Girolamo Savonarola

Girolamo Savonarola (jērō´lämō sävōnärō´lä), 1452–98, Italian religious reformer, b. Ferrara. He joined (1475) the Dominicans. In 1481 he went to San Marco, the Dominican house at Florence, where he became popular for his eloquent sermons, in which he attacked the vice and worldliness of the city, as well as for his predictions (several of which, including the death date of Innocent VIII, turned out to be true). In 1491 he became prior of San Marco, and after the death of Lorenzo de' Medici, who was his enemy, and the subsequent exile of the Medici (1494) he became the real spiritual ruler of the city. He was uncompromisingly severe in his condemnation of what he considered the paganism of the times and called for a regeneration of spiritual and moral values and a devotion to asceticism. When Charles VIII of France invaded Italy in 1494 (as Savonarola had predicted), Savonarola supported him, hoping that Charles would lead the way to the establishment of a democratic government in Florence and to the reform of the scandalously corrupt court of Pope Alexander VI. Alexander, understandably infuriated, ordered Savonarola to refrain from preaching; however, he continued to preach, and the pope excommunicated him for disobedience in 1497. Savonarola now declared Alexander no true pope, being elected by simony. The people of Florence, who had for a time staunchly supported Savonarola, tired of his rigid demands. Hostility toward him grew, led especially by local Franciscans, and in Mar., 1498, the government, threatened by a papal interdict, asked him to stop preaching. His ruin came suddenly when one of his disciples accepted an ordeal by fire to prove Savonarola's holiness. Rain prevented the event. Nevertheless, there were riots, and Savonarola and two disciples were arrested by the city. Under torture he confessed to being a false prophet, or so it was announced. The three were hanged for schism and heresy; papal commissioners had passed on the sentence, which was assured by Alexander's vindictiveness.

See biographies by P. Villari (2 vol., tr. 1888; repr. 1972), R. Ridolfi (1959), and R. R. Renner (1965); study by D. Weinstein (1970).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

A Crown of Fire: The Life and Times of Girolamo Savonarola
Pierre Van Paassen.
Scribner, 1960
The Elect Nation: The Savonarolan Movement in Florence, 1494-1545
Lorenzo Polizzotto.
Oxford University Press, 1994
Apocalyptic Spirituality: Treatises and Letters of Lactantius, Adso of Montier-En-Der, Joachim of Fiore, the Franciscan Spirituals, Savonarola
Bernard McGinn.
Paulist Press, 1979
Christianity and the Renaissance: Image and Religious Imagination in the Quattrocento
Timothy Verdon; John Henderson.
Syracuse University Press, 1990
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 20 "Savonarola's Preaching and the Patronage of Art" and Chap. 21 "Gian Francesco Pico Della Mirandola: Savonarolan Apologetics and the Critique of Ancient Thought"
The Apocryphal Apocalypse: The Reception of the Second Book of Esdras (4 Ezra) from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment
Alastair Hamilton.
Clarendon Press, 1999
Theory and Theology in George Herbert's Poetry: Divinitie, and Poesie, Met
Elizabeth Clarke.
Clarendon Press, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 1 "Herbert and Savonarola: The Rhetoric of Radical Simplicity"
The Protestant Reformation
H. Daniel-Rops; Audrey Butler.
J. M. Dent & Sons, 1961
Librarian’s tip: "The Cry of Righteous Indignation: Savonarola" begins on p. 227
FREE! A Short History of the Renaissance in Italy: Taken from the Works of John Addington Symonds
Alfred Pearson; John Addington Symonds.
Smith, Elder, 1893
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Savonarola: Scourge and Seer"
The History of Scepticism: From Savonarola to Bayle
Richard H. Popkin.
Oxford University Press, 2003 (Revised edition)
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Girolamo Savonarola begins on p. 19
Forbidden Friendships: Homosexuality and Male Culture in Renaissance Florence
Michael Rocke.
Oxford University Press, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "Politics and Sodomy in the Late Fifteenth Ceutury: the Medici, Savonarola, and the Abolition of the Night Officers"
Society and Individual in Renaissance Florence
William J. Connell.
University of California Press, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 9 "Savonarola's Manual for Confessors"
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