martedì 21 maggio 2013

May 23rd Girolamo Savonarola burnt at the stake

On May 23rd 1498 the famous Florentine politician and religious authority Girolamo Savonarola was burnt to death on a pyre in Piazza della Signoria where today a commemorative stone is inlaid in the ground on the exact spot he was burnt.

Portrait of the friar Girolamo Savonarola by Fra Bartolomeo, Museo di San Marco
The Dominican monk became famous around 1490, during Lorenzo Il Magnifico's main authority, when he began to rail against moral corruption with hellfire sermons and warns of a coming apocalypse.
The death of Lorenzo il Magnifico on April 8th1492 and the passing of the power to his less capable son, Piero Lo sfortunato (Piero the Unfortunate, also known as The Fatuous) favored Savonarola unstoppable political ascent. The last years of 1400 the friar, far from limiting himself to the salvation of souls, ruled the city like an authentic religious and political despot.
He formed the Grand Council, open to 1000 citizens over 29 years of age who had previously held offices in the magistrature or who were descendants of high magistrates. That's why the famous Salone dei Cinquecento was originally projected, to hold the assembly of this new Council, 500 (Cinquecento) members at a time.

The stake in Piazza della Signora, anonymous painter, San Marco museum
His strictness against immorality and decadence arrived to orchestrate mass burnings, the so called Bonfire of the Vanities where clothes, jewels, books, musical instruments and paintings, basically everyhting that until then the Renaissance and its search of beauty had produced,  was set aflame. Many famous painters such as Sandro Botticelli and Fra' Bartolomeo followed this extreme religious ideology and witnesses of his influence on art can be found in their works of art as well as in those of other artists.

But not everyone agreed with Savonarola's preaches. When his sermons arrived to involve Pope Alexander IV, this excommunicated him for heresy and other religious misconducts. The Dominican friar was arrested and imprisoned inside Palazzo Vecchio were he was tortured till he was condamned to death after a brief trial. 

The commemorative stone in Piazza della Signoria on the spot of the execution of Girolamo Savonarola
Together with his fellows friar, Domenico Buonvicini and Silvestro Maruffi  Savonarola was hanged and burned at the stake on May 23rd 1498. 

Every year on this day a ceremony called La Fiorita is celebrated to remind and commemorate Savonarola's tragic death. Mass is celebrated in Palazzo Vecchio, while in Piazza Signoria, in the place where he was burned, the flowers are arranged - the Fiorita - with music and the performance of the flag wavers.

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