« PreviousContinue »
convent. The defenders gradually fell off. A new band of 800 ruffians, of the lowest class, mere plunderers, joined the assailants. At length came a peremptory order from the Signory and commissioners, to seize the persons of Savonarola, Domenico Buonvicini, Silvestro Maruffi. Even then Savonarola might have been saved by flight: he was betrayed by a Judas, as he is termed by the poet, the author of the
Cedrus Libani,' the most accurate chronicler of the event. Malatesta Sacramoro declared that the convent ought not to be destroyed for his sake: The Shepherd should lay down his life for the sheep.' Savonarola made a short speech, in Latin, to his followers, and took a touching farewell. Together with Domenico (Silvestro was not arrested till later, betrayed in his concealment by the same Malatesta) he came forth into the piazza, their hands bound behind their backs. They were received with a wild howl of joy and a volley of stones. The guards crossed their halberds above them, to prevent their being torn to pieces; his enemies, in profane mockery, adapted to him words from the New Testament; words uttered to his Divine Master at the same sad hour. They struck him behind. • Prophesy who it was that smote thee. They twisted his delicate hands so as to wring out a cry of pain: one kicked him behind, and coarsely said, “There is the seat of his prophetic power.'
The intelligence flew to Rome. The remorseless joy of the Pope broke out in five briefs. One congratulated the Signory on their virtuous rigour. It enjoined them, having questioned Savonarola on all which concerned the State, to send him to the frontier, to be tried for his religious offences at Rome. The second gave the vicar-general of the archbishop and the chapter power to absolve all concerned in the attack on the convent, even if guilty of homicide, and to suspend all sentences against the others; to publish a jubilee at Florence, a plenary indulgence, with re-admission into the pale of the Church, to all the Piagnoni who should repent of their errors. The other briefs were to the Franciscans and Francesco di Puglia, highly approving their zeal and success in unmasking the impostor. The Signory had not awaited these briefs to enter on the interrogatory of Savonarola. On the 9th, the very next day, began the examination of the prisoners: it was continued, with the exception of Easter Day, till the 19th. The answers of Savonarola were of studied obscurity. The first day he was submitted to torture of that kind which, in the horrible nomenclature of the dungeon, is called hoisting. A cord is passed under the armpits; the body suddenly hauled up, and let down with violence that wrenches every joint. This was thought the mildest torment. M. Perrens observes that Savonarola himself had proposed to apply it to obstinate gamblers. But the frame of Savonarola was, as is common in men of excitable temperament, singularly delicate and sensitive. He broke down at once, and confessed all which they asked: no sooner was the agony over than he revoked his confession. Examination, torture, re-examination, wrung forth but a wild incoherent mass of confession, and recantation of confession, on which no legal process could be framed. There needed a subtle villain, who could mould all this into something of which law might take cognizance. A notary of bad character, one Ceccone, offered himself, at the price of 400 crowns, as the agent in this infamy. He was concealed during the interrogatory; out of the admissions or free or enforced confessions of the Friar he made a long, minute report, extending over his whole life, full of gross contradictions and monstrous improbabilities. This was adroitly substituted for the genuine report, and published to wondering Florence. Of the villany of Ceccone there can be no doubt. It rests not only on the authority of Savonarola's admiring biographers but on the honest Nardi and the grave Guicciardini. It is confirmed by
* Yet Sacramoro had been one of those who had offered to pass through the fire. -Marchese, Documenti, p. 174.
• In the odious letter addressed to the Pope by the Signory, in which they humbly thank his Holiness for his great goodness in allowing them to torture a man in orders, they assert that he was potentissimi corporis,' and rather boast of his being tried 'multa et assidud questione multis diebus.'-Marchese, p. 185.
the process itself, which may be read with all its palpable fictions. The wretch, however, did not satisfy his employers, and received but some paltry 30 crowns. On April 19 the report was read to Savonarola: he was asked if he admitted its truth. Savonarola would strive no longer. He answered in ambiguous phrase, “What I have written is true,' or “What I have written I have written.' The Judas of the faction, Malatesta Sacramoro, summoned with other friars of St. Mark's to bear witness against him, said, tauntingly, · Ex ore tuo credidi, et ex ore tuo discredo.' Savonarola deigned no reply.
Even now there seemed difficulty in proceeding to capital punishment. Savonarola remained in his prison without further interrogatory for a month. He employed his time in writing a commentary on the Penitential Psalm l. ; he began another on the xxxth- In thee, O Lord, have I put my trust. Pen and paper were then forbidden him. In the meantime a new Signory was to take office on May 1. There was even now a dread of re-action, though the heads of the Piagnoni had been sent into exile, and others hostile to him recalled. Recourse was had to the unconstitutional measure of disfranchising 200 members of the Great Council_Veri de' Medici, a known enemy of the Friar, was Gonfalonier of Justice.
