The life of Savonarola and its place in the history of Italy and the Church has been subject to many interpretations. In this book Pierre van Paassen gives it the most balanced, entertaining, and factual treatment yet. Savonarola and Firenze (Florence) however are so inextricably bound together that the two must be discussed at one and the same time. Florence was at the height of her glory in the most brilliant phase of the Renaissance and herein the splendor and picturesqueness of that whole epoch is brought vividly to life. Mr. van Paassen traces Savonarola's youth and his teenage love for a girl in Ferrara, his hometown, and then his sudden decision (quite like Loyola's) to enter the Church. Following his novitiate Savonarola was called to Florence and immortality by Lorenzo the Magnificent. In this most exciting period of history the author traces his contacts with Lorenzo and the opposition, with the artists, Botticelli and Michelangelo, with Machiavelli, with the great Pope, Alexander VI, with Lucrezia, Cesare and the Sforza family. There is Savonarola's conversion of the whole city of Florence with the entire population walking in a procession of penitence. When the king of France invaded Italy Savonarola went out to meet him and thus saved the city while the rest of the country was ravaged by war.Mr. van Paassen examines Savonarola's ideas on democracy and freedom, on everyday questions, and his strange predictions and prophesies which came to be fulfilled. And finally, the accusation of heresy, the trial and torture, and the burning at the stake.Most books on Savonarola used the monk's career and death to belabor Pope Alexander VI and the Borgia family. Not so here: rather Mr. van Paassen's theme is that had Savonarola's counsel been heeded the Reformation would have taken place within, rather than outside, the Church.
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