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5.0 out of 5 stars The Cheese and the Worms, 25 Sep 2013
Keen Reader "lhendry4" (Auckland, New Zealand) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller (Paperback)
"You might as well go and confess to a tree as to priests and monks."

I came across a reference to this book quite by chance, and was intrigued.

Domenico Scandella was born in 1532, and died, burned at the stake by the Inquisition in 1599. He was an obscure miller from an obscure Italian village, and his beliefs are recorded for us today purely because he was tried by the Inquisition twice. Their precise and detailed records allow us to get a glimpse into a life that was formed by the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation, and framed by the advent of printing, giving Menocchio (as he was called) the ability and opportunity to take his own thoughts and blend them into what the Church deigned to call a heresy. The Catholic Church Counter-Reformation led to harsh penalties for those who thought outside the orthodox, and the Reformation, together with printing, had enabled those who wondered to think outside what the Church had earlier taught them. A dangerous mixture, if the thinkers read too much, spoke too much and caught the attention of the Inquisitors.

A sad story, one cannot help but wonder if Menocchio had learned his lesson after his first incarceration and release and had kept his ideas to himself, he would not have ended up again in trouble, this time fatally. All the more poignant for his apparent redemption and then failure, this is an eye-opening story, horrifying because of its truth, sad because of its loss. In a world where the Church could condemn men such as Giordano Bruno to horrible death, what hope did a man like Menocchio have? This book left me with a real feeling of deep sadness, for what man can do to man.
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