On the walls of the San Brizio chapel in the cathedral of Orvieto stands the most powerful portrayal of the career of the Antichrist in the history of Christian art. Painted by Luca Signorelli about 1500, the story of man's Last Enemy unfolds in epic proportion and fascinating detail. Several incidents in the large fresco are puzzling, notably the prominence of a group of Dominicans among the religious being seduced by Antichrist's preaching and miracles. Why this emphasis on the Preaching Friars? Indeed, why so monumental a treatment of the Antichrist at all since the subject was not a usual one in Christian art? A plausible answer has been given by André Chastel, who suggests that Signorelli was giving visual form to the views of those, like the eminent humanist Marsilio Ficino, who saw in the recently executed Dominican Friar Girolamo Savonarola the immediate forerunner of the Antichrist. 1 Signorelli's fresco then was in part a polemical attack on the most famous apocalyptic preacher of the end of the Middle Ages.
Like Joachim of Fiore and many other apocalyptic thinkers, Savonarola was a sign of contradiction both during life and after death. The attacks of Ficino and Signorelli can be contrasted with the extravagant praise of Giovanni Nesi whose Oracle of the New World of 1497 saw the Dominican as a messianic initiator of the mellennial age of history. Savonarola's sense of his own mission was also an exalted one, though expressed more modestly in terms of the roles of preacher and
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Publication information: Book title: Apocalyptic Spirituality:Treatises and Letters of Lactantius, Adso of Montier-En-Der, Joachim of Fiore, the Franciscan Spirituals, Savonarola. Contributors: Bernard McGinn - Translator. Publisher: Paulist Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1979. Page number: 183.
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