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tlement of a theological dispute, and the conduct of the actors in it.
Notwithstanding the official account of this proposed ordeal, transmitted to the Pope by his agent in Florence, is drawn up with every desire to blacken the conduct of Savonarola, and to uphold that of the Franciscans, there is a certain air of authenticity about the main details which recommends it, and, therefore, as Burlamacchi's statement of the negociations between the parties rests on his authority alone, I cite all the particulars of the subsequent formal agreements entered into between the Dominicans and Franciscans, on this extraordinary occasion.
At the conclusion of the Diary of Burchard, the master of the ceremonies of Alexander the Sixth, three documents relating to Savonarola are inserted, commencing at page 91 of Leibnitz’ edition of the Diary, as “pieces justicatives,” one of which I refer to here as indicating the names of two of the brethren of Fra Girolamo, most obnoxious to Alexander, whom the Franciscans contrived to involve in the affair of the ordeal. This document, an epistle, in forma brevis, is entitled :
Alexander, Papa VI., dilectis filiis priori, et conventui monasterii Sancti Marci, ordinis Predicatorum in Civitate Florentiæ.”
In this Epistle, the Pope begins by lamenting that dogmas had sprung up under cover of a feigned simplicity, leading frequently, with the people and schismatic clergy, to heresies and subversion of morals, which have been combated by the church for the sake of the preservation of its members, and the prevention of the growth of the evil that had arisen.
“ That Jerome Savonarola of Ferrara, of the order of preachers, had yielded to the delectation of this perversity of novel dogmas, and had given way to the insane idea of changing the affairs of Italy, declaring himself sent by God, and one whom God had spoken to, and, without any canonical authorization, had set himself publicly against canonical sanctions. It is not sufficient for any person to assert such things point blank, as that he had been sent by God as an heretical person would assert: but it is essen
tial that the person should exhibit the proofs of a manifest mission by the operation of miracles, or the special testimony of scripture.”.. His holiness goes on to say, he had hoped that Savonarola would have seen the sinfulness of the course he had taken, and abandoned it of his own accord, but he had been mistaken.
“ That he had sent letters to him, calling on him, in virtue of holy obedience, to come to Rome, and give an account of the matters laid to his charge, but that he had refused to come. He had been again summoned under the penalty of excommunication, and had refused obedience, with many equivocations and excuses. That, finally, after consulting with the vicargeneral of the Dominican order, Fra Sebastian de Madiis de Brixia, of the Lombard Congregation, he, Fra Girolamo Savonarola, had been suspended from all his functions; and that Fra Domenico de Pescia, Fra Toomas Bussino, and Fra Sylvester of Florence, would be included in the same sentence of suspension, if within nine days from that date they did not yield holy obedience to the orders given them, and proceed to Bologna to a convent of their order, &c. Given at Rome, &c., &c., &c.”
There is no date to this epistle.
I now proceed to give an account of the circumstances leading to the proposed ordeal by fire, for the settlement of the controversy between Savonarola and the Franciscan monks, from this Diary of Burchard, a cotemporary of Savonarola, the master of the ceremonies of Alexander the Sixth. The reader, however, will bear in mind, that Burchard adopts the views of Alexander, respecting Savonarola and the monstrous calumnies against him, without possessing either means or leisure to investigate the subject of the truth or falsehood of those unfavourable reports, and unfounded calumnies, against the much-dreaded reforming friar of Florence.
“ The 10th of April, 1498,” says Burchard," news came to Rome, that on Saturday, the 7th of the same month, there was a fire prepared at Florence, in the principal square of the city, to verify, by the ordeal judgment, certain propositions of Fra Girolamo Savonarola of Ferrara, vicar-general of the congregation of San Marco. But the intended ordeal did not take place. The
brother Girolamo, who, from the time of the coming of Charles the Eighth of France into Italy, had preached many lying and feigned things publicly, had one portion of the inhabitants of Florence in his favour, expecting great things of him, as he had said in his public discourses that our Saviour had often spoken to him and revealed to him many things. He had a certain way of knowing the sins of men by means of six of his brethren of the same order, reputed learned and holy men, who resided in different towns, and some also in Florence, and who, when any grave matters were confessed to them, revealed the same, with the names and condition of the persons confessing them, to Girolamo. By this means, he preached things as if revelations from God, the knowledge of which was obtained in the confessional, and by these means, and others, he so drew the people after him, that many thought him a prophet and a good man. His counsel was sought in all important matters, and by his influence the city was ruled, and all things were done there. Our most holy father, the Pope, seeing the power and malice of this man carried so far, caused it to be notified to him by the general of his order, that he should refrain from preaching in this manner.
