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ornament, arts, and letters, which might offend the most fastidious monkish delicacy. A vast pyre was erected in the Piazza. At the bottom were masks, false beards, masquerading dresses, all the wild attire of satyrs, harlequins, and devils, worn of old in the riotous days; above them books of Italian and Latin poetry, the Morgante, the works of Boccaccio and even Petrarch; then came whole female toilets, perfumes, mirrors, veils, false hair; then instruments of music, lyres, flutes, guitars, cards, chess-tables, draft-boards; the two upper layers were pictures, portraits of the most famous beauties of Florence, the works of the greatest masters. Whatever painting betrayed one gleam of human nakedness was heaped up for the sacrifice. Among the famous artists who threw with unaverted faces all their academical studies on the pyre were Baccio della Porta, known afterwards as one of the holiest and most perfect of painters, Fra Bartolomeo, and Lorenzo di Credi. Such was the value of the holocaust, that a Venetian merchant offered to purchase it at 20,000 crowns. The austere Signory revenged this outrage on morality by ordering a picture of the merchant to be painted and thrown into the fire. How little discrimination would be shown in a moral inquest thus held by fanatic boys and an ascetic monk may easily be surmised. As to letters, Savonarola in his sermons constantly devotes all the poets, ancient and modern, and even Plato, who himself condemned poets, to hell fire. Among the artists, not only Fra Bartolomeo, Lorenzo di Credi, but others, such as that wonderful inventor of a new art, Luca della Robbia, were among his most ardent disciples, and were faithful to the end to their holy teacher. No doubt the pure and lofty religious emotions excited by the Friar in their congenial minds combined with their exquisite genius in sanctifying the paintings of these great masters almost to the utmost height of sanctity. No doubt much good was wrought by a protest against that naturalism, into which high art was inclined to degenerate, which scrupled not to embody the features of the beauties of the day, who were not always of the purest life, in Magdalenes, saints, and the Holy Virgin herself. Yet we cannot but think the eloquent panegyric of M. Rio, in his · Art chrétien,' much overdrawn. Both he and M. Cartier, in the “Annales archéologiques' for 1847, frame a perfect theory of the Beautiful, an æsthetic system, with much fervent ingenuity and some truth, from the writings of Savonarola. We have not space to enter into these interesting questions, but we think that we could show that not a little of this was but the commonplace philosophy of the day, in which Savonarola was fully read; and that there must be a more faithful balance of his denunciations against the homage which he pays, or rather the indulgence which he sometimes shows, to letters and to arts. If painting had never left the cloister, to which Savonarola would have driven it back, how many of its noblest works had been lost to mankind. In truth, Savonarola was in some respects almost an iconoclast: against nothing is he more vehement than in his denunciation of the wealth wasted on magnificent buildings and on rich and stately ceremonials.
The events of the year darkened as it advanced; a doubtful signory was installed on March 1. The malignants (the Arrabbiati) and the faction of the Medici began to come to an understanding against the common object of their hatred. Piero de' Medici made an attempt on the city. Savonarola, who during the Lent was continuing his sermons on Ezekiel, was consulted as the oracle of Florence. “O ye of little faith, Piero de' Medici shall approach the gates, but shall not enter the city. Piero de' Medici, with a powerful troop, approached the gates, trusting to his faction within; they remained sternly closed, and he retired in discomfiture. So writes the historian Nardi, and other documents confirm his statement. But with Savonarola's knowledge of the state of Florence, he needed no prophet's inspiration. On May 1 a signory, avowedly hostile to the friar, assumed the government. He was to preach on Ascension Day, May 4. On the eve, some wretches, with the connivance of certain priests, stole into the church, heaped the pulpit with filth, spread an ass's skin as a pulpit-cushion, and ran nails with their points upwards into the board, that in his energy he might strike his hands against them. By some accounts it was a dead ass placed on the preacher's seat. But his disciples were on the watch ; the pulpit was cleansed; and his enemies had the disappointment of beholding him ascend with perfect calmness. His sermon was unusually quiet and dignified, with less of the ordinary invective. The high-born rabble tried other means of annoyance. The Signory, pretending solicitude for the public peace, entreated the Friar to abstain for a time from preaching.
