Savonarola on Christian Belief
Source: Girolamo Savonarola, The Triumph of the Cross, trans. from the Italian, edited, with an Introduction by the Very Rev. Father John Procter, S.T.L. With a frontispiece portrait of the author (London: Sands & Co., 1901). Chapter: INTRODUCTION.
Copyright: The text is in the public domain.
Fair Use: This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Savonarola was a speaker rather than a writer. His was the eloquent ministry of the living word, rather than the calm apostolate of the lifeless pen. He was more at home when standing in the pulpit of the Duomo in Florence, facing the panting, throbbing crowd, numbering thousands, who, with itching ears and thirsting souls, drank in his every word, as though the words were dewdrops from heaven, than when sitting at the little table—which is still preserved in his lowly cell at San Marco—holding in his emaciated hand a nerveless, passionless pen. His great master-intellect and his large sympathetic heart seemed to long to pour out their rich pent-up treasures, freely and without stint, through the channel of his eloquent tongue; whereas the hand that would perpetuate his thoughts, by stamping them upon paper, at times seemed palsied. Out of the abundance of his heart his mouth preferred to speak.
Still he wrote sometimes;—it was generally, however, under moral compulsion, being impelled to do so by circumstances which he could not control. He was accused of error by those, or to those at a distance; his advice was sought by others who were far away—defence or counsel had to be committed to paper. For a time he might not sway the masses, as he would, by the irresistible magic of his burning words; then we have the apostolate of the pen. He retired to the seclusion of his monastic cell, and wrote, as his zeal prompted, his message to his fellow-men. Many of his treatises—short ones for the most part—exist. We have his five books—we might call them chapters, they are so brief—on “The Simplicity of the Christian Life”; a treatise on “Humility”; an exposition of the “Our Father,” and another of the “Hail Mary”;1 commentaries on some of the Psalms; an explanation of the Mass, and of the ceremonies of the Holy Sacrifice; certain rules for good Christian living (composed when he was in prison), and a number of other letters and booklets. But perhaps the most notable, as well as the most useful, of his writings are the four little “Books,” as he calls them, which these words are to introduce to the English-reading public, and which he himself styles, in the Prologue or Introduction to the First Book, a defence of “the glorious Triumph of the Cross” over “the profane and foolish babble of worldly-wise Philosophers”.
Of St. Philip Neri, the Apostle of Rome, who was ever staunch in his loyalty to the memory of the one who, for a time at least, was the Apostle of his own native Florence, it is said, that this was one of his favourite books. The Saint’s biographer, Cardinal Capecelatro, writes: “It is well known that Philip often read the writings of Savonarola, especially The Triumph of the Cross, and that he used them for the instruction of his spiritual children. There are still preserved in the Vallicella, among the books which belonged to St. Philip, and which were given by him to the Congregation, five of Savonarola’s works.”1
The history and object of The Triumph of the Cross, which may be considered the most important of the works, if we may so call them, of the great Florentine Reformer, is given by Echard, the Continuator of Quetif, in his Scriptores Ordinis Prædicatorum.2
The Triumph of the Cross is (he tells us) an accurate work, and one approved by all learned men. Savonarola undertook it for this special reason, namely, that he might clearly show what were his real feelings as regards the Catholic Faith and the Apostolic See; and that he might refute the calumnious accusation of heresy and schism, which had been laid to his charge by his adversaries. It begins thus: “The glorious triumph of the Cross over the worldly wise and over wordy sophists, etc.”. It is divided into four books, of which the first treats of the existence, nature, and providence of God, and proves the immortality of the soul of man. In the second the author shows, by various arguments, how the Christian faith is in accord with truth and reason. He proceeds, in the third, to point out that there is nothing, intrinsically, or extrinsically, impossible in the chief mysteries of the Christian faith, and that they are not, in any way, at variance with reason. The fourth book is mainly devoted to an exposition of the truth of the religion taught by Christ. It shows that the vagaries of philosophers, astrologers, idolaters, Jews, Mahometans, and heretics are absolutely opposed to reason.
This work Savonarola wrote in Latin, and it was printed at Florence in 1497 in quarto. It was reprinted there, in quarto, in 1524, and afterwards in Paris at the Ascension Press, in octavo, in the same year. Next it was published at Basle by Henrici-Pietri, in 1540, in folio. Then, more accurately, thanks to the zeal of the famous John Balesdens, by John Maire at Lyons (1633), in duodecimo. It was also reproduced at Rome by Cardinal S. Onufrius Antonius Barberini, brother of Urban VIII., at the Propaganda Press, in duodecimo, without any date. Finally, another edition was issued at Grenoble, in 1666, under the care of the famous companion of Stephen Mency.
