1st Edition

The Trial of Giordano Bruno

By Germano Maifreda Copyright 2022
    258 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    258 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    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.


    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


    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