Savonarola, painting by Fra Bartolomeo; in the Museo di S. Marco, Florence
(born Sept. 21, 1452, Ferrara, duchy of Ferrara—died May 23, 1498, Florence) Italian preacher, religious reformer, and martyr. He joined the Dominican
order in 1475 and was sent to Florence to lecture at the convent of San Marco, where he became known for his learning and asceticism. His apocalyptic preaching maintained that the church needed reforming, that it would be scourged and then renewed. After the overthrow of the Medici family
(1494), Savonarola became leader of Florence, setting up a democratic but severely puritanical government, notable for its “bonfire of the vanities,” in which frivolous materials were burned. He also sought to establish a Christian republic as a base for reforming Italy and the church. He was opposed by the Arrabiati, supporters of the Medici, and by Pope Alexander VI
, who attempted to restrain his unusual interpretations of scripture and his claim of prophecy. Savonarola was tried, convicted of heresy (1498), and hanged and burned. Despite popular veneration, attempts to bring about his canonization have been unsuccessful.
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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.