But since many of Savonarola’s adherents were unable to obtain a copy, and were unacquainted with the Latin language, in which it was written, in accordance with their wishes he translated it into the Etruscan tongue, not indeed (as he warns his readers in his introductory letter), word for word, or line for line, but merely giving the sense and the pith of each chapter, and sometimes (to make a special point the more convincing to his readers), omitting some passages and adding others.1 He says that he did this advisedly, lest it should be purposely, and maliciously, mis-translated by another. This was edited at Florence in the year 1497, in quarto, and to it a Preface was written by Domenico Benevieni, a Florentine noble, who was Canon Theologian of St. Laurence’s in the same city. In this Preface Benevieni defended the author in a very able manner. This version was reprinted at Venice, by Bernard of Bindoni, in 1531, in octavo, and again, in octavo, in 1547.1 It must be noticed that the seventh chapter of the Fourth Book of the Latin edition was taken out of its place, and inserted, by Theodore Bibliandrus, in his collection of works written against the Mahometan errors. It is to be found in the second part of the Basle Folio editions of 1543 and 1550, under the title: “Commentatiuncula Savonarolæ Mahumeticam sectam omni ratione carere ostendens”.
In his Etude sur Jérome Savonarole, the Reverend Père Bayonne, O.P.,2 adds to what we have already said, that the brother of Urban VIII., Cardinal Onufrius Antonius Barberini—a Capuchin—wishing to vindicate his (Savonarola’s) innocence, left by will, dated 23rd of August, 1646, 500 gold crowns to bring out a reprint of The Triumph of the Cross, and his commentary on the Miserere. The heirs of the Cardinal gave this commission, as we have seen, to the Propaganda Press; and these two works accordingly appeared. They were sufficient to dispel all the illusions of those who still suspected the author of heresy and of hostility to the Holy See.
The same writer also quotes M. Perrens as saying that the Society of Jesus printed The Triumph of the Cross in their Annals of the Propagation of the Faith (vol. ii., p. 211). The most recent edition is one which appeared in 1899. It was published, both in Latin and Italian, on parallel pages, at Siena, under the title “Trionfo della Croce di Fra Girolamo Savonarola, edito per la prima volte, nei due teste originali Latino e Volgare, per cura del P. Lodovico Ferretti de’ Predicatori”. I would here acknowledge, with thanks, my indebtedness to the Reverend Editor of this valuable edition. He has kindly put his work at my service in editing the translation which these words introduce to the English reader.
This is the book which is now presented to the reader in an English form. It is the first time, as far as I can ascertain, that it appears, in its entirety, in English.1 I say in its entirety. In reality, there are two paragraphs omitted in the eighth chapter of the Third Book, the omitted paragraphs being denoted by asterisks. The reason of the omission is, that the author treats of a physical question of some delicacy; and, as, since Savonarola’s day, the views of scientists on the subject have changed, it has been designedly left out. I may add, however, that the omission does not in any way affect the author’s argument.2 I am fully aware that a work was published, some years ago, purporting to be an English translation of the four books, and that the Rev. Father Lucas, S.J., in his recent biographical study, Fra Girolamo Savonarola, calls his readers’ attention to it as “an English translation of The Triumph of the Cross”.1 I have the book before me as I write, and I cannot agree with the learned Jesuit in accepting this mutilated and eviscerated English version as a translation of Savonarola’s Triumph of the Cross, nor do I think that the Florentine Dominican would, were he able to do so, give either his Nihil Obstat or his Imprimatur to the work as a reproduction of his own words, or as the full profession of his own creed. The title of the book is “The Triumph of the Cross, by Jerome Savonarola, translated from the Latin . . . by O’Dell Travers Hill, F.R.G.S.”; it was published in London in 1868. It is not a translation of The Triumph of the Cross. It is, apparently, only a translation of certain portions of the book which would prove palatable to the class of readers for whom the “translation” was clearly intended. Whole chapters have been dropped out, evidently without the slightest compunction, certainly without the least explanation. In some of the chapters which appear, lengthy passages have been omitted without the shadow of hesitation. Truly, it is Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark. It is no more a translation of the great Dominican’s famous defence of his orthodoxy—as The Triumph of the Cross was intended to be—than the garden-fence of a suburban London villa is a reproduction upon English soil of the Wall of China, or than Primrose Hill is an English replica of the Alps. If the books of Catholic Apologists are to be “translated” in this way, what is to prevent a Unitarian from giving us in English an edition of the Bible without any allusion direct or indirect, to the Blessed Trinity? Or what is to hinder an Agnostic from reproducing the Gospels in our mother-tongue, without any reference to the Central Figure, around whom the whole of the sacred writings revolve?
