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February 17 marks a peculiarly Roman holiday whose ritual centers on the bronze statue of a hooded friar. Just over life size, clutching a book in manacled hands, he glowers over the marketplace of Campo de’ Fiori, the "Field of Flowers" that was also, for many years, one of the city’s execution grounds. The statue was meant to point in the opposite direction, facing the sun, but a last-minute decision by the City Council of Rome in 1889 turned it around to face the Vatican, which had complained that the original placement was disrespectful.
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Ingrid D. Rowland was previously a professor at the University of Chicago. She is a regular essayist for The New York Review of Books and The New Republic. She is the author of The Culture of the High Renaissance and The Scorith of Scornello. She lives in Rome.
Prof. Ingrid D. Rowland