Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/183

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the creatures of the Medici. Lorenzo, at the request, as it is said, 'of Pico della Mirandola, had summoned him back to Florence; without Lorenzo's favour he would scarcely have been elected Prior. Lorenzo was all-powerful both at Rome and Milan; a word from him would have relegated the preacher against tyranny to a distant Lombard convent.

For Savonarola's independence at this period there are two scraps of personal evidence. On March 10, 1491, he wrote to his friend Fra Domenico that magnates of the city threatened him with the fate of San Bernardino of Feltre, who had been expelled. He added, however, that Pico della Mirandola was a constant attendant at his sermons and had subsidised the convent; now Pico was one of Lorenzo's most intimate friends. In his last sermon on March 18, 1498, Savonarola stated that Lorenzo sent five leading citizens to dissuade him, as of their own accord, from his prophetic utterances; he replied that he knew from whom they came: let them warn Lorenzo to repent of his sins, for God would punish him and his: he, the alien Friar, would stay, while Lorenzo, the citizen and first of citizens, would have to go. For this tale there are several good authorities, though the sermon may be their common source: Guicciardini, the best of them, omits the Friar's reply. It is certain that Lorenzo took no further measures; the chronicler Cerretani expressly affirms that, while Lorenzo lived, Savonarola was entirely quiet.

It is well known that Lorenzo summoned the Dominican to his deathbed at Careggi. This has been represented by modern writers as though it had been a strange and sudden thought, the result of an agony of repentance. But no act could have been more natural. Savonarola was now without question the greatest preacher in the city; he was Prior of Lorenzo's own convent, in the garden of which he often walked; the rival divine Fra Mariano da Genazzano was not in Florence. Lorenzo with all his faults was no lost soul; he had a singularly sympathetic nature; he was keenly alive to religious as to all other influences. Whom should he better call from Florence to Careggi than the Friar whom he had brought back from Lombardy? The details of the deathbed scene as related by the Dominican biographers are difficult to accept; they rest on third-hand authority, contain inherent improbabilities, and are contradicted by contemporary evidence both direct and indirect. Neither in Savonarola's writings, nor in the letters of Lorenzo, Politian, or Ficino, nor in the despatches of ambassadors, is there any statement as to the Dominican's alleged hostility to the powers that be. Among his devotees were numbered Lorenzo's two chief confidants, Pico and Pandolfini, his friend and teacher, Marsilio Ficino, the favourite painter Botticelli, and the youthful Michel Angelo, who had lived in the Medici palace almost as a son. Giovanni da Prato Vecchio, the financial adviser who did much to make the Medicean administration unpopular with the masses, was Savonarola's personal friend.

Later writers, living under the terrorism of a restoration, neglected