The first act of the new Signory was to demand permission from the Pope to proceed to the capital sentence. Alexander still desired to make an awful example of the rebel in Rome. But the Signory insisted that his punishment in Florence was absolutely necessary to disabuse the deluded people. All were most eager, they said, to see the punishment of the deceiver. They adhered resolutely to their prior right of vengeance. They thanked the Pope in words of incredible baseness for his divine virtue and immense goodness in ceding to them this privilege. On the 14th he appointed two commissions to preside, in his name, at the execution of a man of the inviolable sacerdotal order. One of these was Giovacchino Torriano of Venice, general of the Dominican order, of high character for learning and gentleness; the other a Spanish doctor, Romolino, a man of true inquisitorial mercilessness, a sure guarantee against the possible fraternal weakness of his colleague; he was reported to have said, “We shall see a fine blaze; I have the condemnation safe in my hands.'
On the 20th, the morrow of their arrival at Florence, Romolino summoned before him Savonarola and Fra Silvestro. Fra Domenico, it is uncertain for what cause, was left out. One of the Arrabbiati reminded Romolino of the omission. “It were dangerous to leave one of them; they must be extirpated, root and branch. Of course, replied Romolino; a miserable friar (frataccio), more or less, what can it signify ?
On May 20 took place a new examination before the commissioners of the Pope. Of this examination Nardi has given an account; and from him M. Perrens has said, that in Savonarola appeared a wonderful struggle between the weakness of the flesh and the energy of a courageous spirit. But he adds,
that of this process, of the answers of Girolamo and Silvestro, there remains not a trace. It was sent to Rome by Romolino, and has never been found. At the end of a volume, the Appendice alla Storia Politica dei Municipi Italiani,' by Signor Giudici, published in 1850, we find a document— Processo di Frate Girolamo Savonarola. The author of this work, Signor Giudici, is a man of high character. The process is stated to be taken from the Magliabecchian Library. It contains the earlier examination, agreeing in substance with Ceccone's falsified process, as it appears in Quetif and Mansi. But in addition there is a full report of the examinations in May before Romolino. It is a document of profound interest; the simple and terrible pathos of some of its passages is to us a guarantee of its authenticity. Savonarola was questioned by Romolino in the presence of Torriano, with two of the gonfaloniers, whose names are given, and other of the magistrates of Florence, whether he admitted the truth of his former confessions to which he had subscribed, and he replied in the affirmative. Questions were put on his relations with foreign
sovereigns : what cardinals were his friends ? He was at length asked whether he had said that the Pope was not a Christian ; had never been baptized; was no true Pope? His answer was, that he had never said these things. He had written them in a letter which he had burned, and which was the draft of those he had proposed to write to the Kings. He was asked if he had spoken the truth, and the whole truth. As he made no further answer, Romolino commanded that he should be stripped, to be hoisted by the cord. He fell on his knees, in an agony of fear, and exclaimed—“God, thou hast caught me (colto); I confess that I have denied Christ, I have told lies. O Signory of Florence, bear me witness, that I have denied him for fear of torture; if I must suffer, better that I suffer for the truth. What I have said I received of God—God grant me repentance for having denied thee from fear of torture.' In the meantime he was stripped. He threw himself again on his knees, showed his arms distorted, and went on to say—“Oh God, I have denied thee for fear of torture.' Hauled up, he said, “ Jesus aid me, now thou hast caught me' (colto). When he was hung up by the cord, they asked him why he had said so—For good reason --lacerate me not so; I will speak the truth, surely, surely.' • Why hast thou denied just now?' • Because I am mad.' When set down, he said, "When I see the instruments of torture I lose myself; when I am in a room, with a few quiet persons, I speak better. In these few heart-rending sentences is to us the key to the whole of Savonarola’s confession. The imploring pardon of Jesus for having denied him speaks volumes. After that there is nothing that he will not admit-nothing that he will not recant-confessions betrayed to him by his fellow sufferers; his contumelious vituperations of the Pope, the falsehood of his visions, his schism, his letters to the Kings to summon a General Council, his pride and madness, his factious turbulence in Florence, his cold recommendation to mercy of the five of the Medici faction who were put to death. And yet his priestly judges were not satisfied. The next day there was another examination and again torture. The main object seems