List Of Contents | Contents of The Borgias, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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charm which would save him from the fire.  So they insisted that he
should be stripped of all has clothes and put on others to be
inspected by witnesses.  Fra Bonvicini made no objection, though the
suspicion was humiliating; he changed shirt, dress, and cowl.  Then,
when the Franciscans observed that Savanarola was placing the
tabernacle in his hands, they protested that it was profanation to
expose the sacred host to the risk of burning, that this was not in
the bond, and if Bonvicini would not give up this supernatural aid,
they far their part would give up the trial altogether.  Savonarola
replied that it was not astonishing that the champion of religion who
put his faith in God should bear in his hands that very God to whom
he entrusted his salvation.  But this reply did not satisfy the
Franciscans, who were unwilling to let go their contention.
Savonarola remained inflexible, supporting his own right, and thus
nearly four hours passed in the discussion of points which neither
party would give up, and affairs remained in 'statu quo'.  Meanwhile
the people, jammed together in the streets, on the terraces, on the
roofs, since break of day, were suffering from hunger and thirst and
beginning to get impatient: their impatience soon developed into loud
murmurs, which reached even the champions' ears, so that the
partisans of Savonarala, who felt such faith in him that they were
confident of a miracle, entreated him to yield to all the conditions
suggested.  To this Savonarola replied that if it were himself making
the trial he would be less inexorable; but since another man was
incurring the danger; he could not take too many precautions.  Two
more hours passed, while his partisans tried in vain to combat his
refusals.  At last, as night was coming on and the people grew ever
more and more impatient and their murmurs began to assume a
threatening tone, Bonvicini declared that he was ready to walk
through the fire, holding nothing in his hand but a crucifix.  No one
could refuse him this; so Fra Rondinelli was compelled to accept his
proposition.  The announcement was made to the populace that the
champions had come to terms and the trial was about to take place.
At this news the people calmed down, in the hope of being compensated
at last for their long wait; but at that very moment a storm which
had long been threatening brake over Florence with such fury that the
faggots which had just been lighted were extinguished by the rain,
leaving no possibility of their rekindling.  From the moment when the
people suspected that they had been fooled, their enthusiasm was
changed into derision.  They were ignorant from which side the
difficulties had arisen that had hindered the trial, so they laid the
responsibility on both champions without distinction.  The Signoria,
foreseeing the disorder that was now imminent, ordered the assembly
to retire; but the assembly thought otherwise, and stayed on the
piazza, waiting for the departure of the two champions, in spite of
the fearful rain that still fell in torrents.  Rondinelli was taken
back amid shouts and hootings, and pursued with showers of stones.
Savonarola, thanks to his sacred garments and the host which he still
carried, passed calmly enough through the midst of the mob--a miracle
quite as remarkable as if he had passed through the fire unscathed.

But it was only the sacred majesty of the host that had protected
this man, who was indeed from this moment regarded as a false
prophet: the crowd allowed Savonarola to return to his convent, but
they regretted the necessity, so excited were they by the Arrabbiati
party, who had always denounced him as a liar and a hypocrite.  So
when the next morning, Palm Sunday, he stood up in the pulpit to
explain his conduct, he could not obtain a moment's silence for
insults, hooting, and loud laughter.  Then the outcry, at first
derisive, became menacing: Savonarola, whose voice was too weak to
subdue the tumult, descended from his pulpit, retired into the
sacristy, and thence to his convent, where he shut himself up in his
cell.  At that moment a cry was heard, and was repeated by everybody

"To San Marco, to San Marco!"  The rioters, few at first, were
recruited by all the populace as they swept along the streets, and at
last reached the convent, dashing like an angry sea against the wall.

The doors, closed on Savonarala's entrance, soon crashed before the
vehement onset of the powerful multitude, which struck down on the
instant every obstacle it met: the whole convent was quickly flooded
with people, and Savonarola, with his two confederates, Domenico
Bonvicini and Silvestro Maruffi, was arrested in his cell, and
conducted to prison amid the insults of the crowd, who, always in
extremes, whether of enthusiasm or hatred, would have liked to tear
them to pieces, and would not be quieted till they had exacted a
promise that the prisoners should be forcibly compelled to make the
trial of fire which they had refused to make of their own free will.

