"So the Roman Inquisition likes to call me"

Galileo facing the Roman Inquisition
Public DomainGalileo facing the Roman Inquisition - Credit: Cristiano Banti
The Roman Inquisition was an organisation created in the 16th century to combat Protestantism in Italy. It held tribunals right across Italy and other parts of Europe under papal jurisdiction. These tribunals also dealt with crimes of heresy, sorcery and witchcraft, immorality and blasphemy. The meetings were usually made up of ten cardinals, with one more cardinal in charge. These would act as judges and jury. The Inquisition also dealt with censorship of literature that was considered heretical or dangerous. Statements that the Sun was at the centre of the universe, and that the Earth moved around it, were deemed to be against the faith. As a result, Copernicus' and Galileo’s works were placed on an index of forbidden books.


 Bruno, a Dominican friar, found himself in trouble due to his radical thinking and taste for forbidden books. When he learned that he was to be formally accused of heresy in Naples, he fled Italy. He travelled first to Geneva, then France, and from there to England. At this point Bruno has been excommunicated from the Catholic Church for heresy, and is no longer a friar.