Early Christian, Medieval Travel Journal-Day 8

The Duomo-Is the inside worth the price of admission?

So, I had a very funny blog post about ready to go, but the GSB editorial division reviewed it and would not let me post it. I don’t remember the specifics of their objections, but words like “insulting,” and “stereotyping” were used; I called it painting with a broad brush and insisted any kind of painting in Florence was encouraged, even the stereotyping kind. The editors were not convinced. So, I went back to the drawing board.

Because this is, after all, a travel blog, I think it appropriate from time-to-time, to offer advice to first-time travelers, such as this gem: If you don’t speak Italian, speaking English with an Italian accent will not help the locals unversed in the Queen’s English understand you. I mention this because I noticed a member of the GSB team trying this this morning. I thought if an experienced GSB traveler made this mistake, you might be tempted to the same error.

Today, the rest of the GSB team went on a wine tasting tour in the Tuscan countryside. Whatever. All I can tell you is they left, and they came back and said they had a good time. I, on the other hand, mined this town’s history for any nuggets of Kingdom history it would yield, and I did find some treasure.

First, I visited the Baptistry of St. John, an iconic landmark just a five minute walk from our hotel. Dante was baptized here, as were members of the Medici family. After that, I got in line to enter the Duomo a/k/a Florence Cathedral, the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (in English, “Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower”).

Forty-five minutes ahead of opening, the line was already 100 yards long and wrapped around the side of the church. An hour later, as I was finally nearing the entry, a tour guide directly behind me began singing Ave Maria. I think 100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall would have gone over better with her group.

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Early Christian, Medieval Travel Journal-Day 7

The spot where Savonarola was martyred for speaking Truth

Today was our Savonarola day. Girolamo Savonarola (1452 – 1498 A.D.) was a Dominican monk who preached Truth in Florence in the 2nd half of the 15th century. Savonarola did so in the face of opposition from the most powerful man in Florence, Lorenzo de Medici, who had coopted Florence’s freedom, murdered political opponents, and bribed the Catholic church. Moderns practically worship Lorenzo de Medici because he promoted and financed the arts during the Italian Renaissance, but his rightful place in history is more dubious.

When de Medici sent his friends to persuade Savonarola to stop preaching against his corrupt practices, they became Savonarola disciples. De Medici then tried to bribe Savonarola, which also failed. But when de Medici was on his death bed and needed the last rites, instead of calling any number of priests loyal to him, he called on the one man he knew would speak Truth: Savonarola. At de Medici’s bedside, Savonarola asked de Medici if he placed his faith in God for his salvation, and if he would return all the money he had obtained unlawfully from others. His answer to both questions was “Yes.”

Unlike other preachers at the time, Savonarola preached directly from the Bible, and the Word changed peoples’ hearts, drawing them to repentance. Luther and other Reformers considered Savonarola a proto Protestant because of his doctrine on salvation by grace through faith. Florence, for a time, was a changed city, culminating in the so-called Bonfire of the Vanities, when people voluntarily set out their pornography and the clothes and masks they used for the Florentine version of Mardi Gras, into a bonfire in the Piazza della Signoria.

Unfortunately, the change was short-lived, and after preaching against corruption in the Catholic church, being excommunicated, and Florence being threatened with interdiction by the Pope, a rival group incited a mob to descend on the San Marco Convent and take Savonarola and two other monks away to the Piazza della Signoria, where they were hung and burned. But while the change in Florence didn’t last, Savonarola’s influence on individuals did. For example, Michelangelo, who had heard Savonarola preach, is said to have carried a book of Savonarola’s sermons with him for the rest of his life.

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Is Jesus Coming or Going in Matthew 24?


In reading the Book of Daniel, I was reminded of a misconception I used to have about something Jesus told His disciples in the last days of His earthly ministry.

In Matthew 24 Jesus is warning His disciples about the catastrophic events that will happen in Israel within a generation (Matthew 24:34), which by Jewish reckoning was 40 years.

Jesus said that after the tribulation of those days the sign of the Son of Man will appear and “they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.” (Matthew 24:30). Jesus is talking about His coming to earth right? Actually, no.

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How the Church Prevailed Against the Gates Of Hades

The Gates of Hades, Caesarea Philippi, Israel

Jesus, Peter and the crew were in Caesarea Philippi, a city in the northern part of Israel, and Jesus decides to give the boys a pop quiz. Jesus asks them who they think He is. Peter answers correctly. Then Jesus says,“I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. Matthew 16:18.

Now we can leave for another day the 500 year old controversy about whether the rock on which Jesus says He will build His church is Peter or the revelation of who Jesus is; instead I want to focus on the second part of what Jesus said.

In February 2010, I was in Israel and visited Caesarea Philippi , where I was surprised to learn that there, in the first century at the opening of a cave was a pagan temple. The opening of the cave was referred to as “The Gates of Hades.”

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A Curious Common Denominator of Great Men

I read a lot of biographies. I’ve been particularly interested in the lives of Kingdom heroes who have changed to world, and as I’ve studied those lives, I have noticed that many of them have suffered a similar traumatic event before ultimately fulfilling God’s call on their lives, and that event is exile.

Moses was effectively exiled to Midian for forty years before the Lord spoke to him from the burning bush and sent him back to Egypt to be the leader and deliverer God called him to be.

David was exiled from Israel and the court of Saul into the desert where he spent years running from Saul until he returned to be king.

After his conversion on the road to Damascus, the Apostle Paul spent 14 years in the desert before returning to become the greatest church planter the world has ever known.

St. Patrick was exiled from England when slave traders kidnapped him and took him to Ireland , where he found God and his calling to be God’s missionary to Ireland.

John Wycliffe was exiled from Oxford, leading him to pastor the small church in Lutterworth, England for the last ten years of his life, where he would finally have time to translate the Bible from Latin into English.

Martin Luther was exiled by Frederich III to Wartburg Castle for about two years where he translated the Bible from Latin into German.

John Calvin had to flee his home in Paris for Switzerland during the Reformation to keep from being arrested, during which time he wrote the first edition of his Institutes of Christian Religion.

John Knox was captured by the French Catholics and held captive in a French Galley for 18 months as a slave and then ultimately fled to Geneva, where he was mentored by John Calvin before returning to become the great reformer of Scotland.

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