The “translator” tells us in his Preface that “this book is free from all sectarian feeling or prejudice”. No doubt it is. But why? Everything “sectarian” in The Triumph of the Cross has been left out in the “translation”. He speaks of “its freedom from all sectarian spirit, from all scholastic quibblings”; and concludes that “its close consecutive reasoning, its earnestness, convince us that its author was a man far in advance of his age”. If the unbiassed reader will peruse the pages of this translation, from first page to last, from the opening chapter of the First Book to the closing chapter of the Fourth, and compare the doctrine of the four books with the teaching of any book written by any recognised Catholic Apologist, in any tongue, in this twentieth century, he will find that, in a sense, the words of the Preface are true, and that Savonarola, writing in the fifteenth century, was “in advance of his age”; that he was one with the Catholic writers of this twentieth age. If he will pursue his reading still further, and compare the true Triumph of the Cross with the works of the Catholic Apologists of the middle, and earlier, nay the earliest ages, he will find that Savonarola was behind his age, as well as being in advance of it. There are no “ages” in the history of the Catholic Creed of the Catholic Church. Like Jesus Christ, the Church and the Church’s teaching are “yesterday, to-day, and the same for ever”.1 Savonarola’s teaching in this profession of his creed—the creed in which he lived, in which he died, and which he preached through life and with his dying breath—is the creed of the Catholic Church in all places and in all times. “This is My Covenant with them, saith the Lord. My Spirit that is in thee, and the words that I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever.”2
The translator of what I cannot but call the PseudoTriumph of the Cross, but which he ascribes to Savonarola, professes on the title-page that it is “translated from the Latin”; and in the Preface he assures his readers that “this translation has been made from a valuable copy, printed with all the abbreviations peculiar to Savonarola’s manuscript, found in the Archives of Sion College”. Where, then, does the fault lie? Who is responsible for the omissions?3 Is the defect—or are the defects, for their name is “Legion”—in the original, or in the “translation”? Let us see. There is only one Latin copy of The Triumph of the Cross in the Sion College Archives, and, as the translator says, it is “a valuable copy,” It lacks the first page; otherwise it is complete. The loss of the title-page, however, matters little, as the edition is recorded at the end of the book: “Venuindatur in aedibus Ascensianis. Typog. Ascensiana, mdxxiiii.” Truly “a valuable copy,” printed in Paris by a certain J. B. Ascensius in the year 1524, only twenty-six years after the author’s tragic death. It is not the first edition. This, as we have seen, appeared in Florence in 1497, the year before he died. Still it is an early edition. There is another copy of this Ascension Press edition of 1524 in the library of the British Museum. A third copy, belonging to the library of the Dominican Fathers at Woodchester, lies on my desk as I write these words. It is a small octavo volume bound in vellum, and besides The Triumph of the Cross, it contains several other treatises of the Florentine Dominican. The inscription at the end, with the date, corresponds to the Sion College copy. The space at my command will only allow me to call attention to two or three discrepancies between the original, the “valuable copy” found in the Archives of Sion College, and the book which claims to be a translation.
