Giordano Bruno: biography and contributions of this Italian astronomer and philosopher

Giordano Bruno was a man of great knowledge and a wandering life due to his beliefs and theories about religion, physics and astronomy. He was born in Renaissance Italy, but had the opportunity to visit France, England, the Holy Roman Empire, and Switzerland, meeting great personalities and arguing with them on more than one occasion. .

Persecuted most of his life for being contrary to the religious dogmatisms of his time, there was no room for him to become his habitual residence. He was a professor in several universities, sometimes expelled from them, having a very busy and hectic life.

His final fate was tragic, which, contrary to what Catholics and Protestants believed, ended up being executed for his thought and his work.

Below you will find a biography of Giordano Bruno in summary form.

    Brief biography of Giordano Bruno

    Filippo Bruno, better known as Giordano Bruno, was an Italian astronomer, theologian, poet and philosopher, free thinker and scientific critic of Christian doctrines of his time. His cosmological theories went beyond the Copernican model, proposing that the Sun was just one more star. and that the universe could house an infinite number of worlds inhabited by animals and intelligent beings.

    He was a member of the Dominican Order, but he was not a follower of Christian dogma and only rendered devotion to the cross as a representative element of the grace of God. It differed considerably from the cosmological view of the various branches of Renaissance Christianity.

    His theological statements led him to be tried by the Holy Inquisition, burned alive at the stake for not going back on his scientific assertions. This is why he is considered a martyr of knowledge against fundamentalism.

    Childhood and youth

    Giordano Bruno was born at the beginning of 1458, probably in January or February, in Nola, a few kilometers from Naples under Spanish domination.. Her parents were Giovanni Bruno, a Spanish Army sniper, and Fraulissa Savolino. He was named after Filippo.

    He began his studies in Nola but in 1562 moved to Naples to receive lessons from Giovanni Vincenzo de Colle and Teófilo da Vairano. Three years later, in 1565, Giordano Bruno entered the Dominican Order at the monastery of Santo Domingo Mayor in Naples. While here he devoted himself to the study of Aristotelian philosophy and the theology of St. Thomas. That same year, he decided to change his first name to Giordano.

    In 1571 he appeared before Pope Pius V to expose his mnemonic system, dedicating his work “On Noah’s Ark” to the Sovereign Pontiff. A year later he was ordained a priest and in 1575 received his doctorate in theology.

    Despite his obvious interest in the Christian faith, his problems began precisely during his indoctrination. Giordano Bruno he was prosecuted for refusing to have images of saints in his cell and only accepting the crucifix.

    A new process opened for him to recommend to other novices to read more interesting books than that which spoke of the life of the Virgin Mary, and he was accused of defending the Aryan heresy. Due to these and many other frictions with his monastery, Bruno decided to flee the convent in 1576.

      The life of scandals

      At just 28 years old, Giordano Bruno already had a life full of scandals that forced him to be constantly on the move, fleeing those who did not regard him favorably. 130 indictments were filed against him and, out of fear of the Inquisition, he fled Rome in 1576, beginning a wandering life.

      He traveled to northern Italy, visiting important cities such as Genoa, Savona, Turin, Venice and Padua. He earned his living teaching grammar and cosmogony to noble children. He wasted no time because, despite his busy life, he also devoted himself to the study of the works of Nicholas of Cues, Bernardino Telesio and adopted the system of Nicholas Copernicus, winning the enmity of both Catholics and Protestants.

      Giordano Bruno was an advanced figure, expressing in writings and lectures scientific ideas on the plurality of worlds and solar systems, heliocentrism, the infinity of space and the universe, and on the movement of stars. .

      He landed in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1579, and was received by the Marquis de Vico, a Calvinist of Neapolitan origin. It is in this city that Giordano Bruno he definitively gives up his life as a priest and enrolls at the University of Geneva. Shortly after, he published an attack on Antoine de La Faye, a Calvinist professor, exposing the twenty mistakes made by this intellectual in one of his lessons. This is why Bruno was arrested and had to leave Geneva quickly.

        Doctor of Theology

        His new refuge was France. He received his doctorate in theology from the University of Toulouse and taught during the 1580s and 1581. He wrote “Clavis magna” and explained Aristotle’s treatise “D’Anima”. After several conflicts over the religious wars of the time and his differing opinions with virtually any religious, he was accepted by Henry III of France as a professor at the University of Paris in 1581. At that time he was accepted published “The shadows of ideas” and “The Song of Circe”.

        In 1583, he traveled to England when he was appointed secretary of the French ambassador to the country.. On English soil, he often attends the meetings of the poet Philip Sidney and teaches at the University of Oxford the new Copernican cosmology, attacking traditional thought. He will eventually leave Oxford after several discussions.

        Among his most important writings of this period are “De umbris idearum” (1582), “The Last Supper”, “Of the infinite universe and of the worlds” and “On the cause, the principle and the u” (the three last written in 1584). In 1585, he wrote “Heroic Furies” in which he described the path which leads to God through wisdom.

