The Pope & the Heretic
Michael White
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Buy *The Pope and the Heretic: The True Story of Giordano Bruno, the Man Who Dared to Defy the Roman Inquisition* online

The Pope & the Heretic: The True Story of Giordano Bruno, the Man Who Dared to Defy the Roman Inquisition
Michael White
William Morrow & Co.
256 pages
October 2002
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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If you think the possibility of extraterrestrial life is a concept recently created by science fiction buffs, then you might be surprised to discover a 16th century Catholic monk wrote extensively on the topic. This is one of the facts about Father Giordano Bruno revealed by Michael White in his book, The Pope and the Heretic.

The book is a biography about Father Bruno, a man who combined occult and Catholic beliefs to come up with ideas that went against the teachings of the Catholic Church. He was imprisoned as a heretic by the Roman Inquisition and eventually burned on the stake. Since The Pope and the Heretic is a biography, many readers would assume the content is an informative but dry collection of facts. It is a pleasant surprise to discover the book is not tedious reading; however, it is presented in a biased manner. It is obvious the author admires Bruno and always presents him in a favorable light. The reader is left to wonder if Bruno was really the near-perfect individual in which he is portrayed.

That being said, the presentation and organization of the book's content is very good.

The Pope and the Heretic begins much like a novel. Imagery allows the reader to feel what it must have been like for Bruno to sit before his accusers only days before his death. It's an effective way to pique and hold interest, and the author often makes use of this method throughout the book. Bruno himself is rarely mentioned during the next few chapters, and the reader is presented with a large amount of historical facts. Unless the reader is a historian, the connection between these facts to Bruno is at first unclear. But later in the book the author ties everything together producing an "Ah ha!" effect. It becomes obvious that the historical information is necessary to fully understand the reason for the way events unfolded.

An entire chapter is devoted to describing the tortures experienced by those jailed during the Inquisition. It's gruesome and not for the faint-hearted, but it does help to understand what Bruno experienced during his years in prison. After White's explanation of Bruno's trials and final sentencing, the reader would expect the book to end after the man died. Instead the author decides to add another chapter describing how Bruno affected others after his death. A great deal of this chapter's content is well-researched speculation and opinion. It once again shows the author's admiration for Bruno, but like the rest of the book it makes for an interesting read.

© 2002 by Diana Moes VandeHoef for Curled Up With a Good Book

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