The Elect Nation: The Savonarolan Movement in Florence, 1494-1545

The Elect Nation: The Savonarolan Movement in Florence, 1494-1545

The Elect Nation: The Savonarolan Movement in Florence, 1494-1545

The Elect Nation: The Savonarolan Movement in Florence, 1494-1545

Synopsis

The Elect Nation is the first comprehensive study of the religious, political and cultural movement inspired by Savonarola. Based on a thorough examination of archival material and manuscript sources, the book argues that the followers of Savonarola exercised a profound influence on every facet of Florentine life during the important period of the city's transition from republic to principate. It is the author's contention that their ideology and activities provide the key to understanding not only the political developments of the last years of the Florentine Republic, but also the nature of contemporary political debate and the characteristics of the merging Medicean Principate.

Excerpt

The subject of this study is the followers of Girolamo Savonarola, who were known as the Piagnoni. Many Florentines were drawn to Savonarola during his lifetime by a programme of spiritual, political, and social renovation which corresponded very closely to their own aspirations. It was, indeed, largely inspired by them. Despite Savonarola's execution in 1498, the Piagnoni remained a powerful and fairly cohesive body. For the next fifty years or so they exercised a profound influence on ecclesiastical and civil affairs. In the process, they affected the whole course of Florentine history in the important period of the city's transition from a republic to a principate. This book examines their membership, ideology, and activity both before Savonarola's death and afterwards. What was the nature of the relationship between the Piagnoni and Savonarola? What was the essence of the ideology which they evolved and which, despite personal rivalries, ensured their cohesiveness, strength, and survival for over half a century?

Savonarola's influence during his lifetime and after his death was clearly immense. Throughout their history, the Piagnoni were to revere his memory above all else and to continue to be guided by his teaching. While Savonarola exerted a powerful influence over them, even from beyond the grave, this would not have been enough in itself to bind his followers together, nor to ensure them their all-important role in Florentine politics. Nor, finally, would it explain the sway of their message over their own and succeeding generations.

The explanation must be sought in the Piagnoni themselves. What emerges most clearly from an investigation of their activity is their remarkable ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Their very diversity was a source of strength. It allowed them not only to explore different avenues of ecclesiastical and political reform, in line with individual preference, but also to modify their responses in accordance with the sympathies of the prevailing political climate. In their versatility, it will be argued, lies one of the reasons . . .

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