        Shortly after, he returned to Paris with the Ambassador and went to Marburg where he had his works written in England printed. In his new place of residence he challenged the followers of Aristotelianism to a public debate at the College of Cambrai. He was ridiculed, physically assaulted and expelled from the country.

        During the following years he lived in several Protestant countries where he wrote numerous texts in Latin on cosmology, physics, magic and mnemonic. At that time, he proved, albeit by deceptive methods, that the Sun is larger than the Earth.

        In 1586, he presented his ideas to the Sorbonne and the College of Cambrai, and taught philosophy at the University of Wittenberg. In 1588, he went to Prague where he wrote articles dedicated to the Spanish ambassador, Guillaume de Saint-Clément, and to the emperor Rudolph II.

        He taught mathematics at Helmstedt University but had to flee because he was excommunicated by the Lutherans.. In 1590, he went to the Carmelite Convent in Frankfurt and Zurich where he wrote poetry.

        Giordano Bruno returns to Italy at the invitation of Giovanni Mocenigo, who will become his protector, and he moved to Venice. There he would be dedicated to teaching a particular chair to Mocenigo.

          Trial and conviction

          May 21, 1591, Mocenigo, dissatisfied with the doctrines of Giordano Bruno and annoyed by the speeches, in his opinion, heretics of Bruno, denounced him to the Inquisition. On May 23, 1592, Giordano was imprisoned and recovered by Rome on September 12. On January 27, 1593, the philosopher was imprisoned in the Palace of the Holy Vatican.

          He spent eight years in prison awaiting trial he was accused of blasphemy, heresy and immorality, in addition to having taught theories on multiple solar systems and the infinity of the universe.

          The trial was led by Cardinal Roberto Belarmino, a figure who in 1616 would lead a similar trial against Galileo Galilei. Giovanni Mocenigo would also be investigated in this process, accused of heresy when it was discovered he was attempting to dominate the minds of others and which Bruno refused to teach him. However, Mocenigo was never captured.

          In 1599 the charges against Bruno, compiled by Belarmino and the Dominican Alberto Tragagliolo, Commissioner General of the Holy Office, were exposed. Giordano Bruno decided to reaffirm their ideas, although there is evidence of multiple offers of withdrawal previously rejected. For this reason, on January 20, 1600, Pope Clement VIII ordered that he be brought before the secular authorities.

          The charges against Bruno by the Inquisition are:

          • Have opinions against the Catholic faith and denounce it and its ministers.
          • Having opinions contrary to the Catholic faith about the Trinity, the divinity of Christ and the Incarnation.
          • Having opinions contrary to the Catholic faith in relation to Jesus as Christ.
          • To have opinions contrary to the Catholic faith in relation to the virginity of Mary, the mother of Jesus.
          • Having opinions contrary to the Catholic Faith regarding transubstantiation and Mass.
          • To say that there are several worlds.
          • Have favorable opinions on the transmigration of the spirit into other human beings after death.
          • Witchcraft.

          All of Giordano Bruno’s works had been studied during the last decade of the 16th century, giving rise to the entire accusation. against him. All of them were censored by the Holy See, and many were burnt in St. Peter’s Square.


            At the time, the most common and “civilized” thing was that those found guilty of heresy were first executed and then their bodies burned. This was not the case with Giordano Bruno who, after a sentence of more than eight years, he was burned alive on February 17, 1600 at Camp de ‘Fiori, Rome. He was 52 years old.

            During the process, he was stripped naked and tied to a stick. Also, a wooden press clung to his tongue so he couldn’t speak. Before being burned at the stake, one of the Catholic monks who accompanied him as executioners offered him a crucifix to kiss him, but Bruno rejected him and said that he would die a martyr and that his soul would be resuscitated with fire. in Paradise.

            Three centuries later, on June 9, 1889, Giordano Bruno would officially become Giordano Bruno one of the martyrs of freedom of thought and new ideals.

              His thought and his contributions to science

              Giordano Bruno believed that the Earth revolved around the Sun and that night and day were the product of the rotation of our planet on its axis. He also believed that the universe could be infinite by reflecting this quality of God. He claimed that the stars seen in the night sky were in fact other suns that they had their own planets, worlds that could well harbor a life like ours.

              Bruno claimed that the universe is homogeneous, made up of water, earth, fire and air, and that the stars do not have a distinct fifth essence. The same physical laws would work everywhere and he claimed that space and time were infinite. He believed in atomism and spoke of relative movement.

              Bibliographical references

              • Benitez, L. and Robles, JA (eds) (2002). Giordano Bruno 1600-2000. Proceedings of the International Symposium, IV Centenary of the Death of Giordano Bruno Incomplete text Google Books. National Autonomous University of Mexico UNAM. ISBN 978-970-32-0082-5 / ISBN 970-32-0082-6.
              • Gatti, Hilary (2002). Giordano Bruno and Renaissance Science: Broken Lives and Organizational Power. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-801-48785-4.
              • Granada, Michelangelo (ed.) (2002). Cosmology, theology and religion in the work and process of Giordano Bruno. Proceedings of the International Congress, IV centenary of the death at the stake of Giordano Bruno. University of Barcelona. ISBN 978-84-475-2595-9.

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