Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/215

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that his excuses had been accepted, and that his doctrines had been submitted to the judgment of the Church; in further proof of his orthodoxy he now coiyposed his most elaborate work, the Triumphus Crticis, a noble tract on which his reputation as a theological writer mainly rests. The gist, however, of the brief was the Friar's resistance to the Tusco-Roman Congregation, to which charge a reply was not so easy. If the Pope possessed the power to separate the Tuscan from the Lombard Congregation, in spite of the protests of the latter, he could clearly unite the Tuscan to the Roman. But Savonarola was not daunted; in letters addressed to the public he opposed a non volumus in the form of a non possumus, protesting that it was not in his power to compel his Brethren, and that they were fully justified in their resistance. His answer implied that the Pope had no powers in such a matter of discipline, if his command were contrary to the wish of those affected; he forgot that in 1493 the union of St Catherine's at Pisa with his own Congregation had been effected against the declared wish of the great majority of the Brethren.

The brief after all seemed likely to fall harmless. It was doubtful how far the Pope was yet in earnest; more than a month had elapsed between the dating and the publication of the sentence. On June 14 occurred the mysterious murder of the Duke of Gandia. Alexander, in his passionate grief and remorse, initiated a project of reform such as Savonarola would have welcomed. It was a moment of strange concessions. The excommunicated man wrote a letter of condolence on the death of the Pope's bastard, tenderly urging him to lead a new life, while Alexander assured the Florentine ambassador that the publication of the brief had never been intended; the belief was current that he would willingly withdraw it, if only the Friar would come to Rome. From July, 1497, onwards until the spring the Florentine government and its envoys pleaded ceaselessly for pardon. Testimonials of the Prior's orthodoxy were forwarded by the Brethren of San Marco and by five hundred leading citizens; Savonarola himself in October addressed a humble letter to the Pope praying for reconciliation. For six months he never preached; the excitement both at Rome and Florence had subsided.

On Christmas day Savonarola committed his first act of open disobedience. He celebrated mass at San Marco, and then led a solemn procession round the square. This act scandalised many zealous supporters; but from Rome it provoked no violent protest. The Pope's interest was political; he would withdraw his brief for an equivalent- the adhesion of Florence to the League. On February 11,1498, Savonarola broke silence. He preached in San Marco on the invalidity of the excommunication, declaring that whosoever believed in its validity was a heretic: that the righteous prince or good priest was merely an instrument of God for the people's government, but that, when grace was withdrawn, he was no instrument but broken iron: that if any Pope