did you seek to convert your fellow-men?'
"Not to Christianity, but to the religion of reason. I tried to develop their minds, to free them from the slavery of ignorance and superstition. In my day the church taught the holiness of credulity- the virtue of unquestioning obedience, and in your name tortured and destroyed the intelligent and courageous. I did what I could to civilize the world, to make men tolerant and merciful, to soften the hearts of priests, and banish torture from the world. I expressed my honest thoughts and walked in the light of reason.
"'Did you believe the Bible, the miracles? Did you believe that I was God, that I was born of a virgin and that I suffered myself to be killed by the Jews to appease the wrath of God- that is, of myself- so that God could save the souls of a few?'
"No I did not. I did not believe that God was ever born into my world, or that God learned the trade of a carpenter, or that he 'increased in knowledge,' or that he cast devils out of men, or that his garments could cure diseases, or that he allowed himself to be murdered, and in the hour of death 'forsook' himself. These things I did not and could not believe. But I did all the good I could. I enlightened the ignorant, comforted the afflicted, defended the innocent, divided even my property with the poor, and did the best I could to increase the happiness of my fellow-men. I was a soldier in the army of progress.- I was arrested, imprisoned, tried, and convicted by the church- by the 'Triumphant Beast.' I was burned at the stake by ignorant and heartless priests and my ashes given to the winds.
"Then Christ, his face growing dark, his brows contracted with wrath, with uplifted hands, with half averted face, cries or rather shrieks: 'Depart from ye cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the devils and his angels.'" [Available at www.Infidels.org]
Perhaps the words of the great heretic himself will suffice his courage and boldness, his remarkably talented skill of words...
"What a tragicomedy! What act, I say, more worthy of pity and laughter can be presented to us upon this world's stage, in this scene of our consciousness, than of this host of individuals who became melancholy, meditative, unflinching, firm, faithful, lovers, devotees, admirers and slaves of a thing without trustworthiness, a thing deprived of all constancy, destitute of any talent, vacant of any merit, without acknowledgment or any gratitude, as incapable of sensibility, intelligence or goodness, as a statue or image painted on a wall; a thing containing more haughtiness, arrogance, insolence, contumely, anger, scorn, hypocrisy, licentiousness, avarice, ingratitude and other ruinous vices, more poisons and instruments of death than could have issued from the box of Pandora?" ['The Heroic Frenzies,' by Giordano Bruno, 1584.]