February 7, 2017

On February 7, 1497 Girolamo Savonarola had his greatest and last Bonfire of the Vanities. In February 1495, when Florence would normally be making plans for Carnival, Savonarola began his bonfire campaign in which he convinced the populous to burn anything that could be construed as a luxury or tempting one to sin. These items included cosmetics, mirrors, fine clothing, tapestries, and playing cards as well as many musical instruments, books, and fine works of art. His power and influence in Florence grew to the extent that he was the virtual ruler of the city with a retinue of soldiers who accompanied him everywhere he went. He was even able to convince contemporary artist Sandro Botticelli to consign some of his own works to the fire.

Savonarola’s influence did not go unnoticed by the church, however, and he was excommunicated on May 13, 1497 and executed on May 23, 1498 (crucified and burned.) Ironically, the papal authorities initiated their own censorship and the day after Savonarola’s execution they gave word that anyone in possession of the Friar’s writings had four days to turn them over to a papal agent to be destroyed. Anyone who failed to do so faced excommunication.


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