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  1. Additional Information
  2. Fire in the City
  3. Reward Yourself
  4. Fire in the City: Savonarola and the Struggle for Renaissance Florence by Lauro Martines

The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy. The Life of Cesare Borgia. The Artist, the Philosopher, and the Warrior. A Journey Into Michelangelo's Rome. The Discourses on Livy. The Italian City Republics. A History of Italy CliffsNotes on Machiavelli's The Prince.

The State as a Work of Art. Jews and Magic in Medici Florence. Florence in the Forgotten Centuries, Printing a Mediterranean World. Armour and Masculinity in the Italian Renaissance. Andrea Mantegna and the Italian Renaissance. The Renaissance In a Nutshell. Absolutism in Renaissance Milan.

The Humanist World of Renaissance Florence. Siena, the history of a medieval commune. A Short History of the Italian Renaissance. Fire in the City: Savonarola and the Struggle for the Soul of Renaissance Florence. How to write a great review. A Renaissance man by the name of Pico della Mirandola had found an entirely new way of absorbing everything there was to learn, be it Christian, Jewish, Zoroastrian, or Muslim.

Achievement became the focal point. Having carried his ideas to the center of spiritual evil in Rome, he had made sure that his words fell on fruitful grounds. The implication of this can be derived from the context from which the Book of Revelations in the New Testament was born. In the New Jerusalem, the Christians expected the kingdom of heaven to be established in Jerusalem, where the book of Revelations promised free booze, plenty of food, and eternal life without worries.

Hence, Savonarola was an apocalyptic radical, who glorified poverty, called for the termination of those that thought differently, and pulled the political strings from behind the scenes.

Additional Information

Instead of global context and curiosity, which would have helped in better understanding the preacher Savonarola, the author seems lost in details. For example, Martines is talking at length about a group of demons but seems to dismiss them as superstitions. Instead, there is an apocalyptic wave of purification of the faith by the innocent e. Why would Florence support the French and not the Holy League? Why had they driven out the Medici? There were five leading churches in Florence among 70 ; what were their doctrinal differences and their role for or against Savonarola?

They knew exactly what they were doing in preventing relics to keep Savonarola alive. Martines finally manages to pull the reader into the story and bring it to life with just enough detail as to keep the narrative engaging and exciting. The conclusions might as well be skipped. Was Savonarola a terrorist? Let me answer this with a counter question: Savonarola glorified poverty and called for the stoning of sodomists as in the modern Taliban. This is an unacceptable hatred against mankind, regardless of the political and ecclesiastical context.

The author has the skills to unlock a truly fascinating mystery of the time with the potential for a hit in history books. It demonstrates how an influential preacher can recruit an army with thousands of children, turning them into extremist servants of God in an astonishingly brief time span and in the shadow of trusting parents. It suggests that religious preachers have a competitive advantage with a clear and narrow mission against a notoriously fragmented opposition, and that entire cities can welcome religiosity in times of calamities.

I enjoyed this at first but eventually it was too much detail. I was excited to realize Savonarola is basically the high sparrow. May 05, Louise rated it liked it Shelves: Murder of a Medici Princess piqued my interest in Renaissance Italy. I selected this book because the jacket of this book says it "reads like a novel" It's a tough read.

If you don't have any background in this era, I recommend trying something else. The author says the book is for the general public.

Fire in the City

He also says it is not a biography, but a rendering of Florence at the time through the impact of Savonarola. I'm a general reader, I had 3 main problems in reading this book: As example of a layman's problem, on p. Maybe the meaning of "vote" should have been obvious it is clearly stated about pages ahead but with all the text devoted to "bean" on p.

Another example is that after two pages describing the pageantry and "sweet signing" of Charles VIII's entry into Florence, we learn that the residents were only "grinning and bearing it" because they were "on the brink of cataclysm". Then we learn that 2 days before the sequence problem , people met and the dominant theme was the hatred for Pietro Medici not about the entry of Charles.

Reward Yourself

When you don't have a background here, the meeting, the festivities and the "cataclysm" are hard to reconcile. You go back to reread it, but the link isn't there. Many pages later, even after reading of Charles as a liberator which doesn't reconcile with "grin and bear" and then Savonarola as a saving the city from the French army which doesn't reconcile with liberator , you see what might have been meant by cataclysm.

I felt there was a lot more to tell. Since this is the story of Florence, and not a biography of Savonarola, some major players should not be reduced to cameos. The author says that the ill feeling towards Florence throughout Italy stems from their embrace of him The Medici's are frequently cited when a string is pulled, they are obviously major players, but where are they? How are they holding on to their fortune and influencing events? What of Savonarola's youth group?

Fire in the City

It sounds like Mao's cultural revolution. How did this large group meet? Did they convince people to surrender their "vanities" or did they take them? The author is obviously knowledgeable and has assembled a lot of information. I recommend this book for those who know something about the period, but not the "general reader". Apr 12, Noreen rated it liked it Shelves: Savorarola Long Italian names with titles, don't lend themselves to speed reading. Made it through the first 55 pages, skimmed the rest, gave up, read the chapter on Savonarola in Durant's Renaissance.

