Early Christian, Medieval Travel Journal-Day 9

View of Florence from San Miniato al Monte

The GSB team has clearly splintered. As I planned my day for mining the Christian history from the city of Florence, the balance of the GSB team was preparing for hair appointments, shopping, and a late dinner at a fancy Florentine restaurant. Rather than asserting my leadership, casting vision, and calling them back to the divine purpose of our trip, like the father in the parable releasing the prodigal, I let them go.

For three days I had been on a quest for the tomb of Giovanni Pico Della Mirandola. Pico (a/k/a “Pico De Gallo” according to Ann) was a polymath, brilliant on the level of an Einstein. In 1486, at the age of 23, he proposed to defend 900 theses, some of which are now considered proto-Protestant, against all who rose to the challenge. The Pope declared 13 of the theses heretical. Pico heard Savonarola preach and persuaded Lorenzo de Medici to use his influence to bring Savonarola to Florence, which turned out great for Florence but bad for Medici, unless you credit his deathbed repentance.

Pico died at the age of 31 of poisoning, and it is now believed by some that the Medicis had him poisoned because he became close to Savonarola. Savonarola performed his funeral. Pico’s tomb is in the Church at San Marco, and after three attempts the two prior days (the church was closed both times), I finally got in to see the tomb today. In front of his tomb sits a bronze statute of Savonarola, protecting Pico in death as he had tried to do in life.

Pico’s tomb (top), guarded by Savonarola

On the way back from Pico’s tomb, I did meet Ann for a tour of the Palazzo Medici Riccardi, another palace of the Medecis. We arrived at 11:20, but the ticket attendant, who had just turned away another couple and then argued with a local she would not allow in, told us we had to make a reservation to get a ticket. She demanded we make a reservation for 11:25, go out and come back at 11:25 to buy tickets. Yes, you read it right, 11:25. When Ann and I got outside we looked at each other, and I said, “She’s a ticket Nazi.” Still we wanted in, so we complied and returned exactly 5 minutes later and we were permitted to buy tickets and enter. We saw what there was to see in 45 minutes, including a painting of Constantine’s vision at the Milvian Bridge, and were out.

I skipped lunch and walked along the Arno, across the Ponte Vecchi0, followed by a grueling climb up a steep winding road to San Minaoto al Monte. With my loaded backpack, I felt like Robert DeNiro in The Mission, lugging a bag of rocks up the cliff. It was a good thing others on the GSB team had not come because none of them would have made it. They would have complained, “Let’s just get a taxi,” “Can we call an Uber?” Fortunately, my uncommon, youthful vigor, enhanced by the awareness of my divine purpose, compelled me to the top, only to find . . . . the church was closed.

When the church finally opened an hour and fifteen minutes later, I found a beautiful interior and the relics of St. Miniato, the first Christian martyr of Florence. Miniato was was denounced as a Christian in 250 A.D. and brought before Emperor Decius. When he refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods, Decius subjected him to the typical, twisted Roman torments, which he survived. Decius then had him beheaded near the Piazza Della Signoria. The church is dedicated to him.

On the way back down, I stopped at the Michelangelo overlook, where there is another replica of Michelangelo’s David, but the view of Florence was not as good as the view from the church. No need to come here if you can successfully summit San Miniato al Monte.

The tomb of Michelangelo at the Basilica of San Croce

I then stumbled down the same hill I had climbed two hours earlier, walked across the bridge into Florence to the Basilica of San Croce, where Michelangelo & Machiavelli, both influenced by Savonarola are buried. Their tombs are toward the main entrance at the front of the church.

Inscription over door of Palazzo Vecchio: “King of Kings and Lord of Lords”

I finished the day back at the Piazza della Signoria, where I had an early dinner followed by a cappuccino and much contemplation. I looked across the plaza where Savonarola had been martyred, past Michelangelo’s David, to the sign over door to the Palazzo Vecchio with the monogram of Christ. It reads, “Kings of Kings and Lord of Lords.” GS

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