When the King of France invaded Italy in 1494, princely states would fall, sending tremors up and down the peninsula. The Medici fled from Florence; the republic sprang back to life; and the French army, occupying the Renaissance city for ten terrifying days, stood on the verge of sacking it. A 'little friar' from Ferrara, Savonarola was alone in knowing how to comfort citizens with his sermons and in urging the King to get out of Florence. lthough the French left a city riven by political factions, the Friar's popular 'party' swiftly prevailed. With Florence at the height of its Renaissance glories, his voice rose above those of all other men. Claiming to be a messenger from God, he attacked evils on all sides - a mercenary Church, the despotism of the Medici, vile political elites, and Pope Alexander VI, Rodrigo Borgia, whose name itself was a byword for brazen corruption. Savonarola foretold a universal 'scourging', but made pleas, above all, for the renewal of Christianity and for the political voice of the people. His struggle turned into a battle for the 'soul' of Florence. xcommunicated and silenced, Savonarola spurned Rome and began to preach again, retaining the strong
One of the world's foremost authorities on the Italian Renaissance, Lauro Martines was born in Chicago, has a PhD from Harvard University, but has lived in London since 1970. Until recently he commuted to Los Angeles, where he was Professor of European History at the University of California. He and his wife, the novelist Julia O' Faolain, lived for some years in Florence. His books include Power and Imagination- City-States in Renaissance Italy, An Italian Renaissance Sextet- Six Tales in Historical Context and April Blood- Florence and the Plot Against the Medici.