During my years in Rome I came to loath the famous statue of Giordano Bruno in the Campo de’ Fiori, once the place of execution where he was burned. Bruno was a serious weird guy. He would have been a great czar for something or other for the Obama Administration.
In any event, from the History Blog comes this rather grisly story and app.
In honor of the 412th anniversary of the burning at the stake of Giordano Bruno, Dominican friar, philosopher, astronomer and master of mnemonic devices so complex he was thought to have magical powers, the Vatican Secret Archives announced Friday that they are releasing a contemporary summary of his trial and a companion smartphone app.
The detailed Holy Office transcripts of Giordano Bruno’s trial were destroyed between 1810, when Napoleon demanded files from the Vatican Archives be sent to Paris, and 1815-1817 when the files were returned to Rome. We don’t know what got destroyed when, exactly, but records do note that one Marino Marini, the man tasked by Pius VII with bringing the Vatican Archives back to Rome from Paris, considered the trial transcripts of the Holy Office useless at best, at worst harmful since they might taint the reputation of the defendants’ descendants. He and Cardinal Consalvi decided to shred entire volumes of them, then soaked the pieces in water and sold the mash to a Parisian cardboard factory for 4,300 francs. Over 2,600 trial transcripts were lost during this period.
All we have left of the Bruno trial is a summary written in 1598, two years before his execution, and preserved in a volume labeled “Miscelleanea Armadi.” It was rediscovered on November 15, 1940 by Cardinal Angelo Mercati, Prefect of the Vatican Archives, who published it in 1942. It’s that volume that will be on public display at the Lux in Arcana exhibit starting February 29th. The app will be made available the same day.
Thanks to the technological partnership with Accenture, the global management, consulting, technology and outsourcing company, as of February 29th, when the exhibition opens, a sophisticated app that was developed specifically for the Vatican Secret Archives on this occasion will make it possible, for example, to focus your tablet or smartphone on the statue of Giordano Bruno at Campo de’ Fiori and see his pyre burst into flame on your device’s display, to open the documents related to the trial of the Dominican friar and philosopher, and to call up videos with further information on his life and his ideas. The app that Accenture developed also makes it possible to explore all the documents in the exhibition with multimedia in-depth contents, thereby heightening the cultural and emotional experience of the event.
It looks like this:
It’s rather hardcore, especially considering the Church’s statement of sorrow at the “sad episode” and Bruno’s “atrocious death” released on February 17, 2000, the 400th anniversary of the execution. From Cardinal Angelo Sodano’s excruciatingly carefully worded statement:
“It is not our place to express judgments about the conscience of those who were involved in this matter. Objectively, nonetheless, certain aspects of these procedures and in particular their violent result at the hand of civil authority, in this and analogous cases, cannot but constitute a cause for profound regret on the part of the Church.”
I won’t lie, though, it sounds like a pretty kickass app, not so much for the heretic-on-fire screen cap but rather for the easy access to the documents and videos.
The press release says that the Bruno documents are available on the Lux in Arcana website, but all I could find was a short overview of the trial and execution, not the full text. There was a more detailed overview with quotes from the summary available on the Vatican Secret Archives website as recently as last May, but it’s offline now. You can still see it using the Wayback Machine, thankfully.
You can read the rest over there.