This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

May 23 -- Feast of Girolamo Savonarola

Bonfire of the Vanitities:
Fourteen years ago, on the 500th anniversary of Girolamo Savonarola's execution, a ceremonial bonfire was held in Florence, Italy.  It might seem a bit tasteless to honor the man with a fire, seeing as he was burned at the stake.  However, in the 1490s, Savonarola organized Bonfires of the Vanities -- mass burnings of secular books and artworks, as well as cosmetics, fancy clothes, and mirrors.  The folks who gathered to honor Savonarola also chose to burn vanities, though they limited themselves to smut, porn, and gambling equipment. 

 Girolamo Savonarola -- Friar Fun himself
Niccolo Machiavelli heard Savonarola preach in March 1498, just two months before the friar was put to the torch.  My first impression of this puritanical Dominican was from the very pragmatic Machiavelli, and thus my impression was unfavorable.  While I have little patience for iconoclasts, puritans, and book-burners, I must admit that I have softened a little.  The Pope of whom he was so critical was Alexander VI, formerly Roderigo Borgia, father of Sweet Lucretia and Charming Cesare.  I believe that Alex6 was an exponent of papal corruption more than he was an agent of it, but nonetheless, he certainly offered much for Savonarola to criticize. 

I have yet to read a convincing statement about who excommunicated whom first.  If Savonarola excommunicated the Pope, that's certain evidence of brass cojones.  It his excommunication was retaliatory, then it is nothing more than doubling down, which is understandable, the times being what they were.  But a key question in the recent effort to have Savonarola beatified is whether the excommunication by Alexander VI should be considered valid.  It is authentic, certainly, but was he holy enough that his bulls should be honored?  If not, was this evangelizing Dominican holy enough for beatification? 

Preach on, brother!
Judgment for me is easier, since hagiomajor is not a two thousand year old institution with millions of adherents and millions more critics.  I'm going to say he was a book-burning bastard who wanted to ruin all the fun in town, but that doesn't mean he wasn't a saint.  They tortured him into a false confession, forcing him to abjure his faith in what he preached, and then burned him at the stake on the strength of that confession.  That does make him a martyr for his faith, which is good enough around here. 

Congratulations Friar Girolamo, patron saint of censors and sanctimonious prigs.  If the weather's good, I will toss a vanity on the grill as I barbeque my dinner. 


  1. Savonarola to you is the patron saint of "censors and sanctimonious prigs"? Name one Christian saint who advocated "anything goes", or who suggested that the Church needed to loosen up its moral teachings and "get with it" in the name of diversity, tolerance, etc. Censorship comes not only from those with conservative and traditional leanings. Look at liberal types, who try to ban words, social media accounts, posters, speakers on campuses and other things because they don't jibe with a certain "message". No different in substance than what Savonarola did. They toe the line for socio-political ideologies which they treat AS "religion", replete with commandments and charges of "heresy".

    Savonarola acted within the dictates and norms of his times. Church and state were intertwined and informed one another. His wanting to make Florence a city-state of Christian virtue rankles people today, even as some try to make modern cities, states and countries embrace "freedoms" that are also in the extreme, focusing on individual "rights" to the point of marginalizing the good of the "whole".

  2. I agree completely with your observation that Savonarola's censorship is comparable if not identical to the practices of the modern liberal establishment. If left-wing statists were to adopt a patron saint, they could find none better than Savonarola.

    Attempts to enforce Christian virtue through the use of state power are doomed. Caesar will always corrupt the Church before the Church can reform Caesar. That Savonarola could not see evidence of this speaks to both his faith and his naïveté.