« PreviousContinue »
psalms, or spiritual songs. Vast sums were paid in restitution of old debts, or wrongful gains. The dress of men became more sober, that of women modest and quiet. To ladies of great rank Savonarola would allow some jewels and ornaments ; in others they were proscribed or cast off. Many women quitted their husbands to enter convents. Savonarola enforced severe continence even on married people. Weddings were solemn and awful ceremonies; sometimes newly-wedded couples made vows of continence, either for a time or for ever. It was a wiser counsel of Savonarola that mothers should nurse their own offspring. Nor were the converts only amongst the lowly and uneducated. Men of the highest fame in erudition, in arts, in letters, became amongst the most devoted of his disciples; names which in their own day were glorious, and some of which have descended to our own. At his death there were young men among the brethren of St. Mark from all the noble families of Florence-Medici, Rucellai, Salviati, Albizzi, Strozzi.
But Savonarola might seem at last to despair of the present generation, inured to their luxuries and sins, in which they were either stone dead, or constantly relapsing into death ; he would train a new generation to his own lofty and austere conceptions of holiness, virtue, and patriotism. He issued to the youth of the city a flattering invitation to attend his sermons; on their young imagination, and souls yet unenslaved to habits of indulgence, he would lay the spell of his eloquence. They crowded in such numbers that he was obliged to limit the age to between ten and twenty. He proceeded to organize this sacred militia. The laws to which they subjected themselves by enrolment (and the enrolment swept within its ranks almost all the youth of the city) were, 1, the observation of the commandments of God and of the Church ; 2, constant attendance at the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist; 3, the renunciation
Burlamacchi observes with wonder, not without triumph, that even some Franciscans were among his concerts.
Marchese, 185, Note.
of all public spectacles and worldly pleasures ; 4, the greatest simplicity of manners, conduct, and dress. The young republic had its special magistrates, peace-officers (pacieri) who kept order and silence in the church and in the streets, and regulated processions; correctors (correttori) who inflicted paternal punishment on delinquents; almoners (limosinieri) who made collections for religious objects; lustratori, who watched over the cleanliness and propriety of the crosses and other objects of worship; and finally young inquisitors.
The young inquisitors were to fulfil the office of the older negligent magistrates. They were to inquire after and denounce blasphemers and gamblers, to seize their cards, dice, and money ; to admonish women and girls too gaily dressed. It was touching to hear them, says Burlamacchi, utter such simple and sweet sounds as these, In the name of Jesus Christ, the king of our city, and of the Virgin Mary-We command you to cast off these vanities; if you do not, you will be stricken with disease. They forced themselves into houses and seized on cards, chess-boards, harps, lutes, perfumes, mirrors, masks, books of poems, and other instruments of perdition. Savonarola not only urged the reversal of the law of nature, not only did he vindicate this boyish police set over the state, but inveighed with more than usual vehemence against the older citizens.
The tyranny exercised by these boy magistrates over their parents was not the only abuse; his enemies aver that there was discord and delation in every house ; wives wrote to Savonarola to accuse their husbands as plotting against his authority. Two cases of this kind are named in the hostile Process, as notorious throughout the city. The object of Savonarola’s most devout aversion was the Carnival, celebrated as it was at Florence, with gaiety which degenerated into wild licence, with poetry which had taken a Pagan turn. Youths on chariots drove through the city representing ancient triumphs ; masques paraded and danced and sung their carnival songs from Lorenzo's poetry. Perhaps, indeed, his Canti
Carnialeschi’ are the most spirited and graceful of his works, but they sang of Bacchus and Ariadne, and of Cupid and Venus. The Carnival must be put down, or at least cast off its heathen character. If still riotous it must be religious riot. The firmer the ascendancy of Savonarola, the more the monk broke out. He was not content with Florence as a Christian republic, he would have it one wide cloister. The holy revolt of the children against parental authority caused sullen murmur. He acknowledged the reproach, which was, if not loudly, secretly urged against his proceedings. Dice Firenze è fatta Frate, il popolo è diventato Frate; non vogliono più d'esser sbeffati per queste quaresime e orationi.' He adds, that in the perfect state of Florence, matrimony shall be all but unknown.
But even if Florence had submitted to his austere yoke, would Rome bear the neighbourhood of a city which was not only a standing reproach, but a bitter invective against her and against her rulers ?
