Fire in
The City

Savonarola and the Struggle for
The Soul of Renaissance Florence

Lauro Martines
Girolamo Savonarola was born in a Ferrari in 1452. He studied to be a Dominican priest at the University of Bologna where he developed, as his Master's thesis, the Bologna sandwich.

A young man of feeling, he showed his theological gifts at age twenty by composing a religious cantata, De Ruina Mundi ("It's a Ruinous, Ruinous World"). This masterpiece became an instant hit as performed on Italian television by the rock group, Las Portas ("The Doors.")

Savonarola studied Latin, Greek, ethical and oyster culture at Santa Maria degli Angeli in Los Angeles and then traveled to Florence where he enrolled in the prestigious Gnocchi School of Cooking. There, he had several visitations from God. God told him that the people of Florence were idle, vain, lascivious, sinful and were overcooking their pasta e fagioli.

To save the people's souls, not to mention their fagioli, Savonarola organized a mass cook-in at the Piazza della Signoria ("Our Lady's Pizza Hut.") People brought all the vain and frivolous kitchen appliances associated with moral laxity. Soon, the square was piled high with electric cheese-graters, cuisinarts, mouli-juliennes, and Mr. Coffees. When the friar plugged in all the gadgets, he blew out the Italian power grid from Viaréggio through Strómboli all the way out to Jersey City. After this celebrated "Blackout of the Vanities," Fr. Savonarola became virtual dictator in Florence. He banned painting, music, theater, and biscotti, and introduced the prayer breakfast, later taken up enthusiastically by American politicians.

The eccentric Pope Alexander VI, affectionately known to his followers as "The Odd Father," came to resent Savonarola's private audiences with God, and didn't care for his gnocchi francese either. The pontiff lost patience altogether when Savonarola sent his fanciulli onto the streets of Florence to warn people against the Roman "peccatos moreles" and "peccatos graves," not to mention "peccatos frittos." The Holy Father arranged a Roast by the Florentine Friar's Club to determine who was the most holy.

Since Il Pappa was too busy appointing this or that son or cousin to the College of Cardinals, he sent Rudi Giuliani Rondinelli (represented by Francesco da Puglia, "The Fighting Franciscan") to take up cudgels for the Holy Father. The Ordeal was set for April 7, 1497. A platform in front of the Pizza Hut was fueled with firewood, gunpowder, cherry bombs, bottle rockets, pinwheels and Roman candles. Rondinelli and Savonarola were told to jump into the fire. The first not to be completely charbroiled would be declared a saint.

Fortunately, after the crowds had gathered in the Plaza, the two contestants commenced to dicker over the costumes, ornaments, and holy artifacts to be allowed in the competition. The judges from the city's Ministry --- officially, the "Minestrone" --- permitted no decorations, so the two were forced to divest themselves of crucifixes, jewelry, rosary beads, tattoos, divine hosts, and even their nappies. Aghast, the judges declared the Ordeal at an end.

One of Savonarola's problems was that he was not very good at math. In those days, Florence was ruled by several numbers gangs: The Twenty Electors, The Twelve Good Men, The Eight Priors, and The Seven Dwarfs. Savonarola tended to lose count, and kept directing homilies meant for the Twenty to the Eight, and vice-versa. To make matters worse, sometimes he absent-mindedly sent them hominy instead of a homily.

In the end, Savonarola got to be such a pesta that the Pope ordered him to star in a rack festival with Las Portas at the Piazza della Signoria. Savonarola quickly signed a full confession, together with his colleague Domenico da Pescia (who accepted responsibility for the fish course).

The two were taken to the Cape Sante al Basilico where Savonarola composed his last religious work, the meditation Tristitia obsedit me ("I'm sad that I am fat.") Deeply moved by this tribute, Il Papa directed that Savonarola be fried in what subsequently came to be known as the "auto-da-fé alla griglia." With this, Savonarola moved into Italian culinary history, where he remains remarkably well-done to this very day.

--- Salvador Cuspidore,
Dottore Fagioli
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