On a trip to the grocery store this evening, I kept running into little old ladies with these hideous ash smudges on their foreheads — I had to resist the urge to pull out a hankie, spit on it, and clean them up. I was wondering what was going on, but then discovered what was up: They were honoring the victims of Catholic dogma.
On this date in 1600, Giordano BrunoÂ (née Filippo Bruno) was executed for heresy. The Italian philosopher was burned alive at the stake at age 52 for refusing to recant heretical ideas. Born Filippo Bruno in 1548, he entered the Dominican Order at Naples at age 15, adopting the name of Giordano. After being accused of heresy, he fled his Italian convent and traveled throughout Europe (1576 to 1592). During two years in England, Bruno wrote and published six dialogs, including “On the Infinite, the Universe, and Worlds” and “The Ash Wednesday Supper.” A Copernican, he rejected Aristotelian dogma and challenged entrenched religious teachings, declaring pantheist views. Some academics today regard him as a path-blazing intellectual, others as a victim of his nonconformity. When Bruno returned to Italy in 1592, he was arrested by the Inquisition. Bruno was imprisoned for seven years in the dungeons of Rome, where he was tortured and isolated before being executed.
Isn’t that sweet? I felt like joining them and scrawling an ashy “A” on my forehead in solidarity.