On May 12 the Pope at length determined to hurl the terrible bull of excommunication against the rebellious Friar. It had long impended. At Rome his old antagonist, Fra Mariano di Ghinezzano, had preached against him, urging the Pope to vengeance. In his sermons in March Savonarola had prepared his hearers for the blow. The Papal bull is lost, but it contained three charges—I. The refusal to obey the summons to Rome; II. Perverse and heretical doctrines; III. The refusal to unite St. Mark to the Tuscan and Roman provinces. On May 22 Savonarola addressed a short letter to the Pope. He protested solemnly against the charge of heresy; he appealed to his hearers, to his printed sermons, to his great work about to appear, “The Triumph of the Cross.' On Fra Mariano he took a revenge neither high-minded nor Christian. He accused him of having spoken ill of the Pope, whom Fra Girolamo had defended against his insolent invective. “Reprocher son ingratitude à un Pape sans entrailles, c'était une première maladresse.' So justly observes M. Perrens. Some other parts of his letter rest on poor equivocations. A short time after came an apology, then two more letters, and a cloud of apologetic writings from his partisans, labouring with ineffective subtlety to reconcile that which was irreconcilable, flagrant disobedience to the Papal supremacy with the theory of the most profound and entire obedience.
In June the plague broke out in Florence. Some letters written by Savonarola at the time to his relatives show that the tenderness of his domestic affections was not chilled by fanaticism, by power, or by peril. M. Perrens hints that he betrayed want of Christian courage in avoiding exposure during these sad times. He was not by the bedside of the sick, he was not burying the dead, he sent away most of the young friars (a proper precaution), he shut himself up with the rest in their cells; his disciples might come to consult him, but he went not forth into the pestilence-stricken streets. So writes M. Perrens; we think not quite fairly, for nothing can surpass his calm faith in God: he had been urged to withdraw, and was offered many pleasant places of retirement, but he would not abandon his flock. He stayed to console the afflicted, the secular as well as the brethren, and describes the joy of those who regarded with equal delight life or death : they sleep, they do not die. For a time the strife of the Arrabbiati and Piagnoni was suspended by the common danger. A terrible event, however, occurred at Rome—the murder of the Duke of Gandia, the son of the Pope of which there is an appalling incident related in the despatches of one of the Venetian ambassadors
The wild wail of the bereaved old man in the Castle of S. Angelo was heard in the streets around.' Savonarola addressed a letter to the Pope. . This letter is disappointing, and for that very reason we are inclined to believe its authenticity. It is neither the awful denunciation of the prophet, nor the gentle suasion of an evangelic teacher. There is one brief hint that it may be the beginning of the accomplishment of the Friar's dark predictions: the rest is cold, courteous sympathy, and nothing more. At this time, when the Pope's mind was unhinged, and, it might be hoped, the remorseless passion of hatred in some degree allayed,8 strong efforts were made by a favourable Signory, by many of the highest influence in Florence and in
· Lettera a Alaestro Alberto, p. 131.
• Yet,' writes Captain Napier, ‘the Pope's mistress too, Giulia Farnese, who was called La Giulia Bella, and conspicuously, nay, even ostentatiously, exhibited at all the gre :t religious festivals, had increased the public scandal by producing another son to occupy the place of him whose blood had so lately reddened the hand of the fratricide.'– History of Florence, iii. p. 603.
Rome, to induce the Pope to withdraw the dread sentence of excommunication. M. Perrens is of opinion that, but for the fatal course of events, Savonarola might have been re-admitted into the pale of the church. The faction of the Medici had not been crushed by the repulse of Piero de' Medici from the gates of the city. A wide-spread conspiracy was discovered to overthrow the existing state of things—the heaven-appointed republic of Savonarola. We cannot enter into the dark and intricate details of this plot; the manner in which the awestruck tribunals shifted the responsibility of condemnation one from the other. At length the terrible blow was struck ; the appeal to the Great Council, Savonarola's own law, was refused, and the five guilty men of high rank had their heads struck off at midnight. Was Savonarola the adviser ? Was he assentient to this remorseless sentence ? At all events his voice was not lifted up for mercy, and his most faithful partisan, Francesco Valori, was the man whose commanding language and threatening action had overruled the wavering judges. A modern historian of great impartiality adds: “The Frateschi gained a considerable increase of power by their success, and medals were struck with Sayonarola's image on one side, and on the other that of Rome (the centre of the conspiracy was supposed to be Rome), over which a hand and dagger were suspended, and the legend, “Gladius Domini supra terram cito et velociter.” 19 This was the well-known burthen of all the prophet's preaching.
Alexander threw off once and for ever all his unpapal softness, all his temporising lenity. On October 16 was issued a brief, addressed to the prior and the brotherhood of St. Mark. It arraigned “a certain Girolamo Savonarola ;' condemned the novelty of his doctrines, his presumption in declaring himself a man sent of God, and speaking in his name, a claim which
9 Napier's Florentine History, rol. iji. p. 601; a work which had made more impression, if the author, with his wide acquaintance with the Italian historians, had not acquired their fatal prolixity. On this event he writes on the authority of some raluable unpublished Memoirs of Francesco Cei.