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Campanella, Tommaso

1. Dates
Born: Stila (Calabria), 5 Sep. 1568
Died: Paris, 21 May 1639
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 71
2. Father
Occupation: Geronimo Campanella, A Cobbler
He was very poor.
3. Nationality
Birth: Italian
Career: Italian, French
Death: French
4. Education
Schooling: Religous Order
Campanella became a Dominican in 1583 (after a year's novitiate), partly because that was the only avenue by which an impoverished young man could obtain an education. He was sent to the monastery of the Annunciation in San Giorgio Morgeto, where he studied philosophy for three years, and then in 1586 to the monastery of the Annunication in Nicastro where he studied for two more years.
After his early philosophical studies, based on Aristotle, Campanella moved to the Dominican house at Cosenza in 1588 to study theology. In Cosenza he discovered the philosophy of Telesio. By 1598 he had completed a general work in Telesio's defense.
Campanella certainly had the equivalent of a B.A., although his education was entirely within the institutions of the Dominican order and was not in universities as such. However, Cosenza is called the Studio generale of the Dominicans in Calabria.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic, Heterodox
In May 1592 (or perhaps 91) he was denounced to the Inquisition for heresy and was confined to the Convent of San Domenico (in Venice). Thus began a long series of imprisonments, trials, tortures, and other punishment that ended only with his release in 1629.
In 1634 the Inquisition discovered yet another plot in Naples by one of Campanella's followers and Campanella was implicated. He fled Rome before he could be arrested.
Perhaps it is wrong to list him as heterodox. Campanella always considered himself a Catholic. Nevertheless, he was in trouble with the Inquisition through virtually his entire life.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Natural Philosophy, Occult Philosophy
Subordinate: Astronomy, Astrology
Campanella's writings encompass a very broad range of scientific topics, and he was one of the important systematizers of the 17th century. His importance in the history of science was through his animistic, yet empirical, interpretation of the world, which influenced a number of contemporaries and successors.
His published works include De sensu rerum et magia (1620), Astrologicorum libri VII (1629), and Civitas solis, which perhaps his best known work. He was a defender of Galileo.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Church Life, Patronage
Secondary: Schoolmastering
He entered the Dominican order in 1582. In 89 or 90 he left the monastery in Cosenza for Naples and later Florence and Padua. In Padua he lived from the lessons he gave.
He was in prison almost continuously from 1592 to 1629, first with the Inquisition, then with the Spanish authorities in Naples, and from 1626 to 29 with the Inquisition in Rome. I do not know how to categorize the long imprisonment, and on the whole I am simply ignoring it since there is no other similar case. (Alas, Bruno.) In Naples he frequently complained of the low amount allotted for his sustenance. In 1627 the Inquisition allowed him a stipend of 120 scudi to support him in its prison. When he was freed in 1629, the stipend was increased to 180 scudi.
In Rome, 1529-1534.
After he fled Rome, he stayed in Aix-en-Provence, where he was received by Peiresc and Gassedi, for a few months.
He arrived Paris in 1635, and stayed in France for the rest of his life. In France Campanella was given a pension, which however, was not always paid.
8. Patronage
Types: Aristrocrat, Court Official, Government Official, Scientist
In Calabria, Campanella met the del Tufo family, the local feudal lords. In Naples he lived with Mario del Tufo, clearly as his client. To him Campanella dedicated Philosophia sensibus demonstrata (composed in 1591). Later he dedicated another composition to del Tufo.
When he fled Naples, Campanella went to Florence where he dedicated a composition to the Grand Duke. He received a gift of money but not the university position for which he hoped. However, the influence of the Grand Duke apparently won Campanella's release in 1592 from his first imprisonment.
In 1595 Campanella, who had been concerned almost entirely with natural philosophy, began to write on the authority of the Church and on the role of the Spanish monarchy. Blanchet suggests that he owed his temporary liberation in 1595, despite the very serious charges against him before the Inquisition, to Lelio Orsini, who was influential in Rome, to the Emperor Rudolf, and to Maximilian, Duke of Bavaria. As Blanchet says, once the possibility of an academic appointment in Tuscany was closed to him, Campanella had to turn to other potential patrons and to compose works that would appeal to them.
The political conspiracy in Calabria in 1599, which landed him in jail for the next thirty years, had the patronage of the Marquis of Arena, Scipione Concublet.
