Death in Florence: The Medici, Savonarola, and the Battle for the Soul of a Renaissance City
Death in Florence is a dual biography of two vastly different personalities: Lorenzo de Medici (aka Lorenzo the Magnificent) and Girolamo Savonarola. Lorenzo is introduced as the new leader in Florence, the latest in a long line of Medicis who wield power and influence. He ushers in the Renaissance with his enthusiastic patronage of the arts. He also oversees the vast banking empire that has been bequeathed to him. His power is unchecked, his authority questioned with the direst of consequences. He intends to use his influence with the Papacy to ensure one of his sons(Giovanni)a spot as Cardinal and he dabbles in financial chicanery with the government treasury to keep his bank afloat and have something to pass on to his eldest son, Piero.
Medici’s reign has its bumps but is smooth until the preachings of Dominican friar, Savonarola. Savonarola had forsaken his family’s wealth and chosen the path to God. Savonarola’s influence would grow and his preachings would become apocalyptic as he saw the collapse of Florence and the Italian Kingdom. Medici would try to check his influence, but would ultimately respect Savonarola. Savonarola would allegedly be summoned to Medici’s death bed and promise not to besmirch Lorenzo’s successor, Piero. Pieros reign would be marred by his failed attempt to extend his sphere of influence along with the rapidly diminishing government treasury. Piero’s drive into exile, while Savonarolas attempt at independence for his mission would be met by excommunication by the corrupt machinations of Alexander VI (of the Borgia family). Savonarola would buck the suffocating control of the Vatican and this would eventually lead to his arrest, torture and execution in 1498. His visions would come true, but some would discount him as being more mad than prophetic.
Paul Strathern’s history reads akin to really good fiction. The protagonists and antagonists are never dull, their trials and tribulations keep the reader wanting to turn the page to find out the resolution. The power of religion is seen as corruptible but also dangerous. The book is entertaining and seems timely.
|Page Count||464 pages|
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