Writer in Residence Extra – Bonfire of the Vanities by Paul Andruss

Writer in Residence Paul Andruss is contributing posts for the blog every three weeks. I know that many of you look forward to those, so Paul has sent me a number of posts that he first published on his own blog to be posted between his contributions.

I watched the series of The Borgias and I must say that the expression ‘holier than thou’ does not apply. Of course it was a dramatisation and therefore carried the usual licence to elaborate but as Paul points out in his post they probably drew the line at some of the shenanigans..

I am sure you will enjoy and if you have any questions I am sure Paul would be delighted to answer them.

Bonfire of the Vanities by Paul Andruss

Bonfire of the Vanities (Andruss)

In 1494 a Dominican friar called Savonarola preached against the Vatican. He did not mince his words.

‘They preach chastity but keep mistresses; poverty and think only of worldly riches. They have made the church a prostitute whose poisoned breath rises to the heavens.’

He caught the public’s imagination by demanding the city of Florence become a ‘Religious and Christian Republic’. In a fit of excessive zeal the populace held bonfires of the vanities, burning anything that smacked of pleasure: mirrors, cosmetics, clothes, books, gaming tables, musical instruments and even painting by Michaelangelo and Botticelli.

According to Savonarola, the root of all evil lay with Pope Alexander IV, otherwise known as Rodrigo Borgia. Even today, the Borgia name is remembered as a by-word for treachery and depravity.

Yet Rodrigo was not such a bad pope. He had a slight issue with the 10 commandments – mainly the excessive use of the word ‘not’.

But he was an able administrator and unlike many of his predecessors absolutely never ever murdered anyone unless they stood in his way. Despite being a cardinal since the age of 25, Rodrigo had 4 children to his beautiful mistress. Two are notorious.

Lucrezia, allegedly a poisoner, was believed to have committed incest with her father and brothers. This is unfair. There is no evidence, only scandal. Married at 13, she was divorced on the grounds of non-consummation (despite being pregnant) when her husband outlived his usefulness and churlishly refused to be murdered. Then her brother Cesare killed her beloved 2nd husband. Lucrezia is often seen as her father’s pawn. Regardless, she was no bimbo. He twice left her in charge of the Papal Palace during absences.

If Lucrezia’s reputation is undeserved, Cesare’s doesn’t do him justice. His ruthlessness inspired Machiavelli to write ‘The Prince’ – the essential how to manual for the medieval noble on the make. At 22, he murdered his brother. It was never proved because his father prevented an investigation. Then it was his brother- in-law and eventually everyone else standing in the way.

Cesare also liked the girls. The family orgies would make any decent Christian blush. Fortunately there were not many decent Christians in the Vatican at this time so we know quite a lot about them. Cesare died at 31. Towards the end he wore a mask, due to being hideously disfigured by syphilis.

As for Savonarola, Rodrigo was far too laid back to give a toss about the ravings of some mad monk. But it was inevitable even his patience would eventually wear thin. In 1497 he excommunicated Savonarola, and when the monk ignored him demanded his arrest.

By this time the novelty of repentance had worn off with the Florentians. For once they not only obeyed the pope but took it one step further by burning the turbulent friar at the stake. I wonder if Savonarola appreciated the irony of his grisly end. Surely he knew the greatest vanity of all is pride.

©Paul Andruss

My thanks to Paul for another wonderfully constructed post that makes us view those in the past in a different light.

About Paul Andruss

If I were a musician I would be Kate Bush or the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson; but without the mental issues or dependency on prescription drugs. For Brian not Kate! I can talk about anything except myself, so let’s talk about my work.

Finn Mac Cool

I’ve written 4 novels, Finn Mac Cool, and the (Harry-Potteresque) Jack Hughes Trilogy. ‘Finn Mac Cool’ and ‘Thomas the Rhymer’ are available for free download. Hint! Hint!

Thomas the Rhymer Paul Andruss

About Thomas the Rhymer.

11 year old British schoolboy, Jack Hughes, sees a fairy queen kidnap his brother. With friends Catherine & Ken, Jack embarks on a whirlwind adventure to return Thomas the Rhymer to fairyland & rescue his brother

What’s been said about … Thomas the Rhymer

‘Fans of Harry Potter & Narnia will love Thomas the Rhymer’

‘Thomas the Rhymer leaves you feeling like a child curled up in a comfy armchair on a wet & windy afternoon, lost in a good book’

‘Spellbinding! An ideal Christmas read for young & old alike!’

Download Free from Paul’s website: http://www.jackhughesbooks.com/

Connect to Paul

Blog: http://www.paul-andruss.com/
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/paul.andruss.9
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Paul_JHBooks
Google+  https://plus.google.com/s/+jackhughesbooks

Please find the previous posts from Paul in this directory.. you won’t be disappointed.



38 thoughts on “Writer in Residence Extra – Bonfire of the Vanities by Paul Andruss

  1. Great little piece about the Borgias, Paul. I doubt Savonarola appreciated or even recognized the irony of his grizzly end. I doubt anyone else did either. It seems they all lacked insight and were driven by hormones. If I had a past life in that era, I’m grateful I don’t remember it! 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Pingback: Writer in Residence Extra – Bonfire of the Vanities by Paul Andruss | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

    • I have a confession to make Mary, I nicked it from the Peter Cooke and Dudley Moore film Dedazzled. Peter Cooke is the Devil battling God for Moore’s soul. Cooke says he agrees with God on the 10 commandments except for a few minor points… like the word not!
      The best joke in the film is when Moore asks the Devil why he rebelled. Cooke magics himself on top of a postbox and tells Moore to worship him…. say how beautiful he is, how great etc.
      After a minute or two Moore’s stops and says “Hang on when’s it my turn?”
      To which the Devil replies… ‘Now you know how I felt!’

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Fantastic post Paul. I do enjoy your spin on stories. I remember watching The Borgias as a TV miniseries starring Jeremy Irons as the pope. I know TV exaggerates such stories, but I couldn’t believe that even exaggerated as it was, the corrupted Borgia family was a true story. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Pingback: Smorgasbord Round Up – Bruce Springsteen, The Borgias, Illustrations and New Review series | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

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