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CHAPTER III.

PROCEEDINGS AGAINST SAVONAROLA AND HIS TWO COMPANIONS.

-PART TAKEN IN THEM BY THE POPE.-TORTURES INFLICTED ON SAVONAROLA.—-FALSIFICATION OF THE PROCESS VERBAL.THE CONDEMNATION AND ALLEGED CONFESSION OF GUILT, AS DETAILED BY BURCHARD, THE MASTER OF THE CEREMONIES OF ALEXANDER THE SIXTH, FROM THE OFFICIAL DOCUMENTS FURNISHED TO THE HOLY SEE BY THE ENEMIES OF FRA GIRO

LAMO.

“I would have had my Florence great and free:

Oh, Florence! Florence ! unto me thou wast
Like that Jerusalem which the Almighty He
Wept over, but thou wouldst not ;' as the bird
Gathers its young, I would have gather'd thee
Beneath a parent pinion, hadst thou heard
My voice ; but as the adder, deaf and fierce
Against the breast that cherished thee was stirr'd
Thy venom, and my state thou didst amerce,
And doom this body forfeit to the fire.
Alas ! how bitter is his country's curse
To him who for that country would expire,
But did not merit to expire by her,
And loves her, loves her even in her ire."

BYRON.

The prisoners, on being conducted before the Signoria, we are told by Burlamacchi, were immediately examined. Fra Girolamo was asked, “if the doctrines he preached were true or false ?-if his revelations were from God ?” He answered with his accustomed frankness, that “those things which had been predicted by him were from God.”

This answer enraged the Lords of Florence-they seemed to require no further proof of guilt; and forgetting the solemn

pledge they had given of restoring the three friars to liberty, they gave directions on the spot to have them shut up in three separate places of confinement. And for the especial charge of the prisoners, and the conduct of the proceedings against them, they appointed a magistracy of sixteen persons, all notoriously hostile to Fra Girolamo and his ministry.

On the first occasion of their assembling after their appointment, one of them, named Francisco degli Albizi, though opposed to the friars, seeing the great malignity of the measures that were about to be taken against them, said, “ he would not stain his hands with the blood of the innocent.' He went away from the assembly, and never returned to it.

They began the proceedings against the three friars without waiting for any authority from Rome for instituting them, though the charges against them were for offences cognizable only to ecclesiastical authority. From the 10th to the 19th of April, Fra Girolamo was examined repeatedly by this magisterial commission. On the first occasion, in the ordinary manner by interrogations; on the second occasion with torture and menaces and invective; and on the third occasion, and succeeding ones, also with torture, con tormente.

On the second day after Palm Sunday,” says Burlamacchi, “the friars were tied to the instrument of torture, and with great laceration they were tormented. Fra Girolamo that day was tortured with two turns of the cord. On the next occasion they inflicted the same torture with one and a half turns. Nor did they abstain from tormenting them with fire and other tortures, which they first exhibited with the view of frightening them into confession."

In the account of the trial, professed to be taken from the processo autentico, evidently written by one very hostile to Savonarola, we read," that on the first occasion of torturing Fra Girolamo on the 10th of April, they gave him the Estrapade torment, with three turns and a half of cord.” Afterwards, every day, from the 11th of the same month to the 19th, they examined him on the facts alleged against him, without any

* Burlamacchi, tom. i. p. 566.

torture or lesion of the body, but with humane, soothing, and consoling words."

And yet, further on, it is stated, on the first occasion he had the Estrapade with three and a half turns of the cord, and afterwards with an additional number, and the subsequent examinations are set down at seven.t Burchard, moreover, distinctly states that he was tortured seven times.

Notwithstanding (these tortures), we are told by Burlamacchi, the father continued firm, protesting that he had preached nothing but the truth, and that if overcome by the tortures, he should say any thing of a contrary kind, it should be considered

as false.

sus

The torments being renewed, he cried out, in the great agony of his sufferings, “ Tolle Dominé, tolle animam meam !” We may imagine the extremity of the anguish which extorted these words: and we may likewise imagine what sort of inspiration it was which moved his heart and lips in prayer, when we read of his dropping on his knees the instant the torture was pended on that day, and praying for his enemies, and those even at whose hands he had endured those sufferings. In this course of proceeding his persecutors persevered several days, extorting nothing from him, except some ambiguous words which were taken down by those who superintended the tortures, i ministri, but which were altered, added to, and accommodated to their views, in order to deceive the people.

