By the end of the fifteenth century, Florence was well established as the home of the Renaissance. As generous patrons to the likes of Botticelli and Michelangelo, the ruling Medici embodied the progressive humanist spirit of the age, and in Lorenzo de' Medici they possessed a diplomat capable of guarding the militarily weak city in a climate of constantly shifting allegiances. However, in Savonarola, an unprepossessing provincial monk, Lorenzo found his nemesis. Filled with Old Testament fury, Savonarola's sermons reverberated among a disenfranchised population, who preferred medieval Biblical certainties to the philosophical interrogations and intoxicating surface glitter of the Renaissance. The battle between these two men would be a fight to the death, a series of sensational events—invasions, trials by fire, the 'Bonfire of the Vanities', terrible executions and mysterious deaths—featuring a cast of the most important and charismatic Renaissance figures. Was this a simple clash of wills between a benign ruler and religious fanatic? In an exhilaratingly rich and deeply researched story, Paul Strathern reveals the paradoxes, self-doubts, and political compromises that made the battle for the soul of the Renaissance city one of the most complex and important moments in Western history.
Paul Strathern is a Somerset Maugham Award-winning novelist, and his nonfiction works include The Venetians, Death in Florence, The Medici, Mendeleyev's Dream, and The Borgias, all available from Pegasus Books. He lives in England.