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ought to be confirmed by miracle; his audacity in declaring that if he lied, Jesus Christ lied in him, and that all who believed not his doctrines were damned. “The Pope had hoped by his equanimity to induce Savonarola to acknowledge his errors; he now peremptorily interdicted him from preaching in St. Mark and elsewhere. There were other instructions for the execution of this sentence. At the same time came a letter to Savonarola himself, in blander terms, the manifest object of which was to tempt him to go to Rome. Savonarola replied in a long letter, full, as usual, of his subtle distinctions and ingenious or artful excuses. In truth he had but one alternative, as a good Catholic, to submit humbly and at once, or, like Luther, to burn the bull. He abstained indeed from preaching in the churches; but under the modest and specious name of conferences, and in more familiar language, he continued at St. Mark's to keep up his disciples to their fever heat. On Christmas Day the excommunicated Savonarola publicly administered the mass, and led a solemn procession through the cloisters.
On January 1, in the fatal year 1498, was chosen a Signory, mainly of the partisans of Savonarola. They pressed him again to preach in public. The magistracy attended a splendid divine service at St. Mark's on the Epiphany, and received the eucharist from the excommunicated Friar. On Septuagesima Sunday he mounted the pulpit of the cathedral Santa Maria dei Fiori : he commenced his last and not least striking course of sermons on Exodus. Though his disciple, almost his rival in popularity, Domenico Buonvicini, preached at St. Lorenzo, the concourse was so great, that they were obliged to replace the seats which had been erected to accommodate his countless hearers. The Arrabbiati beat drums around the cathedral; there were regular battles with stones or worse. In these sermons he sought not to avoid the perilous question, his resistance to the Pope. It was the old argument in the same form, or in even bolder forms :
I lay down this axiom, there is no man that may not deceive himself. The Pope himself may err. You are mad if you say the Pope cannot err! How many wicked Popes have there been who have erred : if they have not erred, should we do as they have done we should be saved. You say that the Pope may err as man, but not as Pope. But I say the Pope may err in his processes and in his sentences. How many constitutions have Popes issued, annulled by other Popes; how many opinions of Popes are contrary to those of other Popes. He may err by false persuasions; he may err by malice, and against his conscience. We ought indeed in this case to leave the judgment to God, and charitably to suppose that he has been deceived. Can a Pope do everything? Can he order a married man to leave his wife and marry another ?
He said the briefs of Alexander were so full of contradictions, that they must have been drawn by heads with but little sense. He spoke of excommunications, as launched with such recklessness that they had lost all authority. The first sermon closes magnificently. He had before protested, that if he sought absolution, for that absolution he would that God might cast him down into hell :
I should think myself guilty of mortal sin if I should seek absolution. Our doctrine has enforced good living, and so much fervour, and such perpetual prayer, yet are we the excommunicated, they the blessed. Yet their doctrine leads to all evil doings — to waste in eating and drinking, to avarice, to concubinage, to the sale of benefices, and to many lies, and to all wickedness. Christ ! on which side wilt thou be ? -on that of truth or of lies? of the excommunicated or of the blessed ? The answer of Christ may be expected. .... The Lord will be with the excommunicated, the Devil with the blessed. He exhorts them all, even women and children, to be prepared to die for Christ.
At the Carnival there were processions more gorgeous, and more lavish in their fantastic religious symbolism, their images, their banners, than ever before. There was a second auto-dafe, it should seem, of precious things which had escaped hitherto the inquisitorial zeal of the boy-censors. Burlamacchi names marble busts of exquisite workmanship, some ancient (it is said by others, representing Lucretia, Faustina, Cleopatra); some of the well-known beauties of the day - the lovely
Bencina, Lena Morella, the handsome Bina, Maria de Lenzi. There was a Petrarch, inlaid with gold, adorned with illuminations valued at fifty crowns; Boccaccios of such beauty and rarity as would drive modern bibliographists out of their surviving senses. The Signory looked on from a balcony; guards were stationed to prevent unholy thefts; as the fire soared there was a burst of chants, lauds, and the Te Deum, to the sound of trumpets and the clanging of bells. Then another procession; and in the Piazza di San Marco dances of wilder extravagance, friar, and clergyman, and layman of every age whirling round in fantastic reel, to the passionate and profanely-sounding hymns of Jerome Beniviene.
