Scourge and Fire: Savonarola and Renaissance Italy
The 15th century is ending. In Florence the Magnificent Lorenzo de’Medici is dead. With survivors of his notorious family expelled from the city, Florentines with famous, ancient names prepare to assert their rights to power. Odd man out is ‘the little friar’: Girolamo Savonarola, dedicated absolutely to the service of God and His Son, incorruptible, a ferociously spellbinding preacher. There is much to enjoy in Scourge and Fire: Lorenzo’s inept son Peiro, who can be relied on never to get anything right; the Pope, Rodrigo Borgia, brilliant, charming and unscrupulous, whose correspondence with Savonarola reveals two men whose minds could never meet. With the Florentine republic restored, ‘the little friar’s’ fate cannot be long deferred. The citizens who yielded their treasures to the bonfire of vanities are suffering from a collapsed economy, plague and the looming presence of the French king’s invading army. Savonarola has made powerful, vicious enemies. Excommunicated, his interrogation is degrading. Even after many centuries a reader hopes that the author is right: records of ‘the little friar’s pitiful admissions under torture have been falsified.