Jerry Brotton

Fundamentalist Friar

Scourge and Fire: Savonarola and Renaissance Italy

By

Jonathan Cape 334pp £20 order from our bookshop

Following hard on the heels of April Blood: Florence and the Plot against the Medici (2004), Lauro Martines’s Scourge and Fire sees the author taking his story of the Florentine Renaissance on to its next bloody historical episode. Moving from history into biography, Martines takes as his subject the Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola (1452–98) and his unprecedented rise to religious and political influence in Florence over four heady years following the expulsion of the Medici in 1494. Martines’s main aim is to rescue the poor friar from five centuries of predominantly bad press, often written from the perspective of the Medici. These accounts portrayed Savonarola as everything from a religious fanatic fanning the flames of the bonfires of the vanities, to an atheistic hermaphrodite who reduced the glorious centre of the Italian Renaissance to a Year Zero policy of religious fundamentalism. 

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,
    • If you want ideas about what to read next, sign up to our free email newsletter, and get book reviews, archive mate… ,
    • 'The heroic male nude could not, I think, be used today to signify civic pride and glory', as Michelangelo’s 'David… ,
    • 'Munch’s later works show us a man liberated from the torments that gave rise to some of the best-known early works… ,
    • 'We read from left to right and from start to finish. Or do we?' Stuart Hannabus considers the merits of reading i… ,
    • Domestic scandal, sexual abuse and serial killers are on the menu in April's crime round-up. revie… ,
    • What did Samuel Johnson, Joshua Reynolds, James Boswell and Edmund Burke all have in common? Clare Bucknell reveal… ,