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By the end of the fifteenth century, Florence was well established as the home of the Renaissance. As generous patrons to the likes of Botticelli and Michelangelo, the ruling Medici embodied the progressive humanist spirit of the age, and in Lorenzo the Magnificent they possessed a diplomat capable of guarding the militarily weak city in a climate of constantly shifting al.


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As generous patrons to the likes of Botticelli and Michelangelo, the ruling Medici embodied the progressive humanist spirit of the age, and in Lorenzo the Magnificent they possessed a diplomat capable of guarding the militarily weak city in a climate of constantly shifting allegiances between the major Italian powers.

However, in the form of Savonarola, an unprepossessing provincial monk, Lorenzo found his nemesis. Filled with Old Testament fury and prophecies of doom, Savonarola's sermons reverberated among a disenfranchised population, who preferred medieval Biblical certainties to the philosophical interrogations and intoxicating surface glitter of the Renaissance. Savonarola's aim was to establish a 'City of God' for his followers, a new kind of democratic state, the likes of which the world had never seen before.

The battle which this provoked would be a fight to the death, a series of sensational events - invasions, trials by fire, the 'Bonfire of the Vanities', terrible executions and mysterious deaths - featuring a cast of the most important and charismatic Renaissance figures. This famous struggle has often been portrayed as a simple clash of wills between a benign ruler and religious fanatic, between secular pluralism and repressive extremism. However, in an exhilaratingly rich and deeply researched story, Paul Strathern reveals the paradoxes, self-doubts and political compromises which made the battle for the soul of the Renaissance city one of the most complex and important moments in Western history.

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Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — Death in Florence by Paul Strathern. As generous patrons to the likes of Botticelli and Michelangelo, the ruling Medici embodied the progressive humanist spirit of the age, and in Lorenzo the Magnificent they possessed a diplomat capable of guarding the militarily weak city in a climate of constantly shifting al By the end of the fifteenth century, Florence was well established as the home of the Renaissance.

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Published August 15th by Pegasus Books first published May More Details Other Editions Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Death in Florence , please sign up. Has anyone used this book as a book club read?

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Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 3. Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Oct 12, Sean Gibson rated it liked it.

As I like to repeat ad nauseum, when it comes to historical narrative, Joseph Ellis is a master stylist and not of the hair variety. He elevates the material. He serves the material. When I put Mr. Strathern down, I just started thinking about how much I wanted a burger. Savonarola was amongst the most intellectually gifted people of his time, and his efforts on behalf of the poor and disenfranchised undoubtedly did much good, particularly in the face of such appallingly corrupt leadership within the Catholic Church.

But, instead of deploying that intellectual firepower against a bulwark of ignorance erected during the Dark Ages that still loomed large, even as the Renaissance blossomed, he channeled his talents toward such austere and sanctimonious measures of reform that he threatened to derail no less than the advancement of human society, and this in the heart of a city known far and wide as a beacon of enlightened thought. View all 69 comments. This is a reasonable airplane history, but the book's virtues come mostly from its subject matter: it's hard to lack narrative oomph when your subjects are the rise and fall of the Medici and the rise and fall of Savonarola.

If the little friar wasn't so vilified in the English speaking world, I imagine there'd be two or three Hollywood extravaganzas about him already. That said, there are some things an author can control, and Strathern does not control them. The prose is reasonably easy to rea This is a reasonable airplane history, but the book's virtues come mostly from its subject matter: it's hard to lack narrative oomph when your subjects are the rise and fall of the Medici and the rise and fall of Savonarola.

The prose is reasonably easy to read, but that doesn't mean it's 'crisp' or 'skillful' or has 'verve. Such ticks aside, Strathern favors cliche, bombast, the popular historian's tropes of 'x must have done y' and 'x certainly would have felt z'. He relishes a very Strathernian word unnecessary detail: it's never enough to know that someone walked from point a to point b; we must also know how the cobblestones 'must have' felt beneath his feet. But the real problems come with Strathern's attitude towards history. He seems to have decided that this story is about a reactionary, foolish priest and a glorious if slightly sinister modernising family who loves Science and Art and all that good stuff.

Even as he's writing that Savonarola is the most intelligent man in Florence, more or less a Republican and almost irritatingly moral, the book remains a story about The Clash of Modernity and the Medieval Mind. The story is interesting because many of the most important features of 'modern' life are prefigured in the friar rather than the Medici democracy, equality, some legal restraints on the powerful.

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In Florence, Italy, the Uffizi museum is bringing the works of women artists out of the basement

Sure, he was homophobic, but I imagine most of the Medici were as well. Why does the book insist on this Clash Of Titans narrative? Because Strathern thinks history proceeds by dates. In roughly , the Renaissance won, and thereafter everything was science, secular and sexy. Before that we're in the Dark. If the lines are that bright, the only way to tell the story is a clash of good and bad forces.

Am I being hyperbolic? Consider what he says about the first English edition of Savonarola's 'Exposition,' which came out in As he points out, this was 12 years after England had separated from Rome.

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What does that indicate? It is "further [this is actually the first mention of this fact] indication, if such was needed [this phrase is never explained], of the regard in which this work came to be held by all Christians. Okay then. This is one of many, many examples. If you know anything about history, you'll find this book fun and incredibly infuriating. If you know little about history e. Not a bad way of killing five hours on a plane.

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A very bad way of learning. Historians of Science, readers of Ben Jonson, et al. View 1 comment. Aug 24, Bfisher rated it liked it Shelves: history. The most interesting aspect of this book for me was the connections it described between the Medici and Savonarola. I began reading this book before a planned trip to Florence. It had been recommended by one of my travel mates and I thank him for that. Having now been in many of the places cited in the book and learned more about the history of Florence, I enjoyed finishing it even more.

In previous fiction I'd read concerning this period, Savonarola had not come off well, so it was pleasant getting a more balanced picture of him. There truly was a battle for Florence's soul which began between the Medici fam I began reading this book before a planned trip to Florence. There truly was a battle for Florence's soul which began between the Medici family and Savonarola, but it was continued by Pope Alexander VI a Borgia , who really brought the whole thing to a head.

This book does a good job of explaining all the sides of the issue, plus how the city itself reacted to the fight. In a way, it appears Savonarola was a forerunner to Martin Luther. He just took things a bit too far in setting himself up as God's only voice on earth. A fascinating read for any interested in Italian history. If you are interested in the history of Italy or just the history of Florence, this book will interest you. It appears to be scholarly, yet the text has a minimum of references, which appear in detailed sections at the back, so it is readable. I found the prose crisp and enjoyable.

The book tells a gripping story. I read this because we are going to Florence soon and it was one of the few things on Italian history WW2 apart that I could find. And I think that w If you are interested in the history of Italy or just the history of Florence, this book will interest you. And I think that when looking at Florence and at Botticelli's work, the things I learned from this book will come back to me and add to the interest. Just hoping it's a bit cooler in Italy than it is here!

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