Consider the Worms

Settled in the valley between the Adriatic and the Alps, not much happened in Montereale, Italy. The main source of excitement for most of the town was the local miller, whom everybody knew as “Menocchio,” and the excitement was in never knowing what he was going to say next.  On February 4, 1584, he sat down beneath a tree near the church to share a lunch with his friend Giovanni.

“Consider the worms,” Menocchio said, unwrapping the cloth from a wheel of pulsating cheese.
“Ah! Formaggio marcio,” Giovanni said, “it’s finally ready!”
A few maggots popped up into the air and landed on the grass. As Giovanni leaned to pick them up and plop them back onto the weeping cheese, he noticed the priest poking his head out of a window in the church, a fierce scowl on his face.
“Menocchio, you know I always enjoy your philosophizing but I think maybe you read too much.  You might be going too far, especially the silly things you say to the priest…”
The miller shrugged him off and pointed at the cheese, “…as I was saying: 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, and there was also God, he too having been created out of that mass…”
Menocchio’s explanation of creation was cut short when the priest appeared behind him.
Domenico Scandella, you are to appear before the Inquisition for propagating heresy!”
Menocchio avoided judgment in that first trial but his inability to keep his self-educated views private led to him being burned at the stake fifteen years later amid the growing fears and reactions of a church facing a burgeoning and painful “protest.”


Prixie said...

Cheese with maggots - never understood that, and never will. Besides, I am strictly vegetarian!

cyurkanin said...

I'm very sure that I'd quickly come around to vegetarianism if this "dish" were my only option... :P

Enbrethiliel said...


Heresy as a maggotty ball of cheese. You can't make up these metaphors!

Did I ever tell you about the time I was reading Nineteen Eighty-Four with my students and made them so paranoid that they thought everything they had ever been taught was a lie? =P It lasted for about a week, during which time they started playing the "What If?" game; and I wasn't able to bring them back until someone asked, "What if the world is really a giant dog?"--and someone else said, "Then why isn't the grass brown?" They started coming up with absurd explanations for everything in nature, and I was relieved to point out that if you decide to doubt something reasonable, you will end up rationalising something ridiculous.

Still, it's not as elegant as the cheese. And Menocchio wasn't even funning. He really believed it and wanted everyone to believe it, too.

cyurkanin said...

I do love the logical step from the world being a dog to the grass being brown! :)

I hold a soft spot for old Menocchio though. Bruno got all the press when he was burned for the books he wrote right about the same time and was immortalized. Menocchio was completely forgotten to history until the Vatican opened up its Inquisition files in the Secret Archives and overnight he became an instant celebrity. His unorthodoxies should really have been looked upon as what they were: foolish ramblings, as no one in his village ever gave him a second thought. He died because he simply lived at the wrong time. The town recently put up a statue of a block of cheese in his honor. Ha!