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is a vague story, resting on but slight authority, that Savonarola was the victim of a tender but honorable passion for a beautiful female." We should also incline to be of the same opinion, were it not that Villari* refers to it as having some foundation. He says that, in 1472, a Florentine exile, bearing the illustrious name of Strozzi, and his daughter, took up their abode next to the dwelling of Savonarola's family. The mere fact that he was an exile from Dante's native city was sufficient to excite Savonarola's sympathies. He imagined him oppressed by the injustice of enemies, suffering for his country and for the cause of liberty. His eyes met those of the Florentine maiden. Overflowing with confident hope, he revealed his heart to her. What was his bitter disappointment on receiving a disdainful answer rejecting him, and giving him at the same time to understand that the house of Strozzi could not lower itself by condescending to an alliance with the family of Savonarola. He resented the insult with honest indignation, but, says his chronicler, il suo cuore ne restó desolato-"his heart was broken." This may all be, but certain it is that the disappointed youth did not instantly rush into a convent to bury his blasted hopes. On the contrary, the incident of the sermon at Faenza occurred nearly two years afterward. On circumstance he frequently dwelt, saying that a word, una parola, of the preacher still strongly affected him, but he always reserved it as a sort of mysterious secret even from Lis most intimate friends.

In returning from Faenza, he was ight of heart, but found, on reaching home, that a hard trial was before

La Storia di Girolamo Savonarola e de' suoi Tempi, Narrata da Pasquale Villari con l'Aiuto Nuovi Documenti. Firenze. 1859.

him. It was necessary to conceal his intention from his parents, but his mother, as though she read his secret, would fix her eyes upon him with a gaze which seemed to penetrate his very soul. This struggle went on for a year, and Savonarola often refers to his mental sufferings during that period. "If I had made known my resolution," he says, "I believe my heart must have broken, and I should have allowed myself to be shaken in my purpose." Again, on another day, the 22d of April, 1475, Jerome, seating himself, took a lute, and played an air so sad that his mother, turning to him suddenly, as if moved by the spirit of prophecy, said to him in a tone of sorrow: "My dear son, that is a farewell song." With great effort, the young man continued to play with trembling hand, but dared not raise his eyes from the ground.

The next day, April 23, was the feast of S. George, a great festival for all Florence. Savonarola had fixed upon it to leave his father's house, and, as soon as the religious ceremonies of the morning were over, he quitted home, and made his way to Bologna, where he knocked for admittance at the


He was then just twenty-two and a half years old. Announcing his desire to enter on his novitiate, he wished, he said, to be employed in the most menial of the offices of the community, and to be the servant of all the others. Being admitted, het seized his first leisure moment that same day to write a long and affectionate letter to his father, in which he sought to comfort him and explain the step he had taken. It is a memorable letter:

"DEAR FATHER: I fear my departure from home has caused you much sonow -the more so that I left you furtively

Permit me to explain my motives. You who so well know how to appreciate the perishable things of earth, judge not with passion like a woman, but, guided by truth, judge according to reason whether I am not right in carrying out my project and abandoning the world. The motive determining me to enter on a religious life is this: the great misery of the world, the iniquities of men, the crimes, the pride, the shocking blasphemies, by which the world is polluted, for there is none that doeth good-no, not Often and daily have I uttered this verse with tears:


'Heu fuge crudelas terras! Fuge littus avarum.'

I could not support the wickedness of the people. Everywhere I saw virtue despised, and vice honored. No greater suffering could I have in this world. Wherefore every day I prayed our Lord Jesus Christ to lift me out of this mire. It has pleased God in his infinite mercy to show me the right way, and I have entered upon it, although unworthy of such a grace. Sweet Jesus, may I suffer a thousand deaths rather than oppose thee and show myself ungrateful! Thus, my dear father, far from shedding tears, you should thank our Lord Jesus, for he has given you a son, has preserved him to you up to the age of twenty-two, and has deigned to admit him among his knights militant. Can you imagine that I have not endured the greatest affliction in separating from you? Never have I suffered such mental torment as in aban

doning my own father to make the sacrifice of my body to Jesus Christ, and to surrender my will into the hands of persons I had never seen. In mercy, then, most loving father, dry your tears, and add not to my pain and sorrow. I am satisfied with what I have done, and I would

not return to the world even with the certainty of becoming greater than Cæsar. But, like you, I am of flesh and blood; the senses wage war with reason, and I must struggle furiously with the assaults of the devil.* They will soon pass by, these first sad days, bitterest in the freshness of their grief, and I trust we will be consoled by grace in this world, and glory in the next. Comfort my mother, I beseech you, of whom, with yourself, I entreat your blessing."

* The original is very picturesque: "A ciò ch'el diavolo non mi salti sopra le spalle."

