Girolamo Savonarola

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Girolamo Savonarola (21 September 1452, Ferrara, Emilia-Romagna – 23 May 1498, Florence) was an Italian Dominican friar and an influential contributor to the politics of Florence from 1494 until his execution in 1498. He was known for his book burning, destruction of what he considered immoral art, and his perception of what he thought the Renaissance — birthed in his Florence and in its first trimester — ought to become. He vehemently preached against the moral corruption of much of the clergy at the time, and his main opponent was Rodrigo Borgia, who was Pope Alexander VI from 1492, through Savonarola's death, to 1498.



Early years

Savonarola was born in Ferrara, the capital of an independent Duchy in Emilia-Romagna, northern Italy. According to another source,[specify] he was born at Occhiobello, 7 km from Ferrara. He was born into a respected and affluent family that had originally resided in Padua.

In his youth he studied the Bible, St. Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle. Savonarola initially studied at the University of Ferrara, where he appears to have taken an advanced Arts degree. His stance against morally corrupt clergy was initially manifested in his poem on the destruction of the world entitled De Ruina Mundi (On the Downfall of the World), written at the age of 20. It was at this stage that he also began to develop his expression of moral conscience, and in 1475 his poem De Ruina Ecclesiae (On the Downfall of the Church) displayed his contempt for the Roman Curia by terming it 'a false, proud archaic wench'.


Savonarola became a Dominican friar in 1475, during the Italian Renaissance, and entered the monastery of San Domenico in Bologna. He immersed himself in theological study, and in 1479 transferred to the monastery of Santa Maria degli Angeli. Finally in 1482 the Order dispatched him to Florence, the ‘city of his destiny’. Savonarola was lambasted for being ungainly, as well as being a poor orator. He made no impression on Florence in the 1480s, and his departure in 1487 went unnoticed. He returned to Bologna where he became 'master of studies’.

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