of antiquated fortresses crumbling before the modern French artillery. The audacious attack upon the ecclesiastical hierarchy also fell upon willing ears. Abuse of the clergy has always been popular, even when ill-deserved; but with much reason Italy was ashamed of her priesthood and her Pope. The moral standard of the clergy was absolutely, and not relatively, lower than that of the laity. In every town, therefore, Savonarola's invectives might find a hearing; but at Florence the seed fell upon ground peculiarly well-prepared. Florentine wickedness has often been painted in sombre colours to render her prophet's portrait more effective. Nothing can be more unjust, more contradictory of Savonarola's own utterances. His permanent success was due to the moral superiority of Florence over other Italian capitals. For him, she was the navel and the watch-tower of Italy, the sun from which reform should radiate, the chosen city, the new Jerusalem. Florence was a sober God-fearing State after a somewhat comfortable, material fashion. There was much simplicity of life, a simplicity observed by travellers down to the eighteenth century. Private letters and diaries, which frankly relate such scandals as occur, testify to this. Her art and literature at this period compare not unfavourably with those of modern days. Accusations, when pressed home, usually reduce themselves to the lewd carnival songs; but the fetes of the city were altogether exceptional as a gross survival of medieval or pagan license. Florentines, who were neither prudes nor prigs, looked with horror on the corruption of the papal Court. Lorenzo de' Medici could warn his young Cardinal son against this sink of iniquity. The youthful Guicciardini spoke of the simony at Rome with all the disgust of a later Lutheran, and incidentally mentions the character of Cardinal Soderini as being "respectable for a priest." His father would not stain his conscience by making any one of his five sons a priest, notwithstanding the rich benefices which awaited them. The Florentines had recently been shocked at their Milanese visitors, who ate meat in Lent. The rulers of Florence had been religious men. San Marco had long set the standard of religion, and the Medici were deeply interested in its future. Both Cosimo and Piero were men of piety, notwithstanding political finesse, and occasional moral lapses. Lorenzo's mother was noted for her piety; her spiritual songs are among the city's heirlooms. Lorenzo, whatever his backslidings, had the potentiality of a religious nature. Paganism unabashed found scant favour at Florence. Platonism became a serious religion, shaking off the slough of materialism, and searching for union with Christianity. The whole city had worshipped Sant' Antonino; all upper-class Florence had lately been moved by the eloquence of Fra Mariano da Genazzano, an eloquence, indeed, of the polished, artificial type, enhanced by cadence and gesture, garnished with classical allusion and quotation. Yet this was the fashion of the day, and in matters intellectual Florence was
Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/186
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