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.”