Trials of Giordano Bruno (1592-1600)

In the early morning light of Ash Wednesday, the primary day in the Church calendar for Christian penance, Giordano Bruno, one of the most original minds of the sixteenth century, rode into Rome's Campo de' Fiori on a mule. Stripped naked and gagged with a leather bridle to prevent him from shouting out heresies to those present in the plaza, Bruno mounted the pile of firewood, charcoal, kindling, and pitch. Tied to the stake, Bruno turned his head away in anger when a crucifix was held up to his face. The pyre was lit and the flames leaped to consume Bruno.

The Church records for that morning, February 17, 1600, reported the basic facts: Bruno "was led by officers of the law to Campo de' Fiori, and there, stripped naked and tied to the stake, he was burned alive, always accompanied by our company singing the litanies, and the comforters, up to the last, urging him to abandon his obstinacy, with which he ended his miserable and unhappy life."

Eight days earlier, when he received his death sentence from his inquisitors in The Holy Office, Bruno told them, in what was described as "a menacing tone," "You may be more afraid to bring that sentence against me...