Western Civilization I, Week 34 – Girolamo Savonarola, the Italian War, and Louis XI

(1) Discuss the rise and fall of Girolamo Savonarola.

Savonarola was a Dominican friar who managed to become leader of Florence through promising to turn Florence into “the City of God on Earth”. He preached against the tyrannical and diabolical Medici family, and was able to lead Florence for a few months as a democratic, peaceful, and generally honest society. However, Savonarola challenged the pope, Alexander, one too many times, and as a result, Alexander’s henchman captured and tortured Savonarola, ultimately hanging and burning him alive in front of all of Florence.

(2) Discuss the Italian War of 1494-1498.

In 1494 king of France, Charles VIII, went to invade Naples in Italy. Milan, a rival city-state of Naples’ was happy to see this, but when the state realized the ease with which Charles VIII conquered Naples, they began to worry. Together with a few other Italian city-states and European countries, including the Holy Roman Empire, Milan formed a league of resistance against France, forcing Charles VIII to ultimately retreat from Naples.

(3) Discuss some of the significant aspects of the reign of Louis XI.

    Louis XI was determined to centralize government in France, whereas France was previously ruled by feudal lords who reigned over their own estates. He made the feudal lords pay their dues to their liege lord, in other words, him. Louis XI also kept tabs on England by paying sums to English officials to keep him updated. He could be both extremely cultured and completely terrifying at times. While he surrounded himself with art, literature, and sophisticated people, he could also be extremely brutal, once declaring that any rebel who returned to France would have his genitalia removed from his body. Another flip side to Louis XI’s multifaceted persona was piety. He wanted the church’s assistance, but not just for show. He was honestly a religious man. Louis XI could be cultured, pious, and brutal all at a time. A real renaissance man.


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