Like a House on Fire: Thinking of the mad friar Savonarola

Like a House on Fire: Thinking of the mad friar Savonarola May 23, 2022

 

 

It was today, the 23rd of May, in 1498, that the Dominican Friar Girolamo Savonarola was burned at the stake in Florence.

He may be a bit better remembered for the falò delle vanità, the “Bonfire of the Vanities,” which occurred about a year before, on the 7th of February, in 1497.

For a moment Savonarola was functional dictator of Florence. And under his orders the people gathered together what they and the good friar considered temptations into sin, piled them up, and lit them as bonfires.

These objects included clothing, cosmetics, mirrors, musical instruments, playing cards, and paintings. Lots of art, And lots of books…

As it happens such things had occurred before Savonarola. In fact the friar himself started these fires as regular events two years before the whole city got involved.

And, well, we know. Such things have happened since, as well…

And then, as such things often go, after the orgy of purification, and the regret of those he’d seduced, the friar found himself burned at the stake.

Fire, it would seem, has a tendency to spread.


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