All that Nardi says of the torture and its results is, that on the first day's examination they were threatened with torments, “minaccie di tormenti.” And on the second day, the examiners having deliberated on the application of torture, “ some turns of the cord” were given, datoli alguni pocchi trati di corda," and the prisoners showing that they suffered greatly from this torment, being very weak and sensitive, they asked to be allowed to write, and thus it was those statements were made.

The enemies of Savonarola were not satisfied with the results

* Baluzii Miscellanea, tom. v. p. 529.

Burlamacchi, tom. i. p. 566.

+ Idem, p. 551.
§ Nardi, lib. ii. 78.

of their first proceedings against him and his companions. They determined on packing the Great Council, with the same wise views, no doubt, for securing a result in accordance with their notions of the interests of justice, as those for which juries have been so often packed in modern times, with the best success for the cause of law and order in other countries. Savonarola was to be condemned, and the new Signoria, which was to come into office on the 1st of May, 1498, was to be packed for that purpose. Shortly before the day of election, by some back-stair influence in the palace of the Council, “ about two hundred citizens were expelled from the Great Council.”

When the elections took place, none but men of "the right sort"

were returned. In fact, before they were installed in office, the doom of Savonarola was determined on. Murder was planned as secretly and securely as if the surest measures had been adopted for taking off a victim by the poisoned bowl or the sharp blade of a stiletto.

It has been said truly by Lord John Russell, you may cause the death of a man by close confinement in an unwholesome prison, as effectually as by burning him at a stake. And it has been likewise observed by a writer of some celebrity, that the guilt of blood is incurred as much by tampering with justice on the bench or in the jury box, and taking improper methods of acting on the tribunals of justice, and procuring convictions of men tried for their lives, “by any indirection,” as by employing men to make away with them by violence.

The magisterial commission finding, after all the tortures inflicted on their prisoners, no evidence of guilt, we are told by Burlamacchi, were greatly perplexed. One of them at length communicated on the subject with a public notary of the name of Francesco de Arone, known also by the soubriquet of Ceccone. The notary undertook the management of the case, and guaranteed the condemnation and death of Fra Girolamo. The heads of the faction hostile to Savonarola, i Compagnicci, bound themselves to pay the notary four hundred scudi, if he succeeded in his undertaking.

This notary had been engaged in the conspiracy that had been discovered in 1497 for the restoration of Pietro de Medici. On its discovery he sought an asylum in San Marco, and through the efforts of Savonarola in his favour with the authorities, his life had been preserved. For this great kindness he now sold his services to procure the death of his benefactor. And even previously he had entered into a clandestine correspondence with Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, reporting to him, in cipher characters, the substance of what Fra Girolamo preached from day to day.

The cause of justice was not summary enough for the craving appetite for blood, of the sanguinary populace of Florence. They began to murmur against the law's delay. Parties were suspected of endeavouring to save the lives of the Dominicans. They began to assemble in the streets in the night, and to utter savage

cries of vengeance against Savonarola, and menaces against the magistrates they suspected of being favourable to him.

In this state of affairs the services of the notary Ceccone were still more urgently solicited.

He desired to be admitted secretly to the Sala della Palazzo de Giustizia the next time Fra Girolamo was examined. He was accordingly secretly introduced, and concealed in a place where he could hear every thing that was said without being observed himself. Fra Girolamo was under examination, and another notary was present, making the regular process verbal in writing. Ceccone, unperceived all the time, was taking down the answers of the prisoner, and falsifying them according to his views. “In general,” says Burlamacchi, “Fra Girolamo gave ambiguous answers to the questions put to him, which admitted of different interpretations, as was done even by the Redeemer before Pilate.”

But the notary Ceccone twisted every reply to the sense that served his purpose. For instance, when the father was asked for what cause he had done certain things in Florence, and he replied, that “every thing he did was—per gloria—" but

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