The Da Vinci disciples grow and are even beginning to welcome new, younger members, just as full of talent and passion for painting Renaissance works of art beloved by all, even those who disapprove of women painting. However, their unity and vision for the future is now about to come under virulent attack.
Civil wars after the passing of the Medici family have calmed down. However, in reaction to the celebrations of life through art, jewelry, real estate, architecture, dress, etc., the pendulum is now about to swing full circle to the fanatic zeal of religious reform! Friar Girolamo Savonarola begins his service to God by becoming a fine preacher who knows how to touch the minds, hearts and spirits of all Catholics and even some out of that fold! But with the heady success of his popularity comes an inflated ego that turns into delusion and heresy that makes him believe he is the actual voice of God! The author’s depiction of this fiery preacher and would-be savior is amazing and probably never given so much attention and understanding!
Once kindled, Savonarola’s flames consume all of Florence, at first metaphorically. The citizens are divided into those who take the monk’s words literally and those who hold him highly suspect, the Piagnoni and the Arrabbiati respectively. Fiammetta Maffei becomes part of the Piagnoni, believing that all jewelry, furs, and anything of riches be surrendered so that these goods may be sold for the benefit of the poor. A group of soldiers, composed mainly of hotheaded youth, pound on doors and demand the surrender of all riches. Failure to respond results in terrible beatings and even murder!
When the order comes for all paintings be surrendered as well, the Disciples face a formidable challenge. The remainder of the novel deals with how they respond and how this scourge on Florence results in a final challenge from both the Pope and the residents of Florence.
The Flames of Florence… is the grand finale of his wonderful series and fully merits that description. The thoughts, jealousies, passionate love for art, self-examination, and determination to save what is precious and just as holy as prayers and offerings are revealed. Ugliness and beauty are juxtaposed as each Disciple is called to choose what is divine and what is human wisdom gone totally awry!
Magnificent finale, Donna Russo Morin! Congratulations on this highly recommended work of Renaissance historical fiction!