Read The Unarmed Prophet: Savonarola In Florence by Rachel Erlanger Online

Title : The Unarmed Prophet: Savonarola In Florence
Author :
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ISBN : 9780070196025
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 463 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Unarmed Prophet: Savonarola In Florence Reviews

  • Clif
    2019-03-25 05:48

    What does the word Savonarola bring to mind? Without knowing anything about him, I associated him with intolerance, mob violence, torture and the killing of innocents ending with his own death as people turned against him. I think for most people, Savonarola conjures up fanaticism.This book has revealed that not much of my mental image was true. In fact, as the book came to a close I felt some empathy for the man.It's true that he believed he was in contact with God and that God spoke to him, but, sorry to say, a very large number of my fellow citizens make the same claim. He had his own doubts, but the ready acceptance by many Florentines of the late 1400's of his revelation of the word of God over-rode his diffidence.After giving a detailed (almost to the point of tedium) introduction to the intricate workings of power in Middle Ages Italy, where city states vied for primacy amid threats from foreign powers (Spain, France and the Holy Roman Empire), the author examines Savvy's (forgive me) psychological state. It's not hard to understand him being swept up in the adulation of the masses, particularly when events brought to pass the very things that he predicted.He was a prophet of doom and the King of France helpfully stepped up with an invasion of Italy to provide the coming of that doom. But Florence was to ally itself with France in the face of most of the other city states and the Vatican standing together in the Holy Alliance.Savvy ranted against the abuses of office in the church, irritating the Pope of the time, Alexander, but at the same time he sent obsequious letters to the Pope that continually headed off church retribution. Time and again, the Pope would become angry only to reconsider and let Savvy off the hook. Interestingly, this was because the Pope felt Savvy, though misguided and deluded was honestly religious. I think he was right.Of course there were plenty of other power players who swayed this way and that hoping for an opening to either ride on Savvy's coat-tails or end his influence over the public.Savvy was not corrupt as was the Pope (in a very big way) and many upstanding citizens saw the appeal of his call for renewal of the church and society.Contrary to what I had thought, Savvy did not direct mayhem. He did not set his followers upon others in mob violence, though he did on occasion call for heads to roll. Even in the end, when others were coming to seize him, he instructed his defenders to put down the sword. He was honestly out to do what he thought was the will of God and he kept in mind the creed of Jesus, as he called for Jesus to be made the ruler of Florence (with Savvy as spokesperson, of course).This consideration of what would be the right thing to do according to his faith becomes the source of my empathy for him as he faces torture and repeated show trials near the end of his life. He wants so badly to be true to his God but the pain of his tortured body causes him to fail; promising to do anything his tortures ask. It's a pathetic picture as he falls short of his own image of himself. The gratuitous infliction of pain by the authorities is proof of the awful period that it was, notwithstanding the epic productions of the Italian Renaissance that came at the same time. There was no meaningful justice for anyone - so power was all the more to be sought.The highlight of the book that kept me avidly reading was the prospect of a trial by fire initiated by one of Savvy's devoted followers and a fellow monk who was convinced that Savvy was God's instrument. Though Savvy himself was not in the contest, and did all he could to head it off, the inability of the two contestants to back down and the excitement of the people who looked forward to the event (women and children could not attend) gets the reader excited as well. The day arrives, the fire is set to a fierce blaze with a brick-protected walkway directly through it. The plaza is crowded as the two challengers appear. Who will come out of the fire unscathed to prove he is truly the favored of God?I won't tell you what happens, but the lead-up to the event is great reading and the comments of some indicate that even 500 years ago there were sane people who thought the whole idea of miracles was preposterous. One person said "I really don't care to see a miracle!" and another, "Why the chance of burning to death? Can't they walk through some water instead and see who comes out dry?" Yep, there is humor in this book!Great literature this isn't, but it paints a great picture of a very distant time with plenty of quotes and asides on the colorful characters, one of which was Niccolo Machiavelli who was an attentive witness to Savvy's rise and fall.

  • David Withun
    2019-04-15 03:02

    This book is a terrific biography of Savonarola. Erlanger does an excellent job of bringing out both the culture of Renaissance Florence and the personality of Savonarola himself. Throughout the book, the reader gets a real sense of what life must have been like in that time. She also gives no easy answer to the question of whether Savonarola was a saint or a fraud. Instead, she paints us a picture of a very real and complex human being, part sinner and part saint and with a soul impenetrable to anyone but God and himself. The historical events are also related in a way that serves to keep the reader interested, often with a great measure of suspense and emotion. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about the Italian Renaissance and outstanding figures and cultural movements it produced.

  • Liz
    2019-04-18 23:55

    I found her treatment of Savonarola to be extremely unsympathetic. There were moments in this book where I doubt she would even credit the man with believing in God. Rather she chose to portray him at best as a confused opportunist and at worst as a conniving manipulator; while at the same time presenting Alexander VI, the Borgia Pope, as a man of judgement and patience. I think Savonarola deserves better, definitely a more even-handed treatment. Given that he was hung and burnt in 1498 it is difficult to believe that a modern author could be so sensible of his inner most thoughts and motivations. The book was historically interesting and well written; I just couldn't get past the jaundiced treatment of the man.