[[File: Savanarola.jpg|200px|thumb|left|Portrait of Savonarola]]
==Life and Career of Savonarola==
Girolamo Savonarola was born in Ferrara, and from an early age was very religious and he deplored “the blind wickedness of the peoples of Italy.” <ref> Ruggerio, p. 649</ref> He detested the humanism that was popular in elite circles which he saw as a form of paganism. He was a member of the Dominican Order and was a lecturer in theology. He was deeply influenced by Medieval philosophy and in many ways, he wanted a return to the Middle Ages <ref> Polizzotto, Lorenzo "The Elect Nation; The Savonarola Movement in Florence 1494–1545" (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1994), p. 45</ref>. In 1482 Savonarola was sent to Florence here he gained a great reputation for his learning and asceticism. He claimed to have visions and these he related in his sermons, which were hugely popular. He was a fearless man and he denounced the church and he deplored its sinfulness. At first the de Medici were sympathetic to Savonarola. However, their support for him dissipated when he began to attack their rule. After the death of Lorenzo, the Magnificent the de Medici family’s grip on power was weakened mainly because of problems in their bank. In 1494 Savonarola predicted the invasion of Charles VIII of France and his string of easy victories. This won him the respect and many people in Florence regarded him as a prophet. As the French king approached the de Medici fled and the government of the city-state fell into the hands of some of the local elite <ref> Polizzotto, p. 78</ref>. Savonarola was able to become the de-facto ruler of the city because of his influence over the population. He helped to introduce a democratic government, one that was very fair and effective. Savonarola aim was to find his city of God in Florence, the heart of Italy. He sought to create a theocratic state in the heart of Renaissance Italy. He also devoted much time to reforming the Church. It is generally agreed by Savonarola’s contemporaries that the Church in Florence was a model of holiness and probity. Savonarola also tried to reform the morals of Florence and he organized the ‘Bonfire of the Vanities’ <ref>Green, J. & Karolides. N. Savonrola, Fra Girolamo. In Encyclopedia of Censorship: New Edition (New York, NY: Facts On File, Inc. 2005), p. 495. This was where the inhabitants were encouraged to burn immoral items, playing cards, ornaments and luxuries. The preacher also initiated a crackdown on vice and irreligious beliefs. However, Savonarola was making powerful enemies and they persuaded the Pope to threaten him with excommunication. The Florentine preacher then condemned the Papal Court and even the Pope. However, many in the Church continued to support the preacher and his sermons were printed and distributed widely. In 1496, the preacher founded the Congregation of San Marco. A new party took control in Florence and they were less amenable to the influence of the preacher and they even secured the excommunication of Savonarola <ref> Green, p. 496</ref>. This was illegal and even the Pope rejected it, even though he was by now the enemy of the Florentine cleric. When the new government of Florence agreed to enter the Holy League, the Pope reluctantly agreed, and the Bull of Excommunication was passed. Savonarola decided to prove himself by undergoing a ‘trial by fire’, to prove that he was innocent of the charges in the Bull<ref> Polizzotto, p. 178</ref>. However, this ended in a farce and this caused the preacher to lose support among many of his followers. The following day a mob that was organized by his enemies attacked the monastery where the preacher was staying and took him to jail. Here he was cruelly tortured to make him confess that he was a heretic. Savonarola refused to make any confession and defied his interrogators. However, his fate was sealed, and the Pope sanctioned his execution. Those who witnessed his trial in an ecclesiastical court regarded it as a mockery of justice and it was undoubtedly a show-trial <ref> Polizzotto, p. 213</ref>. On the morning of the 28th of May 1498 Savonarola along with two companions were hanged on some gallows erected in the main square in Florence. As they were being hung a fire was lit beneath their feet. Savonarola remains were scattered in the River Arno so that his followers would not be able to bury his remains. Almost thirty volumes of Savonarola's writings have been published, they consist of sermons, psalms and visions. The friars of San Marco ‘venerated Savonarola as a saint’ and they helped to keep his teachings alive<ref> Polizzotto, p. 78</ref>.
== Savonarola and the growth of reform ideas==