The old religion of Rome and the new religion of Florence could not but come into terrible collision. The Christian religion of Florence would not endure as it were on her borders the simoniacal, the worse than heathen, Christianity of Rome: Rome would not endure the rebellious pretensions of Florence to holiness, which she had repudiated so utterly and so long. Savonarola and Alexander VI. could not rule together the mind of Christendom: it must be an internecine war between Savonarola the Prophet, with the austerity of the most famous founders of the monastic orders, and Alexander VI., against whom all contemporary history, without a protest, lifts up its unrebuked voice. Never yet had the Roman Church such desperate difficulty to separate the man Borgia from the Pope Alexander VI. ; to palliate, to elude, to perplex by theological subtlety, the incongruity which glared upon the common sense, and sent a deep shudder through the moral feelings of mankind. Men must believe that God could appoint as his Vicar upon earth, as Vicar of his sinless, gentle, peaceful Son, a man loaded with every crime, with simony, rapacity, sensuality, perhaps with
incest ; that infallibility as to faith might dwell together with vices which in their blackest form disdained disguise; that in direct opposition to the Saviour's words, which had indissolubly linked together the acquaintance with his tenets with the practice of his precepts, the same person could have the most profound knowledge of the doctrines of the Gospel with the most utter contempt of its virtues. It was impossible that Savonarola should preach his severe cloistral Christianity in Florence and be respectfully silent on the anti-Christian iniquities of Rome; or vaticinate the renovation of the Church by the terrible chastisements of God, and leave unrebuked the capital and centre of all offence. Throughout his sermons it is Rome, against which he thunders his most bitter invectives, and calls down and predicts, with the profoundest conviction, the imminent wrath of God. He always, says Burlamacchi, called Rome Babylon.
Alexander VI. could neither close his ears against the stunning maledictions of the prophet, nor fail to perceive its fearful consequences; yet, at first, his unrivalled secular sagacity might seem at fault. Alexander had permitted himself to be surprised into a consent to render the convent of St. Mark independent of the Dominican province of Lombardy. The report of one of the most terrible sermons of Savonarola had been taken down by a hostile scribe and transmitted in darkened colours to Rome. The preacher had attacked the clergy with the bitterest taunts; he traced the whole evil up to that shameless pontifical court, where all the crimes that pride, cupidity, and luxury can commit are done in open day. To this he attributed the past, present, future miseries of Italy and of the world, and summoned the Court to answer for it before man as before God. Yet in all this the Pope saw only the somewhat wild zeal of a devout friar. He desired a bishop of the Dominican order to reprove Savonarola. The bishop frankly replied, that it would be hard to show that simony, concubinage, and incest were not vices
2 P, 551.
and crimes. “There is a better way to silence such troublesome men; give him good preferment.' Another Dominican, Louis de Ferrara, was sent to Florence; he disputed with great vigour against Fra Girolamo, but made no impression on his stubborn virtue. He tried other means—the offer of the archbishopric of Florence, the prospect of a cardinal's hat. The indignation of Savonarola was at its height: he summoned the tempter to hear his next sermon; he mounted the pulpit and renewed in aggravated terms his fierce denunciations-I will have no hat but that of the martyr, red with my own blood.3
But the Pope had now to guard against more immediate enemies : Charles VIII. was in Rome. Alexander took refuge in the castle of St. Angelo; only three or four, some assert but two, cardinals followed him; the rest encircled the King of France. Even before the French king's descent from the Alps there had been dark rumours, that among his objects in Italy was to depose the wicked Pope. The Cardinals urged him to take this bold step. They urged the assembling of that tribunal-since Pisa and Constance, awful to Papal ears--a General Council.
It was not till Naples, Rome, and Italy were relieved from the presence of the French king that the Pope had leisure to fear and hate Savonarola. But already, in July 1495, a Papal brief, obtained from the Pope by the enemies of Savonarola, through the Duke of Milan, Ludovico the Moor, had arrived at Florence; it was sheathed in bland words; it invited him, or rather courteously commanded him, to go to Rome. Savonarola alleged excuses of his health, and of danger of assassination on the road. He was preparing his great work which was to vindicate his prophetic powers, the Compendium Revelationum. In September came another brief, more peremptory and less laudatory; then a third, threatening Florence with
3 This sermon is not extant. M. Perrens quotes an allusion to this : 'Io non voglio cappelli, non mitre grandi nè picciole: non voglio so non quello che tu hai dato alli tuoi Santi; la morte, uno cappello rosso, uno cappello di sangue.' (p. 93.)