Nowadays, the Campo de' Fiori (Field of Flowers) is home to a large and bustling daily market, but it was once the site of something much more gruesome.
In the centre of the piazza towers a 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 bronze statue of Giordano Bruno, the work of the Roman sculptor Ettore Ferrari (1845-1929), was unveiled in the 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.
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 suspending someone in the air with their arms tied behind their back and then dropping them. This would have the effect of dislocating the shoulders and causing excruciating pain.
There is a reference to this mode of torture in the name of a small street, via del Corda, which leads into the piazza.