“He was unwilling, however, to obey this notification, when his Holiness commanded him, on pain of excommunication, to desist from preaching, which mandate he refused to obey, asserting that it was necessary rather to obey God than men; and other things he adduced in his defence, which made the people believe the more in him; and in the mean time he composed certain heretical propositions, and published them, which he said he was willing to sustain.
“A certain brother, of the order of Franciscans, Zoculis, who preached publicly in the church of that order in the convent of Santa Croce, asserted those conclusions of Savonarola to be heretical.
“On the other hand, Girolamo and others of his order maintained the truth of these propositions. Hence arose the contention between both orders, as it is written of them--the Do
minicans anxious to sustain Savonarola's doctrine with their
“The tenor of these propositions was as follows:
“ 5th. And afterwards it was to be hoped that the infidels would be converted to Christ.
"6th. All those things would happen in our days.
“7th. The excommunication lately fulminated against Savonarola was null and of no effect, and those who disregarded it did
Terms of the compact, written in Italian, entered into between the Dominicans and Franciscans, relative to the ordeal by fire ; on the part of the Dominicans :
“I, Fra Dominick da Pescia, of the Dominican order, with my signature hereunto bind myself to sustain the present propositions, not only by arguments, but, confiding in the help of the divine grace, I undertake and bind myself to enter into the public fire with the preacher of the Franciscan order, who is at present preaching in the church of the Santa Croce, hoping, through the power of God, to come forth unscathed and unhurt, to the glory of His holy name, and in confirmation of the truth, and for the help of souls, through our Lord Jesus Christ, who, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns for ever and ever."
On the part of the Franciscans :
“I, brother Francis, of the order of Minors—though unworthy-am ready, at the instance and request of superiors D. D. Florentinorum—for the benefit and salvation of the people, to dispute, and by the experiment touching the doctrines of the brother Hieronymo, to determine the propositions before-mentioned, which require some supernatural probation. With brother
* Diarium, p. 47.
Domingo, therefore, or any other brother of his order, it is indifferent to me which, I am ready to undergo the trial of ordeal by fire, before a judge duly appointed, and unsuspected of partiality by the religious of either orders.”
On the part of another friar of the Dominican order :
“I, Brother Mariano, of Florence, of the Dominican order, have also obliged myself, confiding in the help of God, to confirm the truth of the propositions to be defended by the reverend brother, Domingo da Pescia, concerning the Reformation of the Church, and the excommunication launched against Fra Hieronymo of Ferrara, according to the terms subscribed by him, to make the experiment of trial by fire, and to come forth without injury, provided a brother of the order of Franciscans should come (to the ordeal), as has been promised by the reverend father of Santa Croce."
On the part of a Franciscan friar, Fra Nicolo:
“ Most magnificent lords of the Florentine people, the peace of God be with you: Understanding that the Father Francisco de Puglia, now preaching in the church of Santa Croce, has been asked by the friars of the order of Saint Dominick, to make some supernatural experiment by the fiery ordeal or otherwise, according to your pleasure ; I, an unworthy Franciscan friar, Francis Nicolo, of S. Cassiano, declare myself willing to confirm what I have said ; and I wish, in the place of the above-mentioned friar, Francisco de Puglia, and in order to free this people from so much crror, to enter into the fire, not only with the Dominican preacher, but with any other person, and to undergo any other martyrdom, provided that person be a professed friar of St. Mark. Wherefore, in testimony of the same, I have set my hand and name to this document, this 3rd of May, 1498.”
On the part of a Dominican friar of San Marco :
“I, Fra Juliano de Rondinelli, bind myself to enter the fire with the above-named friar, and in testimony of the same, I have subscribed these lines with my own hand, although I believe that I shall be burned, but for the salvation of my soul I am very content to burn.* This third of May, 1498."
* Diarium Burchardi, pp. 45, et seq.