Humanists (1400s)


The Renaissance of the 1400s was a time of expanding commerce and brilliant artistic expression, yet not a time of peace. St. Joan of Arc was burnt in 1431, but the Hundred Years War lasted until 1453. Italy was torn by feuds and Bohemia by the Hussite wars and schism. The ancient Byzantine Empire finally fell to the Muslim Turks and its scholars fled to Russia which thus became the Third Rome, or to Italy and the First Rome. The twelfth and thirteenth century rebirths of ancient learning were based only on translations of the Greek classics of logic, science, and philosophy. In this Renaissance, interest shifted to classical literature. Unlike the scholastics, the humanists cultivated rhetoric and poetry, and found their livelihood no longer in the universities but at court or by the patronage of the new capitalists, first in Italy, then Germany, France, and England.

This new culture had its economic basis in the growth of capitalistic commerce and of an educated laity which had breached the former monopoly in learning of the clergy. The control of the Empire declined and split into many independent states, as did Italy; while France, England, Portugal, Spain, Poland and Bohemia became clearly defined kingdoms. Spain achieved its unity under Ferdinand and Isabella and with her rival Portugal opened the searoads to new worlds.

The Church seemed to flourish, although the Council of Pisa called in 1409 to heal the Western Schism only managed to elect still a third Pope. Yet the Council of Constance (1414-1418) finally forced two of the Popes to resign, excommunicated the third, and elected Martin V whom all accepted. Then, after the Council of Basel (1431-1437) became schismatic, the Council of Ferrara- Florence-Rome (1438-1445) consolidated the Western Church and reunited (temporarily) the Eastern Church to itself, but not soon enough to forestall the fall of Byzantium. The second half of the century became the great age of the Popes as patrons of the arts, worldly rather than spiritual sovereigns.

Danger signs appeared. A Czech priest, John Huss (d. 1415), influenced by the radical ecclesiology of the Oxford theologian Wyclif (d. 1384) bolstered Bohemia's rising national opposition to German oppression with a national church, with the result that he was condemned to the stake at the Council of Constance. The Council itself, however, favored the view proposed by John Gerson and Marsilius of Padua, and even by some Dominicans, that Councils, even apart from the Pope, had supreme power in the Church. Everywhere the reform of abuses that the Schism had so clearly exposed was demanded, yet the bishops, so deeply enmeshed in secular politics and often invested with several dioceses, resisted fundamental reforms and the Popes, similarly involved, gave no good example.

Abortive efforts at crusades, increased reliance on the Inquisition, misguided efforts to suppress superstition by witch burning, the repression of the Waldenses, Fraticelli, and Hussites, could not substitute for thorough reform. The century came to a scandalous end in the reign of the Spanish Pope Alexander VI who, although a capable administrator and favorable to the reform of religious orders, lived a dissolute life in the sacred office he had cynically purchased.

Nevertheless, the Renaissance was not a mere reversion to paganism. Although the popes tolerated lay humanists in the curia, some who lived as pagans and a few who even abandoned the Christian faith, many humanists remained sincerely Christian such as the Italians Marsilio Ficino or Pico della Mirandola, the Germans Jakob Wimpfelling and John Reuchlin, the French John Gerson and Jacques Lefevre, and the English St. Thomas More and John Colet. What was really happening was a paradigm shift from the other-worldly clerical culture to a search for a Christian spirituality that could meet the necessarily this-worldly concerns of an educated laity. Vatican II still faced this problem.

The Order of Preachers, especially in Italy, was deeply affected by this shift. The Popes, worldly as they were, and the civil rulers both sought at this time to reform the religious orders, all of which had survived decline in the previous century. The Franciscans were divided into conventuals and observants by the reforming efforts of St. Bernardine of Siena and St. John of Capistrano, while the reform begun by Bl. Raymond of Capua spread among the Dominicans.

While the Order of Preachers never suffered such a formal division, throughout this century the successful progress of reform led to constant internal struggles between the Observant minority and the Conventual majority, chiefly over the practice of the vow of poverty. All agreed that the vow of poverty required all Dominicans to renounce all personal ownership of material goods. Yet even many Observant convents were forced to seek dispensations to acquire income-producing property. Finally in 1475 this trend was formalized by papal authorization for the whole Order to abandon mendicancy, although some Observant communities were able to continue its practice.

Furthermore, the Conventuals also permitted the friars, with permission of their superiors, to retain for personal use some of the stipends and gifts they received. They were even permitted to give or will these possessions, including their own apartments and preaching territories ("terms") to other members of the community. Some even were given ecclesiastical benefices with their annual rents. These dispensations combined with the special privileges of those who were Preachers General or Masters of Theology (for which offices there was great competition and absurd proliferation) to produce a system in which some friars lived a very comfortable private life while others lacked even necessities. This Conventual system often favored a general relaxation of traditional discipline. Many friars were dispensed from choir; fasting was mitigated; the habit, though always worn was fashionable in materials and cut; the cloister was ignored. The nuns followed suit and their monasteries sometimes became more centers of social life than of prayer.

The Observants on the other hand wanted to return to what they believed to be the Order's original lifestyle, to an exact observance of the Constitutions, and sometimes even added new customs and devotions to enhance this austerity. Though often cautioned by the Masters of the Order not to become self-righteous, the Observants sometimes expressed contempt for the Conventuals as "not real Dominicans." Since at first Observants had to struggle hard to survive the Conventuals' hostility, they increasingly sought to become as independent as possible of any control by the Conventual majority, who accused them of neglecting study and preaching. Yet by the end of this century the Observants seemed the most vital and productive part of the Order.

The reform initiated by Bl. Raymond had its first great promotor in Bl. John Dominici, born c. 1356 in Florence. He entered the Order at seventeen in spite of a stutter which in one of his letters (n. 550) he claims was cured by prayers to St. Catherine of Siena whom he had met as a student in Pisa and Florence when he was about twenty. He also studied in Paris, was prior in Florence, and lector in Venice. Urged by Raymond he established houses of observance in Venice (1388), Chioggia, Citta di Castello, Cortona, Lucca, and Fabriano and was made vicar of the reformed houses until 1400. Inspired by one of St. Catherine's companions, Bl. Clara Gambacorta (d. 1419), he also worked for the reform of the nuns and left over 80 letters of spiritual guidance to them.

