Okay, I don’t want to be critical…….. but when you advertise in the newspaper about a performance of Bach’s Mass in B Minor, BWV 232 taking place at the second most important cathedral in Florence – The Medici church – with a full catholic mass on Sunday morning….. wouldn’t you have enough chairs for everyone and public restrooms open??? It was packed and most everyone, including us stayed for the full almost 3 hour mass/concert. It was performed by the Coro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino (I am assuming it is the Master Chorale of Florence) and accompanied by the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino( full orchestra). It was excellent! Bach’s mass was incorporated in the service. Being Lutheran, and not catholic, I find these services interesting. A lot of liturgical singing -very dry. But a wonderful musical performance with professional soloists. On our walk home we went through the Piazza della Signoria and I had just read in our Rick Steves book that there was a plaque placed where Girolamo Savonarola was hanged and burned and we wanted to find it.
Savonarola (1452–1498) was an Italian Dominican friar and preacher active in Renaissance Florence, and known for his prophecies of civic glory and calls for Christian renewal. He denounced clerical corruption, despotic rule and the exploitation of the poor. He prophesied the coming of a biblical flood and a new Cyrus from the north who would reform the Church. This seemed confirmed when Charles VIII of France invaded Italy and threatened Florence. While Savonarola intervened with the king, the Florentines expelled the ruling Medici and, at the friar’s urging, established a popular republic. Declaring that Florence would be the New Jerusalem, the world center of Christianity and “richer, more powerful, more glorious than ever”, he instituted a puritanical campaign, enlisting the active help of Florentine youth.
In 1495 when Florence refused to join Pope Alexander VI’s Holy League against the French, Savonarola was summoned to Rome. He disobeyed and further defied the pope by preaching under a ban, highlighting his campaign for reform with processions, bonfires of the vanities, and pious theatricals. In retaliation, the Pope excommunicated him and threatened to place the city under an interdict. A trial by fire proposed by a rival Florentine preacher to test Savonarola’s divine mandate was a fiasco, and popular opinion turned against him. Savonarola and two lieutenants were imprisoned. Under torture, Savonarola confessed that he had invented his visions and prophecies. On May 23, 1498, the three friars were condemned, hanged, and burned in the main square of Florence. Savonarola’s devotees, the Piagnoni, kept his cause of republican freedom and religious reform alive well into the next century, although the Medici—restored to power with the help of the papacy—eventually broke the movement.