In the original Latin edition, the Third Book contains eighteen chapters; in the translation only fifteen chapters appear. There is no explanation given, either in the Preface or in the body of the work, of the reason of the omission, nor is it stated that these three chapters are omitted. The chapters which are absolutely ignored in the pseudo-translation are those which appear in the original, and in this present translation, as chapters xv., xvi., and xviii. If the reader will refer to them, he may perhaps form his own opinion as to the reason of the omission from what purports to be a translation. These chapters contain what the translator would probably call “sectarian” teaching; they embody the “sectarian spirit,” from which, he tells us, The Triumph of the Cross is free. The first of the three omitted chapters treats of the Sacraments, and teaches that there are seven, even as does the Catholic Catechism of to-day. Following the argument of St. Thomas, the author shows the need of each of the seven Sacraments, from the analogy between the life of the body and the spiritual life of the soul, In the following, or sixteenth chapter, which the translator, on his own responsibility, evidently puts under a ban of excommunication from an English home, Savonarola treats of what the scholastics call “the matter and form” of the Sacraments, and explains, in terse and clear words, the meaning and object of each of these seven channels of grace to the soul. This chapter is “sectarian” indeed. Hence, we may presume, its eradication, its being pulled up root and branch from English soil; hence its elimination from English pages; hence its absolute extermination, as far as English readers are concerned. Savonarola wrote it in Latin, and reproduced it in Italian, but we will have no popery and no popish doctrine in our pure English tongue! We have it, however, at last, in this translation, as we have had it from the beginning in the chapter of the original to which I allude. Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Penance (or Confession), Extreme Unction, Holy Orders, Matrimony—all are there, with their object, their meaning, their “matter and form,” as the scholastics would call their component parts, their mode of administration, and their effects upon the human soul in time and in eternity.
Finally, in the third of the proscribed chapters—the eighteenth in the original work—we have a dissertation on the Ceremonies of the Church. Savonarola shows with what wisdom they form part of the Church’s discipline, and how they answer to a demand of the soul of man in his worship of the Most High. The author explains, too, some of the practices of the Catholic Church, which, in our days, as in his own, are often misrepresented or misunderstood.
The unprejudiced reader may draw his own conclusions as to the reason of the omission of the three chapters from the book we have been referring to, and which appear, probably for the first time in English, in the pages which follow this Introduction. The Twenty-fifth of the Thirty-nine Articles of the Anglican Creed declares: “There are two Sacraments ordained of Christ our Lord . . . Baptism and the Supper of the Lord”. Savonarola says there are seven. The Twenty-eighth Article professes that “transubstantiation . . . cannot be proved in Holy Writ; it is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture”. Savonarola, on the contrary, holds that the Catholic doctrine can be proved, and that it is clearly taught in Holy Writ by Jesus Christ the Divine Teacher. The Thirty-fourth Article attaches little importance to ceremonies, and calls in question the need of outward uniformity in the services of the Church. Savonarola has an entire chapter written in their defence and explanation, in which he speaks of crucifix and images, of devotion to the Mother of Jesus, of the consecration of churches, of lighted candles, of sacred vessels, and even of holy water. What then? The Articles are right; Savonarola must be wrong; he must be “sectarian”. Then leave out the sectarianism; omit the chapters in which he treats of subjects which are distinctly and essentially Catholic. It is the old story. They will make Savonarola a Protestant, or, at least, a herald of Protestantism, a precursor of Luther and Calvin, a harbinger of the Reformation, whether he will or no. Whereas, as every reader of his history and writings must know, he was of Catholics the most Catholic—Catholic in life, Catholic in death, Catholic to the heart’s core.
I must leave it to the calm unbiassed judgment of the reader to decide whether this kind of translation is fair; whether it is just to the memory of the great Dominican whom so many, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, profess to revere; whether it is just even to the English-reading people, to the vast majority of whom original works written in Latin or Italian are sealed books, and who have consequently to depend upon the fidelity and accuracy of a translation. If the translator had professed to give an expurgated edition of The Triumph of the Cross; if he had told his readers that he had eliminated everything that was “sectarian”; if he had undertaken to give selections from the work, in defence of Christianity; if he had professed to reproduce, in more modern English, the translation published by the Cambridge University Press in 1661, to which I have referred—this we could understand; but to call a book with several chapters ruthlessly discarded, “The Triumph of the Cross translated from the Latin”—this, assuredly, it is beyond the power of words to condemn. The translator of the Cambridge edition of 1661—as we may readily understand both from the date and the place of the publication—omits the identical passages omitted in the edition of 1868—those which I have referred to, and others to which I shall refer,—but he is candid and fair in so doing. He prepares the reader for this in his Preface or Dedicatory Letter, to which he appends his initials, J. W. B. “I know” (he writes) “that you will not disdain to look upon him (Savonarola) in this English Dress, wherewith I have attired him; nor blame me for having cut off some few shreds, that he might, with more credit, appear amongst us. . . . You will approve of my choice of this author, who lived in the thickest darkness of popery.” Not so, however, the “translator” of the English edition of 1868. He suppresses whole paragraphs and entire chapters without note or comment. Moreover, he assigns no reason for so doing.