When Raymond died in 1399 Pope Boniface IX put John in charge of continuing the reform, but as a result of controversy over his leading processions of "White Penitents" in Venice he was banished and lost papal support, yet was later allowed to continue the reform. In 1406 he founded the reformed convent of St. Dominic in Fiesole on the hills overlooking Florence. After numerous diplomatic missions, he was made Archbishop of Ragusa and then cardinal by the Roman Pope Gregory XII whom he supported but urged to call the Council of Constance and at the Council persuaded him to resign in favor of Martin V, ending the Great Schism. Martin sent him to Poland and Hungary in a hopeless attempt also to end the Hussite schism. He died in Budapest in 1419 and was beatified in 1832. Undoubtedly Raymond's reform would have faltered if it had not been for Dominic's tireless work.

Thomas Paccarom (of Fermo; 1401-1414) was Master of the Order for the Roman obedience until it was divided by the Pisan Schism (which he accepted, leaving the Romans to be governed by a Vicar) and Jean Puinvoix (1399-1414) of the Avignon obedience, until the Council of Constance ended the Great Schism and the Order also was reunited under one Master, Leonard Dati (1414-1425). Paccaroni had favored Raymond's plan of reform but could do little during the Schism to implement it. Dati was a humanist, fond of Renaissance pomp, who took a notable part as defender of papal primacy at the Council, but he not only established vicars for the Observants as Raymond had wished, but even attempted, although with little success, to put through a plan for the Order's total reform. For the rest of the century the elections and tasks of the successive Masters centered on the Observant vs. Conventual struggle.

Bartholomew Texier was elected only after the refusal of Thomas de Regno, who did not want to occasion a rebellion of the Conventuals, since they knew he had been elected only by the votes of Observants who had been appointed as substitute delegates by himself as Vicar of the Order. Under Texier's long Mastership (1426-1449) the Order regained its vigor, taking a major part in the Councils of Basel and Florence and giving the Church over 100 bishops. Texier, although a Conventual himself, effectively supported reform. The Masterships of Peter Rochin (1450) and Guy Flamochetti (1451) were cut short by death. Martial Auribelli (1453-1462) was removed by Pius II in 1462 because, though generally favorable to reform, he strongly resisted the attempt of the Reformed Congregation of Lombardy (the first to be papally approved) to gain semi-independence from his authority. After a short interim under Conrad of Asti, Auribelli was returned to office (1465-1473) but was constantly under siege by Observants seeking to get him removed again.

Leonard de Mansuetis (1474-1480), a learned humanist, fond of pomp and ceremony, was the Master who finally in 1475 asked Sixtus Iv to abolish the Order's strict mendicancy, when the Chapters hesitated to incur the (legendary) curse of St. Dominic on all who might change his Order's poverty. The popes and cardinal protectors imposed Salvo Cassetta (14811483), Bartholmeo Comazio (1484-1485) (who died ministering to the plague-stricken) and the aged Barnabas Sansom (1486). Joachim Torriani (1487-1500), also aged, was an ascetic, learned, but weak Master who vacillated about reform and at 81 yielded to the plots against Savonarola and signed his condemnation.

Thus the centralization of government in the interest of reform begun by Bl. Raymond was now further aggravated by the constant interference of the Popes and cardinal protectors (Cardinal Oliver Carafa controlled the Order from 1478-1511) often by appointing substitute electors for those unable to attend a Chapter. These nullifications of the Order's Constitutions were encouraged by Observants struggling to remain free of control by the Conventual majority. The Provincial Chapters began to meet bi-annually instead of annually, and the Masters of Theology in 1407 were made Chapter members for life, thus giving them great power over the elections and protecting their other privileges as an aristocracy within the Order.

During this period the Provinces of Portugal and Scotland were added to make twenty-two, and Ireland attempted to separate from the English province but failed. The monasteries of nuns grew beyond the 157 recorded in 1358, but we can only guess their number. The growth of the Third Order was greatly stimulated by the papal confirmation of its rule in 1405 and by the fame of St. Catherine, but by 1498 the General Chapter began advising women's Third Order communities, previously highly varied in lifestyle, to conform to that of the Second Order, except the strict cloister.

Raymond had wanted a house of observance in each province to renew the province itself and as the reform spread the Observant houses grouped together within a Province first under a Vicar appointed by the Provincial, then directly under the Master of the Order, thus weakening the provincial's control. Soon, some of these sought to become extra-territorial congregations including houses in several provinces under a Vicar appointed directly by the Master of the Order or even confirmed by the Pope. In time some came to elect their own Vicars and hold their own chapters. Yet they also had representation in provincial and general chapters and were still taxed by their provinces, although often they resisted or even refused to pay.

The first of these was the Reformed Congregation of Lombardy which against Auribelli's opposition gained legal status in 1459 and had houses throughout Italy and Sicily. Savonarola founded the Congregation of St. Mark, but to eradicate his influence it was fused with other houses in a Tuscan Congregation. In the north was formed the Congregation of Holland (1462) which came to embrace houses in France, Germany, and as far as Scandinavia. Congregations were also formed in Spain, Aragon, and Portugal, and observant Vicariates in Germany, Naples, Sicily, Hungary, Austria, and France, and dispersed reformed convents in England, Ireland, Poland, and Scandinavia.

Thus by 1500, although the Order remained united under the General Chapter and Master of the Order, it was like two Orders, with two life styles and largely independent governments. Most communities were conventual with much private life, a privileged class of Masters of Theology, and relaxed ascetic and liturgical discipline, while observant houses were growing in number, grouping in Congregations or Vicariates which enforced the minutiae of monastic life. Yet, as we shall see, even observant convents such as San Marco in Florence, had to accommodate to the Renaissance.


As we have seen, Dominican theologians played a major role at the Councils of Constance and of Basel-Ferrara-Florence in ending the Great Western Schism, in opposing the views of Wyclif and Hus, and in working for the reunion of the Eastern Church. Thus Thomas of Claxton was a member of the committee that in 1411 condemned Wyclif's errors and was a theologian at Constance, while John Nider (d. 1438), a disciple of Conrad of Prussia the leader of Dominican reform in Germany, and dean of theology faculty at the University of Vienna, was prominent at Basel, Ferrara, and Florence. He was also author of numerous Thomistic works, including the encyclopedic Ant-Heap and spiritual works such as On How to Live Well (often attributed to St. Bernard), On the Reform of Religious, and the oddly titled Twenty-Four Golden Harps Showing the Nearest Way to Heaven.

