Giovanni Battista Bugatti

Giovanni Battista Bugatti (1779–1869) was the official executioner for the Papal States from 1796 to 1864. He was the longest-serving executioner in the States and was nicknamed Mastro Titta, a Roman corruption of maestro di giustizia, or master of justice.[1] At the age of 85, he was retired by Pope Pius IX with a monthly pension of 30 scudi.

Mastro Titta
Mastro Titta offering snuff to a condemned prisoner before carrying out an execution. From a 19th-century woodcut.
Born(1779-03-06)6 March 1779
Died18 June 1869(1869-06-18) (aged 90)
TitleOfficial Executioner for the Papal States
Term22 March 1796 – 17 August 1864
(68 years, 148 days)


He referred to his executions as justices and the condemned as patients. His first execution was on March 22, 1796. Up until 1810, the method of execution was beheading by axe, hanging or mallet. The French introduced the use of the guillotine which was continued after the Papal States regained their sovereignty (first beheading by guillotine under papal reign: 1816) until the last executions. He carried out a total of 516 executions, an average of 7 per year.

Bugatti is described as being short and portly, and always well dressed. He frequented the church Santa Maria in Traspontina. He was married but had no children. When not carrying out his official duties, Bugatti and his wife sold painted umbrellas and other souvenirs to tourists.

He could not leave the Trastevere neighbourhood unless on official business. Officially this was for his own protection, in case relatives of those he had executed decided to take revenge against him. Unofficially it was probably due to superstition regarding his part-time job. On his crossing the bridge, the residents of Rome were alerted that an execution was about to take place and people would gather to witness the popular event.

One of his executions, carried out on 8 March 1845, was described by Charles Dickens in his work Pictures from Italy (1846).

His blood-stained clothes, axes and guillotines are on display at the Museum of Criminology at Via del Gonfalone. The guillotine is of a very peculiar build, with straight blade and V-shaped neck-piece.


  1. Allen, John L., Jr. "He executed justice – papal execution Giovanni Battista Bugatti's life and work" (National Catholic Reporter, 14 September 2001).


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