Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/217

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the life of Florence. Above all the Piagnoni were eager for the ordeal; the more zealous offered to enter the fire in full reliance on a miracle, while those who wavered thought that the prophet's success would render his cause triumphant or his failure justify secession.

Neither Savonarola nor the Franciscan challenger, Francesco da Puglia, were the champions of their Orders. Domenico da Pescia, Savonarola's right hand, represented the Dominicans, and Fra Ron-dinelli the Franciscans. The painful tale of the ordeal is too well known to bear retelling in detail. The Franciscans were gathered in the Loggia, and the huge pile was laid in the great Piazza, when the Dominicans entered in procession, two by two, amid lines of torch-bearers, followed by Fra Domenico bearing the Host, and his Prior bearing the Crucifix. Their chant "Let God arise and let his enemies be scattered" was caught up by the faithful on every side. The square was free but for the armed bands of the government, and the groups of the leading supporters of each party; but every window and every roof was dark with eager onlookers, hungering for miracles or horrors. Then followed the unseemly wrangles between the Orders, Franciscans insisting that Fra Domenico must be stripped of his robes for fear they should be enchanted, Dominicans refusing to send their champion to the flames without the Host. Then came the drenching thunderstorm, and their wrangles again till eventide, when the Signoria dismissed the Friars to their convents. The Dominican procession reached San Marco amid the yells and threats of a disappointed mob.

The populace, long wavering, had made up its mind. Some were angry at their own credulity, others at the proposal to endanger the Holy Sacrament. Many were disgusted at losing a spectacle for which they had waited wet and weary; others had hoped that the Dominican's death by fire would purify the State from faction. Savonarola preached to his disciples that he had won the victory; but in their hearts they doubted it, for they gathered to defend the convent in expectation of an onslaught. This was not slow in coming. On the following day, Palm Sunday, the Compagnacd shouted down a Dominican preacher in the Cathedral, and amid cries of "To San Marco" led the mob against the convent. Valori escaped to rally adherents round his palace and to attack the enemy from without. But the assailants were too quick; Valori reached his house with difficulty and hid himself; his wife, looking from an upper window, was killed by a cross-bow. Then came officials of the Signoria and took him from his hiding-place towards the Palazzo. The weak escort was overpowered; a Ridolfi and a Tornabuoni hacked the Piagnone leader down, in vengeance for their relation's death, and so the greatest citizen in Florence died unshriven in the street. Meanwhile San Marco was gallantly defended. The bell was tolling to rally the Piagnoni, who, however, were isolated in the churches or in their houses in blank dismay. Women were gathered in