It is good to see something in print on this lesser known pre-Reformation figure. Girolamo Savonarola (1452-1498) was rooted in the Medieval monkish traditions, but he thundered out his denunciations of a corrupt Church and Pope from his pulpit in Florence. He blazed a trail which men like Martin Luther in the next generation would follow and develop. Indeed Luther pays tribute to him:
'Although some theological mud still adhered to the feet of that holy man, [he] nevertheless maintained justification by faith alone without works, and he was burned by the Pope.'
Sadly this was indeed his end, the result of criticising moral corruption too strongly and publicly. He presented a scriptural challenge to the Renaissance humanists and their proud culture in a city where artists of legendary fame were legion. He also grieved over the Church of Rome, evacuated of the gospel of Christ, consumed by worldliness and guilty of tyranny over the consciences of the people. Savonarola spoke boldly, not in Latin, but in the Italian that they could understand. Moreover he extended his reach by a farsighted adoption of the emerging technique of the printing press. Remarkably, he was the most widely published author of the fifteenth century, with editions of his sermons in French and German.
In those days a biblical message of judgment, repentance and grace as the sinner's only refuge could lead to no other conclusion but elimination. Thus Savonarola suffered a martyr's death. Yes, we can see many faults in him, but he has much about faithfulness to teach us, and we delight in his gospel witness in such dark days of church history.Anything written by Douglas Bond is worth reading, but this book was slightly disappointing. Maybe it is the consequence of a co-authored book, because the material seemed awkwardly arranged in places. Nevertheless it is clear and straightforward as befits a title in this generally excellent Bitesize Biography series.
Girolamo Savonarola by Douglas Bond and Douglas McComas, published by EP Books, p/b,£6.99.