Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/219

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Dominicans, Turriani, had, until Savonarola's final act of disobedience, been his consistent friend. More difficult is the question of the additions, alterations, and omissions attributed to the notary Ser Ceccone, a renegade; although, had this "editing" been absolutely unscrupulous, the confessions of the accused would have been more compromising. The depositions of Fra Domenico, whether in their original form or in the official copy, bear out the general authenticity of the evidence, as do even those of the hysterical somnambulist Fra Silvestro, who was believed by many to be more knave than fool, and with whom, it was suspected, the less scrupulous leaders of the Piagnom conducted their political correspondence.

The Florentine commissioners directed the examination mainly to the gift of prophecy and political relations. It was essential to extort from Savonarola a denial of his prophecies; for nothing would so effectually alienate the large numbers who still silently clung to him. At first he stoutly asserted the divine origin of his gift, but under the strain of torture he broke down, and henceforth his answers were contradictory or confused. He was perhaps at war within himself on this mysterious subject, on which even his pulpit utterances are not consistent; in his agony of mind he now cried out that the spirit of prophecy had departed from him. The prosecution represented him as admitting that his alleged gift was an imposture, the result of ambition, of the desire to be thought wise and holy. He strenuously denied that his prophecies were founded on confessions made to Fra Silvestro or himself. With regard to his interference in party politics the depositions of the three Friars were very colourless. It was the wish of the government to narrow the issue to San Marco, and not to mark leading citizens out for popular vengeance. Even those who were arrested and tortured were soon released. Not Savonarola's old aristocratic enemies, but the people were the most vindictive. Parenti, whose own opinions are typical of the changes in public feeling, affirms that, to satisfy the people and to save the heads of the Savonarola party, the government replaced four of the Friar's judges, who might possibly be too favourable to his cause. The aristocracy could escape a revolution only by his condemnation. Valori and his associates, it was confessed, frequently visited the convent, as did other believers high and low; the Friars had heard their visitors speak of the prospects of the coming elections; their prayers had been sometimes asked in the cause of righteousness, but there had been nothing in the nature of an electoral organisation. Savonarola clearly avowed that he had supported the popular government, but had not meddled with its workings. Both he and Fra Domenico mentioned their design for a life-Gonfalonier or Doge. Their thoughts had naturally turned to Valori, but his violent and eccentric character made them hesitate; the excellent Giovanni Battista Ridolfi had been mentioned, but his large family connexion might lead