Guided by Aquinas' high view of papal primacy, most of these theologians vigorously opposed conciliarism, although the brilliant John Stokjkovic of Ragusa (d. 1442), after acting as a legate of the Council of Basel to end the Hussite Schism and persuade the Byzantine Emperor and the Patriarch of Constantinople to come to negotiate for reunion, himself went into schism with the Council when it elected the anti-pope Felix V, who made him a cardinal. The greatest of these defenders of papal primacy was Juan de Torquemada.

(Turrecremata, 1388-1468, not the Spanish Grand Inquisitor!). After studies at Paris and teaching in Spain he became prior at Valladolid and Toledo, and then was Eugene IV's theologian at Basel. He wrote on the Eucharist against the Hussites, on the papal primacy, and against the Immaculate Conception, but approved the revelations of St. Bridget. In 1434 he became Master of the Sacred Palace. When the Council moved to Ferrara he debated with the Greeks on purgatory, and at Florence helped draw up the Decree of Union with the Greeks. For his great oration against concilarism he was entitled "Defender of the Faith" and made cardinal. As cardinal he undertook a mission for peace between France and England and crowned his labors by writing a history and defense of the Decree of Union and his Summary on the Church, the first systematic exposition of the Pope's universal jurisdiction.

Besides these applications of Thomism to the great issues with which these Councils were dealing, the Preachers, after being readmitted in 1403 to the University of Paris (from which because of their opposition to the Immaculate Conception they had been excluded since 1387) at their Chapter of 1405 renewed the Order's commitment to Thomism. Aquinas was now no longer called just the "Common Doctor" but also the "Angelic" and even the "Divine" Thomas. This new enthusiasm became fully effective in the work of John Capreolus, (c. 1380-1440), called the "Prince of Thomists." He was born in Rodez and died there after teaching only briefly at Paris for many years in his own province at Toulouse. His life's work is the great Defense of the Theology of the Divine Thomas, the spirit of which is expressed in a brief aside at its beginning:

Before I set out any theses, I preface one of my own: I want the reader to assume throughout that I intend to add nothing of my own but only to state the views which seem to me to have been those of St. Thomas; nor, except rarely, to propose any arguments for these theses except Thomas' own. But I propose to state in their places the objections of [Peter] Aureoli [O.F.M.], a conceptualist, [Duns] Scotus [O.F.M.], Durandus [of St. Pourcain, O.P., a nominalist], John of Ripa [O.F.M., Scotist], Henry of Ghent [a secular Master adopted by the Servites and anti-Thomistic], Guy [Terrana] the Carmelite [nominalist], Warro [of England, O.F.M., Scotist], Adam [Wodham, O.F.M., Ockhamist] and others [chiefly Gregory of Rimini, O.S.A., nominalist] against St. Thomas, and answer them in his own words.

Capreolus achieved his aim with such a comprehensive, accurate and penetrating knowledge of Aquinas' thought, including a recognition of his development from the Sentences commentary to the Summa Theologiae, that this work became the basis of all later Thomism. Another major contribution was made by Peter Niger (Schwartz) of Bohemia (1434-1483), rector of the University of Budapest in his Shield of Thomists, also directed against Nominalism. Peter was also one of the first Christians to publish a Hebrew grammar. In 1474 he debated with Jewish scholars for seven days and published in Hebrew characters a treatise for their conversion, the German edition of which was called The Star of the Messiah. Such works mark the decline of the Nominalist domination of the universities and the revival of Thomism and Scotism that began in this century, along with a renewal of a radical Averroistic Aristotelianism at Padua and other schools.

The work of Capreolus and Schwartz led in the last half of the century to a shift from the use of Aquinas' Sentences commentary as the basis of theological instruction to the Summa Theologiae, first in Germany by such Thomists as Gerhard of Elten (fl. 1475-84) at Cologne and then in Italy, and soon by numerous non-Dominicans. At Padua in direct competition with Scotism Thomistic metaphysics and theology began to be taught about 1442 and 1490 respectively. Internationally there were many lesser commentators of the Sentences and the Summa.

Dominicans were involved in two special controversies. First, in spite of the influence of Juan de Torquemada, the Council of Basel forbade preaching against the Immaculate Conception, but (since Basel became schismatic) St. Antoninus of Florence, George Orter of Frickenhausen (d. 1497) in a controversy at Leipzig, and a Master of the Order, Vincenzo Bandelli, continued the traditional Thomistic opposition, although in 1476 Sixtus IV (a Franciscan) extended the feast to the universal Church, a clear sign that the Thomistic position was lost. Second, the controversy on the Precious Blood debated in the previous century was revived by a sermon given by a great Franciscan preacher, St. James of the Marches (with St. John of Capistrano and St. Bernadine of Siena, the great leaders of the Franciscan Observants). Following a metaphysics of the plurality of forms which had been involved in the "condemnation" of St. Thomas' Aristotelianism, St. James maintained that the shed blood of Christ was no longer united to his divinity. Relying on St. Thomas' contrary teaching, a Dominican, James of Brescia, attacked this sermon, and the matter was finally appealed to Pius II before whom it was solemnly debated by James and two companions against three Franciscan theologians (one was the future Sixtus IV). Pius II (who did not want to offend the Franciscans on whose support for a crusade he counted) imposed silence, but among modern theologians the Dominican position on this question has prevailed.

Other Dominicans dealt with special theological problems and with editing. Thus Cardinal Juan de Torquemada was one of the first patrons of Gutenburg's invention of printing and saw to it that works of Aquinas were among the first to be so published. Also Paul Soncinas (d. 1494) in Venice edited his works and a compendium of Capreolus, while Peter of Bergamo, regent at Bologna, produced a Golden Table or Thomistic index and his disciple Dominic of Flanders (d. 1422) a useful Summary of Divine Philosophy.

As the crisis of Byzantium and the efforts to reunite the Eastern Church progressed, certain Greek scholars became interested in Thomism and translated and used works of Aquinas. Thus Manuel Calecas of Constantinople (d. 1410) used the Thomistic teaching on the simplicity of God to which he had been introduced by a Dominican Maximus Chrysoberges and another Greek Thomist Demetrius Cydones to refute the hesychastic theology of Gregory Palamas. He eventually became a Catholic and, after a time in exile at Milan, he returned to Constantinople and then lived in Lesbos where in 1404 he became a Dominican. Though never a priest he served as rector of the Chapel of St. John at Myteline and died there in 1410, leaving many writings directed to the issues between Catholics and Orthodox, some of which were used at the Council of Florence. Other Dominicans, such as Boncursius, Phillip of Pera, John of Montenigro (d. 1444) and Andrew of Rhodes, also wrote on these topics.

