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once the rapture and despair of the earth, they were utterly pagan in new-born instinct of art. Rome sentiment and worse than pagan in woke to the consciousness of the life. “They regarded,” says Macpriceless wealth long buried in her aulay, “the Christian mysteries of bosom. The earth seemed to renew which they were the stewards, just her youth. There were giants in as the Augur Cicero and the Pontithose days. Michael Angelo, great fex Maximus Cæsar regarded the as poet, painter, and sculptor; Da Sibylline books and the pecking of Vinci, Ghiberti, Cellini, Fra Lippi, the sacred chickens. Among themMacchiavelli, Petrarch, Politian—a selves they spoke of the Incarnation, brotherhood of art and letters never the Eucharist, and the Trinity in equalled in the world.*
the same tone in which Cotta and But no good or evil is unmixed. Velleius talked of the oracle of This revived learning brought with Delphi, or of the voice of Faunus in it a revived paganism. This quick- the mountains." ened art contained the seeds of its Said Leo X.-himself a priest at own moral taint. Social corruption eight and a cardinal at fourteen and political tyranny and treachery years of age-to his secretary Bembo, flourished amid this too stimulating * All ages know well enough of atmosphere. Tne moral antiseptic what advantage this fable about of a vital Christianity was wanting. Christ has been to us and ours.” The The salt had lost its savour, and same Bembo cautions a friend moral corruption ensued. The state against reading the Epistles of St. of the Church was at its very worst. Paul, “lest his taste should be corThe Papacy was never more Heaven- rupted.” Of the works of Macchiadefying in its wickedness. A suc- velli, the foremost writer of the cession of human monsters occupied times, says Macaulay, “Such a disSt. Peter's chair. Paul II., Sixtus play of wickedness, naked yet not IV., Innocent VIII., and the infamous ashamed : such cool, judicious, scienBorgia—Alexander VI., - had con- tific atrocity, seem rather to belong verted the Vatican into a theatre of to a fiend than to the most depraved the most odious vices. While wear- of men.” Yet the highest honours ing the title of Christ's Vicars on of his age were heaped upon him,
and at the first courts of Italy his Not among the "giants” of the time,
atrocious sentiments evoked no conbut as one of its tenderest and most loving demnation, but rather the warmest spirits, is to be mentioned Fra Angelico,
approval. whose lovely frescoes of saints and angels and Madonnas still adorn the cells of San
The city of Florence was, not Marco. He could not preach, but he could even excepting Rome, the chief paint such beatific visions as fill our eyes seat of the Renaissance revival in with tears to clay. He never touched his
Italy. It was the very focus of art, brush till he had steeped his inmost soul in prayer. Overcome with emotion, the tears
of literature, of commerce. Its often streamed down his face as he painted revenue was greater than that the Seven Sorrows of Mary or the raptures which both England and Ireland of the saved. He would take no money for his work : it was its own exceeding great
yielded to Elizabeth. Its cloth manureward. When offered the archbishopric of
factures employed thirty thousand Florence he humbly declined, and recom workmen. Eighty banks transacted mended for that dignity a brother monk. its business, and that of Europe, on He died at Rome while sitting at his easel
a scale that might surprise "even -caught away to behold with open face the beatitic vision on which his inner sight so the contemporaries of the Barings long had dwelt. The holy faces of his and the Rothchilds." angels still haunt our memory with a spell Well did the saintly painter
"Every place," says Macaulay, "to wear the name of Fra Angelico -- the Angelic which the merchant princes of Florence Brother.
extended their gigantic traffic, from the
bazaars of the Tigris to the monasteries John the Baptist he was a voice of the Clyde, was ransacked for medals
crying, “Repent ye, for the kingdom and manuscripts. Architecture, painting
of heaven is a hand." Like John and sculpture were munificently encouraged. We can hardly persuade ourselves
the Baptist he fell a martyr to the that we are reading of times in which the
truth which he proclaimed. annals of England and France present us
Savonarola was the scion of a only with a frightful spectacle of poverty, noble family of Padua, but he was barbarity and ignorance. From the op- born at the ancient city of Ferrara, pressions of illiterate masters and the sufferings of a brutalized peasantry, it is
whose mouldering palaces and dedelightful to turn to the opulent and en
serted streets still speak of its lightened states of Italy, to the vast and
former opulence and splendour. magnificent cities, the ports, the arsenals, He derived much of his heroic charthe villas, the museums, the libraries, the acter from bis brave-souled mother, marts filled with every article of comfort
who recalls the noble women of the and luxury, the manufactories swarming early days of Rome. To her unfalwith artisans, the Apennines covered with rich cultivation to their very summits,
tering faith his heart turned ever the Po wafting the harvests of Lombardy for support and inspiration even in to the granaries of Venice, and carrying his sternest trials and his darkest back the silks of Bengal and the furs of hour. He had been educated for Siberia to the Palaces of Milan. With
the profession of medicine, but the peculiar pleasure every cultivated mind must repose on the fair, the happy, the
deeper misery of the world's moral glorious Florence.
