He has been admired by St Philip Neri, St John Fisher, St Catherine De Ricci, Michelangelo, and Botticelli, and still retains a small cult following over 500 years after his martyrdom. Many of his prophecies came true, and it was even believed at times that he would one day be declared a Saint. Still, he remains a controversial figure.
Well, he is a Servant of God and the cause of beatification was opened on May 30, 1997.
His death was caused by the excommunication of Pope Alexander VI on May 12 1497…yet, it has been shown that the excommunication was in fact a forgery. Studies show that it was emanated by the cardinal archbishop of Perugia Juan Lopez in the name of the Pope, under instigation of Cesar Borgia, who then was able to create a forgery. Pope Alexander protested lively with the cardinal and threatened Florence of Interdict if the friar was not delivered to him. However, his subjection to Cesar - who, mind you, was his son… - was such that he neither used all his authority, nor disclosed the harm that his beloved son had done to a man he esteemed as a saint.
Interestingly enough, the first speech of Girolamo after the excommunication was in form of a dialogue, where he said: “Have you read this excommunication? Who sent it? And even if it was there, don’t you recall how I told you, that even if it arrived, it would not be worth anything?” It is still a mystery whether he knew of the forgery or whether he received knowledge that this would happen through the gift of prophecy that many claim he had.
Afterwards he continued his campaign against the vices in the Church. Florence supported him for a time, but out of fear of a papal interdiction and due to the decrease in his prestige, the support was lost. It was the powerful Medici family that had him arrested and tried for heresy unto torture and death - a process that is known to have been clearly a farce.
Catholic Encyclopedia states: “In the beginning Savonarola was filled with zeal, piety, and self-sacrifice for the regeneration of religious life. He was led to offend against these virtues by his fanaticism, obstinacy, and disobedience. He was not a heretic in matters of faith.”
:)a very interesting topic, and I think contemporary too, as many of his qualities remind me of our Pope Francis - especially the main one of being committed to reforming the Church and helping the poor, as can be seen in these extracts:
“He was also a friend to the poor. Under Savonarola, the city created a building society that offered loans at rates well below what was demanded by Florence’s private bankers – 5 to 7 percent, as opposed to the 32.5 percent that had been standard practice under the de Medicis. One of the charges that led to Savonarola’s downfall was that he impoverished the city by refusing to ever turn away a beggar.”
"He also patronized the famous painters of his day. Michelangelo would later say that when he painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, it was the sermons of Savonarola he heard in his mind."
"Savanarola was a fierce critic of ecclesiastical corruption, and this is perhaps the most contested aspect of his legacy for those proposing to canonize him. He referred to Alexander VI as a “broken tool,” accusing the pope of practicing simony and of dubious personal morality. He defied the pope by aligning Florence with the French king, Charles, rather than the “Holy Alliance” of Italian city-states championed by Alexander. Toward the end, Savonarola called for a church council that would depose Alexander."
"There was never serious question about Savonarola’s doctrine -- his chief theological work, *The Triumph of the Cross*, is widely viewed as orthodox. In 1558, Pope Paul IV -- who had served in the court of Alexander VI -- said that Savonarola was not a heretic."
“The question for examiners today is not doctrinal but disciplinary: whether Savonarola defied the authority of the pope in impermissible fashion.”
"In English the name of Savonarola may be synonymous with religious fanaticism, but many Italians, and Florentines in particular, have a different image."
For many people no doubt, the biggest strike against Savonarola, was that he was hoping to depose a Pope. He was however a Saint for our times, as he lead a vigorous crusade against the evils of 15th century Florence, nearly all of which are with us today. Blasphemy, homosexuality, prostitution, immodesty, drunkeness, gambling, hedonism, tyranny, a culture of violence, and priests more concerned with the things of this world.
In his biography of Savonarola, English author Desmond Seward, considered that if he ever became Pope (Alexander VI offered briefly to make him a Cardinal ) Savonarola's reforms might well have prevented the Protestant Reformation.
The Burning Of The Vanities : Savonarola And The Borgia Pope by Desmond Seward. Just read it, and really enjoyed it. Seward is an acclaimed historical author (this is the 4th book I’ve read by him) and I just heard that he is a Traditional Catholic. Another good bio is A Crown Of Fire : The Life And Times Of Girolamo Savonarola by Pierre Van Paassen
IMHO, he’s a mixed bag but, at the very least, we can appropriate his teachings against vice and luxury (and maybe even his famous Bonfire of the Vanities) today without his attacks on the papacy (however corrupt in his day) or his takeover of the government.
Of course, as you know, sodomy and homosexuality are not synonymous. Many of the records for the infamous “Uffizo della Notte” are complaints by wives of their husbands sodomizing them. Of course, homosexual acts were also practiced, but those who treat all evidence of sodomy in 15th c Florence distort the recorded facts.
One of my favorite quotes from Savonarola came shortly before his martyrdom. When the Monsignor Pagagnotti read the words of degredation prior to the execution “I expel you from the Church militant and the Church triumphant”, Savonarola replied “From the Church militant, yes, but you cannot speak for the Church triumphant”.
Seamus, came back to say again “thank you!” I finally got Pierre Van Paassen’s bio at a bargain price. Since the author is not Catholic, I am waiting to verify much of what he wrote about Savonarola, as I have found that as hard as nonCatholics try when writing about Catholic matters, they can’t help but write from an angle that a Catholic would not.
I want to say too that I agree with Dee. In reading about Savonarola, I had the same thought: he sounds like Francis.
And for anyone here that thinks the Church in particular and society as a whole are bad and corrupt today, they ought to read either one of these biographies about Savonarola. I think he ought to be canonized. It is never easy going against the tide in any given age. I’m reminded of something I heard time and again when I was growing up: Right is right even is no one is doing it, and wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it.
I never heard that, but it doesn’t surprise me as I thought of him myself when I was reading the bio. Him and Fr. Leonard Feeney - as there are some similarities. But mostly I thought of how our Church has made some horrid mistakes - St. Joan of Arc and Girolamo Savonarola are two of them. Sometimes it takes hundreds of years to get around to correcting these mistakes.