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Benedetto Luschino. Vulnera diligentis.

Ed. Stefano Dall'Aglio. (Savonarola e la Toscana, 17.) Florence: SISMI Edizioni del Galluzzo, 2002. cv + 422 pp. + 2 b/w pls. index, illus, bibl. 58 [euro]. ISBN: 88-8450-084-2.

Vulnera diligentis, a dialogue written by the Dominican friar Benedetto Luschino, is a rich contemporary source concerning Girolamo Savonarola and the persistence of the Savonarolan movement in Florence in the decades after his death. Surviving only in three contemporary manuscripts, the text was not discovered by scholarship until in the nineteenth century. Problems in dating the work, uncertainties about possible missing chapters, and questions concerning the author's career and character have meant that the dialogue has escaped the minute scrutiny to which most other major Savonarolan documents have been subjected. This is a shame, for as the reader of Dall' Aglio's excellent edition and lengthy introduction quickly realizes, Luschino's dialogue offers valuable information concerning Savonarola not available elsewhere. As Dall'Aglio rightly notes (xxix-xxx), it is not easy to think of another text from the Savonarolan movement that involves such a thorough blending of apologetics, biography, chronicle, and doctrinal exposition.

The title, Vulnera diligentis, is taken from Proverbs, 27:6, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful." The "wounds" of the tide are the harsh remedies necessitated by the corruption of the church and of Italy, the injustice done to God's prophet, Girolamo Savonarola, and the subsequent attempts by Savonarola's enemies to falsify the records concerning his case. The title was possibly of additional personal resonance for Luschino, who as a young monk at San Marco received from Savonarola several harsh rebukes for misconduct. (In this regard, it might be noted that Thomas Aquinas cites the same verse from Proverbs in his De divinis moribus.) Thus in several passages of this work Luschino appears still to be feeling these "wounds of a friend," while writing his work some twenty years after Savonarola's death.

On the basis of a more careful reading of the internal evidence, Dall'Aglio convincingly redates the composition of Vulnera diligentis from 1515 to the period 1518-20, with further revisions completed by 1523. The circumstances under which the work was written could not have been more unusual, for since 1509 Luschino was imprisoned in a small cell at San Marco under a life sentence as a confessed murderer. Whom Luschino killed, and what the motive was, are not known. That Luschino was an unusually physical sort of monk is clear from his role during the 1498 attack on San Marco when a Florentine crowd seized Savonarola. On that occasion Luschino donned armor, organized a barrage of tiles from the convent's roof, and was about to lead a counteroffensive when Savonarola persuaded him to put down his weapons. Although Luschino claimed that the murder, which he committed after 1498, was involuntary, he nonetheless acknowledged it, even to the point of calling himself "homicida" in several of his writings, including this one.

Through friends in San Marco, Fra Benedetto had access to a broad array of Savonarola's writings and also to other major piagnone texts, such Gaspare Contarini's Constglio of 1516 in defense of Savonarola. The text of Vulnera diligentis, as we now have it, consists of three books. There are internal references to a fourth and possibly a fifth book the author intended to write, but there is no evidence that these were ever completed or existed. The action of the dialogue (which even the author admits is somewhat artless) takes place in a vineyard where a peasant encounters four menacing men wearing the masks of animals: a bull, a fox, a serpent, and a dog. The animals speak against Savonarola, while the peasant argues vigorously on behalf of the Ferrarese describing in detail his life and actions, and arguing for the truth of his prophecies. Contarini ("Gaspar") and Savonarola himself ("11 Propheta") also make appearances. Throughout the dialogue Luschino asserts Savonarola's orthodoxy; Luther is a "great heresiarch" (257). This is a rich historical source that reveals the abiding qualities of the Savonarolan obsession.


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Author:Connell, William J.
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 22, 2003
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