One further reference, and I have done with this so-called translation. In the original edition of ad 1524 we find in the Fourth Book nine chapters. In the mutilated English version we find also nine. No chapter, it is true, is bodily omitted from the Fourth Book. One chapter, however, has come under the reckless and unscrupulous pruning knife of the translator; evidently, again, because it ran counter to his religious views, or the preconceived ideas of those for whose benefit he was translating. The sixth chapter of this Fourth Book, which professedly treats of the doctrine of heretics, is in reality a dissertation on Church government, and a plea for visible Church unity under one visible head. After instancing, by way of analogy, the unity of bees under one queen, and the unity of the members of the human body under one head, the author goes on to show the need there is of one Chief Ruler in the Church. He quotes the prophet Osee, and also the well-known words of our Lord about the “One fold and the One Shepherd”. He then proceeds to argue that Christ was the visible Head of the Church when on earth, adding that when He ascended into Heaven, He would not leave the Church “without any earthly head,” seeing that in such a case it would become a prey to divisions, confusion, and disorder; and therefore He said to Peter, “Feed My sheep”. “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock,” etc. And again: “I will give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven,” etc. All this we find word for word in the English version which we are considering. Savonarola then continues—and the whole of the following words are excluded from the pseudo-translation:—“It can not, however, be supposed that Christ conferred this dignity on Peter alone, to the exclusion of his successors, since He Himself has declared that the Church should endure for ever in the order which He had established. Speaking to His disciples, and, in their person, addressing all the faithful, He said: ‘Behold I am with you even unto the consummation of the world’ (Matt. xxviii. 20). And again, by the mouth of Isaias, He said: ‘He shall sit upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom; to establish it, and strengthen it with judgment and justice, from henceforth and for ever’ (Is. ix. 7). These passages clearly indicate that the office confided by Christ to St. Peter, being highly expedient and necessary to the Church, should, by an unbroken succession, be guaranteed to her for ever. Hence it follows that, as Peter was chosen by Christ to be His vicar and the shepherd of the whole Church, all his successors must inherit his power. And, as the bishops of Rome hold the place of Peter, the Roman Church must consequently be the mistress and ruler of all churches, and the whole body of the faithful must live in unity with the Roman Pontiff. Whosoever, therefore, disagrees in his teaching with the doctrine of the Roman Church withdraws from Christ, following crooked ways. And, as all heretics dissent from the teaching of the Church, they have all declined from the right way, and are unworthy of the name of Christians. For by heretics we mean such as, falsifying the words of Holy Scripture and choosing a religion for themselves, do obstinately persevere in their error.
“Again, Truth, as is often said, mates with truth, and all truths confirm each other. Now heretics disagree so entirely among themselves, that they have scarcely one point in common, nay, rather they bespatter each other with abuse; they present no solidity of argument. This fact alone proves how far they have wandered from the Truth. But the doctrine of the Roman Church, in all matters affecting faith or morals, is one; and Catholic doctors, though almost innumerable, never dissent nor desire to dissent from it.”
Every syllable of this profession of Savonarola’s faith in the supremacy of the successor of St. Peter is expunged in the translated version. There are no asterisks to show that words are left out. There is no footnote, no word in the Preface, to explain the unpardonable liberty of the translator. A comma is put after the words “loosed in heaven,” and the translator continues,—as though this were the author’s continuation,—“from which we may see that Jesus Christ,” down to the words “He shall sit and rule upon the throne of David,” etc. The entire passage about the successor of St. Peter, “Hence it follows,” is summarily omitted from what purports to be a translation.
