Tag Archives: Machiavelli

The bonfire of the vanities


DO A GOOGLE SEARCH on the Bonfire of the Vanities and you’ll get Tom Wolfe’s book – but of course there is more to the Bonfire of the Vanities than meets the eye.

machThe picture above is of the cathedral in Florence, the city’s symbol is the Fleur de Lys, that is to say prosperity in a way, but the real Bonfire of the Vanities concerned the egregious monk, Savonarola. It was he who urged the Florentines to throw on a real bonfire all those fripperies people love so much. It is said that Botticelli threw some of his paintings into the real bonfire because he regretted them. As the painter of Primavera,  and Mars and Venus, this is much to be regretted.

Savonarola attempted to redefine Florentine life, and these days it is very hard to get a beer in Florence. Ice creams, however, are easy. Savonarola found himself burning in flames in Florence. There are very many high towers there, it has to be said. Plus Machiavelli and Dante stalked the streets, with the former writing a very short piece about princedom in the Renaissance, and surviving, while the latter just couldn’t get over Beatrice.

Today, Florence is a favourite place for tourists to visit. And up high you can walk down past the home of Galileo Galilei, the poor guy who tried to explain to the Vatican that Rome wasn’t the centre of the universe. In the 15th century the centre of the universe was Hampi (Vijayanagar), bigger than Rome then,  and with an army of one million. Ah, civilisation!  Below is pictured a sunset over Florence.


Galileo Galilei was such a guy!

THE MAN who was forced by the INQuisition to renounce what he knew and had seen with his own eyes is now honoured in Florence – thank God for Galileo Galilei and for clear skies.

This image – now below –  is on the the outside of the house that he lived in way back when, and definitely shows he must have really been a feisty old geezer.

He was under house arrest, by command. Giordano Bruno, however,  declined to repent and so when he was being killed by the INQuisition, they stuck a wedge of wood into his mouth so he could not utter his profanities.

Bruno proclaimed the universe was infinite with gazillions of stars. So he burned and burned and burned and burned again. He was a neo-Platonist, so we suspect that condemned him. That and his feisty nature, we guess. Apparently even Kepler wasn’t keen on Bruno’s idea of the harmony of the spheres, even though Kepler and Newton after him were died in the wool astrologers.

Florence! The name rings bells. So here’s another photograph we took of the Olde Place, filled with the spirit of Renaissance philosophy and to heck with the Olde Monke Savonarola and his totally daft “Bonfire of the Vanities”!

We managed to reach the Uffizi from the top of the slopes. There we were lucky enough to see Botticelli’s “Primevara” (Spring), which thankfully he did not have to fling into the very famous “Bonfire of the Vanities”. We burst into tears spontaneously to see the real thing. His “Birth of Venus” is more famous,  and was in the same room, but without “Primavera”, there never would have been a Renaissance, IMHO.


Florence is not Zebedee from Boboli

THE PIC ABOVE is of Florence, home to the Bonfire of the Vanities, and to Lorenzo the Magnificent. It is taken from the Boboli Gardens and as far as I can see the only thing wrong with it is that there is scaffolding on the outside of the great dome.

This scaffolding isn’t where the great preacher Savonarola got his come uppance, no. That was a very long time ago.

It is a crying shame that Boticelli threw some of his paintings onto Savonorala’s famous bonfire. The fact Savonarola  perished a little later in the turbulent history of Florence doesn’t help. Love conquers all. Sometimes.  Machiavelli is considered a little schemer in the UK. But in Italy he is a genius. He certainly produced a little tome in The Prince, which just betrays he was a little bit of a cynic.