home CITY BEAT Dirty Deeds and Dire Deaths

Dirty Deeds and Dire Deaths

Ivana Scatola


It is said that the feast of Halloween originated from a merging of harvest festivals, pagan celebrations of the dead and most importantly, as the eve before the two day Christian feast days All Hallows’ or All Saints’ Day (November 1), and All Souls’ Day, (November 2): a feast for the dead. With this somber theme in mind, we look back at the most famous deaths Florence has produced in its civic history and their various sinister forms.

The most famous of these is undoubtedly that of Girolamo Savonarola: Dominican friar, Florentine influential political personage and preacher. Savonarola was renowned for his passionate sermons, in which he entirely condemned moral corruption and forewarned of an oncoming apocalypse. He orchestrated the so-called ‘Bonfire of the Vanities’, which was responsible for destroying thousands of Renaissance treasures: books, artworks (allegedly some by Botticelli), clothes and musical instruments, all set alight in an attempt to purge the city of materialistic goods and temptations. After denouncing Pope Alexander VI, he was naturally excommunicated by the leader of the Catholic Church, and soon the city turned against him. He was arrested and imprisoned with fellow friars Fra Domenico and Fra Silvestro Maruffi, and tortured, until he confessed that he had invented seeing prophecies and visions that he had previously claimed were divine. The three friars were publicly hanged and then (ironically) burnt in the Piazza della Signoria on May 23, 1498, precisely where a commemorative plaque in honour of the three lies today.

Other famous deaths granted by the city are those of the conspirators of the Pazzi plot against the Medici family. An attempt to overthrow the Medici family and their political hold over the city by means of the assassination of brothers Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici was dramatically carried out in the Duomo, during Mass. The attempt was not entirely successful; Giuliano was killed and Lorenzo was merely wounded, and the conspirators were humiliated and faced their fate. Jacopo de’ Pazzi was flung from a window, and mobs dragged his naked body through the streets and threw it in the Arno. Francesco Salviati was hanged from the walls of the Palazzo Vecchio, and Bernardo di Bandino Baroncelli was publicly executed at the Bargello.


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