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Savonarola: The Rise and Fall of a Renaissance Prophet Hardcover – November 22, 2011
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“A masterpiece of the genre. Donald Weinstein has succeeded in presenting a wholly coherent, finely balanced and deeply moving analysis of Savonarola, the man, the preacher, the reformer and the political leader. Weinstein's understanding and presentation of the complex political, social and religious contexts in which Savonarola operated are outstanding and unmatched by any other biographer.”—Lorenzo Polizzotto, The University of Western Australia
“The genius of Renaissance history lies in its capacity to remain forever contemporary. Donald Weinstein's smooth biography brilliantly reveals Savonarola as a man for our unstable and risk-riven times, dangerously mixing charismatic leadership, governance and fundamentalist religion.”—Kate Lowe, Queen Mary University of London
“…this new biography represents the definitive English-language account of its subject. It offers the kind of exhaustive yet balanced assessment of the controversial friar’s life that can only be produced by an expert writing at the culmination of his academic career.”—Jerry Brotton, Literary Review (Jerry Brotton Literary Review 2012-03-01)
“Weinstein presents a reasoned and fair view of his subject as friar, preacher, prophet and politician.”—Grahame Lock, The Tablet (Grahame Lock The Tablet 2012-03-17)
“Weinstein’s scrupulously researched finely balanced life is both a complex portrait of a fascinating figure and of a uniquely and creative time.” –Michael Kerrigan, The Scotsman (Michael Kerrigan The Scotsman 2012-04-28)
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Small gripes: A timeline of political and religious events would have enhanced the understanding of the context of the times. At times the book is repetitious. It goes into some detail of the many institutional changes in the government of Florence (well justified by Savonarola's intervention on the issue and the political environment), but there are so many of them that a brief introduction to the governance of the city and its factions would have enhanced the understanding of Savonarola's role and motivations). So many person names are just mentioned without any background that it can become confusing. Also it opens some issues but leaves them unresolved (what is the status of the process of his canonization (no information after 1996?), what became of his image within Protestantism? how is he perceived today within the Catholic Church and by Renaissance scholars?.
Enjoyed the last chapter on the impact of Savonarola on the thoughts of future religious and particularly its relations to the Reformation ("Echoes"). Unfortunately it is short and leaves the reader wanting more. Granted, it is not the objective of the book to discuss "savonarolism", but if you opened it do not leave us hanging.
Impressive from the start is Weinstein's familiarity with the leading issues and public figures of the Italian Renaissance, his fluency in medieval Italian, his knowledge of Christian theology. Gripping particularly is his detailed account of the final stages of Savonarola's descent into the maelstrom of Florentine politics, his never ending, futile conflict with the Borgia pope, Alexander VI, his mounting awareness of his own likely torture, hanging and fiery end.
All this in clean, finely sculptured prose.