Thomism, rooted in the universities, was now faced with Humanism centered in the princely courts. The Humanists cultivated not the logical, technical language of university scholasticism, but rhetorical, literary, Ciceronian Latin or classical Greek. They for the most part rejected Aristotelianism for Platonism, and preferred dialogue, diatribe, or polemic to the cool scholastic disputatio. Dominicans did not find this new style very congenial, but some of them experimented with it in an effort to gain an audience. Bl. John Dominici, who had already expressed his own educational program in a Treatise on Family Care, wrote against the Humanist Collucio Salutati's The Glow Worm (1405), replete with classical allusions, arguing that Christian education should not be based on pagan classics but on the Bible and the Fathers.

A more positive attitude became wonderfully exemplified when, as a result of John Dominici's preaching of reform, St. Antoninus, the greatest Dominican theologian of this time, with the patronage of Cosimo de Medici, founded San Marco in Florence. This Church and convent, with its great library and its works of art was a harmonious synthesis of the best in Christian Humanism. Antoninus Pierozzi (1379-1459) entered the Order at 15, inspired by Dominici's preaching. After his novitiate at Cortona he became a founding member of the reformed convent of St. Dominic established by Dominici at Fiesole. The schism produced by the Council of Pisa forced the friars to flee to Foligno, and Antoninus had only a course in logic, for the rest educating himself in philosophy and theology. He was prior in Cortona, Fiesole, Naples, and the Minerva in Rome, where under Eugene Iv he was also a judge of the Rota and Vicar General for the reform in all Italy. On returning to Florence in 1436 he founded San Marco and was jointly prior of Fiesole. During the Council of Florence San Marco was host to the Dominicans and Eugene IV and all his cardinals graced its dedication in 1443. The Pope approved Antoninus' initiation of societies for the education of poor children, and the still existent Society of the Good Men of St. Martin to care for the poor.

As Archbishop of Florence from 1446 his ministry was marked by his personal simplicity of life, his care for the poor, his visitation of all the parishes, and his efforts to reform the religious. While in Rome to assist at a meeting for peace, he was at the deathbed of Eugene, and was almost elected pope, and then evaded an invitation by the new pope Nicholas V to be Cardinal. In his final years he served his city in many ways and was appointed by Pius II to a commission to reform the Roman Curia. On his frequent visitations and traveling he suffered much from a hernia. Both his asceticism and his sweetness of temper are reflected in his death mask which has been preserved and in the many portraits by Renaissance artists.

Antoninus' great work is a Summary of Moral Theology in four huge folio volumes, the first treatise of this type. While much of volume I on human nature and moral law, volume II on the classification of sins, and volume Iv on the virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit is compiled from Aquinas, canonists and other standard authors, volume III treats in a much more original and pastoral way the moral responsibilities of people in different states of life and occupations, including the first medical ethics, and a great deal on economic justice, based on his intimate acquaintance with Florentine business. Modern capitalism is said to have originated in the wool trade of Florence and its great financial families such as the Medici. Antoninus was an inveterate foe of usury, but he is also credited with beginning the adjustment of traditional Church teaching on business ethics required by the change from the medieval to the modern economic system. He made the results of this large work accessible in a Confessional Summary which for many years was one of the manuals most commonly used by priests. A more positive view of Christian life is found in his How to Live Well for the women of the Medici family and his many sermons. Finally he labored for 19 years over his remarkable World History, which he intended as a historical confirmation of what he had written in his Summary of Moral Theology. Although only the part on the Florence of his own day is original, it shows the humanistic desire to bring theological abstractions down to the concrete.

That other Dominicans were engaged in humanistic studies is indicated by the fact that in a list of some 132 humanists and scholars in religious orders between 1400 and 1530 by Oscar Paul Kristeller, almost one-fifth are Dominicans, engaged in works of translation (including the Bible), poetry, eloquence, philosophy, and history (e.g., Peter of Prussia, fl. 1480, wrote 8 volumes of annals), and many were on close terms with noted humanists such as Salutati, Marsilio Ficino, and Pico della Mirandola. One of the most remarkable Renaissance works is The Dream of Poliphilio, a mysterious dream-vision which describes the spiritual journey under the symbolism of a romantic search amidst exotic architecture. An acrostic identifies the author as Francisco de Colonna, probably (but it is disputed) a Venetian Dominican. It has also been recently discovered that in some of the Dominican monasteries of Italy the nuns composed and performed "convent dramas" on religious themes. (The work of Dominicans in the plastic arts will be described later.)


The liturgical life of the Order was enriched during this time by more solemn celebration of Corpus Christi, the Feast of the Sanctification of the Blessed Virgin (instead of the Immaculate Conception), the feasts of Dominican saints and of the patron saints of cities where Chapters were held, and the adoption by the German provinces of feasts honoring the mysteries of the Passion and the Blessed Virgin's sorrows, but otherwise was little changed except for corrections in the liturgical books made in 1405 and 1431 by John Nider and Guido Flamochetti. From 1474 breviaries were no longer copied but printed.

The progress of the reform movement gave rise to a good deal of spiritual writing, some of which has been mentioned, and other examples are the Treatise on the Reform of Religious by the Flemish John van Uyt den Hove (Excuria, d. 1489) of Ghent and the Lament of Religion of John de Bomal of Louvain, d. 1478. But the best indication of the intense interior life of the Order in this century is the great number of Blesseds which this movement fostered, some already mentioned, others who were great preachers to be mentioned later. They range from Bl. John Liccio, a miracle worker, fond of gardening, who is said to have lived 96 years in the Order (!) to the martyr Bl. Anthony Neyrot, who when taken prisoner by the Turks in Tunis, apostasized, but on hearing of the death of St. Antoninus who had been his novice master, repented and publicly confessed the faith on Holy Thursday 1469.

No less remarkable were the Dominican women of the reform, inspired especially by the example of St. Catherine of Siena. Bl. Clara Gambacorta (d. 1419) had been married at 12 and widowed at 15 when she met Catherine, and became a friend of Marie Mancini (d. 1431) who at 25 was also a widow who had lost her children. After Catherine's death Clara first tried to enter the Poor Clares but was removed by her family. Then Clara and Marie became Dominican Tertiaries and founded the monastery of St. Dominic in Pisa, Marie succeeding as Prioress at Clara's death. A princess, Bl. Margaret of Savoy (d. 1464) lived happily in marriage with the Marquis of Monferrato, working together in the service of the poor and sick for 15 years. When he died she was guided by St. Vincent Ferrer to join the Third Order and founded the monastery of St. Mary Magdalene at Alba which became the Second Order, where she lived a life of contemplation and great mystical suffering.

