Menocchio, modern depiction

MENOCCHIO, Domenico Scandella (1532–1599),  a miller from Montereale, Italy, delated, probably by his parish priest to the Inquisition.  He surprised and scandalized residents of his village by frequently proclaiming his unusual beliefs.   First tried for heresy in 1583, he abjured his statements in 1584, but spent another 20 months in prison in Concordia. Released in 1586, he claimed to have reformed. He continued to be in house arrest and had to wear a sign of a burning cross on his garments as a visible sign of his crimes. In 1598, he was arrested again as a lapsed heretic, having continued to speak to many people about his beliefs. In 1599, he was burnt at the stake for heresy in 1599. His life and beliefs are known from the Inquisition records, and has been the subject of the book The Cheese and the Worms by Carlo Ginzburg

During his trial, he argued that the only sin was to harm one’s neighbor and that to blaspheme caused no harm to anyone but the blasphemer. He went so far as to say that Jesus was born of man and Mary was not a virgin, that the Pope had no power given to him from God but simply exemplified the qualities of a good man, and that Christ had not died to redeem humanity

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.”


During his trial testimony he referred to more than a dozen books he had read and shared with others, including:

the Bible,

Boccaccio’s Decameron

 Mandeville’s Travels,

Jacopo da Voragine, The Golden Legend
and possibly the Koran


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