savonarola em florença

Posted in Uncategorized by on 06/09/2009

savonarola in florence

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Historic center of Florence

Historic center of Florence

We speak from Florence (Firenze), capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany (Toscana), by the margins of the Arno River. Florence was, for a long time, ruled by the Medici dynasty, one of several noble families who showed off their riches by building gorgeous palaces and sponsoring the arts. Around the year 1500, Florence became the most important cultural center of the Italian Renaissance. Many great artists and writers lived and worked here, such as Machiavel, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Michelangelo, author of the famous statue of David, the replica of which can be seen at the “Piazza della Signoria”.

We came to Florence to talk about a not so widely known character, who played nonetheless a very important role, not only in the city’s history but also in that of Christianity. We’re talking about Jerome Savonarola, a Dominican friar whose memory has been preserved by a plaque at the city’s main square (Piazza della Signoria), which commemorates the site where he and two of his closest followers were hanged and burned as heretics in 1498, two decades before the beginning of the Reformation.

St Mark's Convent, Florence

St Mark's Convent, Florence

Savonarola came to Florence around 1480, when Lorenzo of Medici, known as “The Magnificent”, was at the peak of his power. That was a time of great economic, artistic and cultural splendor, but also of such moral decay that Savonarola couldn’t help but denounce. His preaching at St. Mark’s Convent attracted multitudes, who could immediately relate to his attacks on heavy taxes, social injustice, corruption and the flaunting of riches that marked the lives of nobles and religious leaders of the time. In 1494, Florence was invaded by Charles VIII, king of France. The Medici were dethroned, and the city had, for the four following years, a republican government.

Fra Angelico: 'Annunciation', fresco at St. Mark's Convent, 1437-1446

Fra Angelico: 'Annunciation', fresco at St. Mark's Convent, 1437-1446

Savonarola, who had predicted the invasion and regularly preached against the Medici government, became the city’s actual ruler and started, during that period, a major moral reform in Florence. Became particularly famous the so-called “Bonfire of Vanities”, promoted by Savonarola, to which all citizens of Florence were called to bring, for public burning, all objects related to sin: decks of cards, luxury items, ornaments and even books or artworks considered immoral. Savonarola’s reform had, at first, great acceptance. It has been said that the city became a huge convent.

Savonarola's execution in Florence, 1498

Savonarola's execution in Florence, 1498

But it is obvious that his radical preaching, as well as his political convictions, brought him many enemies, among which was none less than the pope Alexander VI, member of the Borgia family, whose offensive lifestyle had often been denounced by the friar. Savonarola was, for several times, denied the right of preaching, and was finally excommunicated by the Catholic Church – yet they did not silence his voice. He was arrested at St. Mark’s Convent, in April 1498, and went through horrible torturing before being finally hanged and burned at Piazza della Signoria just a month later.

Savonarola has been considered one of the forerunners of the Protestant Reformation, although not a theological reformer, since he never departed from Roman Catholic doctrine. He was definitely a moral reformer, who, with a prophetic voice, denounced sin and announced God’s judgment, calling his contemporaries to repentance. Such boldness cost him his very life, granting him a place in the gallery of martyrs – those who wrote with their own blood the history of the Christian Church.

(English translation: Renato Fontes)



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  1. Edino Parolo said, on 29/08/2009 at 22:00

    Parabéns pela iniciativa, tanto pelo textos quanto pelos videos. Só sugeriria que não lessem os textos na frente da camera. Creio que seria melhor lê-los como “backvoice”.

    Abraço. Continuem produzindo.


    • said, on 30/08/2009 at 22:00

      Obrigado pela força, Edino! Quanto aos videos, acho que deu pra perceber que não somos cineastas profissionais, mas vamos tentar fazer melhor nos próximos…

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