The Cheese and the Worms

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The Danger of Speaking Out

Carlo Ginzburg’s The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller explores the trials of supposed heretic Domenico Scandella. Better known as Menocchio, The Cheese and the Worms details his extensive beliefs about mistruths in religion and is written as a micro history of the events of his trial. At a time when religion and God were thought of as pure fact, Menocchio doubted their supreme existence and this lead to his death by burning. When reviewing Ginzburg’s account of the trials, the sources of his many ideas come to light and these ideas show that the Catholic Church and its members were scared the most by Menocchio’s ideas about the origins of earth. Although a miller by trade, Menocchio was a well read, church going man. Having read various religious works, including the Bible, Menocchio came to numerous conclusions that did not sit well with upper authorities in the Catholic Church. To the Medieval Catholic Church, Menocchio’s most dangerous and outrageous claim was that the Book of Genesis was flawed. While standing trial, Menocchio is quoted as saying, “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” (Ginzburg, 4-5). Here, Menocchio is comparing the creation of the universe and in particular the human world to the creation of cheese from milk, suggesting that our existence was not formed by God but by some other means. Obviously, this is something that would not sit well with the ardent, strict religious officials of the time. During Menocchio’s time, the Catholic Church sought to keep a pristine reputation without anyone questioning the...
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