Synopses & Reviews
A gripping and beautifully written narrative that reads like a novel, Fire in the City
presents a compelling account of a key moment in the history of the Renaissance, illuminating the remarkable man who dominated the period, the charismatic Savonarola.
Lauro Martines, whose decades of scholarship have made him one of the most admired historians of Renaissance Italy, here provides a remarkably fresh perspective on Girolamo Savonarola, the preacher and agitator who flamed like a comet through late fifteenth-century Florence. The Dominican friar has long been portrayed as a dour, puritanical demagogue who urged his followers to burn their worldly goods in "the bonfire of the vanities." But as Martines shows, this is a caricature of the truth--the version propagated by the wealthy and powerful who feared the political reforms he represented. In fact, Savonarola emerges as a complex and subtle man: compassionate, wise, a poet and scholar, and even, at critical moments, a force for moderation. The friar, a mesmerizing preacher, set the city afire with his message of Christian charity wedded to republican ideals.
It is this reality--of Savonarola as both religious and civic leader--that Martines captures in all its complexity, showing how he inspired an outpouring of political debate in a city newly freed from the tyranny of the Medici. In the end, the volatile passions he unleashed--and the powerful families he threatened--sent the friar to his own fiery death. But the fusion of morality and politics that he represented would leave a lasting mark on Renaissance Florence.
For the many readers fascinated by histories of Renaissance Italy--such as Brunelleschi's Dome or Galileo's Daughter, and Martines's acclaimed April Blood--Fire in the City offers a vivid portrait of one of the most memorable characters from that dazzling era.
"A rich and fascinating portrait of Girolamo Savonarola, the Dominican friar who ruled Florence after the fall of the Medicis. Enraged by church corruption, he led a Florentine council for 20 years--until his enemies burned him at the stake in 1498."--Los Angeles Times
"Impressive narrative power.... A thoroughly good read that is also reliable history, scrupulously documented yet with its pages uncluttered by footnotes.... As in every tragedy, the pace quickens as the atmosphere darkens around the protagonist; and when all occasions begin to conspire against him, the reader is caught up in the pity, the cruelty--and the inevitability--of his fate.... Savonarola's story...bears fresh retelling, and Lauro Martines does so with scholarly authority and an admirable combination of clarity and pace."--Sir Michael Levey, Wall Street Journal
"Martines is one of our most renowned historians of the Italian Renaissance and of Florence in particular. His new book is, in some ways, a successor to April Blood , his account of the 'Pazzi' conspiracy to assassinate Lorenzo de' Medici in 1478. Together the two volumes make up an engrossing study of society and politics during the Tuscan city's most illustrious half century."--Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book World
"Martines writes like an angel, and his judgments are nuanced and humane.... Makes a convincing case that history treated Savonarola unfairly: he was an eloquent preacher and a sagacious political advisor to the city.... This book will be read with profit by both professional scholars and general readers."--Library Journal (starred review)
"Martines's fast-paced study weaves a first-rate social history of Renaissance Florence with a deeply affecting and more complex portrait of Savonarola.... This absorbing account by Martines captures Savonarola's brilliance as well as the exciting and dangerous days of Renaissance Florence."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
About the Author
is Professor Emeritus of European History at the University of California, Los Angeles. A renowned scholar of Renaissance Italy, he now writes regularly for The Times Literary Supplement
. The author of April Blood: Florence and the Plot Against the Medici
, he lives in London with his wife, the novelist Julia O'Faolian. His novel of Renaissance Italy, Loredana
, won the Sagittarius Prize for 2005.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
An X-Ray of Florentine Government
Glossary of Terms
Ch. 1 - Chorus
Ch. 2 - Vile Bodies: 1472-1490
Ch. 3 - The Friar Returns: 1490-1491
Ch. 4 - The Wait: 1492-1494
Ch. 5 - Fear and Loathing: November 1494
Ch. 6 - Holt Liberty
Ch. 7 - Stamping out Tyranny: 1494-1495
Ch. 8 - God and Politics
Ch. 9 - Angels and Enforcers: 1496-1498
Ch. 10 - The Pope and the Friar: 1495-1497
Ch. 11 - The Savonrolan Moment
Ch. 12 - Wailers and Bigots
Ch. 13 - Excommunication: May-June 1497
Ch. 14 - Five Executions: August 1497
Ch. 15 - Rome Closes In
Ch. 16 - Foiled Fire
Ch. 17 - The Siege of San Marco: April 1498
Ch. 18 - Confessions of a Sinner
Ch. 19 - Fire Again: Three Executions: May 1498
Ch. 20 - The Conscience of a City