I have nothing more to say, except, in justice to Savonarola, to enter a protest against the book to which I have been referring being considered a translation of The Triumph of the Cross. If I have dwelt at length upon this subject, it is only out of respect for, and in justice to the memory of, one for whom I have a sincere veneration, and who has so often, and so unjustly and unjustifiably, been represented as being wanting in loyalty to the See of Peter, of being “a forerunner of Luther,” and “a harbinger of the Reformation”.1 It is by such methods as the one against which I am protesting that these accusations against the Catholic loyalty of Savonarola have been apparently substantiated. It is by the persistent repetition of them that they have been perpetuated. “Here” (they say) “is a book of his which professedly gives us the articles of his creed. It is absolutely unsectarian. There is nothing distinctively Catholic in it. Nothing which any non-Catholic could object to. There is not a word about the seven Sacraments, about Confession, Extreme Unction, the Mass, Ceremonies, and above all about the Pope being the successor of St. Peter in the government of the Church!” And yet the reader will find all these doctrines of Catholic belief clearly and luminously treated. He will find an explicit profession of faith in all the vital and crucial articles of the Catholic Creed in the volume which is now presented to him, together with the author’s “reason for the hope which was in him”. For Savonarola was ever mindful of the admonition of the Chief Apostle, “being always ready to satisfy every one that asketh you a reason for that hope which is in you”.1
The Triumph of the Cross ought to “satisfy” the English mind upon the subject of his orthodoxy for ever. The Triumph of the Cross gives the “reason” of it, in clear and concise and unmistakable words. It is difficult to see how any one who has read it, could entertain the shadow of a doubt about the author’s loyal devotion to the Church of which he was a faithful child, or of his belief in the teaching of the one whom he proudly called his “Mother”. Indeed, it is impossible to see how, with the evidence of this book before him, any man could hesitate for a moment as to his belief in the unwavering loyalty of Savonarola both to the Church and the Church’s teaching, and to her divinely appointed visible Head.
St. Peter, the Dominican Martyr, as he fell under the blow of the assassin’s sword, wrote with his own blood on the ground the word Credo. Savonarola, the Dominican Apologist, has written Credo in large letters over every page of The Triumph of the Cross. It is a history of the religious opinions of his times. It is more. It is the exposition in writing of the doctrines which he preached, with such incomparable eloquence, from beginning to end of his apostolic life. It is his clear and uncompromising profession of faith to all time. It is his solemn anathema to heresy, of which, nevertheless, men have sometimes dared to accuse him. This book ought to lay that ghost of an accusation against the Florentine Reformer for ever and for ever. It proclaims Savonarola’s Catholicity beyond denial or doubt. It was intended to be his defence of the faith. It was written as his profession of belief. It was to be his Credo in life, and the echo of his belief after his death, when his voice was still, and he could no longer protest, as he did with such vigour in his lifetime, against his false accusers. In the Preface which he wrote to the Apologeticum Fratrum Sancti Marci—published probably the year before his death—he says: “Three accusations have been brought against me: (1) That I have taught a doctrine which is not true (perversum dogma) . . . to this I have already replied, and my orthodoxy will be clearly seen in my work,The Triumph of the Cross, which will shortly appear”. In a letter to Pope Alexander VI., written from St. Marco, Florence, on the 22nd of May, 1497,1 he writes: “The work which I shall shortly bring out on The Triumph of the Crossis a witness to my faith; and from it can be seen if I have ever taught heresy, or in any way opposed the Catholic faith”. This book is his testimony unto all time.
The late indefatigable and zealous champion of Savonarola, Professor Paolo Luotto, wrote a goodly volume, to which he gave the title: Il Vero Savonarola, et Il Savonarola di S. Pastor. The English people, as well as Signor Pastor, have had a Savonarola of their own. The Savonarola of the English is a Savonarola created by novels and romances, by non-Catholic and anti-Catholic histories and biographies, by prejudiced enthusiasts, and unscrupulous translators. This faithful English translation of the whole of The Triumph of the Cross—for which we are indebted to an anonymous but graceful as well as faithful pen—will, let us hope, reveal The True Savonarola—the Savonarola of fact and not of fiction, the Savonarola of history and not merely of romance, the Savonarola as mirrored in his own words, and not as misrepresented and distorted, and rendered beyond recognition by many who, whilst professing to extol him, and to add lustre to his name, have, in reality, belittled him, and sullied his fair fame.
JOHN PROCTER, O.P.
Postscript.—Since writing the foregoing Introduction the recent valuable and interesting work, The Story of Florence, by Mr. Edmund G. Gardner, has come into my hands. I have much pleasure in transcribing the following note, which occurs on page 128: “Professor Villari justly remarks that ‘Savonarola’s attacks were never directed in the slightest degree against the dogmas of the Church of Rome, but solely against those who corrupted them’. The Triumph of the Cross was intended to do for the Renaissance what St. Thomas Aquinas had accomplished for the Middle Ages in his Summa Contra Gentiles. As this book is the fullest expression of Savonarola’s creed, it is much to be regretted that more than one of its English translators have omitted some of its most characteristicand important passages bearing upon Catholic practice and doctrine, without the slightest indication that any such process of ‘expurgation’ has been carried out.” The italics are mine.
[1 ] A translation has recently been published by the Catholic Truth Society.
