Fire in the City: Savonarola and the Struggle for Renaissance Florence
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Fire in the City: Savonarola and the Struggle for Renaissance Florence

3.39 of 5 stars 3.39  ·  rating details  ·  145 ratings  ·  23 reviews
A gripping and beautifully written narrative that reads like a novel, Fire in the City presents a compelling account of a key moment in the history of the Renaissance, illuminating the remarkable man who dominated the period, the charismatic Savonarola.
Lauro Martines, whose decades of scholarship have made him one of the most admired historians of Renaissance Italy, here...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published April 21st 2006 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 2006)
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Depending on who you ask, Savonarola was a saint & a martyr or he was a fanatical extremist who subjected Renaissance Florence into a four-year reign of terror. He was a tyrant, or a promoter of republicanism. He was a prophet, or a self-aggrandizing liar. If I had to guess, I'd say he was probably all of them? I am not a fan of the guy at all, but he's one of those historical figures that's so enshrouded in myth that what you think about him probably says more about you than it does about S...more
Frank Stein
This book tells a great story reasonably well, but becomes shockingly repetitive at points and gets bogged down in unnecessary details.

Savonarola was the fire-breathing Dominican monk who, in 1494, encouraged the overthrow of the Medici regime in Florence, and then became the most powerful figure in the city until his execution in 1498.

There is so much I didn't know about him that Martines brings to light. First, he recruited armies of "angels" or "enforcers" (children who were already members o...more
In short:
Talks a lot, says very little.

A little longer:
Know how one is able to discern the meaning of a word through its context within a sentence or paragraph? And, as more words whose meaning is a mystery are added to the sentence/paragraph, your understanding of the meaning of those words gets fuzzier and fuzzier? Have you ever read a paragraph so full of foreign/unknown words that the book loses its grip (if there was one to begin with) on you altogether?
So it is with this book....

A littl...more
Savonarola was a profoundly interesting person. It surprises me how little is written about him because he and his writings are well worth discovering. He took the Christian message and vision to the limit and showed the people of Florence what that meant. Unfortunately, the leaders (and people) of Florence were not ready for this vision and hung him in the square, with the blessing of the Borgia pope. What is ironic is that the appearance of Florence, with all of those beautiful buildings and w...more
Nov 22, 2011 John marked it as to-read
I can't take any more Herzen, Marx or Stalin at the moment - so I though a bit of Savonarola might afford a few days' diversion. We'll see. Nothing like a fire-eating fundamentalist.
A.J. Deus
Martines prides himself in being opposed to all mystifications. This may be the source of one of the main problems in the Florentine story about Savonarola. As the Dominican Savonarola was exerting his power through sermons, understanding the mythical messages seems paramount. After the first 100 pages or so (of a hard to read translation), I felt left in the dark as to what the conflict was all about. Given that fifteenth century Florence is one of my favorite research areas and that I am not a...more
Peter Dunn
A bit of a disappointment this. Though to be fair at least I now know much more about Savonarola and his times, which is why I selected this book as my understanding of him and his period was fairly basic. However the book has a significant flaw.

As an Ulster Prod I was already inclined to give this bogey man historical figure a bit of a break on the count of his anti clericalism and his confrontations with the papacy of his day. However even this bias of mine still wasn’t enough to allow me to...more
Murder of a Medici Princess piqued my interest in Renaissance Italy. I selected this book because the jacket of this book says it "reads like a novel"... but it didn't. It's a tough read. If you don't have any background in this era, I recommend trying something else. The author says the book is for the general public. He also says it is not a biography, but a rendering of Florence at the time through the impact of Savonarola.

I'm a general reader, I had 3 main problems in reading this book: 1) t...more
Lisa Spillane
Studied Savonarola ten years ago at university, as part of wider florentine renaissance history, so I was looking forward to a study of the man himself. While obviously well researched to be honest I found the book a bit of a slog. It took me a long time to read and I felt a bit like I was wading through it rather than actually enjoying what I was reading. Yes, it did provide insight into the period, but it felt a bit like penance reading it as well! It certainly didn't have the pace of some oth...more
I'm about halfway through this and it's a rough read. I'm well read in the Italian Renaissance, Medici dynasty, and Papal history- but this is painful. The last half hopefully will be better.

A word of warning for those interested in this book, be aware of the dryness and be informed of Medici, Florentine history, and Papal history.
Lauren Albert
I couldn't get into this. Partly it was because of the flood of names and that the people named switched sides frequently and sometimes only for protective coloration. I realize that nothing is black and white but the 'sides' in this were so vague that it was hard to follow the narrative. I'm sure this was part of the author's intent--to show how complex the events were. I did learn some things of course. I never knew anything about Savonarola before.
Justin Evans
The blurb claims that this reads like a novel. That would be a novel written by someone who was simultaneously writing their dissertation, and had accidentally mixed up the chapters I guess. Martines has a couple of narrative chapters, and a couple of thematic chapters, and a couple of wtf chapters... and it doesn't really work. On the upside, lots of information about a great story.
An in-depth account of the rise and fall of Savanarola, who instigated the famous "bonfire of the vanities." A bit dry, and too much for the layperson I should think, but anyone interested in really understanding this aspect of Renaissance Florence ought to read this book.
As someone who's interested in the Renaissance - I was a bit disappointed in this book. Maybe what was odd to me was that this was the only book I've read where the author was a Savonarola apologist and even defender.
The Savonarola story has been on the fringes of my reading for some time, so I was excited when I heard Martines was writing a book about it. I wasn't disappointed. This book was a perfect follow up to "April Blood."
Good detail but not the most engauging prose ever. I also feel that the author rang in a bit heavily as a Savonarolan apologist. I liked April Blood much better.
Angela Lewis
This is the book I am currently reading for my Renaissance & Reformation class.
Robert  Finlay
A fine, well-written work on early 16th-century Florence; a casual, informal voice.
Was not the "reads like a novel" book we were promised but overall not bad.
Jul 14, 2007 Julie marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
sine I am ejoying April Blood, it is also likely that I would enjoy this.
Rob Roy
Fascinating story, poorly written
It was a good read. I learned a lot.
Jan 18, 2010 A. marked it as to-read
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Jul 28, 2014
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Jul 27, 2014
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From Oxford Press:

Lauro Martines , former Professor of European History at the University of California, Los Angeles, is renowned for his books on the Italian Renaissance. The author of Power and Imagination: City-States in Renaissance Italy , and most recently of Strong Words: Writing and Social Strain in the Italian Renaissance , he reviews for The Times Literary Supplement and lives in London w...more
More about Lauro Martines...
April Blood: Florence and the Plot against the Medici Furies: War in Europe 1450-1700 Power and Imagination: City-States in Renaissance Italy Loredana: A Venetian Tale Lawyers and Statecraft in Renaissance Florence

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“It follows that the one thing we should not do to the men and women of past time, and particularly if they ghost through to us as larger than life, is to take them out of their historical contexts. To do so is to run the risk of turning them into monsters, whom we can denounce for our (frequently political) motives—an insidious game, because we are condemning in their make-up that which is likely to belong to a whole social world, the world that helped to fashion them and that is deviously reflected or distorted in them. Censure of this sort is the work of petty moralists and propagandists, not historians (p. 5).” 1 likes
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