Today in Catholic History – Execution of Savonarola

On 23 May 1497, the Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola was burned at the stake as a heretic by order of Pope Alexander VI.

Savonarola had become very popular with the people of Italy and very unpopular with Alexander as a result of his outspoken preaching in Florence for the reform of the Church, against the immorality he saw amongst the clergy and especially within the Roman Curia and in the life of Alexander VI himself. Alexander had failed to put a stop to Savonarola’s criticisms by prohibiting him from preaching and even excommunicating him, but Savonarola refused to silence his message.

However, after Savonarola refused a challenge from a Franciscan friar to undergo a trial of fire in order to prove the validity of his criticisms, the people of Florence rioted and he was arrested. Savonarola was tortured and under torture confessed to heresy, though later he would renounce this confession.

In 1558, Pope Paul IV would assert that Savonarola was not a heretic and more recently there has been a call for Savonarola’s canonization.

More on Savonarola

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