Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
Italy, heresy, reform, teachings, religion
This thesis examines the life of Girolamo Savonarola (1452-1498), a Renaissance preacher from Ferrara, Italy. From his early beginnings as a student of theology, to his years spent preaching from the pulpit in the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral in Florence, this paper shows how his life transformed into one driven by the Will of God. The thesis is divided into three sections. The first section covers the early life of Savonarola and how hatred for the materialistic and sinful world, along with the teachings of his grandfather, drove him towards religion. The second section focuses on Savonarola executing the Will of God in Florence through the use of sermons. By applying a combination of the Holy Scriptures and divine inspiration to his cause, Savonarola attempted to implement religious and moral reforms in Florence during the 1490s. Using the sermons as his key tool, Savonarola hoped to enlighten the Florentine populace to adopt a life devoted to simplicity and prayer. In this way, equality would resonate throughout the city and no man would think to place himself above another. His popularity grew at an exponential rate and Savonarola experienced success in his desire to reform Florence, until his pride got the best of him. In his plight to rid Florence of sin, Savonarola publicly denounced anybody who disagreed with his reforms–including Pope Alexander VI and members of the Medici family–because in doing so they were questioning the Will of God. The second section culminates with Savonarola being found guilty of heresy and schism, and ultimately it concludes with his public execution in 1498. The third section of this thesis is a text written in the same format at one of Savonarola’s sermons. In this part I created a scenario in which Savonarola had one final opportunity to reflect upon his life and deliver his last thoughts to the Florentine populace the day before his execution. I performed the piece at the Steinmetz symposium. The sermon was written as a way to show the depth of Savonarola’s devotion to his cause; how a man can become so blinded by his own ambition that all logic gets lost to the original aspiration. Savonarola was willing to suffer the ultimate price for his mission, an undertaking that began with devotion to prayer, which in turn led to a false prophet.
Kiernan, Joseph, "Lessons From Florence: The Savonarolan Movement" (2013). Honors Theses and Student Projects. 691.