In the convent at Bologna, Savonarola spent seven years. During his novitiate, his conduct was the admiration of all his brethren. They wondered at his modesty, his humility, and his faultless obedience. He appeared to be entirely absorbed in ecstatic contemplation of heavenly things, and to have no other desire than to be allowed to pass his time in prayer and humble obedience. To one looking at him walking in the cloisters, he had more the appearance of a shadow than of a living man, so much was he emaciated by abstinence and fasts. The severest trials of the novitiate seemed light to him, and his superiors had frequently to restrain his self-imposed denials. Even when not fasting, he ate hardly enough to sustain life. His bed was of rough wood with a sack of straw and one coarse sheet; his clothes, the plainest possible, but always scrupulously neat. In personal appearance, Savonarola was of middle stature, dark, of sanguine-bilious temperament, and of extraordinary nervous sensibility. His eyes flamed from beneath dark eye-brows; his nose was aquiline, mouth large, lips thick but firmly compressed, and manifesting an immovable determination of purpose. His forehead was already marked with deep furrows, indicating a mind absorbed in the contemplation of grave subjects. Of beauty of physiognomy there was none, but it bore the expression of severe dignity. A certain sad smile, passing over his rough features, gave them a kindly expression which inspired confidence at first sight. His manners were simple and uncultivated; his discourse, plain to roughness, became at times so eloquent and powerful that it convinced or subdued every one.

As Savonarola advanced in his studies, he devoted all the time he

could possibly spare to the writings of the Fathers and to the Holy Scriptures. There are no less than four different copies of the Bible still existing in the libraries of Florence, and a fifth in the library of S. Mark, in Venice, of which the margins are covered with Latin notes written by him, which are excessively abridged, and in a writing so fine as to be read only with difficulty. According to the custom of the order, the young monk was in due time sent out on the mission, that is, to different cities and towns, to preach and exercise his other clerical duties. In 1482, he was ordered to Ferrara, whither he went, very much against his will. His relatives desired that he should remain there, in order to be near his family. Referring to this, he wrote to his mother: "I could not do as much good at Ferrara as elsewhere. It is seldom that a religious succeeds in his native place. Hence it is that the Scripture commands us to go forth into the world. A stranger is better received everywhere. No one is a prophet in his own country. Even concerning Christ, they asked: Is not this the son of the carpenter? As to me, it would be inquired, 'Is not this Master Jerome, who committed such and such sins, and who was not a whit better than ourselves? Ah! we know him.'"


From Ferrara, Fra Hieronimo was sent to the Convent of S. Mark, at Florence. A mass of saintly and artistic recollections cluster around the history of this convent. Holy men passed their lives within its austere cloisters, and eminent artists here consecrated their works by Christian inspiration. It is sufficient to mention from among them the names of Fra Angelico, whose admirable frescoes adorn its walls, of Fra

Bartolomeo, known to the world as Baccio della Porta, the equal of Andrea del Sarto, of Fra Benedetto, and of the brothers Luke and Paul della Robbia. Villari dwells on one of its greatest illustrations, F. Sant' Antonino, the founder or renewer of nearly all the charitable institutions of Florence, and in particular of the Buoni Uomini di San Martino, which exists to this day in all its beautiful Christian edification, if, haply, the tide of modern progress, under Victor Emmanuel, have not swept it away. F. Sant' Antonino's memory is still cherished there as that of a man burning with divine charity, and consumed with the love of his neighbor. His death, which took place in 1459, was deplored in Florence as a public calamity.


The early history of the convent is closely connected with that of Cosmo de' Medici, who was its munificent patron. Besides large amounts spent on the building, he made them a still more valuable donation. Niccolo Niccoli, a name well known to scholars, a collector of manuscripts of European fame, had spent his life and a large fortune in making a collection of valuable manuscripts which was the admiration of all Italy. his death, he bequeathed it to the public, but the donation was useless by reason of the heavy debts against his estate. Cosmo paid them, and, retaining for himself a few of the most precious documents, gave all the rest to the convent. This was the first public library in Italy, and it was cared for by the monks in a manner which proved them worthy of the gift they had received. S. Mark became, as it were, a centre of learning, and not only the most learned monks of its affiliated convents in Northern Italy, but the most distinguished men of that period. sought every occasion to frequent it.

Savonarola's arrival in the Florentine convent had been preceded by his reputation for learning and for piety. It was even said of him that he had made some miraculous conversions, and the story was told that, -in making the journey from Ferrara to Mantua by the river, he had been shocked by the obscene ribaldry of the boatmen. He turned upon them with terrible earnestness, and, after half an hour of his impressive exhortation, eleven of them threw themselves at his feet, confessing their sins, and humbly demanding his pardon.

