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Menocchio, also known as Domenico Scandella, was a Friulian miller born in 1532 in the village of Montereale, twenty-five kilometers north of Pordenone (not to be confused with present-day Montereale). His philosophical teachings earned him the title of a heresiarch during the Inquisition and he was eventually burned at the stake in 1599, at the age of 67, on orders of Pope Clement VIII. He was married and had eleven children. In 1581 he had been mayor of the village and the surrounding hamlets. He is the subject of Italian Historian Carlo Ginzburg's book, The Cheese and the Worms, reflecting on Menocchio's theories and the society in which he lived and constructed them, as a facet of social history.
Menocchio's literacy may be accounted for by schools in located in the villages surrounding Friuli: Aviano and Pordenone. A school was opened at the beginning of the sixteenth century under the direction of Girolamo Amaseo for, "for reading and teaching, without exception, children of citizens as well as those artisans and the lower classes, old as well as young, without payment." It is possible that Menocchio attended a school such as this.
No complete list exists of the books that Menocchio might have read which influenced his view of the cosmos. At the time of his arrest several books were found, but since they were not prohibited, no record was taken. Based on Menocchio's first trial these books are known to have been read.
- 1. The Bible in the vernacular
- 2. Il Fioretto della Bibbia(a translation of a medieval Catalan chronicle compiled from various sources)
- 3. Il Lucidario della Madonna, by the Dominicam Albert da Castello
- 4. Il Lucendario de santi, by Jacopo da Voragine (see Golden Legend )
- 5. Historia del giudicio(anonymous fifteenth-century poem)
- 6. Il cavallier Zuanne de Mandavilla (an Itallian translation of the book of travels attributed to Sir John Mandeville)
- 7. A book called Zampollo ( Il sogno dil Caravia)
Based on the testimony from Menocchio's second trial these books also are known to be read.
- 8. Il supplimento della cronache
- 9. Lunario al modo di Italia calculato composto nella citta di Pescaro dal. ecc. mo dottore Marino Camilo de Leonardis
- 10. the Decameron of Boccaccio
- 11. an unidentified book believed to be an Italian translation of the Koran
Many of these books were loaned to Menocchio and were common of the time. How Menocchio read and interpreted these texts might provide insight into his views which lead to his execution for proselytizing heretical ideas.
The Cheese and the Worms
During the preliminary questioning Menocchio spoke freely as he felt he had done nothing wrong. It is in this hearing that he explained his cosmology about The Cheese and the Worms, the title of Carlo Ginzburg's Micro History of Menocchio and source of much that is known of this 16th century miller.
Menocchio said: "I have said that, in my opinion, all was chaos, that is, earth, air, water, and fire were mixed together; and out of that bulk a mass formed- just as cheese is made out of milk- and worms appeared in it, and these were the angels. The most holy majesty decreed that these should be God and the angels, and among that number of angels there was also God, he too having been created out of that mass at the same time, and he was named lord with four captains, Lucifer, Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. That Lucifer sought to make himself lord equal to the king, who was the majesty of God, and for this arrogance God ordered him driven out of heaven with all his host and his company; and this God later created Adam and Eve and people in great number to take the places of the angels who had been expelled. And as this multitude did not follow God's commandments, he sent his Son, whom the Jews seized, and he was crucified."
Warned to denounce his ways and uphold the beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church by both his inquisitors and his family, Menocchio returned to his village. Because of his nature, he was unable to cease speaking his ideology with those who would listen.
- Religion and the People, 800-1700 by James Obelkevich, 1979.
- Ginzburg, Carlo. The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth Century Miller, Baltimore, 1980, ISBN 0-8018-4387-1. First published in Italian as Il formaggio e I vermi, 1976.
- L'Orient du XVIe siècle by Yvelise Bernard, Paris 1988, ISBN 2-7384-0144-9 ; a short annotated biography of Guillaume Postel pp.31–37.