I was writing today about the Campo de’Fiori in Rome (preparing a small waking guide for a friend soon to visit the city) and happened to notice that it was the 416th anniversary of the execution of Giordano Bruno, a personal hero of mine.
Bruno was originally a Dominican monk, but left the order to roam northern Europe and England, usually one step ahead of the Catholic Church who considered him a dangerous heretic. Bruno believed that the universe was divine in itself, and that such divinity was contained within every living creature. He wrote, “Nature is simply God in things,” a beautiful statement, but one that went against Catholic theology. He also believed in such heresies as the heliocentric model of the universe where the Earth revolved around the sun.
Eventually, the Inquisition caught up with him in Venice. He was imprisoned in Rome for several years before being condemned to death. After the sentence was read, Bruno said, “You judges who condemn me make the pronouncement with much more fear than I who receive it.” Bruno was executed in the Camp de’Fiori on 17 February, 1600. He was gagged, bound naked to a stake and set on fire.
After 1600, the square was regularly used as a place of execution. Many people, criminals and heretics, met their fates here, either by being burnt or hung. Today, the picturesque square, the only major square in Rome that does not have a church in it, is dominated by an imposing statue of Giordano Bruno.
I can recommend a good book about Bruno and his times: The Pope and the Heretic by Michael White.