List Of Contents | Contents of The Borgias, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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equally sacred; so that, in his view, Lorenzo in subjugating the one
was as culpable as Pope Innocent VIII in dishonouring the other.  The
result of this was that, so long as Lorenzo lived in riches,
happiness, and magnificence, Savonarola had never been willing,
whatever entreaties were made, to sanction by his presence a power
which he considered illegitimate.  But Lorenzo on his deathbed sent
for him, and that was another matter.  The austere preacher set forth
at once, bareheaded and barefoot, hoping to save not only the soul of
the dying man but also the liberty of the republic.

Lorenzo, as we have said, was awaiting the arrival of Savonarola with
an impatience mixed with uneasiness; so that, when he heard the sound
of his steps, his pale face took a yet more deathlike tinge, while at
the same time he raised himself on his elbow and ordered his three
friends to go away.  They obeyed at once, and scarcely had they left
by one door than the curtain of the other was raised, and the monk,
pale, immovable, solemn, appeared on the threshold.  When he
perceived him, Lorenzo dei Medici, reading in his marble brow the
inflexibility of a statue, fell back on his bed, breathing a sigh so
profound that one might have supposed it was his last.

The monk glanced round the room as though to assure himself that he
was really alone with the dying man; then he advanced with a slow and
solemn step towards the bed.  Lorenzo watched his approach with
terror; then, when he was close beside him, he cried:

"O my father, I have been a very great sinner!"

"The mercy of God is infinite," replied the monk; "and I come into
your presence laden with the divine mercy."

"You believe, then, that God will forgive my sins?" cried the dying
man, renewing his hope as he heard from the lips of the monk such
unexpected words.

"Your sins and also your crimes, God will forgive them all," replied
Savonarola.  "God will forgive your vanities, your adulterous
pleasures, your obscene festivals; so much for your sins.  God will
forgive you for promising two thousand florins reward to the man who
should bring you the head of Dietisalvi, Nerone Nigi, Angelo
Antinori, Niccalo Soderini, and twice the money if they were handed
over alive; God will forgive you for dooming to the scaffold or the
gibbet the son of Papi Orlandi, Francesco di Brisighella, Bernardo
Nardi, Jacopo Frescobaldi, Amoretto Baldovinetti, Pietro Balducci,
Bernardo di Banding, Francesco Frescobaldi, and more than three
hundred others whose names were none the less dear to Florence
because they were less renowned; so much far your crimes."  And at
each of these names which Savonarala pronounced slowly, his eyes
fixed on the dying man, he replied with a groan which proved the
monk's memory to be only too true.  Then at last, when he had
finished, Lorenzo asked in a doubtful tone:

"Then do you believe, my father, that God will forgive me everything,
both my sins and my crimes?"

"Everything," said Savonarola, "but on three conditions."

"What are they?" asked the dying man.

"The first," said Savonarola, "is that you feel a complete faith in
the power and the mercy of God."

"My father," replied Lorenzo eagerly, "I feel this faith in the very
depths of my heart."

"The second," said Savonarola, "is that you give back the property of
others which you have unjustly confiscated and kept."

"My father, shall I have time?" asked the dying man.

"God will give it to you," replied the monk.

Lorenzo shut his eyes, as though to reflect more at his ease; then,
after a moment's silence, he replied:

"Yes, my father, I will do it."

"The third," resumed Savonarola, "is that you restore to the republic
her ancient independence end her farmer liberty."

Lorenzo sat up on his bed, shaken by a convulsive movement, and
questioned with his eyes the eyes of the Dominican, as though he
would find out if he had deceived himself and not heard aright.
Savonarola repeated the same words.

"Never! never!" exclaimed Lorenzo, falling back on his bed and
shaking his head,--"never!"

The monk, without replying a single word, made a step to withdraw.

"My father, my father," said the dying man, "do not leave me thus:
have pity on me!"

"Have pity on Florence," said the monk.

"But, my father," cried Lorenzo, "Florence is free, Florence is

"Florence is a slave, Florence is poor," cried Savonarola, "poor in
genius, poor in money, and poor in courage; poor in genius, because
after you, Lorenzo, will come your son Piero; poor in money, because
from the funds of the republic you have kept up the magnificence of
your family and the credit of your business houses; poor in courage,
because you have robbed the rightful magistrates of the authority
which was constitutionally theirs, and diverted the citizens from the
double path of military and civil life, wherein, before they were
enervated by your luxuries, they had displayed the virtues of the
ancients; and therefore, when the day shall dawn which is not far
distant," continued the mark, his eyes fixed and glowing as if he
were reading in the future, "whereon the barbarians shall descend
from the mountains, the walls of our towns, like those of Jericho,
shall fall at the blast of their trumpets."