What characterizes the women of this period, however, is that like St. Catherine (or in the previous century St. Joan of Arc, whose rehabilitation in this century was largely the work of Jean Brehal, O.P. (d. after 1478), many were gifted as prophets to whom their cities looked for guidance and intercession against disaster, for example, Columba of Rieti (d. 1501) and Bl. Magdalen Pannatieri (d. 1503). An especially interesting example is Bl. Osanna Andreasi of Mantua (14491505), concerning whom we are well informed because in the very year of her death Francesco Silvestri of Ferrara, a noted theologian and future Master of the Order, published her biography. Also two years later Jerome of Mantua, an Olivetan (reformed) Benedictine, her spiritual son, published his conversations with her along with 43 of her letters to him. They give a more direct view of her spirituality than the many miracles recounted by Silvestri. She came from an upper-class family and wanted to become a nun at fourteen but received a special revelation that she was to remain with her family as a Dominican Tertiary, and did not take formal vows until she was 50. Her reputation as a holy woman grew and many came to her for counsel, notably the famous Duchess of Mantua, Isabella whose sister Beatrice d'Este of Ferrara presided over one of the great Renaissance courts and was patron of some of the greatest artists of the time. Isabella was the actual ruler of the Duchy, since her husband was disgraced and imprisoned, and she had many burdens. She came regularly to consult Osanna, and Jerome witnessed some of her visits.

Jerome had seen her repeatedly in Church in ecstasy and finally asked to talk with her. Although he was a traveling preacher he then visited her each time he came to Mantua and carefully recorded their conversations. She was then 56 and greatly appreciated the opportunity to open her heart to him. She told him that her visions had begun when she was five, that she had received the spiritual espousals to Christ at 18, and the stigmata over a period of years beginning at 28. She had a director, Dominic de Crema, O.P., whose notes concerning her, however, are lost. Living at home, and traveling out of the city only a few times, she occupied herself with household affairs and the care of the poor, while engaged in a life of continual contemplation that included both imaginary visions of Jesus and the saints, and of purgatory and hell, as well as prophecies, and "abstract" intellectual illuminations of God the Father in the Divine Word. She experienced a fourfold division of her heart by love, and the union with God in love through suffering is the central theme of her letters. She confessed to Jerome that humanly speaking she had suffered all her life from a lack of sympathetic understanding until she had been able to express herself to him. She communicated in visions with Columba of Rieti, but St. Catherine was her ideal. Remarkably in 1502 she predicted that God was soon to punish the Church for the corruption of its clergy.

As this intense, prophetic life was carried on by certain men and women in the Order, it was also concerned to share the contemplative life with the laity. This century was particularly marked by emphasis on new types of popular "devotions," such as devotion to the Holy Name initiated in the thirteenth century by John of Vercelli, but now revived by the Franciscan reformer, St. Bernadine of Siena, and theologically studied by Raphael de Pronasio, O.P. (d. 1465), the Stations of the Cross begun by Bl. Alvarez of Cordova, O.P. (d. 1430), confessor to the Queen of Castile, influential in ending the Western Schism, but then taken up by the Franciscans as custodians of the Holy Land, and the rosary which has remained associated with the Preachers.

Much research has been expended on the history of this last devotion. Although Jesus warned against quantitative rather than qualitative prayer, he also urged us to prayer always, which entails the repetition of basic themes which in the agony in the garden he himself used and the pondering of these in one's heart in meditation as Mary did. The use of piles of pebbles, cords with knots, or strings of beads to count prayers is an ancient practice common to meditative religions such as Buddhism and Islam as well as Christian monasticism. St. Dominic used genuflections to mark his own prayers but there is complete silence in the early Dominican records about the rosary of 150 Aves with meditations on the joyful, sorrowful, and glorious mysteries as we now know it, until Bl. Alan de Rupe (la Roche, van der Clip, 1428-1475) began to preach this devotion. He claimed he had received a revelation about 1463 that the rosary had been first revealed by the Blessed Virgin herself to St. Dominic, a legend which even today is fixed in the popular mind by its many depictions in art. At that time the Hail Mary consisted only of the first, biblical half, and Alan proposed a number of different ways in which the saying of the 150 Hail Marys (to correspond to the 150 Psalms) might be meditated. Only gradually was the present form universally adopted. No doubt Alan sincerely believed in his own vision, but history's silence shows it should not be taken literally.

Alan was a Breton, a member of the reformed Congregation of Holland, and the Preachers of this Congregation quickly adopted the rosary as a powerful instrument of their own reforming work. He founded the first Confraternity of the rosary while lector at Douay, c. 1464-1468 or 1470, and all its members were admitted to the merits of the Order. In 1475, Jacob Springer instituted it in Cologne, and Sixtus IV granted it indulgences in 1478, and in 1479 approved these for the whole church through which it began immediately to spread. Another member of the Congregation, Michel Francois, a Master of Theology of Cologne, Doctor, Prior, Inquisitor, and finally Bishop at the court of Bourgogne in 1479 published a theological quodlibet defending this devotion (he was also an author of a treatise On the Time of Antichrist, another quodlibet on the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin and Art of Dying). The special Dominican character of this devotion is seen in that it is a way that even illiterate people can share in the liturgy of the hours of the Church in which the psalms are recited by joining with the Blessed Virgin in her meditations on the saving events of Christ's life.


It may seem inconsistent with this Renaissance task of harmonizing nature and grace that the two most famous Dominican preachers of this time were St. Vincent Ferrer (d. 1419) at the beginning of the century and Girolamo Savonarola (d. 1498) at its end, both of whom constantly preached the threat of the judgment of God on sinful humanity. The reform of the Church and of civil society was, however, an essential element of Renaissance spirituality which looked always to the realization of the ideal of the Creator in making the world and humankind.

Vincent Ferrer is a transition figure between the disasters of the fourteenth century and the more optomistic Renaissance. Born at Valencia in 1350, against parental wishes he entered the Preachers at fifteen. He studied at Tarragona for two years and then taught logic at Lérida, writing two treatises that reflect the highly technical logical problems which were the concern of the Nominalists: On Dialectical Suppositions and On the Nature of the Universal. He did his theological studies in Barcelona where he also taught the natural sciences and completed them at Toulouse. He described his life in those days as "study followed prayer, and prayer study." In 1379 he was ordained and soon after elected prior in Valencia and even then gained a reputation as a miracle-worker.

