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Girolamo Savonarola

1452 - 1498

Girolamo Savonarola (1452 - 1498) became prior at the Dominican convent of San Marco, Florence, in 1491. His preaching and his crusade against impiety and luxury gained him great political power in Florence, especially during the Republic established after the death of Lorenzo de' Medici and the exile of Lorenzo's son Piero in 1494. He was puritanical in his beliefs, and urged the Florentines to burn all their profane books, paintings and jewels on the 'bonfires of the vanities'. He had enormous numbers of followers - including the painters Botticelli and Fra Bartolommeo. The most fervent of them were called the 'piagnoni' or 'weepers'.

Much of his preaching was regarded as heretical by Pope Alexander VI, who had him tried for heresy. Under torture he confessed and was finally burned in the Piazza della Signoria in Florence. His death led to the return of the Medici to the city.