Monday, October 8, 2012

Trial By Fire

Savonarola revisited. (Via Joshua Snyder.)
Yet nothing is simple about Savonarola, as Donald Weinstein shows in his luminous and learned biography. Machiavelli’s close friend Francesco Guicciardini, who matched him in cynicism and perhaps more than matched him in political insight, praised Savonarola. A man of great learning, he had promoted “decent behavior” and reestablished the city’s republican government. Even if Savonarola had been a false prophet, after all, he had succeeded in fooling the public for many years: “He must have had great judgment, talent, and power of invention.” Where Guicciardini reserved his final verdict, others did not. Savonarola’s supporters secretly gathered his ashes from the river and revered them, along with his vestments, his hair shirt, and pieces of the gallows he had died on. His spiritual writings found hundreds of readers: his Manual for the Instruction of Confessors, unpublished when he died, was printed at least forty-two times over the next two centuries. Religious women in particular found inspiration in them for passionate, introspective prayer, and sometimes for visions like his. Almost a century after Savonarola died, a condemned heretic, Pope Clement VIII considered making him a saint. (Read entire article.)


Unknown said...

The reference to God as mother is, surprisingly accurate as it was not uncommon for medieval female religious to address God in the feminine. There is a fine study by Caroline Walker Bynum, Jesus as Mother: Studies in the Spirituality of the High Middle Ages (

elena maria vidal said...

I think you meant to make this comment under my post about St. Hildegard. As a devotional reference, yes, but in the novel, Hildegard is shown referring to Holy Mother Church as God. The Church has NEVER been God, not even in medieval piety.

Mary Sharratt said...

Elena, thanks so much for your wonderful comments and insights. Hildegard's theology makes frequent references to the Feminine Divine, not just the Mother Church. Barbara Newman's "Sister of Wisdom: Hildegard's Theology of the Feminine" is a great starting point for Hildegard's very complex theology. And there are also her own three works of visionary theology. Start with "Scivias." :)

elena maria vidal said...

Mary, I started reading Scivias yesterday, so inspired I am by your wonderful novel!