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must not obey; so says St. Thomas. If he commanded me to eat flesh when in health, or, like a Cardinal, belie my religion, I would not, must not, do so; so write St. Bernard and other doctors.
At times he triumphantly reverts to his own unimpeachable orthodoxy, as he might in justice on all the great articles of the faith and on all the tenets of the Roman Church; but he forgot that Rome had long exercised the power of enlarging the limits of orthodoxy; that absolute instantaneous obedience to the See of Rome was now an unquestioned doctrine of the Church. At times we seem to hear not only Gerson or Zabarella asserting the power in the Church to depose a wicked pontiff, but Wycliffe or John Huss asseverating that a wicked Pope is no Pope. It was a strange argument, with which he bewildered himself in order to bewilder his hearers.
Who has inhibited my preaching? You say, the Pope. I answer you, it is false. "Oh friar, the Briefs are here, what say you?' I say that the Briefs are not of the Pope. . . . They say the Pope cannot err, and they think that a fine saying, and in itself it is true. But another saying is true—that a Christian, as far as he is a Christian, cannot sin. Yet may Christians sin because they are men, and may err. As far as I am a Christian I cannot err; as far as I am a friar I cannot go beyond my rule. .. Thus the Pope, as far as he is Pope, cannot err; when he errs he is not Pope. If he commands that which is wrong, he does not command it as Pope. As a Christian I cannot err; when I err I do not err as a Christian. . . . It follows, then, that this Brief, which is such a wicked Brief, is not the Pope's Brief. I have shown you that such excommunication (the excommunication had now been issued) does not come from the Pope. ... Summing up all this; whoever will judge rightly, will judge that such an excommunication is no excommunication; such briefs are of no validity, they are of the devil, not of God. ... I say, and you know it, that I am manifestly sent, and I am of the order of preachers, and I am sent by God to tell you this distinctly; and I must preach, and even if I have to contend against the whole world, and I shall conquer in the end.
Brave and resolute words, but how to be reconciled with Papal Supremacy, or even with ecclesiastical discipline? Savonarola asserts a mission above the mission of the Pope. In another passage he instances those five Bulls of Pope Boniface VIII.,
who was so wicked a Pope.' Nor, in the meantime, does he soften or mitigate his eloquence; it is now at its height; is even more terribly vituperative; his fulminations against Rome are still more relentless. Neither did the Fraticelli, the lower Franciscans, nor the northern Lollards, brand more broadly the evils which the assumption of temporal power had brought upon the Church. There is a long awful passage on the rod of Moses swallowing up the rod of Aaron. If you would live well go not to Rome—I had rather go to the Turks.' But it is impossible to judge Savonarola without one passage, a passage which we cannot quote entire, and which has been withdrawn from most of the copies of the Sermons on Amos.5 It is in the wildest and most characteristic manner of the preacher :
O vaccæ pingues quæ estis in Monte Samariæ. O vacche grasse che siete nei monti di Samaria, che vuol ella dire questa Scrittura ? Tu mi risponderai e dirai queste prophetie e le Scritture Sacre sono finite in Cristo e non vanno più là, e furono verificate a tempi loro. Io ti rispondo che non ci bisogneria adunche più il vecchio Testamento a noi, e si espose pure dalli santi dottori al tempo delli eretici le Scritture, secundo quelli tempi d' allora per li eretici; e tamen fu dopo Cristo, va demandane li dottori. A me adunche questa Scrittura e queste vacche grasse voglion dire le meretrici della Italia e di Roma (io non dico di le donne da bene, io dico di chi è). Eccene nessuna in Italia et in Roma ? Mille son poche a Roma ; dieci milia sono poche, dodici milia sono poche, quatordici milia sono poche a Roma. Udite adunche queste parole, o vacche di Samaria, udite ne lo orecchio. La vaccha è un animale insulso e grasso, e proprio come uno pezzo di carne colli occhi. Donne, fate che le vostre fanciulle non sono vacche; fate che le vadino coperte il petto. ... Queste che sono come io v'ho detto un pezzo di carne con due occhi; non si vergogniano di niente; puo essere che voi non vi vergogniate che voi non solamente siate concubine, ma concubine di preti e di frati.
We must break off; this is modesty, decency, mild rebuke to what follows. We have afterwards Herodias dancing and demanding the head of John the Baptist :
e dirai più là, e tudunche I
5 Out of six copies in the libraries of Florence consulted by M. Perrens, it is only in one. It is in that which we have used belonging to Sion College Library. It is quoted entire in M. Perrens' Appendix.
Queste dicano al toro taglia le gambe al quello, ammazza quest' altro che non mi lasciano vivere al mio modo: quanti credi tu, che ne perisca l' anno in questa forma, o concubine, o vacche.