Savonarola was at first delighted with all he saw of Florence. The delicious landscape bounded by the soft outline of the Tuscan hills, the elegance of language, the manners of the people, which appeared to increase in refinement and courtesy as you approached Florence, all had predisposed him to find delight in this flower of Italian cities, where nature and art rival each other in beauty. To his mind, so strongly imbued with the religious feeling, Florentine art seemed like a strain of sacred music, attesting the omnipotence of genius inspired by faith. The paintings of Fra Angelico appeared to him to have summoned the angels to take up their abode in these cloisters; and, gazing at them, the young religious was transported into a world of bliss. The holy traditions of Sant' Antonino and of his works of charity were still fresh among the brethren, and everything appeared to draw him closer to them. His heart was filled with hopes of better days, he forgot his former disappointments, as well as the possibility that there might be fresh ones in store for him when in time he came to know the Florentines better.

LORENZO THE MAGNIFICENT. When Savonarola came to Florence, Lorenzo the Magnificent had

been its ruler for many years, and was then at the apogee of his fame and his power. Under his sway * everything looked prosperous and happy. The struggles that formerly convulsed the city had long ceased. Those who refused to bend to the domination of the Medici were imprisoned, exiled, or dead. All was peace and tranquillity. Feasts, dances, and tournaments filled up the leisure of this Florentine people, who, once so jealous of their rights, now seemed to have forgotten the very name of liberty. Lorenzo participated in all these diversions, and even exerted himself to invent new ones. Among these were the Canti Carnascialeschi, first written by him and sung by the young nobility and gentry of Florence in the masquerades of the Carnival. Nothing perhaps can better depict the corruption of the period than these songs. At this day not only educated young men, but the lowest of the populace, would hold them in scorn, and their repetition in public would be an offence against decency swiftly to be sup pressed by the police. And yet such were the occupations of predilection of a prince praised by all, and considered as the model of a sovereign, a prodigy of courtesy, a politi cal and literary genius. And there are those who are to-day inclined to think of him as he was then looked upon, to pardon him the blood cruelly spilled to maintain a power unjustly acquired by him and his, the ruin of the republic, the violence by which he forced from the community the sum necessary for his reckless expenditure, the shameless libertinism to which he abandoned himself, and even the rapid and infernal corruption of the people which he studied to maintain with all his

* He ruled from 1469 to 1492.

And all

force and mental capacity. this must be pardoned him forsooth, because he was the protector of literature and the fine arts!

Among all the Italian historians who have painted Florence at this epoch, there is but little difference except in the variety and depth of the colors used by them. Bruto writes, and what he says is neither useless nor irrelevant reading if, as we progress in his description, we bear in mind to what extent it may be applied to New York in the year 1873 as well as to Florence in 1482. "The Florentines," he says, "seeking to live in idleness and ease, broke with the traditions of their ancestors, and in immoderate and shameful license fell into the way of the most disgraceful and detestable vices. Their fathers, by dint of labor, fatigue, virtue, abstinence, and probity, had made the country flourish. They, on the contrary, as if they had cast aside all shame, seemed to have nothing to lose they gave themselves up to drinking, gambling, and the most ignoble pleasures. Lost in debauch, they had shameless intrigues and daily orgies. They were stained with all wickedness, all crime. General contempt of law and justice assured them complete impunity. Courage consisted in audacity and temerity; ease of manner, in a culpable complaisance; politeness, in gossip and scandal."


In consideration of his acquirements, Fra Hieronimo, was appointed a teacher of the novices, and held the position for four years (14821486). In 1483, owing either to a want of preachers or to the high

*"Egli secondo il secolo in tutte le sue tendenze: di corrotto che era, lo fece corrottissi

." He helped forward the period in all its tendencies," says Villari. "From corrupt he made it most corrupt."

opinion formed of him from his success as a professor, he was appointed to preach the course of Lenten sermons at the church of S. Lawrence. Meantime, what he had learned of the Florentines from personal observation had not tended to raise them in his estimation. He had discovered that, in spite of their finished education and highly cultivated intellects, their hearts were filled with scepticism, and an ever-present sarcasm hovered on their lips. This want of faith and of high principles caused him to shrink anew into himself, and his disappoint-ment was the greater as it contrasted so keenly with the hopes he entertained on entering Florence. With these feelings he for the first time ascended a Florentine pulpit. Hardly twenty-five people came to hear him a second time. Twenty-five persons! They could hardly be seen in the vast building. His voice was feeble, his intonations false, his gestures awkward, his style heavy. His preaching was a failure.. But he was not discouraged, and was anxious to make another attempt. His superiors, not caring to renew the experiment in Florence, sent him to San Gemignano for two years. He made no attempt to change his style. The Florentines had been accustomed to preachers who carefully studied the elocutionary part of their sermons, many of them seeking to form themselves upon some classical mould, and their delivery was generally polished and graceful. Savonarola despised these aids, and thundered in his rough, uncultivated way, against scandals and want of faith, speaking with scorn of the modern poets and philosophers, and despising their fanaticism for the classics. The Bible he quoted profusely, and made it the foundation of all his sermons. His success at San Gemignano was by no means a decided one, never

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