[1 ]Life of St. Philip Neri, translated by Father Pope, vol. i., p. 278.
[2 ] Tome i., p. 885. Edit. Paris, 1719.
[1 ] This will account for some few slight and unimportant verbal variations from the original Latin edition in the present English translation, which, though it has been compared with the Latin, has been made from the Italian version.
[1 ] Many other editions were afterwards printed in Italy and elsewhere, which are not mentioned by Echard.
[2 ] Page 339. Edit. Paris, 1879.
[1 ] An imperfect edition in English appeared in 1661. A copy is to be found in the Cambridge University Library. It was “printed by John Field, printer to the University, Cambridge,” under the title, “The Truth of the Christian Faith; or, The Triumph of the Cross, by Hieronymus Savonarola, done into English out of the author’s own Italian copy”; and it was dedicated “To the much honoured Francis S. John, Esq.”.
[2 ] The alphabetical Index at the end of this translation is not found in either the Latin or the Italian edition. It is added for the convenience of the English reader.
[1 ] Page 235.
[1 ] Heb. xiii. 8.
[2 ] Isa. lix. 21.
[3 ] In addition to the instances which I shall give later on, the reader will look in vain in Mr. Travers Hill’s translation for the reference to “the blessed Mother of God, the Virgin Mary,” the “Host,” “Chalice,” “Mary,” and “Relics,” which will be found in chapter ii. of the First Book in this translation (and in the original, which Mr. Hill professes to reproduce in English). In the following chapter he will also fail to find Savonarola’s words about “Virgins,” “the Eucharist,” “the Veneration of the Cross,” and “the reverence due to Mary and the Saints”. In the eleventh chapter of the Second Book the subjects of cloistral-life, fasting and watching, and the three vows of religious, which are found in the original, are suppressed in the “translation”. In the thirteenth chapter of the same Book, after the words “born of the Virgin Mary,” the author adds, “Whom He wishes to be reverenced (quam vult adorari) as the true Mother of God”; the translator omits the words. Later on, in the same chapter, Savonarola, writing of the Blessed Sacrament—“My Body and Blood under the appearance of bread and wine”—says: “They shall most devoutly venerate It”. (In the Italian edition Savonarola expresses it “they shall adore It as God”), not so the “translator”; nor does he insert Savonarola’s words: “My Virgin Mother shall be honoured,” which immediately follow the reference to the Blessed Sacrament. The profession of faith in the Roman Catholic Church, which the reader of this volume will find at the end of the tenth chapter of the Third Book, and which begins: “Therefore, the Catholic faith most fittingly,” etc. (see page 127), is ignored completely by Mr. Hill, but is found word for word in Savonarola’s original work. In one place (Book ii., chap. xiii.) the words, relating to the Eucharist: “In Ipsius Corpus et Sanguinem transmutari” are rendered “represent His body and blood”!
[1 ] See Savonarola and the Reformation—a Reply to Dean Farrar, by the present writer (Catholic Truth Society).
[1 ] First Epistle of St. Peter iii. 15.
[1 ] Given by Quetif, Annales O. P., vol. ii., p. 125. An English translation of the letter is to be found in Savonarola and the Reformation, before referred to, at page 114.
- Ambrose and Catechetical Instruction
- Ancient Chinese Historical Documents: Shu King
- Aquinas on Usury
- Augustine’s Life and Work
- Augustine’s Soliloquies
- Bayle & Religious Conflict
- Benedict’s Rule
- Calvin’s Commentary on Paul’s Epistle to the Romans
- Cicero on the Gods
- Culverwell on Reason and Faith
- Home and Natural Religion
- Hooker on Religious Controversy in England
- Hume on Natural Religion
- Huss and the Church
- Lecky on European Rationalism
- Luther and the Reformation in Germany
- Luther’s Religious Thought
- Paine’s Theism
- Pufendorf and Religious Toleration
- Pufendorf and Religious Toleration II
- Savonarola on Christian Belief
- St. Anselm’s Philosophy
- St. Augustine’s City of God: Complete Table of Contents
- St. Augustine’s City of God: Introduction
- St. Francis of Assisi: His Writings
- Thomasius on Church and State
- Turnbull and God’s moral government
- Turnbull and Natural Philosophy
- Voltaire & Religious Intolerance
- Wyclife’s Tracts
- Zoroaster’s Teachings
- Zwingli and the Swiss Reformation