Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/218

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the nave in prayer, while Savonarola stood before the altar, Sacrament in hand, with his novices around him, expecting martyrdom, for the convent doors were burnt and the enemies crowding in. It was high time that the Signoria should interfere in the cause of order. All lay citizens were commanded on their allegiance to leave the convent within an hour. Further resistance was hopeless. Savonarola and Fra Domenico surrendered under promise of safe conduct. For the last time the Prior gathered the Brethren in the library, and besought them to abide in faith, in prayer, in patience. The officers led their prisoners out into the street, and thence to the Palace, through the surging, howling ,mob, spitting, kicking and striking at its victims. On the following day Fra Silvestro left his hiding-place and was given up.

From the moment of Savonarola's arrest, his execution became a necessity of State; nothing else would satisfy the people, who would otherwise have clamoured for a proscription of his party; nothing else would have healed the divisions among the governing class. The religious strife had not only cleft the city in twain; it was making her alliance worthless to any foreign power. The news" of Charles VIII's death had arrived, it seemed certain that Pisa could only be recovered through the League, and this would give no aid while Savonarola thundered from the pulpit against the Pope. Exile was an alternative to death, but exile would have removed the danger to a foreign and almost necessarily hostile State; the Piagnoni would never rest, while there was a possibility of their leader's return. The Pope at once urged the transference of the prisoner to Rome; the government, as a reward for silencing the prophet, pressed for a tithe upon the clergy for the Pisan war. Florentine independence declined to play the sheriff's officer for Rome, and Savonarola's extradition was refused; as a compromise the Pope sent commissioners to aid in his examination.

The trial of the three Friars lasted from April 9 until May 22. Their depositions and those of other citizens are not necessarily worthless, because they were extracted under torture. Torture was invariably applied, and such a view would invalidate, for instance, the whole of the evidence on which the Medicean conspirators were condemned. Savonarola was, however, a bad subject. His nervous, highly-strung constitution, weakened by asceticism and anxiety, shrank from physical pain. Though never abandoning his duty, he had always been haunted by the fear of personal violence; he frequently referred to his providential escapes from the poison or the dagger of Ludovico il Moro, although successive governments devoted to the Friar never contrived to arrest one of these Milanese agents, with whom he believed Florence to be teeming. The prosecution admitted that Savonarola retracted the confessions made under torture, and these retractations are set down in black and white. Not all of the Florentine Commission were pronounced enemies; and of the two Papal Commissioners, the General of the