Format Hardcover
Publication Date 08/15/15
ISBN 9781605988269
Trim Size / Pages 9.4 x 6.4 in / 464

Request a review copy or press kit

Death in Florence

The Medici, Savonarola, and the Battle for the Soul of a Renaissance City

Paul Strathern

One of the defining moments in Western history, the bloody and dramatic story of the battle for the soul of Renaissance Florence.

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 de' Medici (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 between these two men 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. Was this a simple clash of wills between a benign ruler and religious fanatic? Between secular pluralism and repressive extremism? In an exhilaratingly rich and deeply researched story, Paul Strathern reveals the paradoxes, self-doubts, and political compromises that made the battle for the soul of the Renaissance city one of the most complex and important moments in Western history.

Paul Strathern is a Somerset Maugham prize-winning novelist, and his nonfiction works include The Artist, the Philosopher, and the Warrior: The Intersecting Lives of Da Vinci, Machiavelli, and Borgia and the World They Shaped (Bantam), Napoleon in Egypt (Bantam) and Mendeleyev’s Dream: The Quest for the Elements (Thomas Dunne). He lives in England.

Buy it now in print: Amazon Barnes & Noble IndieBound

Buy it now in ebook: Amazon Barnes & Noble Apple Kobo Google

Endorsements & Reviews

“What stands out as much as anything here is the spark and quality of Strathern's writing, its wonderful ability to combine the sweep of history withthe intensely personal. In a single sentence, Strathern captures the broad currents of civic history, the magnetic presence of a remarkable individual, and the specificity of a liturgical and biographical occasion. An engrossing narrative of power, corruption and civic life, a vivid portrait of a city in crisis and the spiritual leader who embodied its aspirations and flaws.” The Washington Post
“This is more than a dual biography. It’s a social and religious history, showing the tension that still holds between secularism and religion. A riveting narrative history.” Booklist (starred review)
“Fans of television shows such as The Borgias and The Tudors, or even Game of Thrones, will find no end of entertainment in this in-depth chronicle of the real-life events of the Medici family in Renaissance Florence. Lovers of medieval history will be pulled into this informative and gripping account; academics will find it a credible source of historical knowledge. Strathern’s approachable, objective style turns a litany of information into a spellbinding saga worthy of prime time. ­A thrilling and informative chronicle of one of the Renaissance’s most notorious dynasties.” Library Journal (starred review)
“An engrossing portrayal of the two legendary 15th-century figures who shaped Renaissance Florence. Well-considered prose. This enjoyable and pleasantly articulate look into the inner workings of two larger-than-life entities (the de’ Medici family and the Church) offers unexpected insight into the theology, philosophy, and society that eventually cemented Florence as a Renaissance center of political and cultural import.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Strathern combines diligent research with an exemplary narrative verve and keeps the pages turning.” The Financial Times
“A vivid tale told in great detail.” Times Literary Supplement
“This massive, mesmerizing, detail-rich, compulsive narrative of the collision between silver and the soul, Mammon and religious mysteries, will keep you turning the pages like the most propulsive of historical thrillers. Strathern balances both detail and narrative drive, so that you never lose sight of either one. The stories and intrigue and behind-the-scenes maneuverings will chill your blood as much as they excites it.” Providence Journal
“Savonarola's brief reign is often treated as an interlude of religious fanaticism within the enlightened secularism of the Renaissance. In Death in Florence, Paul Strathern paints a more complicated picture, placing Savonarola within a broader context.” Shelf Awareness
“De Medici alone is a fascinating and complicated figure, and Strathern draws a finely shaded portrait of a man who was both connoisseur of the arts and mob boss. But in his final years, de Medici encountered his one serious threat to perpetuating his family's rule: 'the little friar' Girolamo Savonarola. For Strathern, the battle was between Renaissance humanism and medieval absolutism, as Strathern illustrates in the climactic scene.” The Dallas Morning News
“Grips the reader from the first page. It is an arresting and horrifying tale and Strathern tells it with immense skill and verve” The New Statesman