maladies were to demand his symfor the beautiful city! A time was at pathy and succour rather than its hand when all the seven vials of the physical ills. He felt in his soul a Apocalypse were to be poured forth and
call of God to devote himself to a shaken out over those pleasant countries --a time for slaughter, famine, beggary,
religious life, and he fled from a infamy, slavery, despair.”
world lying in wickedness to the
cloistered seclusion of the DominiA characteristic of Florence has can monastery of Bologna. Here he ever been her passionate love of performed the humblest duties of liberty. On her arms for six hun. the convent, toiling in the garden, dred years has been inscribed the or repairing the garments of the glorious word “Libertas." When monks. “Make me as one of thy other cities crouched beneath the hired servants” was the cry of his heel of tyrants she flourished as a world-weary heart as he sought refree republic. At length the prince- fuge in the quiet of God's house. ly House of the Medici obtained a At the same time he devoted every sway which was really that of a hour of leisure to the works of monarch. The ostentatious prodi. St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelical gality of Lorenzo the Magnificent Doctor, to those of St. Augustine, at once beguiled Florence of her and, above all, to the study of the liberty, corrupted her virtue, and Word of God. He was much given hastened the calamities by which to prayer and fasting, to perplexed she was overwhelmed.
and often tearful thought. Like all At this time, and on such a stage, great souls he nourished his spiritual God called the great Savonarola to strength by solitary communings play his brief but heroic part. The with God, and wrestling with the grandest soul of the fifteenth cen- great problems of duty and destiny. tury animated his frail body. He In two poems of this period, De beheld with dismay the awful cor- Ruina Mundi and De Ruina Ecruptions of the times. He foretold clesiæ, he mourns over the moral the outpouring of the vials of wrath ruin of the Church and of the world. upon the land. He sought to set up
In his soul there rankled, too, Christ's throne in the earth. Like the deep and tender wound of disappointed human affection. In his grieved at the ignorance and worldyouth he had loved with all the liness of the monks. But he found passionate ardour of his nature a congenial employment in teaching daughter of the princely House of them the principles of philosophy,
THE CATHEDRAL, OK DUOMO, WITH Glorro's TOWER, FLORENCE.
Strozzi. But the impaired fortunes and in expounding the Scriptures. of his family caused the rejection of His first attempts at public preachhis suit — it is said with scorn - by ing, by which he was afterwards to the proud patrician.
sway so wonderfully the hearts of The zealous neophyte was greatly men, were very disheartening. In his native town of Ferrara he could face and deep, dark eyes gazed not get a hearing, and he bitterly around on the vast assembly, and remarked, “A prophet has no honour the thrilling, awe-inspiring voice in his own country.”. Even in filled the mighty dome. Florence his first audiences never His bold preaching proved very exceeded twenty-five persons col- distasteful to the princely Lorenzo lected in the corner of a vast church. de Medici, by whom he had been “I could not,” he said, “so much as promoted to the dignity of prior of move a chicken."
San Marco. After attempting in But “the Word of God was as a vain to bribe him with gifts, the fire in his bones," and could not be Prince sent a message threatening restrained. On his removal to the banishment from the city unless he convent of San Marco be besought learned more courtly ways. “Tell the prayers of the brethren and es- Lorenzo, from me," was the intrepid sayed to preach. He began a course answer, " that though he is the first of sermons on the Book of Revelation in the state, and I a foreigner and a "and applied,” says his biographer, poor brother, it will, nevertheless, “with tremendous force the imagery happen that I shall remain after he of John's vision to the condition is gone." These bold words were and prospects of Italy. With a afterwards called to mind, as the voice that rolled like thunder or greatest of the Medici lay upon his pierced with the wild and mournful death-bed. In that solemn hour the anguish of the loosened winds, he dying prince sent for the only man denounced the iniquities of the time, in Florence who had dared to cross and foretold the tribulations that his will The faithful preacher were at hand.” Soon, so rapidly urged, as the condition of divine his audience grew, he had to leave pardon, reparation for deeds of opthe chapel and preach in the open pression, and the restoration of the cloisters, “standing beneath a dam- usurped liberties of Florence. But ask rose tree,” to the multitudes who the ruling passion was strong in thronged to hear. To this day the death, and the prince passed to the place is pointed out, and a damask tribunal of the skies without the rose tree still marks the spot. He priestly absolution that he craved. had found, at length, his work, and The succeeding prince, Piero de for the remaining eight years of his Medici, was no less a tyrant than life his voice was the most potent in his sire. But the pulpit of SavonItaly.
