Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/686

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

once platform and newspaper. Spiritual censures were employed as weapons of war; Sixtus IV laid an interdict on Florence for the conspiracy of the Pazzi, with which his remembrance is indelibly bound up. How should a prophet not be a politician? Savonarola could not see his way to an answer in the negative. He foretold the coming of the French under Charles VIII. He did his utmost to keep Florence in a line of policy which Alexander VI rejected with disdain, although he accepted it two years after Savonarola's death. In this confusion of ideas and interests the preacher of righteousness fell under excommuni cation; he was tortured, degraded, hanged, and burnt, by a coup d'État. Savonarola had invoked a General Council to depose Alexander VI. He fell back upon Pierre d'Ailly and the decrees of Constance. For his prophesyings he never claimed infallible authority. His moral teaching was taken from Aquinas; in expounding the Scriptures he followed the allegorical method; on points of dogma he was at one with his Dominican masters. Like the Brethren of Deventer he was friendly to learning, art, and science. Among his disciples were Pico della Mirandola, Frä Bartolommeo, Michelangelo. It would not be impossible to demonstrate that the sublime and simple grandeur with which the mightiest of Florentines has painted his Prophets and Sibyls on the vault of the Sistine chapel is in perfect accord with the melancholy and majesty of Savonarola's teaching. Nor in the "Burning of the Vanities" are we to imagine a spirit resembling that of John Knox. It was an auto defe of vicious or unseemly objects, not a judgment on Christian art. Frä Girolamo was, in a word, the last of the great medieval Friars. But the restoration which he longed for began in Spain. Flushed with her victory over Jews and Muslims; baptised a nation by her unity in the faith; exalted in a moment to the foremost place among European Powers, Spain was destined to rule, and sometimes to tyrannise over, Catholicism. The telling names here are Ferdinand and Isabel, Ximenes and Loyola. Feudal rights went down before the monarchy in Castile; the Estates of Aragon were no match for Ferdinand. The great Military Knighthoods were absorbed by the Sovereign. From Barcelona the Inquisition was carried to Seville and Toledo. By papal bull, yet in despite of papal protests, it became the Supreme Court before which nobles and prelates lost countenance. Spiritual, orthodox, independent, politic, and cruel, it played with lives and properties, but created one Spain as it upheld one Church. Thus it exercised an authority from which there was no escape. Even Sixtus IV lodged his appellate jurisdiction in the hands of the Archbishop of Seville (1488). No Church could be more arrogantly national than the Spanish, fenced round as it was with exemptions, royal, episcopal, monastic. But none was more Catholic. It bred neither heresy nor schism. The reform which it needed came by the hands of a saintly Queen, and of her ascetic director-Cisneros or Ximenes (1436-1517).