Who is Giordano Bruno?


I told a friend I was writing a script about Bruno for Secular Radio Theater. He replied, “Bruno who?”

“You know, Giordano Bruno.” My friend looked thoughtful, “Yeah, wasn’t he a character in a TV show about the Mafia?

I replied. “I am writing about the Bruno who was burned at the stake by the Inquisition. He lived at the same time as Galileo.”

Feeling a little stupid, my friend replied, “Oh sure, I know who you mean.” And then he changed the subject.

It happens every time I mention the name Bruno. Most people don’t know who he was, and couldn’t care less.

Giordano Bruno’s birthday is this February 17. He was born in 1600, in Italy. He became a Benedictine monk at age 24 and then abruptly resigned from the order to preach “heresy” across Europe and England. His heresy was; He did not believe the earth was the center of the universe. He preached the earth traveled around the sun with the other planets.

Bruno was burned at the stake for those beliefs while Copernicus and Galileo were not. Copernicus’s work was wisely kept secret until after his death, and Galileo agreed to keep his mouth shut under pain of death. Bruno went further than Galileo, He voiced his opinion that the earth and other planets circled the sun; the Virgin Mary was not a virgin; and the Pope was not infallible. Bruno’s beliefs were mostly science with a touch of theology. These beliefs made him a heretic and caused him to be hunted across Europe by the Inquisition. He was finally captured in the independent state of Venice. Venice shipped Bruno off to Rome and its Inquisition, and the beginning of our story, on secularradiotheater, “The Bruno Debacle”.

If you are not familiar with Giordano Bruno, you will easily find many references on the Internet. I’ve read dozens; I suggest inquisitive people do the same. Especially, read the Catholic versions about Bruno’s trial, conviction and burning to make sure you have covered all the bases.

After doing our research we all agreed we have a bone to pick about the way Bruno, our secular hero, was treated then, and is currently treated by the Catholic Church. Of course, everyone agrees that Bruno was tortured and burned at the stake, no argument there.

My complaints are:

  1. The church never accepted accountability when the true facts about the cosmos finally came out and destroyed its basis for much of the Inquisition.  (We know the Inquisition was not based solely upon theology. It was a political tool used to obtain and maintain power.)
  2. Bruno was conveniently forgotten by the church. It was not until the year 2000 until Pope Benedict admitted the Church was wrong and offered a public apology for torturing and burning the poor man.
  3. Benedict finally admitted the Bruno affair was regrettable, but did not condemn or excommunicate those responsible of this foul act against humanity. No one was punished in secular or ecclesiastical courts for their crimes. If they had been, many notoriously cruel Popes and Cardinals would have been consigned to Hell for their role in the crimes.
  4. No one, including Bruno, should have been excommunicated for speaking simple scientific truth. I’d like to hear an excuse from the church. Did the church get it wrong or did God get it wrong concerning the matter?
  5. The Inquisition Court and Catholic Church absolved itself from blame by simply passing blame to the secular authorities for carrying out their indictment. After all, they still claim it was the secular authorities that imprisoned, tortured, and burned Bruno, not the Catholic Church.
  6. Similarly, it is claimed the Church cannot not be blamed for atrocities committed during times of general social unrest and ignorance. This is nonsense. There is a direct line of responsibility from the Dark ages to the present day.
  7. The science of the day led the Church astray; the science was wrong, not the Church.
  8. Bruno and many thousands of others, who were found guilty by the Inquisition, never got their sentences reviewed and reversed.  Theoretically, Inquisition victims are still guilty and still continue to suffer the tortures of Hell. Hey Pope, how about an official review and reprieve for their suffering souls? How much longer are you going to leave them there?

Secular Radio Theater’s imaginative story begins on the morning of Bruno’s death by fire. For the past eight years he has undergone torture and questioning by Benedictine clergy who now deny their involvement in the matter and blame secular authorities. During the years of the Inquisitions, the art and technology of torture had advanced considerably. Inventive machines were created to inflict pain to every part of the body. These torture machines still exist in museums across Europe. When physical and mental torture did not work due to the abstinence of the person being tortured or the intentional vindictiveness of the Inquisitors, burning at the stake was required. When Bruno refused to recant, the church felt it had to follow through with its threats and turned Bruno over to waiting secular authorities, which were commissioned by the church to do its dirty work.

The actual written documents and physical machines of torture still survive and are proof of religious atrocities long forgotten. The Stapado torture consisted of tying the prisoner’s arms behind his back hauling that person upwards so all his/her weight hung by his arms and shoulders, which painfully dislocate.  Starvation was popular as was the forced retention of fluids. The rack was popular and consisted of a table that allowed the chaining of arms over head and legs below so the table could be incrementally elongated. A prisoner’s joints would dislocate with great pain. Often the limbs were actually pulled from their bodies. Other tortures were devices that crushed joints. Thumbscrews and heated objects designed to penetrate body orifices were also popular. Although mutilation and blood were technically forbidden, Pope Alexander allowed those giving the torture to be forgiven by his fellow torturers for any wrongdoing that might result. Victims, who confessed of supposed sins still had to perform penances such as crawling on hand knees on pilgrimages, or wearing heavy crosses. The last inquisitional act in Spain supposedly occurred in 1834.

 “The Bruno Debacle” by Secular Radio Theater, attempts to bring these vital issues to public scrutiny. If one believes in the eternal punishment of the human soul in Hell for sins against the Holy Church and humanity, then those guilty must be punished and must include those who partook in the Inquisition. Unfortunately, the Church invented the Inquisition and chose to use Inquisitional power to further its political aims. The church itself must be held responsible.

We now realize the guilty ones were the Inquisitors themselves. Should these sinners be pardoned because they hold high rank in the church hierarchy? Apparently yes, because there is little record that Popes and church officials have ever been ostracized, punished or excommunicated for doing wrong.

If original sin is a reality; and the son must suffer for the sins of the father; and mankind is deemed guilty for the original sin of Adam and Eve, then yes, according to Christian theology, those church fathers that have inherited church responsibilities, should still be held accountable for the Inquisition, for religious wars and other atrocities committed against mankind.

Furthermore, what about those prisoners who died while being tortured or died between torture sessions without ever being found guilty? Their processions, initially awarded to the Church, should be confiscated and returned to the families of the accused.

I ask that you listen to “The Bruno Debacle” and judge it for yourselves. It will soon be available on “YouTube, secularadiotheater”. Just lean back, put your feet on your desk and allow your imagination to run wild. Bruno’s story contains little deep theology, but still enough to prevent kids in their informative years from accepting inaccurate views about their church. Unitarians, Universalists and liberal Protestants will have few problems recognizing the injustice done by the Catholic Church, but all religions must share the blame for ecclesiastical sins perpetrated against humanity if they continue to insist that supernatural events are real. As long as superstition supersedes reason and science, religion must share the blame for the historical sins of the church.


About cgosling

I am a retired medical/scientific illustrator and creator of patient teaching simulators, who has given up illustration to write about science, superstition, and secular humanism. I consider myself all of the following: atheist, agnostic, secular humanist, freethinker, skeptic, and nature lover. I have several published books but the mass of my writing is unpublished. I write children's fiction, poetry, essays, and several plays and radio theater shows, that are available as free downloads to be used on secular podcasts and meetings. They can be heard on Indy Freethought Radio or on YouTube “secularradiotheater”. I hope some of my writings will be of interest to like minded freethinkers who I cordially invite to respond. I am also a Darwin impersonator. I invite readers to listen to and use the Darwin script for secular purposes.
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