Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/224

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which had drawn thither the beauty and fashion of Florentine society. Life had now left it for the religious centres of the Cathedral and San Marco. Monti di pieta and burnings of the Vanities were poor substitutes for panis et Circenses. From the great Franciscan church the friars perpetually thundered against the rival Dominican; the Franciscans were after all the peculiar Order of the poor, and they gradually regained the influence which the eloquence of Savonarola had temporarily filched away from them.

The ordeal had decided all but zealous adherents, and the faith of these was widely, if only temporarily, shaken by the alleged confessions. This is clear from the piteous expressions of Landucci, who describes his grief and stupefaction at the fall of the glorious edifice built on the sorry foundation of lying prophecy, at the vanishing of the New Jerusalem which Florence had expected, and from which were to issue a code and an example of holy living, the renovation of the Church, and the conversion of the infidels. The disillusion was completed by Savonarola's silence at the stake and by the Divine refusal of a miracle to save him. Among thinking men it is unlikely that Marsilio Ficino, the Platonist, and Verino, the Humanist, should have been alone in deserting him, although they were no doubt the most distinguished of their class. It is needless to brand them as hypocrites and turncoats. Marsilio at least had led a blameless life; his devotion to Savonarola was of long standing; they had much in common in their speculative mysticism, in their groping after the unseen world. Marsilio was no politician; he could gain or lose nothing by the change of front, which he himself ascribed to the fierce family divisions produced by Savonarola's influence. The desertion of the Prior by the Brethren of San Marco must not be judged too harshly. Something was doubtless due to cowardice, the result of the fierce fight round the convent. But monastic life is subject to contagious waves of feeling; the belief might well run through the convent that its inmates had been befooled and duped by the saintly exterior and passionate eloquence of their Prior. The reaction from the spiritual excitement raised by prophecy brings with it the abandonment of the very foundations of belief. To Savonarola's modern biographers no language has seemed too hard for Fra Malatesta who headed the apostasy, and who had witnessed Savonarola's signature of the depositions. But he too had borne a spotless character; he was a man of high birth, a Canon of the Cathedral, who from genuine devotion had joined San Marco, abandoning a fine income and the certainty of advancement. Men of this type may in a moment of physical and spiritual disturbance be weak, but they seldom then begin to be deliberately wicked. Even Fra Benedetto, who spent the rest of his life in restoring his master's memory, for the moment fell away.

The passionate hatred which Savonarola had excited may seem hard to explain. It was otherwise with Sant' Antonino, who had laboured not