Rome was furious ; the two first sermons upon Exodus had been laid before the Pope ;' new briefs arrived threatening the most extreme measures ; Florence was menaced with interdict; the ambassador with difficulty obtained a short delay. There were sinister rumours that the new Signory would be hostile to the Piagnoni. Yet on the day of their election to their office, Savonarola outdid himself. There are briefs arrived from Rome, is it not so ? They call me the son of perdition. He whom you so call has neither catamites nor concubines, he preaches the faith of Christ ; his spiritual daughters and sons, those who listen to his doctrines, pass not their time in perpetrating such wickednesses ; they confess, communicate, live godly lives. This Friar would build up the Church of Christ which you destroy. Leave me to answer the letters from Rome : time will open the casket; one turn of the key and such infection, such filth, shall arise from the city of Rome, that it will spread throughout Christendom, and corrupt the whole atmosphere. But Savonarola thought it prudent now to withdraw into St. Mark's; there he still preached to the
· Lettera di Bonsi, Marchese, p. 167. Not only had the Pope heard that the Friar declared that he would go to hell before he would ask absolution, but that he had reproached the Pope about the death of his son. This was no calumny of his enemies, the allusion was patent (see Marchese, Note). See also the 22nd Sermon, more furious than ever against Rome : Vanno hora in S. Pietro le meretrici, ogni prete ha la sua concubina.' He warns the Frati solemnly not to go to Rome : Vuoi tu river bene, non andare a Roma, non star con prelati,' &c.--p. 144.
men during the week, to the women who would not be excluded, on Saturday. The Signory endeavoured to propitiate the Pope; they represented the wonderful effects of the preaching of Savonarola, and entreated his Holiness to mitigate his strong measures. The remarkable answer of Pope Alexander is published for the first time by M. Perrens, who writes, “ It is very hard in form, in substance very conciliatory.' Of its rigid impenetrable hardness there can be no doubt; but all that is conciliatory, the faint hope held out that, after her humiliation, Florence was again to be permitted to hear her beloved preacher, sounds to us no more than diplomatic delusion addressed to a signory in which the Pope has many voices, and hoped to induce them either to take the strong step of silencing, or still better of sending, the Friar to Rome.
At this juncture Savonarola threw away the scabbard, and boldly and resolutely appealed to Christendom, against the wicked Pope. He wrote letters to all the great sovereigns of Europe, to the Emperor, the King of France, the King and Queen of Spain, the King of England, the King of Hungary : he called upon them with the deepest solemnity to call a Council to depose a Pope who was no Pope. The words of his denunciation vary; their significance is the same.? Alexander was no Pope, because he had notoriously bought the pontifical mitre by sacrilegious simony ; because he was guilty of monstrous vices at which the world would shudder, and which Savonarola was prepared to prove at fit time and place; because he was no Christian, but an absolute atheist. The language of Savonarola had long bordered : on, or rather been the same with that of Wycliffe and John Huss, that a wicked priest, bishop, or pope was no priest, bishop, or pope. The Council of Constance and the deposal of John XXIII. were still fresh in the memory of the world. Of these fatal letters one was intercepted by the Duke of Milan and transmitted to Rome.
2 M. Perrens has printed the original Latin of two of these letters, which were before known only in Italian. Of their authenticity there can be no doubt; the fact of Savonarola's appeal is attested by all the best historians, Nardi and others. It is alluded to more than once in the trial.
3 Scitote enim hunc Alexandrum VI. minime pontificem esse, qui non potest non modo ob simoniacam sacrilegamque pontificatus usurpationem et manifesta ejus scelera ; sed propter secreta facinora a nobis loco et tempore proferenda quæ universus mirabitur et ob(ex)secrabitur orbis.'—Ad Reg. Hisp. 'Affirmo ipse non esse Christianum qui nullum prorsus putans Deum esse, omne infidelitatis et impietatis culmen excessit.'- Ad Imperat. p. 486.
No wonder that on March 13 arrived at Florence a new and more furious bull imperatively commanding the Signory to proceed to the execution of the former decrees. The same day Savonarola replied in a letter of calm yet defiant expostulation, asserting his power of prophesying the future, remonstrating at the too easy audience given by the Pope to the enemies of himself and of God; and in a brief concluding sentence, exhorting the Pope not to delay, but to look well after his own salvation. The Signory were in alarm : the Council was divided : the Piagnoni and the Arrabbiati contested every point. Was the question of the guilt or innocence of the Friar to be debated in the Great Council, the Council of 80, or by chosen delegates ? A commission of 12 was appointed. They entreated Savonarola, for the sake of the peace of Florence, to cease from preaching. For once Savonarola listened to the voice of prudence, but with sullen reserve. He would cease at least for a time: he would cease till the Lord, as no doubt he would, should compel him to preach again.' He took a tender farewell of his hearers : he closed with a kind of awful blessing : he thought not, as he descended from the pulpit, that he would never ascend it again. The Signory communicated the result of their deliberations to the Pope; * and the Pope seemed to acquiesce in the silence of his redoubted adversary.
It was the folly of Savonarola's disciples, and not his own magnanimity or rashness, which precipitated his fate. The Franciscans throughout the career of Savonarola had been his most implacable adversaries, and their own conscious inferiority as preachers was not likely to soothe their jealous hatred. It
· Letter of the Signory to the Pope, Marchese, Doc. xxiii.