The idea of "Bonfire of the Vanities" came from Savonarola's teenage boy disciples knocking on doors asking the householders for "vanities" any nice clothes, jewelry, art and literature or accosting richly dressed women in the streets. There were two "Bonfires of the Vanities" shortly b Savorarola Long Italian names with titles, don't lend themselves to speed reading. A Franciscan monk challenged him to trial by fire, which Savonarola declined. Overnight his following in Florence melted away.


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The next day a mob attacked San Marco monastery and hauled away three monks including Savonarola. Following the custom of the Inquisition, all three monks were tortured, confessed and sentenced to death.

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Pope Alexander sent them absolution. They were hanged and burned to death. Savonarola had influence on the great artists of his time. He was out maneuvered by the Medici's and the Popes, who both had a better understanding of politics. Durant says about "Savornarola was the Middle Ages surviving into the Renaissance and the Renaissance destroyed him. Martin Luther tacked his 95 Theses to the door of a Wittenberg church in A bit of a disappointment this. Though to be fair at least I now know much more about Savonarola and his times, which is why I selected this book as my understanding of him and his period was fairly basic.

However the book has a significant flaw. As an Ulster Prod I was already inclined to give this bogey man historical figure a bit of a break on the count of his anti clericalism and his confrontations with the papacy of his day. In time I think I need to read another book on Savonarola. Studied Savonarola ten years ago at university, as part of wider florentine renaissance history, so I was looking forward to a study of the man himself.

While obviously well researched to be honest I found the book a bit of a slog.


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It took me a long time to read and I felt a bit like I was wading through it rather than actually enjoying what I was reading. Yes, it did provide insight into the period, but it felt a bit like penance reading it as well! It certainly didn't have the pace of some oth Studied Savonarola ten years ago at university, as part of wider florentine renaissance history, so I was looking forward to a study of the man himself. It certainly didn't have the pace of some other biographies I have read recently.

For anyone who also reads lighter historical fiction as well as more academic works, I would recommend Sarah Dunant's - the birth of Venus. Which is set in Florence under Savonarola and it does give a sense of the witch hunting that took place in his name and the fear that people felt. Somehow I just didn't get that feeling as much with Martines' book. Mar 18, John rated it really liked it.

Savonarola was a profoundly interesting person. It surprises me how little is written about him because he and his writings are well worth discovering. He took the Christian message and vision to the limit and showed the people of Florence what that meant. Unfortunately, the leaders and people of Florence were not ready for this vision and hung him in the square, with the blessing of the Borgia pope.

What is ironic is that the appearance of Florence, with all of those beautiful buildings and w Savonarola was a profoundly interesting person. What is ironic is that the appearance of Florence, with all of those beautiful buildings and works of art, would probably not exist today if Savonarola had not convinced Charles V not to invade Florence. Yes, Savonarola saved Florence from the French invaders, who would certainly have pillaged and destroyed Florence if they had the chance.

All that is left of Savonarola is a little marker on the ground of the square. Jan 27, Phillip Thompson rated it really liked it. The Dominican, Savonarola, is a very enigmatic and complex figure. This book is a fairly sympathetic portrayal and makes Savonarola's action much more understandable. He is certainly is right in many of his criticisms of the Church, the Medici, the papacy, and Florentine morals.

But in stressing the Florentine context, the author missed the opportunity to evaluate rising currents of apocalypticism and millenarianism that added urgency both to Savonarola's message and to its reception. Opposition to him from within the Dominican Order and other branches of the Church was motivated not just by anger at his fulminations against simony and corruption, but by important theological debates over what constituted true prophecy and thus whether Savonarola could be the prophet he and his followers claimed.

Stress on politics overshadows these broader dimensions.

Fire in the City: Savonarola and the Struggle for Renaissance Florence by Lauro Martines

The book adopts a modern novelistic style with short chapters and eye-catching subheadings like "Vile Bodies," "Rome Closes In," "Kicked and Punched," and "Terrorist. For effect, at one point he even inserted in block quotes a fictional letter he wished the Florentine Priors had written the pope in Savonarola's defense p. The book provides a basic bibliography, but no real footnotes, a pity in a subject that has evoked so many opposing views.

Perhaps Oxford University Press is aiming toward a literate but not scholarly audience, for the skimpy ten to twenty endnotes for each chapter, unmarked and keyed to phrases in Martines' text, are effectively useless. Serious readers would prefer notes that chart a path through the maze of conflicting scholarship on Savonarola and his place in history.

The rationalism to which Martines appeals in his assessment notwithstanding, Savonarola also reminds us that public persuaders, [End Page ] drawing upon the explosive combination of religious fervor and political commitment, have had an enduring place in European culture, even in Florence, heart of the Renaissance.

The book, while not based on original research, makes lively reading and draws us toward the enigma of Savonarola. Having enticed readers into the drama of the past, one hopes they will want to delve further.