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Giordano Bruno

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1 Giordano Bruno on Sat Sep 05, 2009 11:51 pm

A little over 400 years ago, on a winter morning in Rome early in the year 1600, the Roman Catholic church put to death a man it considered one of the greatest threats to its authority.

As the philosopher Giordano Bruno was burned alive at the stake in the Piazza di Campo dei Fiori, the Inquisitors who had persecuted him, and Pope Clement VIII who had signed his death warrant, might have exulted at their final victory over a man who had flaunted their authority with astronomical heresies, and doubts about the Virgin Mary being exactly that.

In kindling his execution pyre, the church leaders behaved as they had for centuries, killing off dissenting ideas by killing off the people who had them. But this time it was to be different, because it was the ideas of Bruno, and those like him, that would ultimately triumph. Reason and science would be victorious over dogma and superstition.

The popes of the mediaeval Catholic Church were famed as pious saints and heinous sinners. Popes led armies into battle, made and broke treaties, plotted coups, schemed conquests. They had rivals tortured and murdered, kept concubines, fathered offspring. But far above all, they were the arbiters of what was real, and what was not. If they said angels were real and witches were real, to their followers, they were.

Read the transcript or listen to the audio of this talk on ABC Radio National's Ockham's Razor program

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