In the centre of Campo de' Fiori towers a bronze statue of Giordano Bruno (1548-1600), who was executed here on February 17th, 1600. Bruno was a Dominican friar, philosopher, mathematician, poet and cosmologist. He was also, in the eyes of the Catholic Church, a heretic. In 1593 Bruno was imprisoned on multiple charges of heresy, including the denial of the doctrine of transubstantiation. He was tried by the Roman Inquisition, found guilty and condemned to death.
Almost 300 years later, on June 9th 1889, a monument to Giordano Bruno, the work of the Roman sculptor Ettore Ferrari (1845-1929), was unveiled in the centre of Campo dei Fiori. The statue was originally meant to face the sun, but at the last minute the decision was taken to erect it facing the direction of the Vatican, which lies to the north. As a result, the friar's face is perpetually shaded, lending him a melancholy air.
The inscription on the base reads: A BRVNO IL SECOLO DA LVI DIVINATO QVI DOVE IL ROGO ARSE (To Bruno - from the age he divined - here where the fire burned). The three bronze reliefs depict Bruno at the University of Oxford, his sentence by the Inquisition and his execution.
The monument is also a memorial to eight other figures who were persecuted by the Catholic Church, on account of their beliefs: Paolo Sarpi, Tommaso Campanella, Pietro Ramo, Giulio Cesare Vanini, Martin Luther, Aonio Paleario, Michele Serveto, John Wycliffe and Jan Hus. The one exception is Michele Serveto, who was burnt at the stake in Geneva, on the orders of the Calvinists. The eight men are depicted in bronze medallions.
In addition to public executions, the Campo dei' Fiori was also the location for the 'tormento della corda’, a gruesome form of torture, which involved raising a person up by his arms, which were tied behind his back, and then dropping him. This would have the effect of dislocating his shoulders, causing excruciating pain. There is a reference to this mode of torture in the name of a neighbouring street, Via della Corda.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private walking tours of Rome.
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