Vincent's treatise On the Spiritual Life, based on a work of Venturino da Bergamo, probably dates from this time. It is very concise and Vincent deliberately omits the parade of scriptural and traditional "authorities" common in scholastic treatises. In the section on poverty he insists that this means seeking nothing but necessities in food and clothing and excludes the collecting of books, since the common library of a convent should suffice. Next he insists on the practice of silence except when the good of the neighbor requires speech but that speech should have been premeditated in silence if it is to do much good. Next, he speaks of purity of heart, which is not merely putting aside sexual thoughts, but is the desire "to think of nothing except of God or for God."

This search for purity of heart requires self-denial (Matt 16:24) both in temporal and spiritual goods through humility and companionship with those who give good example and not with those who complain and judge others. Even when one is criticized or frustrated in attempts to do good, it is necessary to mortify one's self-love by avoiding all flattery or making excuses and coming to know one's own faults and one's total dependence on grace.

At the same time Vincent warns against any tendency to scrupulosity or discouragement. He then assures the reader that if this way of humility is taken whole-heartedly love of God and neighbor will "begin to burn in the mind and like a fire consume all the rest of the inner man, so the whole soul will be so filled with love that nothing vain can enter it. "Then one "can safely preach to others without risk, without the danger of vainglory." The knowledge that we can do nothing of ourselves and must depend wholly on God is our best protection. Thus three things: poverty, silence, and humble self-knowledge are the foundation of all truly good works. He then insists that the shortest and surest way to all this is by religious obedience, which, alas, he sees very much lacking in his own day.

In particular Vincent admonishes beginners that one of the best forms of discipline is the correct and attentive performance of the liturgy. He then gives this advice on preaching:

In preaching and exhortation use simple words and familiar stories to make clear concrete behavior; and if insofar as you can make your point with examples so that any sinner who is guilty of that sin will see it applies to him just as if you preached to him alone. But do this in such a way that all will see that your words do not proceed from pride or anger, but rather from a loving heart and a fatherly concern .... Such a method is usually helpful to hearers, for to talk about virtues and vices in the abstract does little to move your hearers.

When the schism began Vincent was convinced that the Avignon Clement VII was the true Pope and supported his claims. When Clement was succeeded by his good friend, a noted canonist, Cardinal Pedro de Luna (Benedict XIII) who had ordained him, Vincent was called to Avignon as Master of the Sacred Palace and Apostolic Penitentiary and, although declining the cardinalate, worked hard in behalf of Benedict but in favor of ending the schism. More and more discouraged, however, when Benedict procrastinated in keeping his oath to resign along with the Roman Pope, in 1399 Vincent obtained permission to undertake a preaching campaign which he continued for twenty years moving back and forth through Spain, southern France (in Dominic's footsteps), northern Italy, Switzerland, northern France, and the Low Countries, usually remaining in one place to preach only for one day and then going on. Often he traveled on a donkey, preceded by bands of men and women flagellants, and working constant miracles, including raising the dead.

A remarkable feature of Vincent's preaching was the large number of Jews he converted, a fact which gave still further credence to his proclamation of the imminence of the Last Judgment. When the Pope queried him on these prophecies, Vincent replied that he was doing no more than preaching what Scriptures had to say about "the signs of the times" and pointing out how the events of the days seemed to correspond to these. Later theologians have generally explained his apocalyptic prophecies as conditional, i.e., he was warning that unless the people repented, God's judgment would fall upon them.

As the Councils of Pisa and of Constance strove to settle the schism, Vincent twice, in 1408 and 1415, tried to persuade Benedict XIII to resign. Finally seeing he was obdurate, for the good of the Church, Vincent repudiated his allegiance to Benedict. So great was Vincent's reputation that although he did not accept the invitation of the Council itself to attend, his example moved the King of Aragon, Benedict's last royal supporter, also to abandon him. The Council then proceeded to depose him and elect Martin V who was quickly accepted by all the countries of Europe. Benedict XIII, conscious of his expertise as a canonist and convinced of his legitimacy because he was the last survivor of the cardinals at the time of schism, never gave in, but retired to an island fortress to die. Vincent continued his preaching until his own death in Vannes, Brittany in 1455.

Many of Vincent's sermons have been preserved and they show that he followed his own advice quoted above. These sermons are simple, vivid, and concrete. As a preacher his appearance, emaciated, with glowing eyes, powerful gestures, and a great voice by which he made himself heard in the open air to vast crowds, many of whom did not understand his language yet caught his message, made him one of the two most popular preachers of the century. His only rival was the Franciscan St. Bernardine of Siena (d. 1444), whose preaching was confined to Italy and was devoted primarily to promoting devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. A number of Dominicans, possibly because this devotion originally had been entrusted in the thirteenth century by a Pope to the Master of the Order of Preachers, Bl. John of Vercelli, opposed Bernardine's preaching, claiming it led to a kind of idolatry of the monogram of Jesus, but the Franciscan successfully defend himself against this accusation. His sermons themselves well exemplify the same principles of popular preaching that Vincent had taught and followed.

The following brief passage from a sermon for the Third Sunday of Advent illustrates the directness and simplicity of Vincent's style:

"What will it profit, my brothers, if one should say he has faith and is without works? Can faith without works save him?" Further on St. James gives the answer (2:14): "So faith also, if it has not works in itself is dead." Therefore, it is necessary to continue in doing good; that is, what we believe interiorly we must exhibit exteriorly. For example: Do you believe Christ came down from heaven, and humbling himself, entered the Virgin's womb? To express this belief in works you must humble your pride and vanity. Do you believe that Christ was poor in the world: that he willed to possess nothing? Show this belief in your works by avoiding usury, avarice, and theft .... Do you believe that Christ was most diligent? Then be not slothful in spiritual works. This is faith in action.

An apocalyptic and charismatic tendency was to be found in much of the preaching of this century, but there were also emphases on the reform of the religious orders and the intensification of popular devotion. In Germany and the Low countries John Nider effectively preached reform of the friars and nuns and Johannes Mulberg (d. 1414) the reform of the beguines. John Herolt (d. 1468) lector, prior, and chaplain to the nuns at Nuremberg, left a very popular collection of sermons called The Disciple (with supplements) and a Book of Instruction for Christians which went through 11 editions by 1521, based on Aquinas but using many other authors. Servatius Franckel also wrote doctrinal sermons based on the Summa Theologiae. In Cracow, Poland, Nicholas of Brest was a famous preacher. In France Antonine Defour (d. 1459) was both a renowned preacher and inquisitor, confessor to Louis XII, and Bishop of Marseille.

