On this date in 1600, Giordano Bruno (né Filippo Bruno) was executed for heresy. The Italian philosopher was burned alive at the stake at age 52 for refusing to recant heretical ideas. Born Filippo Bruno in 1548, he entered the Dominican Order at Naples at age 15, adopting the name of Giordano. After being accused of heresy, he fled his Italian convent and traveled throughout Europe (1576 to 1592). During two years in England, Bruno wrote and published six dialogs, including "On the Infinite, the Universe, and Worlds" and "The Ash Wednesday Supper." A Copernican, he rejected Aristotelian dogma and challenged entrenched religious teachings, declaring pantheist views. Some academics today regard him as a path-blazing intellectual, others as a victim of his nonconformity. When Bruno returned to Italy in 1592, he was arrested by the Inquisition. Bruno was imprisoned for seven years in the dungeons of Rome, where he was tortured and isolated before being executed.
Bruno was just one of the more visible martyrs and victims of church persecution. Anonymous are the tens of thousands, if not millions, of women put to death as "witches." Known to us are such martyrs as Vanini, a monk burned as an atheist in 1619; Servetus, a Spanish physician executed under Calvin's orders in 1553 for rejecting the trinity; Scottish student Thomas Aikenhead, hanged in 1697 for saying Christ was merely human; and those persecuted in the New World. Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson were banished for advocating religious tolerance. Quaker Mary Dyer was executed for heresy in Boston. A statue to Bruno was erected at the site of his execution, Campo dei Fiori near the Vatican, on June 9, 1889, by "Freethinkers of the World." On that date, Algernon Swinburne dedicated a poem to Bruno. D. 1600.