Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Castle Este in Ferrara, a severe and imposing fortress, serves as a reminder of the grace and perseverance Christ gives to his bride the church in affliction. Renee, Huguenot Duchess of Ferrara, commissioned an Italian Bible translation, supported Fanini and other Italian Reformation preachers, and sheltered refugees like poet Clement Marot and John Calvin, all the while suffering the brutal cruelties of a tyrant husband and sworn enemy of the doctrines of grace.
Sunday, June 28, 2015
Saturday, June 27, 2015
Two glorious days in Florence, charming historic place to stay, great local Italian food and delightfully humorous and cheerful Andrea owner of the trattoria where we ate our meals--Loved our stay in Florence!
Here's from chapter one of Girolamo Savonarola, Heart Aflame (lots more pictures below):
Man on Fire
“Siamo perduti!” The cry echoed off the marble statues and fine stonework of the streets and plazas of Florence, Italy. “We are ruined!” What Florentines feared had come upon them. It was September 21, 1494 and the birthplace of the Renaissance was paralyzed with dread. Greedy for blood, the army of the king of France had crossed the Alps and was on the march to Florence. In a matter of days Charles VIII’s soldiers would be thundering at the gates of the city.
"The expedition of Charles VIII into Italy," wrote Edward Gibbon, "changed the face of Europe." In those gut-wrenching days, Florentine mothers and children cared little for what happened to the face of Europe. But they were horrified for their own lives. In despair, they crowded into the cathedral church of Santa Maria del Fiore, long-awaited innovation of the architectural genius, Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446). The Duomo had become the virtual symbol of the Renaissance. Since its completion in 1436, the cathedral’s dome remains the largest masonry dome in the world, the grand marvel not only of the city but of the entire cultural movement. One awed contemporary said the Duomo was "vast enough to cover the entire Tuscan population with its shadow."
With lecherous French soldiers slavering at her gates, terrified Florentines sought refuge under that vast dome. They had gathered to hear the prior of San Marco, the fiery preacher who had expelled the Medicis and their tyrannies. That man was Girolamo Savonarola (1452-1498).
When Savonarola ascended the high pulpit, his congregation—numb with fear—longed for some words of comfort from his lips. He looked out on their upturned faces. “For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth,” the Dominican friar gave out his text, “to destroy all flesh” (Genesis 6:17). The somber manner in which he read the sacred words sent a shudder through every man, woman, and child that stood before him. Eyewitness to the sermon, philosopher Pico della Mirandola said that Savonarola’s terrifying words made his hair to stand on end. And with the preacher’s every word, the French army came on to their destruction—just as he had prophesied.
Savonarola’s world reads like the guest list at a royal banquet, a veritable who’s who of celebrated personages. He breathed the air of the famous and the infamous, the notable and the notorious, the gifted and the great.
Born in Ferrara in 1452, he shared a birth year with Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci. As Savonarola’s mother labored to deliver her son, Ghiberti was completing the bronze doors of the Florentine baptistery, dubbed the “Gates of Paradise” by Michelangelo.
When Savonarola was taking his first halting steps, Johann Gutenberg was casting the final type for his printing press in Mainz, and when he was in his terrible twos, first editions of the Gutenberg Bible were available for purchase. Then, when peach fuzz was showing on Savonarola’s upper lip, the “Prince of Humanists,” Erasmus of Rotterdam, was born. Banking tycoon Lorenzo de Medici began his lavish rule of Florence when Savonarola would have been old enough to get his driver’s license. Significantly, 1469 also marked the birth of the Florentine codifier of pragmatic politics, Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527).
A medical student at Bologna when Copernicus was born in 1473, Savonarola was twenty-five when Caxton printed Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in England; author of Utopia, Sir Thomas More, was born a year later. While Savonarola delivered his first halting sermons in Florence, Botticelli was painting frescoes in Rome. In 1483, when Savonarola was thirty-one, Martin Luther was born in Eisleben. Preaching through Genesis in Florence in 1492, Savonarola may have gotten wind of Columbus’s first voyage of discovery to the New World, though the death of Lorenzo de Medici and the transfer of power to his son may have kept him from giving the event much thought.
Two years later, according to Savonarola’s prophecy, Charles VIII of France invaded Italy, Pope Alexander VI fleeing for his life. In Savonarola’s final years in Florence, da Vinci was busy painting his masterpiece, The Last Supper. And while Savonarola wrote his Prison Meditations in the tower of Palazzo Vecchio, Michelangelo was chiseling the final details on his Pieta in Rome.
Ponte Vecchio, Florence, a bridge over which Savonarola would have walked many times (as well as Botticelli, Donatello, Ghiberti, and many other Renaissance greats). We stayed in a two hundred plus year old convent with spacious high ceilings, many salons and a gorgeous walled garden. It was a hospital during WW I and protected Jews during WW II. Weather blue sky, lots of sunshine, and warm. Our dinner was served to us by Andrea and his wife at the trattoria Club Paradiso. He was a character and made me a partner in the business but then fired me when I didn't show up early to wait tables. We talked about r purpose for being on this tour which led to a witness for Christ. His reply: "Protestantism isn't a disease, you know." And when I told him I didn't think he looked as old as 66, he replied, "That's because I am not a Protestant."
We traced Savonarola's steps, preaching in the Duomo, San Marco's priory, his room, his cloak and hair shirt, his prison cell in Tower Vecchio where he wrote his Prison Meditations, later translated by Luther and published in 1533 in Wittenberg, and the inauspicious marker in Piazza Signoria where he was burned in 1497. Next Florence post will include an excerpt from my book on Savonarola...