Giulio Cesare Vanini (Died)

On this date in 1619, Catholic friar Giulio Cesare Vanini (né Lucilio Vanini) was executed for heresy in Toulose, France. Born in 1585 in Italy, Vanini was educated in philosophy and theology at Rome University and entered the Carmelite order in 1603 as Fra Gabriele before studying canon and civil law in Padua. He traveled widely throughout Europe, espousing his rationalist viewpoints and supporting himself by giving lessons. He was also an early proponent of biological evolution among the first modern thinkers to view the universe as an entity governed by natural laws.

Vanini was driven from France in 1614. After taking refuge in England, he spent 49 days in the Tower of London. Returning to Italy, he was driven out of Genoa. Vanini went to southern France, where he published a book critical of atheism in 1615 in an attempt to clear himself from charges of heresy.

The following year his second book was published, which is credited with being closer to his real views, in which he advanced a naturalistic philosophy. The book was ordered burned by the Sorbonne, and Vanini was charged with atheism. He was arrested in 1618 and sentenced to have his tongue cut off, to be strangled at the stake and to have his body reduced to ashes. It is said he refused the ministrations of a priest. (D. 1619)

Freedom From Religion Foundation