arola continued to be the ruling The burden of his preaching, he power in Florence. The bold monk tells us, were these three propositions: was therefore banished to Bologna, “ That the Church of God would be where he ceased not to proclaim the renovated in the then present time; judgments of God. At length he that fearful judgments would pre- returned, on foot, with nothing but cede that renovation; and that his staff and wallet, to the destined these things would come soon." scene of his brief triumph and glorWith the ano ted vision of the ious martyrdom. seer, discerning wisely the signs of Foreseeing the evils that threatthe times, he exhorted men to re- ened the state, he saw, or thought he pentance from sin and reformation saw, in the midst of the smiling of life. Soon the convent of San heavens, the vision of a sword bearMarco became too small to hold the ing the words “Gladius Domini crowd of eager listeners, and the super terram cito et velociter_The great Duomo became thenceforth sword of the Lord on the earth, the theatre of the mighty eloquence swiftly and soon." That sword of the preaching friar. The pale proved to be the French king,
Charles VIII., who, with a powerful army, subdued the peninsula as far as Naples. As the tread of armies drew near, again the prophetic voice of Savonarola was heard in the great Duomo, proclaiming the judgments of God in tones which come across the ages and move our souls to-day. His text was, “ Behold I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth.”
“Behold," he said, “ the cup of your iniquity is full. Behold the thunder of the Lord is gathering, and it shall fall and break the cup, and your iniquity, which seems to you as pleasant wine, shall be poured out upon you, and shall be as molten lead. And you, O priests, who say, Ha, ha! there is no Presence in the sanctuary—the Shechinah is naughtthe Mercy-seat is bare ; we may sin behind the veil and who will punish us?
say, the presence of God shall be revealed in His temple as a consuming fire, and your sacred garments shall become a winding sheet of flame, and for sweet music there shall be shrieks and hissing, and for soft couches there shall be thorns, and for the breath of wantons shall come the pestilence ; for God will no longer endure the pollution of His sanctuary ; He will thoroughly purge His Church.
* Hear now, () Florence, chosen city in a chosen land ! Repent and forsake evil ; do justice ; love mercy ; put away all uncleanness from among you, and then the pestilence shall not enter, and the sword shall pass over you and leave you unhurt.
“Listen, 0 people, over whom my heart yearns as the heart of a mother over the children she has travailed for! God is my witness that, but for your sakes, I would willingly live as a turtle in the depths of the forest, singing low to my Beloved, who is mine and I am His. 0) Lord, Thou knowest I am willing, I am ready. Take me, stretch me on Thy cross ; let the thorns press upon my brow, and let my sweat be anguish–I desire to be like Thee in Thy great love. But let me see the fruit of my travail ; let this people be saved !”
Nor were the labours of Savonarola for the welfare of Florence confined to the pulpit of the Duomo. He went forth alone and on foot as an embassy to the invader, Charles
VIII. In the spirit of Elijah rebuking Ahab he boldly admonished him.
"Most Christian King,” he began, " thou art an instrument in the Lord's hand, who sends thee to assuage the miseries of Italy (as I have foretold for many years past), and lays on thee the duty of reforming the Church which lies prostrate in the dust. But if thou failest to be just and merciful ; if thou dost not show respect to the city of Florence, to its women, its citizens, its liberty ; if thou forgette-t the work for which the Lord sends thee, He will then choose another to perform it, and will in anger let His hand fall heavily upon thee, and will punish thee with dreadful scourges. These things I say to thee in the name of the Lord.”
Once again “ a poor wise man by his wisdom delivered a city,” besieged by its enemies. The humble monk was a stronger defence of Florence tban its walls and moats and armaments. Its ruler, Piero de Medici, fed in the hour of peril, and, in the disguise of a liveried lackey, sought an asylum in Venice. His palace was sacked and his art treasures scattered by the fickle mob, whom only the influence of Savonarola could call back to order. The French armies entered the city as allies instead of as enemies. Their long stay, however, wore out their welcome. Charles submitted an ul. timatum which Capponi, the tribune of the people, refused to accept. « Then we will sound our trumpets," exclaimed the irritated king, threatening force. “And we,” cried the patriot tribune, rending the parchment in pieces, “we will ring our bells.” . And the old cow, as the Florentines called the great bell in the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio, began to low,* its deep reverberations sounding like a tocsin over the city, where every house would become a fortress and every citizen a soldier for the defence of its ancient rights.
Again Savonarola became the * La vacca muglia was the phrase for the ringing of this great bell, whose deep-toned notes still boom from its lofty tower.