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A visionary and rationalist philosopher, Giordano Bruno did not limit himself to one discipline; instead, his erudite intellect accepted nothing and challenged everything in his pursuit of an all-embracing system of thought. It was an openmindedness that brought him patronage from some of the most powerful figures of the day, such as Henry III of France and Elizabeth I of England, but that also put him into direct conflict with the Catholic Church, which defrocked and excommunicated him. Returning to Italy after years spent enjoying intellectual freedom in France, England, and Germany, Bruno was arrested by the Inquisition and tried as a heretic. He endured almost eight years of imprisonment and brutal torture before being burned at the stake in Rome in 1600. And although the Vatican now says that it "regrets" burning Bruno, to this day it has refused to clear him of the charge of heresy.
But the Inquisition's attempts to obliterate Bruno failed, a. his philosophy and influence spread: Galileo, Isaac Newton, Christian Huygens, and Gottfried Leibniz all built upon his ideas; his thought experiments predated the work of such twentieth-century luminaries as Karl Popper; his religious thinking inspired such radicals as Baruch Spinoza; and his work on the art of memory had a profound effect on, among others, William Shakespeare.
"The Pope and the Heretic chronicles the work, life, and extraordinary legacy of a geniuswhose musings helped bring about the modern world. Michael White brilliantly pieces together Bruno's dramatic final years, his capture, and his trial and explains why the Catholic Church felt so threatened by Bruno that it made him a martyr to free thought.
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