We might here almost suppose an allusion or a prophecy to the murders committed on each other by the Borgias. Then comes the sentence,
Juravit Dominus Deus in sancto suo, Iddio ha giurato nel suo figliuolo e nel corpo suo, che verranno i dì amari sopra di te, Roma, e sopra di voi vacche, verranno dico i giorni amari.—Amos, Pred. xii.
Another passage might seem aimed directly at Alexander VI., if his effrontery had not already been anticipated by his predecessors, Sixtus IV. and Innocent VIII. "They disdain the more decorous vice of nepotism; they publicly call their bastards by the name of sons.' (p. 143.)
Savonarola would not trust to his eloquence alone; the phrenzy of the people must be kept up with counter means of excitement. His enemies were by this time become strong and furious; there were rumours that they intended to poison him. At one period the magistrates (his partisans) gave him a bodyguard to protect his life. It was at the close of this Lent, on Palm Sunday, that he organized the famous procession which was to put to shame the unholy merriment of the old Carnival, to show the way in which the austere season of Lent was hereafter to commence and to close. He would oppose the Cross to the sword of justice. In the church of the Annunziata assembled not less than 8,000 children, each of whom as he passed St. Mark received a red cross. Mature men, clad in white like children, went chanting and dancing before the Tabernacle on the Public Place. They all sang mystic lauds composed for the occasion, of incredible extravagance, and to our feelings of incredible profaneness. Viva Christo, viva Firenze,' was the burthen. They were a kind of Christian Bacchanalian song, with infinitely greater wildness, and without the grace of Lorenzo de' Medici's Carnival Odes : Non fu mai più bel solazzo,
Più giocondo ne maggiore,
Di Gesù divenir pazzo.
Semper pazzo, pazzo, pazzo.
They paused for a time before the church of Santa Maria dei Fiori. On an altar in Santa Maria dei Fiori were vases for offerings, full of gold, rings, and trinkets; chests for larger objects, robes of silk, and every kind of gorgeous dress and decoration. All these oblations were for the Monti di Pietà, institutions which Florence owed, at least in their flourishing state, to Savonarola. The Tabernacle bore a painting representing the Lord as he entered Jerusalem on an ass, with the people shouting Hosanna and strewing their garments in his way; on the other side was the Virgin with a gorgeous crown. They returned to St. Mark's, and there, in the open square, the Dominicans, crowned with garlands, went whirling round in mad dances, chanting all the while their Christian Bacchanals.
What shall we say if we hear Savonarola, in the sermon of the following Monday in the Holy Week, vindicating all this sacred revelry, and with examples which we hardly dare to cite? “What shall I say of the festival of yesterday—that for once I drove you all mad; is it true? It was Christ, and not I. .... What will ye say if I make you hereafter madder still, yet not I, but Christ ?' He returns to the subject later in the sermon. He adduces of course the example of David dancing before the Ark, 'yet David was a king and a prophet;' of Elijah running and dancing before the king when the rain came down, and he was a prophet.' “Ye mock at these things for ye have not read the Scriptures. Tell me, did not our Saviour himself go mad in this way?' and he refers to the Gospel of St. Mark iii. 21; he adduces the rejoicing and crying by the Apostles on the descent of the Holy Ghost, when it was said they were drunk with new wine; St. Paul, to whom Agrippa said, “ Thou art mad;' lastly, St. Francis, in whom he might certainly have found better authority for his mystical ecstasy• This is the effect of divine love. What would ye say if I should make you all, old men and old women, dance every one around the crucifix; and I, the maddest of all, in the midst of all ? — Predica 41, sopra Amos.
The Pope, on the intelligence of these doings, during the Lent of 1496, appointed a commission of fourteen theologians, all Dominicans. Only the result of their deliberations is known; all but one condemned Savonarola as guilty of heresy, schism, and disobedience to the Holy See. Yet some unknown cause, perhaps the powerful influence of some of the cardinals, for he had cardinals among his admirers, more likely some more urgent occupation, delayed the tardy anathema. On November 7 arrived a brief uniting St. Mark to a new Tuscan province of his order; Savonarola ceased to be vicargeneral.
The more eventful year 1497 opened with the accession of a signory in which the Piagnoni, his serious followers, obtained the ascendancy: at the head stood his noble partisan Francesco Valori. But they seem to have committed a fatal political error. The Grand Council, deducting the aged, sick, and infirm, was now reduced to 2,200. To fill it up they extended the age of admission to twenty-four years: but among the citizens of that age a great majority were of the Compagnacci, the gay youth of the Medicean faction. These were older than the children, who were all under his sway, younger than the more sober citizens, who had groaned under the yoke of the Medici. Savonarola would distinguish this carnival with still further solemn abnegation of its profane rejoicings. Florence should make a costly sacrifice of her vanities and worldly treasures. Days before, his young police were sent around on their rigid inquest to compel the people to surrender all their treasures of
• Religious dancing seems to be a favourite notion with Savonarola. He says to his faithful disciples, Se tu morrai, ti troverai a ballare con li angeli.'- On Amos, Pred. xxxir. p. 352.