Day 2 - Friday 5th September, 2014


On Friday morning we will have our first lecture on Savonarola (Robert Hampson) and then leave for Florence. We will visit the Monastery of St. Marco where Savonarola was Prior, see the beautiful frescos of Fra Angelico and have a talk by one the the current friars on Savonarola in St. Marco and Florence. There will be some free time, and then return to San Gimignano. All site entrances and tours included in the price.

Florence Cathedral (The Duomo) where Savonarola regularly preached

Robert Hampson at St. Marks Convent, where Savonarola was Prior from 1485 until his death.

Girolamo Savonarola

Girolamo Savonarola was born in Ferrara in 1452. Joining the Dominican Friars against his father's will, he first came to the notice of the public during a peaching series on the Book of Revelation held in San Gimignano. He was transferred to the Convent of St. Mark in Florence where he became prior and continued his preaching on Revelations. He now drew crowds in the tens of thousands to the Cathedral. He prophesied successfully various political events whipping up people into a frenzy believing the end times were come. He railed against corruption in the church and insisted she would be reformed. "Rid yourselves of the old ways, O Florence, and renew yourselves in all things in God's way!" He condemned the amoral philosophy of the Renaissance, many of the leading lights of whom were advanced to St. Peter's chair. "Voluptuousness - causes men to become effeminate, weakening them still more. Thus it is that wealth is spent through vice with the result that the city [of Florence] loses its reputation whatever it tries to do. Good men flee from such a city, for they see the evil towards which it is heading, while murderers and bad men rush to belong to it."

During his brief reign the whole of Florence hanging on his every word. He was a reformer seeking a return to the simplicity of the Gospel anticipating the reformation by some years though he never broke with the Catholic Church. His sermons are powerful and vivid, even today.

After the overthrow of the Medici in 1494 Savonarola became effectively the sole leader of Florence. Whether or not he was responsible, citizens brought out into the streets objects of vanity to burn them. It was a religious intensity that could not last. The Pope, the notorious Alexander VI, became aware of Savonarola and at first tried reason, but to no avail. Savonarola responded with threats of his own in the name of God. The Pope excommunicated him. In a sudden turn of fate in 1498 the people turned against him. He was arrested and quickly executed in Piazza della Signoria. The spot is today marked by a brass plate.

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