Savonarola’s Women

Visions and Reform in Renaissance Italy

Tamar Herzig

Savonarola’s Women

Tamar Herzig

320 pages | 7 halftones, 2 maps | 6 x 9 | © 2007
Cloth $46.00 ISBN: 9780226329154 Published December 2007
Girolamo Savonarola (1452–1498), the religious reformer, preacher, and Florentine civic leader, was burned at the stake as a false prophet by the order of Pope Alexander VI. Tamar Herzig here explores the networks of Savonarola’s female followers that proliferated in the two generations following his death. Drawing on sources from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, many never before studied, transcribed, or contextualized in Savonarolan scholarship and religious history, Herzig shows how powerful public figures and clerics continued to ally themselves with these holy women long after the prophet’s death.

In their quest to stay true to their leader’s teachings, Savonarola’s female followers faced hostile superiors within their orders, local political pressures, and the deep-rooted misogynistic assumptions of the Church establishment. This unprecedented volume demonstrates how reform circles throughout the Italian peninsula each tailored Savonarola’s life and works to their particular communities’ regionally specific needs. Savonarola’s Women is an important reconstruction of women’s influence on one of the most important and controversial religious movements in premodern Europe.
     List of Maps and Figures
     List of Abbreviations


1   Girolamo Savonarola and His Women Followers
2   "The Chain of Succession": Colomba Guadagnoli and Her Saintly Emulators
3   The Prophet’s Following on His Own Town: Savonarolism in Ferrara
4   The Power of Visions: Lucia Brocadelli and Osanna Andreasi
5   The Crisis Years: 1505-18
6   Recuperation and Decline


Review Quotes
Lorenzo Polizzotto, University of Western Australia
“Herzig has succeeded in discovering important documents which had eluded earlier researchers in the field. Her study represents an important contribution to the lively fields of Savonarolism, female spirituality, and religious history at the very time of the breakup of Western Christendom. This is no small feat.”
E. Ann Matter, University of Pennsylvania

“This virtuoso historical analysis shows the permeable boundaries between politics and religion in Renaissance Italy.”

Paula Findlen, Stanford University

“In this beautifully researched book, Tamar Herzig explores the complex legacy of Savonarola and his followers. Just as prophetic women and their patrons remade Savonarola into a prophet in support of their visions of religious reform, so too did others rewrite their lives to make them conform to more acceptable models of female spirituality. A lively account of religion in the era of the Italian Wars that reconstructs an important episode in the relationship between gender, faith, and politics and brings to life a religious community that has since been obscured.”

John Tedeschi, University of Wisconsin

“The dramatic story of the Dominican preacher, prophet and reformer Girolamo Savonarola, executed by religious and civic authorities in Florence in 1498, has often been told. The story of his complex legacy has not. Savonarola’s Women is the first, comprehensive, critical attempt, thoroughly founded on a wealth of original, primary sources, to reconstruct an important spiritual current sparked by his death, a movement nurtured by his charismatic female followers, often in defiance of the ecclesiastical hierarchy and even of their own superiors in the Dominican Order. The work is a pioneering contribution to women’s history, but one that adds a significant new dimension to our understanding of sixteenth-century strivings for religious reform.”

Konrad Eisenbichler | Renaissance Quarterly
"[The] study is a pleasure to read and immensely enlightening for anyone working on Savonarola, Savonarolism, Italian reform movements, or women in the sixteenth century. . . . A welcomed contribution that sheds light on the important role played by Savonarolan women who . . . kept alive the friar’s teachings through the example of their own life, devotion, and visionary experience."
Andrew Fogleman | Comitatus
"Herzig’s work offers a fascinating account of the ways devotees of Savonarola’s cult negotiated his relationships with recognized holy women and distanced potentially damaging association from him. Along the way, Herzig resurrects an interesting web of relationships and patterns of support among female religious women."
Cynthia Polecritti | Canadian Journal of History
"In this meticulous and highly readable account, Herzig restores Broccadelli and her contemporaries to their rightful place within a dangerous, but highly creative, era of reform and prophecy."
P.R. Baernstein | American Historical Review
"This tightly focused, densely researched book takes Savonarola studies on a salutary excursion outside of Florence. Along the way it deepens our understanding of the networks and intense religiosity of the women who defied his orders of silence and invisibility. . . . A valuable contribution to our understanding of female sanctity at the turn of the sixteenth century."
Kate Lowe | Catholic Historical Review

“This is an important new book, setting the record straight in complex areas like the intertwining of politics, religion, geography, and reputation. It is thoroughly to be recommended.”

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