127. JEROME SAVANAROLA
In the same year also, which was of the Lord one thousand four hundred ninety and nine, fell the martyrdom and burning of Hieronymus Savanarola, a man no less godly in heart than constant in his profession. Who, being a monk in Italy, and singularly well learned, preached sore against the evil life and living of the spiritualty, and especially of his own order, complaining sore upon them as the springs and authors of all mischiefs and wickedness. Whereupon by the help of certain learned men he began to seek reformation in his own order. Which thing the pope perceiving, and fearing that the said Jerome, which was now in great reputation amongst all men, should diminish or overthrow his authority, he ordained his vicar or provincial to see reformation in these matters; which vicar with great superstition began to reform things: but the said Jerome did always withstand him, whereupon he was complained of to the pope, and because that, contrary unto the pope's commandment, he did withstand his vicar, he was accursed. But for all that Jerome left not off preaching, but threatened Italy with the wrath and indignation of God, and prophesied before unto them, that the land should be overthrown for the pride and wickedness of the people, and for the untruth, hypocrisy, and falsehood of the clergy, which God would not leave unrevenged, as afterward it came to pass, when King Charles came into Italy and to Rome, and so straitly beset the Pope Alexander, that he was forced to make composition with the king.
Now, forasmuch as the said Jerome would not leave off preaching, he was commanded to appear before the pope, to give account of his new learning, (for so then they called the truth of the gospel,) but by means of the manifold perils, he made his excuse that he could not come. Then was he again forbidden by the pope to preach, and his learning pronounced and condemned as pernicious, false, and seditious.
This Jerome, as a man worldly wise, foreseeing the great perils and dangers that might come unto him, for fear left off preaching. But when the people, which sore hungered and longed for God's word, were instant upon him that he would preach again, he began again to preach in the year of our Lord 1496, in the city of Florence; and albeit that many counselled him that he should not so do without the pope's commandment, yet did he not regard it, but went forward freely of his own good will. When the pope and his shavelings heard news of this, they were grievously incensed and inflamed against him, and now again cursed him, as an obstinate and stiffnecked heretic. But for all that Jerome proceeded in teaching and instructing the people, saying, that men ought not to regard such curses, which are against the true doctrine and the common profit, whereby the people should be learned and amended, Christ's kingdom enlarged, and the kingdom of the devil utterly overthrown.
In all his preaching he desired to teach no other thing than the only pure and simple word of God, making often protestation that all men should certify him if they had heard him teach or preach any thing contrary thereunto, for upon his own conscience he knew not that he had taught any thing but the pure word of God. What his doctrine was all men may easily judge by his books that he hath written.
After this, in the year of our Lord 1498, he was taken and brought out of St. Mark's cloister, and two other friars with him, named Dominic and Silvester, which favoured his learning, and was carried into prison, where he wrote a godly meditation upon that most comfortable thirty-first Psalm; wherein he doth excellently describe and set forth the continual strife between the flesh and the spirit.
After this, the pope's legates came to Florence, and called forth these three good men, threatening them marvellously; but they continued still constant. Then came the chief counsellors of the city, with the pope's commissioners, which had gathered out certain articles against these men, whereupon they were condemned to death; the tenor of which articles hereafter ensue.
1. The first article was as touching our free justification through faith in Christ.
2. That the communion ought to be ministered under both kinds.
3. That the indulgences and pardons of the pope were of no effect.
4. For preaching against the filthy and wicked living of the cardinals and spiritualty.
5. For denying the pope's supremacy.
6. Also that he had affirmed that the keys were not given unto Peter alone, but unto the universal church.
7. Also, that the pope did neither follow the life nor doctrine of Christ, for that he did attribute more to his own pardons and traditions, than to Christ's merits; and therefore he was antichrist.
8. Also, that the pope's excommunications are not to be feared, and that he which doth fear or fly them is excommunicated of God.
9. Item, That auricular confession is not necessary.
10. Item, That he had moved the citizens to uproar and sedition.
11. Item, That he had neglected and contemned the pope's citation.
12. Item, That he had shamefully spoken against and slandered the pope.
13. Item, That he had taken Christ to witness of his naughtiness and heresy.
14. Also, that Italy must be cleansed through God's scourge, for the manifold wickedness of the princes and clergy.
These and such other like articles were laid unto them and read before them. Then they demanded of the said Jerome and his companions, whether they would recant and give over their opinions. Whereunto they answered, that through God's help they would stedfastly continue in the manifest truth, and not depart from the same. Then were they degraded one after another by the bishop of Vasion, and so delivered over to the secular rulers of Florence, with strait commandment to carry them forth, and handle them as obstinate and stiffnecked heretics.
Thus was the worthy witness of Christ, with the other two aforesaid, first hanged up openly in the market-place, and afterward burnt to ashes, and the ashes gathered up, and cast into the river of Arno, the twenty-fourth of May, in the year of our Lord 1499.
This man foreshowed many things to come, as the destruction of Florence and Rome, and the renewing of the church, which three things have happened in these times within our remembrance. Also he foreshowed that the Turks and Moors, in the latter days, should be converted unto Christ. He also declared that one should pass the Alps into Italy, like unto Cyrus, which should subvert and destroy all Italy. Whereupon Johannes Franciscus Picus, earl of Mirandula, called him a holy prophet, and defended him by his writings against the pope. Many other learned men also defended the innocency of the said Savanarola. Masilius Ficinus also, in a certain epistle, doth attribute unto him the spirit of prophecy, greatly commending and praising him. In like manner, Philippus Comineus, a French historiographer, which had conference with him, witnesseth that he was a holy man, and full of the spirit of prophecy, forasmuch as he had foreshowed unto him so many things which in event had proved true.
Anton. Flaminius, an Italian, and for piety and learning famous, in that age wrote this epigram upon the death of Jerome Savanarola:
"Whilst flames unjust (blest saint) thy body burns,
Weeping religion, with dishevelled hairs,
Cries out, and says, Oh spare his sacred urns,
Spare, cruel flames! that fire our soul impairs."
There were, besides these, many other, not to be passed over or forgotten; as Philip Norice, an Irishman, professor at Oxford, who, albeit he was not burned, yet (as it is said) he was long time vexed and troubled by the religious rout. But would to God that such as have occupied themselves in writing of histories, and have so diligently committed unto memory all other things done in foreign commonwealths, had bestowed the like diligence and labour in noting and writing those things which pertain unto the affairs of the church; whereby the posterity might have had fuller and more perfect understanding and knowledge of them.