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Girolamo did not at once perceive in all its magnitude--the peril of countenancing a practice that had grown up in barbarous times, and had become one of those corruptions of Christian principles which it was his mission in every guise to set his face against.
Fra Girolamo here fell into an inconsistency. But, did this fall prove him to be an impostor? a false monk? an enemy of Christ?-No, it proved him only to be an erring man. But the tenor of his life proved him to be a holy and a good man.
Did the fall of Peter, on more than one occasion—the failure of his courage, not once nor twice, but thrice, prove him to be a child of Satan?
If there was any thing in the temperament of Fra Girolamo, in his physical conformation, more than another, that indicated a tendency to any particular want of power of volition and concentrated energy of character, it was in that part of his organization which has most to do with the nervous system, and which in him seemed to be of a delicacy that rendered perfect mental composure, in the face of physical danger, a state of mind that was not at his command.
Were it not so, we might have expected a man of the clear, quickly-discerning, intellectual powers of Fra Girolamo, to have dealt with the difficulty in which he was placed by the Franciscans in this way :
that the truth or falsehood of my doctrines should be tested by the ordeal of fire. If they be true, you say, they are entitled to the Divine protection ; if they be false, they are not. God, you say, will manifest the truth or falsehood of them by the result of the proposed trial by fire. I deny that the truth or falsehood of any Christian doctrine should be determined by the result of an experiment which must terminate, on your supposition, in the certain death of one or more human beings. I admit that God holds innocence and truth entitled to the Divine protection, and never fails eventually to crown both with His glory. But I reject, as impious and unchristian, and false as it is presumptuous, the proposition that man shall appoint the times and the seasons of God's judgments;
that he shall say to God, on the 7th of March, 1498, shall display your might and majesty in protecting a particular person or party of persons, who have decided on a particular mode of testing truths which they hold to be yours, notwithstanding it is at variance with one of the fundamental principles of the Gospel, and the true spirit and the teaching of the Christian church. My ordeal shall be in the arena of the pulpit. My controversy with the enemies of truth and righteousness was commenced there, was carried on there, and it shall end, with God's help, in a triumphant manner.” We who reason in our closets about this matter, far away
from the turmoil of the struggle in which Savonarola was engaged, far removed from the remnants of the barbarities of the feudal times, still existing at the close of the fifteenth century, may thus argue, and come, no doubt, with our lights, proceeding from the influences of 400 years more of civilization, to a right conclusion. But let us judge the men, and the acts of men, of the fifteenth century, by the standards of the opinions of their own times, as far as we possibly can do, with all due respect to the one unfailing and unalterable standard of all faith—namely, that of Christianity itself.
THE CONVENT OF SAN
MARCO ASSAILED BY THE POPULACE.
ACCOUNT OF THE ASSAULT AND DEFENCE.-ARREST AND IM-
Yes, Lord !' he exclaimed, 'I turn to Thee; let me be thy sacrifice. Give me strength that I may willingly bear all insults, all disgraces, and all calamities, that on thy account I may be blamed by all as a fool. We stand on the battle-field, but doubt not that we shall conquer at last, and in every way, even dying; and in death shall fight more successfully than in life.'"-Sermon of SAVONAROLA.
“O 'twas a din to fright a monster's ear,
SHAKESPEARE, K. John.
On the evening of Friday, the 7th of April, 1498, Savonarola retired from the Piazza, the scene of the proposed ordeal, to his convent, a doomed man. His enemies had effectually worked upon
the evil passions of a giddy multitude, ignorant and superstitious, fickle and prone to fanaticism, passionately fond of spectacles and pageants, and fierce and brutal in their anger, when their gratifications were interfered with. The Franciscans and their adherents industriously circulated a statement among the populace, calculated to excite them to some desperate act of outrage on the Dominicans-namely, that Fra Girolamo and his associates wished to burn the blessed Eucharist, and were only prevented doing so by the Franciscans. This rumour, extensively circulated, produced feelings of great exasperation against the Dominicans.
On the following Sunday evening, the 9th of April, a number of the faction, hostile to Fra Girolamo, called Compagnacci, congregated about the Duomo, and about the hour of vespers began to cry,
“ To San Marco! to San Marco!” The crowd was augmented by a great many of the idle, dissolute youths of the city, who commenced arming themselves with stones. There were evidences of a preconcerted plan of attack on the Dominican convent and the friars. All the principal streets leading to the convent, by which the friends of Fra Girolamo were likely to proceed to his succour, were occupied by bands of the compagnacci, regularly organised. Some of these armed ruffians met a young man of noble family going to the church of the Annunziate, and repeating to himself some devotional verses, when they attacked him with their lances, exclaiming, “ Villain ! still we have psalmsinging," and slew him on the steps of the church of the Innocents.
Arrived at San Marco, they immediately commenced an attack on the chapel with a shower of stones, while the monks were singing vespers. They waited for night before they made any attempt to break into the convent.
A layman coming out of the convent, who endeavoured to appease the fury of the populace, was cut down with a blow of a sabre. The doors of the convent and the church were made as secure as possible by the monks, and the friends of the father who had been able to gain admission, for his protection. While they were barricading the doors, and preparing energetically for defence, Fra Girolamo came from his cell to the cloisters, with the cope on, and the crucifix in his hand, with the intention of going forth to encounter his enemies at the gates of the convent.
He was prevented, however, by his friends and the community from doing so.
The father observing some of the monks with weapons in their hands, said to them, “ The arms of monks should be spiritual, and not carnal.” He desired those friars to throw down their weapons immediately. He called on the whole community to join him in making a solemn procession
through the cloisters and the church, singing spiritual songs. When that solemnity was over, and he had reposed a little, he entered the sacristy, and again put on his vestments, and took the tabernacle with the blessed sacrament, and placed it on the high altar in the church, and then he and the whole community placed themselves in prayer before it, while the tumult was raging outside, and the clamour of the ferocious multitude momentarily augmented.
The author of the admirable work, entitled, I Palleschi e Piagnoni, says, * The assault of the Palleschi on the Dominicans in their convent of San Marco, the 9th of April, 1498, was resisted not only by the monks, but by a vast number of the Piagnoni, who were of the flock of Savonarola ; and foremost amongst these, was Messer Nicolo de Lapi, his intimate friend, associated with Francesco Valori, Battista Ridolfi, Tommaso Davanzale, and several of his neighbours and acquaintances, who had come to the convent at the first news of the assault made on it. The assailants in great numbers were armed with arquebusses, partizans, swords, staves, and stones....
“Notwithstanding Fra Girolamo dissuaded his brethren from using arms in their defence, Fra Domenicho da Pescia and some others of the community assisted the brave citizens who had come to their assistance.” *
One of those friars who sided with Fra Domenico, and took the most active part in the defence of the convent, was Fra Benedetto, a young man of twenty-eight years of age—a portrait painter and a poet, who has left a poetical biography of Savonarola.t
* I. Palleschi e Piagnoni, p. 124.
+ Fra Benedetto thus commences his description of the assault on S. Marco.
“In Domenica santa dello olivo
Fiorenza se levò a gran rumore,
Per prender el Profeta, o morto, o vivo
Al suo convento e tempio e sua nimici
Cedrus Libani, da Fra Benedetto.