While he was in prison, Campanella addressed his plans for the reformation of Church and society to the likes of the Pope, various Cardinals, the King of Spain, the Archduke of Styria, and Maximilian of Bavaria, dedicating the compositions to them of course. In many ways these futile appeals are the most revealing; Campanella did have a clear perception of the organization of power in society, and however wild his schemes, and however unlikely the status quo was to institute them, he addressed them to those in charge. Thus in 1618 he proposed to Pope Paul V the publication of a two volume collection of Christian apologetics, to be dedicated to Paul of course.
In 1616 Pedro Giron, Duke d'Osuna, became the viceroy of Naples. He was fascinated with Campanella from the beginning. Soon after he arrived in the realm, he arranged an interview with Campanella, and soon he eased considerably the rigor of the conditions of imprisonment. Although Osuna temporarily rescinded these measures, Campanella did regain his favor. During the final eight years of imprisonment in Naples, Campanella lived under relatively humane conditions instituted by Osuna.
Gaspard Schopp, a Catholic champion in Germany, became convinced of Campanella's importance and did much to aid his cause during the long imprisonment. He got Ferdinand of Styria (later the Emp. Ferdinand II) interested in Campanella's cause, and Ferdinand intervened several times on his behalf. The more lenient circumstances of the imprisonment apparently followed these interventions, which may thus have had a role in Osuna's actions. Obviously the Holy Office had a hand in permitting the more lenient treatment, and Ferdinand's interventions may have helped there.
When Campanella was moved to Rome in 1626, he learned of Urban's ill health and of his fear of astrological predictions of his imminent death. Campanella immediately played on this, insisting on his own knowledge of astrology and winning the favor of the Pope. Campanella composed an astrological refutation of Urban's near death, and he even composed a long commentary on Urban's poetry. Urban was clearly responsible for his release in 1629, although he became disillusioned with Campanella soon thereafter. In 1629, after his liberation, Campanella was allowed to publish Quod reminiscentur, which he dedicated to Urban. Recall that he was living at this time on a pension from the Church.
In 1631, at the request of Jean de Brassac, the French ambassador to Rome, he composed an exposition of Chapter 9 of Paul's Epistle to the Romans, to expound his view of predestination.
In the early 30's the French intellectual Naudé was instrumental in gaining recognition and support for Campanella among the learned and the powerful in France. When Campanella was implicated (apparently unjustly) in a new conspiracy in Naples in 1634, the French ambassador (now Noailles) helped him to escape to France. Peiresc and Gassedi enthusiastically received him when he reached Aix-en-Provence, where he stayed for a few months as Peiresc's guest, in November 1634.
When he arrived in Paris in 1635, Cardinal Richeieu came to his aid and helped him in various ways for the rest of his life. He was also received at the court of Louis XIII. He was called in to compose the horoscope of the infant Louis XIV, and he composed a poem in honor of the birth. Campanella dedicated his Philosophia rationalis to the two Noailles brothers. He composed political writings now which abandoned his former support of Spain and the Hapsburgs and favored France. He dedicated a volume to Louis XIII, the second edition of De sensu rerum to Richelieu (who gave him a gift of one hundred coins), a new edition of Philosophia realis to Pierre Seguier, the Chancellor of France, the Metaphysics (1638) to Claude Bullion de Bonolles, the minister of finance. It appears, however, that although Campanella gained enough to live, he did not exactly thrive in Paris, where he lived out the rest of his life.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: None
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
In 1589 Campanella went to Naples, where he met Giambattista della Porta and a Jewish astrologer named Abraham. He became active in della Porta's group, participating in its protoexperimentalism. Through Abraham he became acquainted with the astrological and pseudo-scientific traditions, which were important factors in his later thought.
I have indicated something of his correspondence above, which was not primarily with other members of the scientific community. However, he did correspond with Galileo, as is well known.
  1. L.Firpo's article in Dizionario biografico degli Italiani, XVII (1974), pp.372-401. CT 1123 .D62
  2. L.Firpo, Ricerche campanelliane, (Florence, 1947). B785 .C24F5 G. Spini, Ricerca dei libertini, (Rome, 1950).
  3. Leon Blanchet, Campanella, (Paris, 1920).
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. L.Amabile, Fra Tommaso Campanella, la sua congiuria, i suoi processi e la sua pazzia, 3vols., Naples, 1882. (2vols, Naples,1887. B785 .C24A47) This is clearly the most detailed account of Campanella. It was clear that Firpos's outstanding account in the DBI and Blanchet's drew directly on Amabile, so that I did not try to digest such a lengthy work.
  2. Italo Palmieri, Tommaso Campenella: Note sulla vita e l'opera, (Lamezia Terme: Gigliotti, 1986).
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

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©1995 Al Van Helden
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