Heretic. Madman. Religious fanatic. Political reactionary. All these terms have been used to describe the Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola (1452-1498), who challenged both the authority of the pope and the power of the Florentine throne. Martines's fast-paced study weaves a first-rate social history of Renaissance Florence with a deeply affecting and more complex portrait of Savonarola. The friar's fiery preaching against greed and for social justice garnered him many followers. Savonarola condemned the excesses of a church that tried to fill its coffers by mistreating the poor and an authoritarian monarchy complicit with this church. Once the ruling Medicis fell from power, he led a movement to create a Great Council, comprising middle-class citizens, which led the city for almost 20 years until a monarchy was restored. By the end of the century, Savonarola's support for this republican government, his steady condemnation of personal and social immorality and his strident preaching led to his excommunication, trial and execution. This absorbing account by Martines, professor emeritus of European history at UCLA, captures Savonarola's brilliance as well as the exciting and dangerous days of Renaissance Florence. 30 b&w illus. not seen by PW. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
In this "biography of a time and place," Martines (European history, emeritus, UCLA; April Blood: Florence and the Plot Against the Medici) continues his investigation of the tumultuous political life of late 15th-century Florence. His focus is the short-lived Florentine republic (1494-98), when the dominant voice belonged to a charismatic Dominican friar, Girolamo Savonarola. Savonarola eventually fell from grace: Florentines could not long resist papal pressure to oust him once he was excommunicated in 1497. He was executed for heresy in 1498. However, for four years the notoriously worldly Florentines had embraced his radical message of individual and civic purification. For a short while, Savonarola provided the rallying point against the Medici. His stature was bolstered by the Florentine piety that lay behind the city's thin fa ade of Renaissance rationalism. Martines makes a convincing case that history treated Savonarola unfairly: he was an eloquent preacher and a sagacious political advisor to the city. As in his other books, Martines writes like an angel, and his judgments are nuanced and humane. This book will be read with profit by both professional scholars and general readers. Highly recommended.-David Keymer, Modesto, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
"The book makes lively reading and draws us toward the enigma of Savonarola."Melissa Meriam Bullard, The Catholic Historical Review
"With Fire in the City, Lauro Martines beautifully explores the novelty of Savonarola's moral mission."Maria C. Pasotre Passaro, Journal of Modern History
"A rich and fascinating portrait of Girolamo Savonarola, the Dominican friar who ruled Florence after the fall of the Medicis. Enraged by church corruption, he led a Florentine council for 20 yearsuntil his enemies burned him at the stake in 1498."Los Angeles Times
"Impressive narrative power.... A thoroughly good read that is also reliable history, scrupulously documented yet with its pages uncluttered by footnotes.... As in every tragedy, the pace quickens as the atmosphere darkens around the protagonist; and when all occasions begin to conspire against him, the reader is caught up in the pity, the crueltyand the inevitabilityof his fate.... Savonarola's story...bears fresh retelling, and Lauro Martines does so with scholarly authority and an admirable combination of clarity and pace."Sir Michael Levey, Wall Street Journal
"Martines is one of our most renowned historians of the Italian Renaissance and of Florence in particular. His new book is, in some ways, a successor to April Blood , his account of the 'Pazzi' conspiracy to assassinate Lorenzo de' Medici in 1478. Together the two volumes make up an engrossing study of society and politics during the Tuscan city's most illustrious half century."Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book World
"Martines writes like an angel, and his judgments are nuanced and humane.... Makes a convincing case that history treated Savonarola unfairly: he was an eloquent preacher and a sagacious political advisor to the city.... This book will be read with profit by both professional scholars and general readers."Library Journal (starred review)
"Martines's fast-paced study weaves a first-rate social history of Renaissance Florence with a deeply affecting and more complex portrait of Savonarola.... This absorbing account by Martines captures Savonarola's brilliance as well as the exciting and dangerous days of Renaissance Florence."Publishers Weekly (starred review)