I’d like to thank EP Books for giving me a copy of Girolamo Savonarola by Douglas Bonds and Douglas McComas in return for my honest review.
Have you ever wondered where the phrase “bonfire of the vanities” comes from? It originates in the life of Girolamo Savonarola (1452-1498), a medieval Dominican monk who called for reformation and renewal in the Church. The bonfires he started involved the burning of objects of temptation, including items of witchcraft and immodest living. Even the artist Sandro Botticelli committed some of his provocative pagan pieces to the flames.
Girolamo Savonarola preached ardently against the decadence and abuse of the Medici family in Florence, and the sinful nature of his congregants. Really, he was a tool used by God for revival and a call back to the truths of Scripture. His visions were suspect (and not all his prophecies have proved true, though some have), and some of his reforms veered toward moralism, however, the monk certainly saw the need for Christ in a city of sin. The authors make a good case for Savonarola’s growing understanding and teachings of God’s grace and mercy at a time when all were taught salvation was by works.
Savonarola was martyred by the Catholic Church shortly after the birth of Giovanni di Lorenzo de’ Medici, who would later become the infamous Pope Leo X. Leo X’s reign occurred during the time of the Reformer Martin Luther’s posting of the Ninety-Five Theses, and he later excommunicated Luther. Luther traveled through Florence a little less than a decade and a half after Savonarola’s death, and the scene in which Martin learns of the fiery preacher is one of my favorite in my book When Lightning Struck!: The Story of Martin Luther (Fortress Press, November 2015).
Girolamo Savonarola (EP Books, 2014) is a wonderfully engaging read by Douglas Bond and Douglas McComas. The biography is perfect for middle school and high school, and it covers a figure not often written about. If you plan to study the Reformation with your students, I highly recommend including Savonarola. His life really helps put the need for the Reformation into perspective.
Bond and McComas do a wonderful job of both interpreting the events of his life, and presenting his story in an engaging manner. I’ve made everyone in my house listen to this short passage about King Charles VIII of France, which I think is brilliantly funny (in an ironic way), so I’m going to share it with you as well (pages 74-75):
After ransacking his heritage for any scrap of Italian connection, Charles had generously concluded that through connections on his father’s mother’s side, most of southern Italy really ought to be his. Elated at his good fortune, the nineteen-year-old king brokered alliances with former enemies, England and Austria, and commenced building his army.
Really, these gentlemen can write, and the whole book was a delight to read.
Douglas Bond is the author of more than 20 (amazing) books, a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church of America, an English and history teacher at Covenant High School, a lecturer on literature and church history, a husband, and father to six. He also leads yearly Church history tours through Europe that look amazing.
Douglas McComas is a Nuclear Engineer for the US Navy, with a BS in Mechanical Engineering, a student of history, and a husband and father of four.
Girolamo Savonarola would coordinate well with studies involving
- The Early Reformation
- The 15th Century
- Martin Luther
- Salvation through Faith and Grace
- Sanctification / Living Holy Lives
You can find Girolamo Savonarolaat
Bitesize Biographies from EP Books
Additional Bitesize Biographies reviewed at Thinking Kids:
Other books for older students reviewed on Thinking Kids:
- God’s Story: A Student’s Guide to Church History by Brian Cosby
- Water the Earth: A Student’s Guide to Missions by Aaron Little
- Rebels Rescued: A Student’s Guide to Reformed Theology by Brian Cosby
- Bitesize Theology: An ABC of Christian Faith by Peter Jeffrey
- Questions God Asks by Israel Wayne
- Grace Works! (And Ways We Think It Doesn’t) by Douglas Bond
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- Christian Books for Preschoolers
- Christian Books for 4-7 Year Olds
- Christian Books for the Middle Grades
- Christian Books for Middle School
- Christian Books for High School
- Christian Books for Kids’ Devotions
- Christian Books about Parenting
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