|Girolamo Savonarola by his follower Fra' Bartolomeo|
In 1491 he was made prior of San Marco monastery in Florence and began to preach in the cathedral. With the expulsion of the Medici family from Florence in 1494, due to a sharp decline in popularity after the death of Lorenzo the Magnificent de Medici and the incompetence of Piero de Medici, his son, to gain support from the people, Savonarola filled the power void and substituted humanist thought and neo-platonic philosophy with a theocratic government and an austere religious atmosphere for four years. Savonarola reorganised the government and, inspired by the Venetian model, increased political representation to 1500 people. He then commissioned an extension to the town hall, the 'Salone del '500' (Room of the 500), where the newly enlarged government could meet, in three sittings of 500 people at a time, giving name to the room. He referred to it as the Hall of Christ.
His sermons increased in religious fervour and he claimed that Christ was speaking through him, he being a prophet of Christ. He attacked the papacy, who initially offered him a cardinal's hat to silence him, which he rejected, before excommunicating him. Cesare Borgia, the head of the papal army and the pope's son, came to Florence where a forced confession was taken from the friar, followed by his death in the square.
Due to the austerity and fanatical nature of his reign, opposition had grown in Florence. The opponents of Savonarola, dubbed the Arrabbiati (Angry Ones), called the Dominican's closest followers the Piagnoni (Wailers) as they complained incessantly and spoke endlessly of the end of the world. After Savonarola was burned, his ashes were gathered and sprinkled over the Arno to avoid them being collected and kept by his believers, although the cult of Savonarola continued throughout the sixteenth century.
|Savonarola's cell in San Marco, Florence|
|The hanging & burning of Savonarola in Piazza della Signoria - an anonymous painting from 1498 in the Museo di San Marco|