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Top Ten Insults against Savonarola

Girolamo Savonarola was a man that inspired extreme passions, both for and against. The puritanical reformer took control of the city of Florence from 1495 to 1498, during which he used prophecies and gangs of young men to get rid of vice. Eventually his activities would lead him into conflict against the Papacy, and he was excommunicated and convicted of heresy, leading to his execution on May 23, 1498.

Girolamo Savonarola by Fra Bartolomeo, c. 1498, Museo di San Marco, Florence.

In the aftermath of his downfall, those who were associated with him also received punishments, and many in Florence feared they too would be caught up in reprisals from the Papacy. This led Marsilio Ficino, a Renaissance scholar to write a letter to the College of Cardinals, where he tries to convince them to forgive the people of Florence for following Savonarola.

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Ficino even admits he too was once a follower of the preacher, but then “I rapidly came back to my senses.” Throughout his letter he finds many ways to insult the recently deceased Savonarola – here are some of our favourites:

“diabolical fraud”

“venomous monster”

“stuffed with a dreadful legion of demons.”

“devilish spirit”

“it was not a mortal man but a most cunning demon – not only one demon but a whole swarm of demons.”

“the prince of hypocrites”

“He is a fruit quite worthy of his diabolical seed.”

“tyrannical malevolence of Savonarola”

“Savonrola, or I might say more fittingly Savage-arola”

If that is not enough, Ficino offers this assessment of the character of Savonarola:

The Antichrist had an utterly incomparable cleverness, imitating virtues most obstinately, a crude spirit, a savage audacity, an empty ostentation, a satanic pride, the most impudent mendacity everywhere, and all supported by curses and oaths. When he spoke, his face, voice, and speech were often fulminous, overwhelming his listeners with violence rather than voluntary persuasion. For often in the middle of a disputation, he would suddenly shout, rage, thunder and lose control, more or less like insane people possessed by demons, as the poets have described it.

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You can read the full letter, edited and translated  by Volkhard Wels, in Antichrist Girolamo of Ferrara, Greatest of All Hypocrites, which was published by Bridwell Library of Southern Methodist University in 2006.

To learn more about Savonarola, please see:

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