"And do you desire that I should yield up on my deathbed the power
that has made the glory of my whole life?" cried Lorenzo dei Medici.

"It is not I who desire it; it is the Lord," replied Savonarola

"Impossible, impossible!" murmured Lorenzo.

"Very well; then die as you have lived!" cried the monk, "in the
midst of your courtiers and flatterers; let them ruin your soul as
they have ruined your body!  "And at these words, the austere
Dominican, without listening to the cries of the dying man, left the
room as he had entered it, with face and step unaltered; far above
human things he seemed to soar, a spirit already detached from the

At the cry which broke from Lorenzo dei Medici when he saw him
disappear, Ermolao, Poliziano, and Pico delta Mirandola, who had
heard all, returned into the room, and found their friend
convulsively clutching in his arms a magnificent crucifix which he
had just taken dawn from the bed-head.  In vain did they try to
reassure him with friendly words.  Lorenzo the Magnificent only
replied with sobs; and one hour after the scene which we have just
related, his lips clinging to the feet of the Christ, he breathed his
last in the arms of these three men, of whom the most fortunate--
though all three were young--was not destined to survive him more
than two years.  "Since his death was to bring about many
calamities," says Niccolo Macchiavelli, "it was the will of Heaven to
show this by omens only too certain: the dome of the church of Santa
Regarata was struck by lightning, and Roderigo Borgia way elected


Towards the end of the fifteenth century--that is to say, at the
epoch when our history opens the Piazza of St. Peter's at Rome was
far from presenting so noble an aspect as that which is offered in
our own day to anyone who approaches it by the Piazza dei Rusticucci.

In fact, the Basilica of Constantine existed no longer, while that of
Michael Angelo, the masterpiece of thirty popes, which cost the
labour of three centuries and the expense of two hundred and sixty
millions, existed not yet.  The ancient edifice, which had lasted for
eleven hundred and forty-five years, had been threatening to fall in
about 1440, and Nicholas V, artistic forerunner of Julius II and Leo
X, had had it pulled down, together with the temple of Probus Anicius
which adjoined it.  In their place he had had the foundations of a
new temple laid by the architects Rossellini and Battista Alberti;
but some years later, after the death of Nicholas V, Paul II, the
Venetian, had not been able to give more than five thousand crowns to
continue the project of his predecessor, and thus the building was
arrested when it had scarcely risen above the ground, and presented
the appearance of a still-born edifice, even sadder than that of a

As to the piazza itself, it had not yet, as the reader will
understand from the foregoing explanation, either the fine colonnade
of Bernini, or the dancing fountains, or that Egyptian obelisk which,
according to Pliny, was set up by the Pharaoh at Heliopolis, and
transferred to Rome by Caligula, who set it up in Nero's Circus,
where it remained till 1586.  Now, as Nero's Circus was situate on
the very ground where St.  Peter's now stands, and the base of this
obelisk covered the actual site where the vestry now is, it looked
like a gigantic needle shooting up from the middle of truncated
columns, walls of unequal height, and half-carved stones.

On the right of this building, a ruin from its cradle, arose the
Vatican, a splendid Tower of Babel, to which all the celebrated
architects of the Roman school contributed their work for a thousand
years: at this epoch the two magnificent chapels did not exist, nor
the twelve great halls, the two-and-twenty courts, the thirty
staircases, and the two thousand bedchambers; for Pope Sixtus V, the
sublime swineherd, who did so many things in a five years' reign, had
not yet been able to add the immense building which on the eastern
side towers above the court of St. Damasius; still, it was truly the
old sacred edifice, with its venerable associations, in which
Charlemagne received hospitality when he was crowned emperor by Pope
Leo III.

All the same, on the 9th of August, 1492, the whole of Rome, from the
People's Gate to the Coliseum and from the Baths of Diocletian to the
castle of Sant' Angelo, seemed to have made an appointment on this
piazza: the multitude thronging it was so great as to overflow into
all the neighbouring streets, which started from this centre like the
rays of a star.  The crowds of people, looking like a motley moving
carpet, were climbing up into the basilica., grouping themselves upon
the stones, hanging on the columns, standing up against the walls;
they entered by the doors of houses and reappeared at the windows, so

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