The Trial of Giordano Bruno  book cover
1st Edition

The Trial of Giordano Bruno

ISBN 9780367459130
Published June 17, 2022 by Routledge
258 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations

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USD $160.00

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Book Description

In 1600, Giordano Bruno, one of the leading intellectuals of the Renaissance, was burned at the stake on the charge of heresy by the Roman Inquisition. He is remembered primarily for his cosmological theories, particularly that the universe was infinite with the Earth not being at its centre. Today, he has become a symbol of the struggle for religious and philosophical tolerance.

The Trial of Giordano Bruno, originally published in Italian in 2018, provides English audiences with a complete and updated reconstruction of the inquisitorial trial by analysing the accusations, witnesses, and legal proceedings in detail. The author also gives a detailed profile of Bruno as well as the body which arrested and accused him – the Inquisition.

This book will appeal to all those interested in the life and death of Giordano Bruno, as well as those interested in Early Modern legal proceedings, the Roman Inquisition, and the history of religious and philosophical tolerance.

Table of Contents


Part 1 "Because When It Was Time He Wanted To Be A Captain"

Chapter 1 "My Profession Has Been and Is Letters and All Science". Profile of a Defendant

A Restless Novice

In Trouble in Geneva

Towards the East

Return to Italy: A Grand Project

Chapter 2 The Circle Closes

A Man in Danger

Stories of Conclaves

Chapter 3 Return to the Past

Who is a Christian?

The Church’s Judiciary

"Agents of a power that intends to dominate the world"

Chapter 4 The Machine of the Inquisition

The Eradication of Heresy

The Law and Discretion

Part 2 "Many times have I been threatened that I would be made to come to this Holy Office"

Chapter 5 The End in the Beginning

An Illegitimate Arrest?

A Flood of Accusations

The Many Reasons for a "causa ardua"

Chapter 6 The Stalemate

The Parade of Witnesses

The Accused Takes the Floor

The Investigation Languishes

Chapter 7 In the Prisons of the Inquisition

The Secrets of the Capuchins

Magic in the Monastery

"Listen to the blasphemy this man speaks!"

A Protected Enclosure

Spies, Spies and More Spies

Geography of a Venetian Trial

Chapter 8 Before the Throne of Peter

A Question of Opportunity

Celestino’s Denunciation

One Eye on Rome, One on Venice

Families, Kinship and Careers: What Revolved Around Bruno?

Part 3 "A Willing Martyr"

Chapter 9 The Choice

Bellarmino the Jesuit

The Way to Salvation

The Procedural Scheme

Chapter 10 The Mysteries of the Capuchin

Outside the Protected Enclosure

Celestino as Bruno?

Chapter 11 The Summer of 1599

Movements behind the Scenes

Becoming a Bishop

Life in Prison

Chapter 12 "Perhaps it is with greater fear that you pronounce the sentence against me…"

Follow the Money!

The Capuchin’s Shoes

Giordano and Celestino

Squaring the Circle


Epilogue. On the Ground of Truth

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Germano Maifreda is Professor of Economic History at the Università degli Studi di Milano.


Do we need another book about Bruno and his inquisitorial trial? In the case of this new volume the answer is unreservedly yes. Germano Maifreda brings new interpretations and documentary evidence along with a fresh point of view to the conversation. Taking up the perspective of post-Tedeschi historiography and building upon the work of Tom Mayer and others, Maifreda demonstrates that although the Black Legend may be exaggerated, the logic and rule of law in ancien regime Europe was definitely not that of the twentieth century, and that it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to try to make the distinction between legal and moral justice in that past world of factionalism and power politics.

Simon Ditchfield, University of York


Germano Maifreda is a leading scholar of the Inquisition, as his new book on the trial of Giordano Bruno shows. Thanks to groundbreaking archival research, he gives a convincing reappraisal of the power dynamics and the religious repression that brought the philosopher to death. Further, The Trial of Giordano Bruno is written like a true spy story: engaging and surprising!

Simone Maghenzani, University of Cambridge