WHEN our essay on Bruno and Campanella was written (1889), the only argument which could be adduced for a belief in the apostate’s execution, was found in the letter of Schopp to Rittershausen; and so many and so convincing were the reasons alleged for the non-authenticity of this document, that we felt compelled to believe that the unfortunate friar was burnt merely in effigy. Two years afterward, however, a document was unearthed, which renders it indubitable that Bruno perished at the stake. Among the many institutions of mercy which have been the glory of the Eternal City for centuries, one of the most famous is that of the Confraternity of San Giovanni Decollato, the members of which devote themselves to the preparation of the capitally condemned for a happy death. For centuries this society kept an exact record of all its unfortunate clients. Now, in the “Journal” of the Provisor of the Community, which contains an account of the executions attended by the brethren from May 14, 1598, to September 1, 1602, the investigators appointed 392 by the Crispi administration found, after the fifteenth line of page 87, the following narrative: “On Thursday, February 16, 1600, at two hours of the night, it was intimated to our Company that in the morning justice was to be visited upon an impenitent friar. Therefore, at six hours of the night the Chaplain and the Consolers, having assembled in Sant’ Orsola, and having gone to the prison of Torre del Nona, and entered our chapel, and having made the accustomed prayers, the condemned apostate friar, Giordano Bruni (sic), a native of Nola in Naples, an impenitent heretic, was introduced. He having been exhorted by our brethren with all charity, we having also called to the work two Dominican priests, two from the Gesù, two Oratorians, and a Hieronymite. With every mark of affection and with much erudition, these priests showed the miserable man his many errors, but he fixed in his obstinacy, confusing his intellect with a thousand perversities. His determination proving invincible, he was led by the Officers of Justice to the Campo di Fiori, and there having been stripped and bound to a stake, he was burned alive, our Company constantly chanting the Litanies, and the Comforters exhorting him to the very last 393 moment to abandon his obstinacy. But he finished his miserable life in it.”
Thus is finally settled the question of the fate of the Philosopher of Nola. There need be no suspicion cast, great though be the temptation to do so, upon the authenticity of the decisive document; for although the unscrupulous Crispi presided at its delivery from the bowels of oblivion, the members of the Confraternity of San Giovanni Decollato admitted that it was transcribed from their records.