Page images

interdict. Savonarola obeyed not, but he suspended for a time his sermons. Still, however, he preached in the neighbourhood, in many cities of Tuscany, with his wonted power and success.

Charles VIII. had passed away, but the Pope's more redoubtable adversary was again in his stronghold-his pulpit-hurling defiance at his unforgiving foe, and entering into that strife in which success was hardly conceivable, and in which defeat was martyrdom. In the Lent of 1496 he preached the famous Carême upon the prophet Amos. That he was at deadly war with the Pope he disguises not from himself or from his hearers ; and it is curious and most instructive to see the strong man struggling in the inextricable fetters of the Roman system, endeavouring to reconcile his own obstinate rebellion with the specious theory of universal obedience to the successor of St. Peter. Hence the perpetual contradiction, the clashing and confusion of his arguments. At times he would take refuge in the more plausible argument that the ears of the Pope had been abused by his enemies,—the Arrabbiati and the Tiepidi. The Pope had been deceived; he appealed from the Pope deluded by false representations to the Pope better informed as to facts. At times he will not believe that such an order has arrived :

They are too wise to believe the falsehoods wliich are promulgated of me. If the Pope were to allow himself to be persuaded by these Pharisees, and should command me to preach no more, as this order would be contrary to the cultivation of the Lord's vineyard (this every old woman in Florence knows), I would not obey him: I would appeal from his words to his intentions. I cannot believe that the Pope has sent such an order. Absit! absit! that he should prohibit the culture of the Lord's vineyard. If a Prelate should give me an order to violate our constitution (the Dominican), and not cultivate the vineyard, I

- Savonarola had an interview with the king at Poggibonzi, of which he gives an account in a sermon, the XX. 'Sopra i Salmi,' preached June 22, 1496. He says, • Io sono stato là in campo, e come essere nello inferno.' (p. 148.) At this time took place the interview which Philip de Commines had with Fra Girolamo, described in his Mémoires, 1. viii. c. 2. Commines believed fully in the holiness of Savonarola ; he was inclined to believe his prophecies. To Commines he predicted the safe return of Charles to Franco, after most signal calamities, supposed to be verified in the death of his son.

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 erts 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. 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.,

[ocr errors]

I say, and


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." It is in the wildest and most characteristic manner of the preacher : O vaccæ pingues quæ estis in Monte Samariæ. O vacche


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 :

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.

p. 129.

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. 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:

He would oppose

[blocks in formation]

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


« PreviousContinue »