In Italy there were a host of noted preachers led off by Bl. John Dominici, followed by Manfred of Vercelli (d. after 1431), who was an apocalyptic preacher against the Fraticelli and against St. Bernardine's preaching of the Holy Name. Many others not only preached but gave such good example that many are beatified such as Bl. Stephen Bandelli (d. 1450), who had been a Master of Canon Law at the University of Pavia but became a "second St. Paul" in fiery eloquence, and Bl. Peter Geremia (d. 1452), a civil lawyer at Bologna, a rigorous ascetic whose preaching was admired by St. Vincent Ferrer.

Some of these preachers were also Inquisitors because of the close relation of the two offices. BI. Bartholomew de Cerverii was martyred at this task in 1466 and Bl. Aimon Taparelli professor at the University of Turin and confessor to the Duke of Savoy took this dangerous post but lived to be 100. Sixtus IV in 1474 renewed the Inquisition in Latin countries and the Master of the Order, Leonard de Mansuetis, appointed a number of friars to these posts. Two Spanish Dominican inquisitors were denounced to Rome as over severe, yet the King persuaded the Pope to appoint Tomas de Torquemada (d. 1483) who became notorious for his long term of implacable severity for which the Spanish Inquisition has remained infamous as more political than religious.

The Inquisition was always concerned with the suppression of superstition, including the practice of witchcraft which theologians argued could be effective only by a compact with the devil. Until the last quarter of this century trials for witchcraft were relatively rare but for reasons about which historians are still not in agreement they became much more common, climaxing in the next century. Unfortunately the theological arguments and inquisitorial procedures for such trials received their most persuasive formulation in a famous handbook The Hammer of Witches by two Dominicans Heinrich Institoris and Jacob Springer (Cologne, 1486) -- the same Springer we have seen as one of the great popularizers of the rosary! Yet this book went out of print before the craze reached major proportions and was revived in the next century only by those already involved. I will only note here that the error was not so much the theory of the reality of commerce with demons, as the juridical processes by which guilt was determined, resting on testimony obtained by torture. Such procedures, however, were not invented by the Church, but accepted by it from Roman law and the procedures of secular courts in this period. Indeed most of the trials were secular not ecclesiastic.

Dominican preachers were also active in the missions. In Spain and France Vincent Ferrer is reputed to have converted thousands of Muslims and Jews -- the exact facts are hard to verify -- but he saw this as a sign of the End Time. Dominicans followed King Henry of Portugal's (d. 1463) explorations in Ceuta and the Madeira Islands, then in Benin and the Congo in 1486, and Guiana after 1491. Diego de Deza, the Dominican Bishop of Palencia, was an important advocate of Christopher Columbus' great enterprise of 1492, although the Franciscans were ultimately more directly involved with it, and, as we shall see, were soon ready to open up missions in the New World.

Another form of preaching which Dominicans have used throughout their history, the glorification of God through the fine arts, was especially active in this century, and three of its artists have been beatified by the Church. Bl. Andrew of Abellon (1375-1450) was an important figure in the spread of BI. Raymond's reform of the Order in France, as prior of the great shrine of St. Mary Magdalen at St. Maximin in southern France. He was also a skilled illuminator of manuscripts and he encouraged and taught this art both to his friars and to Dominican nuns as a means of support, compatible with the reformed ideals of poverty. In Florence, the great center of Renaissance art, St. Antoninus at San Marco, encouraged the development of these arts for the same economic reasons, but also to a view to using them to lead to religious contemplation. In his convent he found several talented artists who were illuminators, such as Fra Benedetto, but most especially Benedetto's brother Giovanni del Mugello of Fiesole (c. 1387-1455) commonly known as "Fra Angelico" and recently beatified by Pope John Paul II, recognized as one of the greatest artists of the Early Renaissance.

Angelico, with Antoninus, had been a member of Dominici's reformed convent at Fiesole, but became prior of San Marco and with the aid of assistants filled the convent with remarkable murals, including crucifixes in each cell, and painted numerous panel pictures. He was later called to Rome to paint the small chapel of Pope Nicholas V which in a modest way bears comparison with Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel. It has been observed that Angelico had two styles: the panel pictures that were for the public are brilliant in color and narrative in contents; those in the interior of the convent are quiet and symbolic in tone, intended to awaken contemplation. Those in the Vatican chapel, which depict the charity of the deacons Stephen and Lawrence, are a whole theology of the diaconate and are in Angelico's most advanced style, especially in their realistic yet tender depiction of the poor. Critics see in Angelico in many respects not just a medievalist but an innovative painter, conscious of the advances in perspective, anatomy, lighting, and the use of classic models, but what is evident to all is the luminous spirituality of his work which comes perhaps closest of all Renaissance paintings to a true Christian Humanism.

In Bologna Bl. James of Ulm (Jacob Griesinger, d. 1491) was a lay brother who became famous both for his sanctity and his art of making stained glass. It may be that some of his work is still extant but it has not been certainly identifed. He is credited with a number of important technical inventions in the art and had a number of successful pupils including Fra Ambrosio of Como and Fra Ambrogino of Soncino who was praised by the noted Renaissance critic Leander Alberti as an "unequalled master." Soon after his death James was regarded as the patron saint of artists in glass.

Girolamo Savonarola, the great preacher of the age, is often remembered because of his "bonfire of the vanities" including obscene art, but he continued this tradition. He lived with Bl. James in Bologna and later became prior of San Marco and proved himself a close friend of many of the Renaissance artists, and it has been shown that his sermons influenced their art. The descriptions of the spirituality which he inculcated in his novices, which included dancing, singing, and pageantry, show that stern ascetic that he was, he shared in the Renaissance spirit. He was born at Ferrara in 1452 and was encouraged to serious study of the classics, Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas by his devout but severe grandfather, a Michael Savonarola, and became a medical student. Disappointed in love, he wrote poetry on the corruption of society and the Church.

At age 22 while on a trip to Faenza he was moved to repentance by an Augustinian preacher and, without parental permission entered the Dominicans at Bologna. When he was first assigned to San Marco in Florence, the weakness of his voice, his un-Florentine accent and rough gestures caused his preaching during this period to be so poorly received that he almost gave it up. When working on a sermon in the churchyard of the monastery of San Giorgio he experienced his "first" (as he called it in his confession) prophetic illumination with an insight into the seven reasons why the Church must be punished and reformed.

