Fire in the City: Savonarola and the Struggle for the Soul of Renaissance Florence

Fire in the City: Savonarola and the Struggle for the Soul of Renaissance Florence

by Lauro Martines
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Fire in the City: Savonarola and the Struggle for the Soul of Renaissance Florence 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
RENAISSANCEAD More than 1 year ago
Martines prides himself in being opposed to all mystifications. This may be the source of one of the main problems in the Florentine story about Savonarola. As the Dominican Savonarola was exerting his power through sermons, understanding the mythical messages seems paramount. After the first 100 pages or so (of a hard to read translation), I felt left in the dark as to what the conflict was all about. Given that fifteenth century Florence is one of my favorite research areas and that I am not a novice to Savonarola, this needs explaining: At the end of the fifteenth century, a greater conflict was in motion. The nascent nation-states were in an exploration frenzy to expand their colonial influence over newfound territories in North and South America. The Jews had to leave Spain within three months in an indescribable Holocaust and the Italian Peninsula was flooded with Melchite Saracens fleeing the forced conversions in Spain. Plague and famine shook the foundations of Florence, which seems to also have had a magnetic attraction for the refugees. The papacy and all of Italy were in sheer uproar. The pope faced an intellectual challenge like none other before?but not from Savonarola. A Renaissance man by the name of Pico della Mirandola had found an entirely new way of absorbing everything there was to learn, be it Christian, Jewish, Zoroastrian, or Muslim. Mirandola's systematic approach opened up all frontiers and breached all restraints that had been imposed by the church. Achievement became the focal point. Having carried his ideas to the center of spiritual evil in Rome, he had made sure that his words fell on fruitful grounds. Savonarola was at the other end of Mirandola's views: his intention was to establish Florence as a "New Jerusalem" and his claim was that God himself had spoken to him. The implication of this can be derived from the context from which the Book of Revelations in the New Testament was born. In the New Jerusalem, the Christians expected the kingdom of heaven to be established in Jerusalem, where the book of Revelations promised free booze, plenty of food, and eternal life without worries. Hence, Savonarola was an apocalyptic radical, who glorified poverty, called for the termination of those that thought differently, and pulled the political strings from behind the scenes. Instead of global context and curiosity, which would have helped in better understanding the preacher Savonarola, the author seems lost in details. For example, Martines is talking at length about a group of demons but seems to dismiss them as superstitions. Instead, there is an apocalyptic wave of purification of the faith by the innocent (e.g. Savonarola's followers) against those that endorsed wealth and sensuality (the demons). These real 'demons' had been in control of Florence before (the Medici) and needed rooting out, so the plan went. What was the Holy League about (Rome, Venice, Milan, and Spain)? Why would Florence support the French and not the Holy League? Why had they driven out the Medici? What were Savonarola's predictions and why were they offensive? There were five leading churches in Florence (among 70); what were their doctrinal differences and their role for or against Savonarola? Look up the Great Leap-Fraud for further interest on this subject. Very well researched, backed up with primary evidence every step along the way.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago