This is the essay for the 34th week of the 9th Grade Tom Woods Homeschool. In this blog post, I will be answering three questions.
The first one is: Who is Girolamo Savonarola and what was his rise and fall?
The second one is: What happened in the Italian War of 1494-1498?
The third and last one is what are some of the significant aspects of the reign of Louis XI?
Girolamo Savonarola was a Dominican friar. He preached against the corruption and lax morals that filled the clergy and the Church. He also preached against the entire spirit of the Renaissance. This included the worldliness, sensuality and emphasis on the human body, but also the art based on ancient Greek and pagan scenes. He didn’t think the ancient world should be honored because it didn’t involve Christianity. Savonarola also criticized the Medici family who was controlling Florence with their power. Eventually, the Medici family was driven out of Florence by a popular uprising.
Savonarola took this opportunity and used it to create a new constitution for Florence which turned out to be a dictatorship. In it, anyone who participated in the spirit of the renaissance by being worldly or sensual or some other thing would get harsh punishments. Even simple things such as rolling dices would be punished severely. A system of spying and reporting to Savonarola was established where people would report if other people had sinned in any way. This system included children reporting their parents. At the start of the dictatorship, there was a bonfire of vanity where people would burn their worldly materials. Even artists burned their own pagan paintings.
Earlier when Savonarola was preaching against corruption and lax morals in the Church and clergy he was mostly aiming it at pope Alexander VI as a person, but then he started preaching against him as a pope, which meant that he no longer distinguish between the person who is pope and the papal office itself. Alexander obviously wasn’t happy about this but it wasn’t the breaking point for him. For a while, Savonarola said he was getting prophecies from God and telling them to the Florentine and Alexander invited Savonarola to come over to Rome to justify his claims. he refused to come and that’s when Alexander VI had had enough and reached his breaking point. He forbade Savonarola from preaching and when he didn’t listen Alexander excommunicated Savonarola. Savonarola still continued preaching and even demanded a council be held to depose Alexander.
This was when Savonarola’s downfall started. People started thinking he was a lunatic for suggesting such a thing. This is because they didn’t want a repeat of the Great Western Schism, which happened when a pope was deposed and a new pope was elected. The problem occurred when the old pope refused to stop being the pope, so suddenly there were two popes. By this point, Florence had a bad economy, high unemployment and all kinds of bad things. Then pope Alexander said to Florence that if they didn’t hand over Savonarola then he would put them under interdict. Florence didn’t want this so they turned against Savonarola. Even though the pope wanted Savonarola, Florence refused and decided to execute Savonarola themselves, which they did.
The Italian War of 1494-1498 started when King Charles VIII wanted to take over Naples which was then under the control of the Spanish. Charles was let into Italy by the ruler of Milan, Ludovico Sforza. He even urges Charles to come into Italy and take over Naples. Charles passes through Milan on his way to Naples and marches through Pisa, Florence and Rome. In 1495 Charles managed to take over Naples. He also managed to take over a lot of other lands for France. Ludovico started getting concerned thinking that France might want to take over Milan as well, so he established the League of Venice with a lot of other Northern Italian city-states. He also involved the Holy Roman Empire and Spain to fight against France. King Charles VIII was eventually defeated and loses everything that he gained in Italy. The problem with this is that the Italians didn’t want other countries meddling with their affairs. Now they have invited France and the Holy Roman Empire into their affairs. France has tried multiple times since to retake control over Italy but has always lost.
King Louis XI started his reign over France in 1461 when he was 38 and it ended in 1483 when he died at the age of 60. The goal of his reign was to centralize France. By then France had been mostly centralized but there were still small parts that were under the control of local rulers. Louis’s tactics to reclaim these pieces of land were to forbid these rulers from waging war against each other and then he also put a postal service that would go through these pieces of land. This was his way of telling the rulers that he didn’t care that they owned their land and that he could do whatever he wanted with it. He also demanded that these rulers pay back the dues they owed to the kings of France, which they hadn’t been paying. Representatives of 500 noble families formed a league against him for these actions. This included his own brother Charles. In 1465 he had to make concessions and gave Charles Normandy. This didn’t last long as Louis took it back soon after and in the late 1470’s he accomplished his mission of centralizing France.
Louis’s thinking was that after he had centralized France then France would finally be strong after the Hundred Years War. This wasn’t his only way of making France strong, as he had other ways of doing so. One of these ways was to put spies in his own country and in other countries such as England, so he would know what was going on. He also bribed people and used diplomacy to reach his goals.
Louis was a strange person in many ways, one was his obsession with centralizing France, but another was that he was very pious, but also very brutal. He was pious in many ways. He wanted help from the Church but was also a sincere believer. He would pray often and visit sacred shrines and during the war, he would call upon saints. Louis didn’t eat expensive and amazing food, instead, he ate the same type of food a peasant would eat. On the other hand, Louis was very brutal at times. After a rebellion was put down, he said that if any of the rebels came back to France, he would cut parts of their bodies off.