He then began to preach in a new way. After teaching in Bologna and laboring as an itinerant preacher in many towns, he finally returned to San Marco in 1490 as a lector, and first attracted large audiences not by his homilies but by evening "lectures" in the rose garden at San Marco in a direct, non-rhetorical style on the Apocalypse, stressing three points: the renewal of the Church, the troubles Italy would have to suffer before this would come about, and that these events were imminent. He says that he based these themes not on the prophetic insights which he had even then received but simply on scriptural arguments. Since even this raised considerable objections, he repeatedly decided to give up preaching this message but found he could not without boring his hearers and himself! Finally in 1491 while preparing a sermon for the Second Sunday of Lent he struggled all day Saturday and throughout a night of thunder and lightning which struck the cathedral to make up his mind to say no more about these matters, until, exhausted, he heard a voice saying, "Fool, don't you see God wills you should proclaim these matters in this way?" He arose to give, he says, a "terrifying" sermon. Lorenzo the Magnificent lay seriously ill and took the storm as a sign of his death which occurred three days later, but only after Savonarola, who before had always refused to meet him, had come and blessed him.

Soon elected prior of San Marco he reformed it according to his own ideas of strict poverty, intending at first to move it out of the wicked city, but then with the recently elected Alexander VI's permission he joined it with Fiesole and Pisa as a reformed congregation independent of the Lombardy Province. In Advent 1491 he began a series of sermons on Genesis which continued until 1494 (except for a Lent preached in Bologna in 1493). His hearers remarked that these sermons paralleled the sequence of events occurring at that time in Florence and that it was taking him a very long time to get to the story of the Flood. In 1492, probably especially troubled by his knowledge that Alexander VI's election had been simoniacal, during the night before his last Advent sermon he saw in a vision a hand with a sword on which was inscribed, "The sword of the Lord swiftly and speedily over the earth" and above it the words, "True and just are the Lord's judgments." He then saw that the arm belonged to One with three faces shining in one light, each of which in turn spoke of judgment and mercy. Then he saw the whole globe to which countless angels in white, carrying red crosses descended, as the hand turned the sword toward earth amidst thunder and lightning. The angels then walked among the peoples of the earth offering them chalices of pure wine which some eagerly drank, others refused, and others hesitated to drink.

After this Savonarola began to predict the coming of a second Cyrus, namely, Charles VIII of France, to punish Italy but that Charles would spare Florence if it did penance. It seems he had also predicted the death of Innocent VIII and Lorenzo de Medici, and the revolution and reform of the Florentine state. But in September when, as he had been predicting for a long time, Charles VIII of France finally invaded Italy, conquering every city that resisted him and marching toward Florence, the preacher arrived at the text, "Behold I will bring the waters of the Flood over the whole earth" and his hearers realized where all these sermons had been leading. The great humanist, Pico della Mirandola, was present at this sermon and says that it made his hair stand on end.

In these sermons Savonarola often repeated sayings he had received in visions:

Rejoice and exult, you just, but prepare your souls for trials by reading, meditation, and prayer, and you will be freed from the second death. But you, worthless servants who live in filth, wallow in it still! Fill your bellies with wine, ungird your loins for lust, pollute your hands with the blood of the poor; for this is your portion and destiny! But know that you are body and soul in my hand and soon your bodies will be torn by scourges and your souls cast into everlasting fire!

On the approach of Charles he again saw the threatening sword and began fasting on bread and water until he was so weak he could hardly preach. On All Saints and for the next two days he called the people to penance, before he accompanied an embassy to make peace with Charles. Charles bypassed Florence but otherwise failed to heed Savonarola's admonitions and eventually was forced to withdraw from Italy. Savonarola then carried through his great reform of Florence as a Republic after the model of Venice.

But his enemies, which included the friends of the expelled Medici and the libertines of the city, in particular the active homosexuals, were urging Alexander VI to silence him, which happened in July of 1495. He excused himself from going to Rome to answer because of his poor health but he retired to Fiesole and wrote a Compendium to explain what he was preaching, namely, under certain conditions the approaching punishment and reform of the Church, the conversion of the Turks and Moors in the life time of his hearers, and unconditionally the glory of Florence. The first seems to have been fulfilled in the Reformation, the second can be interpreted as the great extension of the Church's missions fulfilled not in Islam but in the New World discovered in 1492. The third was certainly not literally fulfilled, but perhaps can be taken as we do the prophecies of Jerusalem's glory in a spiritual sense as applying only to the remnant who repented.

While Savonarola was preparing this answer, Alexander sent a letter accusing him of heresy and announcing he must be examined by a theological commission of his Order. He promised to obey and did so when he received a repetition of the order to cease preaching, but in 1496 the commission cleared him and the Signoria of Florence obtained verbal permission from Alexander for him to resume preaching. Alexander then revoked his permission for the Congregation, thus putting Savonarola under the Vicar of Lombardy who did not favor him, but the friars of San Marco objected and Savonarola awaited the answer to their appeal.

In 1497 the Arriabati ("the Enraged") renewed their plots and tried to assassinate him. In May the Pope in a highly non-canonical way excommunicated him as a heretic and for resisting the abolition of his Congregation and forbade attendance at his sermons. Savonarola observed this excommunication out of respect for papal authority, although he believed it unjust and canonically invalid, and wrote his great apologetic work The Triumph of the Cross which is entirely orthodox and recognizes papal authority. But the situation of the reform of Florence rapidly deteriorated and Savonarola finally felt justified in returning to the pulpit to prevent the Republic's collapse.

The Franciscans, however, dared one of his disciples to prove the Prophet's authenticity and sanctity by an ordeal by fire, and reluctantly Savonarola accepted the challenge. On the day of the ordeal the Franciscan challenger temporized and a rainstorm extinguished the fire. The infuriated mob that night stormed San Marco and dragged the Prophet and his companions to prison, where he was in the power of his enemies who tortured him ruthlessly. Savonarola confessed under torture, but withdrew his confessions each time the torture ceased. Finally his examiners produced a confession (probably forged) and he was condemned to death. To the Order's shame the aged Master of the Order, Torriani, signed the condemnation. The Prophet and his companions were hanged and the bodies burned May 23, 1498, in the public square, but only after receiving the sacraments and a plenary indulgence from Alexander VI! Thus with prophecies of the coming punishment and reform of the Church the century ended.