While the white marble classical statuary of Rome is stunning, this brass statue of Giordano Bruno, a 16th century Dominican friar, contradictorily philosopher, poet, mathematician, and cosmologist, is haunting. Built at the very spot in the Campo de Fiore in Rome, Italy, where he was burned at the stake for his progressive thinking, it is memorably different from other classical statues.
First of all, it’s clothed.The first marble statue you see of a naked hero or God makes you “ooh” and “aah” at the skill of the artist, the ability to convincingly extract flesh from stone, all while trying not to stare obviously at the glaring genitals in your face. By the time you reach statue number 50, or perhaps even sooner, “oohs” and “aahs” are replaced by “ho hums” and “meh.” A little humor before I go into the serious stuff!!
The fact that the statue of Giordano Bruno is clothed is actually a sign of it’s importance. It took more effort, time and skill to sculpt fabric.
Secondly it doesn’t have the blank, expressionless stare of other statues that make them look like they’re made of stone, or dead, which they are.
It feels cognizant, watchful. It throbs with anger, an eternal fatigue, humility, tragedy, and says one doesn’t have to be dazzling and grand, like everything Vatican, to make an impact. Boundlessly spiritual in a way that transcends all the pettiness in the world, it speaks of the oppression of progressive thinking, of what makes sense, what’s logical, all doctrine and policy aside. And it makes me want to cry for all the people who are misunderstood an misjudged. It’s grim, Gothic, reeks of the darkness that characterized the 16th century (lack of individual thought and logic, strong belief in the supernatural, violent persecution of those that questioned current religious views). It’s powerful.
Why is he an inspiration? In an era ruled by inflexibility of thought dictated by doctrine and the need for self glorification, when the popular theory was that the earth was at the center of the universe, Giordano Bruno believed in the Copernican model of the solar system, which gave the sun that honor. Shame on him for stirring up doubts about the glory of the earth. Fact and accuracy be damned.
A bigger thorn in the side of those who were “ordained” by the almighty was the fact that he was also a Pantheist, believing there was no God with human attributes and human judgment ruling over life, and that divinity existed in all living things. So, sorry, sire, you do not have the power to condemn me to eternal damnation. Well! What gives you the right, Bruno???
The Roman Inquisition evidently did not believe he had that right. They tried and found him guilty of heresy in 1593. Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake, his ashes strewn in the Tiber.
Like most great men, his recognition was posthumous. In the more enlightened 19th and early 20th centuries, Giordano Bruno rose to fame as a martyr for science. His case remains a landmark in the history of free thought. His statue, created by Ettore Ferrari (nope, no connection to the car at all!), was put up in the Campo di Fiore, Rome in 1889. The inscription on the base reads: “ A BRUNO – IL SECOLO DA LUI DIVINATO – QUI DOVE IL ROGO ARSE” – Translation: “To Bruno – From the Age he Predicted – Here Where the Fire Burned.” Sounds more momentous in Italian, doesn’t it?
He towers over the tourists and flower stalls during the day, and in the shadows of the lit up cafes and bars at night, forever reminding us, the revelers, not to take our freedoms for granted. That life is much more than what is told by those who would be in power, to never give up thinking for ourselves, to question what we are told if it doesn’t make sense, and to look deep inside ourselves for what does. He is an inspiration.
By the way his statue was built facing the Vatican, which really pissed them off!