Alexander VI, as we may suppose, had not been without influence in
bringing about this sudden and astonishing reaction, although he was
not present in person; and had scarcely learned the news of
Savonarola's fall and arrest when he claimed him as subject to
ecclesiastical jurisdiction.  But in spite of the grant of
indulgences wherewith this demand was accompanied, the Signoria
insisted that Savonarola's trial should take place at Florence,
adding a request so as not to appear to withdraw the accused
completely from the pontifical authority--that the pope would send
two ecclesiastical judges to sit in the Florentine tribunal.
Alexander, seeing that he would get nothing better from the
magnificent republic, sent as deputies Gioacchino Turriano of Venice,
General of the Dominicans, and Francesco Ramolini, doctor in law:
they practically brought the sentence with them, declaring Savonarola
and his accomplices heretics, schismatics, persecutors of the Church
and seducers of the people.

The firmness shown by the Florentines in claiming their rights of
jurisdiction were nothing but an empty show to save appearances; the
tribunal, as a fact, was composed of eight members, all known to be
fervent haters of Savonarola, whose trial began with the torture.
The result was that, feeble in body constitutionally nervous and
irritable, he had not been able to endure the rack, and, overcome by
agony just at the moment when the executioner had lifted him up by
the wrists and then dropped him a distance of two feet to the ground,
he had confessed, in order to get some respite, that his prophecies
were nothing mare than conjectures.  If is true that, so soon as he
went back to prison, he protested against the confession, saying that
it was the weakness of his bodily organs and his want of firmness
that had wrested the lie from him, but that the truth really was that
the Lord had several times appeared to him in his ecstasies and
revealed the things that he had spoken.  This protestation led to a
new application of the torture, during which Savonarola succumbed
once more to the dreadful pain, and once more retracted.  But
scarcely was he unbound, and was still lying on the bed of torture,
when he declared that his confessions were the fault of his
torturers, and the vengeance would recoil upon their heads; and he
protested yet once mare against all he had confessed and might
confess again.  A third time the torture produced the same avowals,
and the relief that followed it the same retractions.  The judges
therefore, when they condemned him and his two disciples to the
flames, decided that his confession should not be read aloud at the
stake, according to custom, feeling certain that an this occasion
also he would give it the lie, and that publicly, which, as anyone
must see who knew the versatile spirit of the public, would be a most
dangerous proceeding.

On the 23rd of May, the fire which had been promised to the people
before was a second time prepared on the Piazza del Palazzo, and this
time the crowd assembled quite certain that they would not be
disappointed of a spectacle so long anticipated.  And towards eleven
o'clock in the morning, Girolamo Savonarola, Domenico Bonvicini, and
Silvestro Maruffi were led to the place of execution, degraded of
their orders by the ecclesiastical judges, and bound all three to the
same stake in the centre of an immense pile of wood.  Then the bishop
Pagnanoli told the condemned men that he cut them off from the
Church.  "Ay, from the Church militant," said Savonarola, who from
that very hour, thanks to his martyrdom, was entering into the Church
triumphant.  No other words were spoken by the condemned men, for at
this moment one of the Arrabbiati, a personal enemy of Savonarola,
breaking through the hedge of guards around the scaffold, snatched
the torch from the executioner's hand and himself set fire to the
four corners of the pile.  Savonarola and his disciples, from the
moment when they saw the smoke arise, began to sing a psalm, and the
flames enwrapped them on all sides with a glowing veil, while their
religious song was yet heard mounting upward to the gates of heaven.

Pope Alexander VI was thus set free from perhaps the most formidable
enemy who had ever risen against him, and the pontifical vengeance
pursued the victims even after their death: the Signoria, yielding to
his wishes, gave orders that the ashes of the prophet and his
disciples should be thrown into the Arno.  But certain half-burned
fragments were picked up by the very soldiers whose business it was
to keep the people back from approaching the fire, and the holy
relics are even now shown, blackened by the flames, to the faithful,
who if they no longer regard Savonarola as a prophet, revere him none
the less as a martyr.


The French army was now preparing to cross the Alps a second time,
under the command of Trivulce.  Louis XII had come as far as Lyons in
the company of Caesar Borgia and Giuliano della Rovere, on whom he
had forced a reconciliation, and towards the beginning of the month

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