The Disputations Preacher
Known by the name, Girolamo Savonarola, he was born in 1452 Italy, however, different sources give varied accounts of his native town, some say it is Ferrara while others say it is in Occhiobello, which is 7 km from Ferrara. A man whose life was controversial, dramatic as well as tragic. Savonarola left a mark as a man who cared nothing for dictatorial protocol and official pretense.
At Ferrara University, he took his undergraduate studies in Arts. He initially portrayed his feeling on morally corruption among the clergy, at the age of twenty, when he took them head on in his poem titled De Ruina Mundi (on the fall of the world). hich bespoke the destruction of the world. Hot on its heels came another poem in 1475 named, De Ruina Ecclesiae (on the downfall of the church). It is here that he portrayed his contempt of the Roman curia by defining it as ‘a false whore’. Savonarola went on to join the Dominican congregation in the year 1475, where he entered the San Domenico convent at Bologna. This coincided with the Italian Renaissance . Savonarola immersed himself in his studies with zeal, this saw him transfer to the Convent of Santa Maria Degli Angeli in 1479.
In 1482 he was deployed by the oder to what came later to be known as, the city of his destiny- Florence. People bemoaned his ungainly character and poor oratory skills. The impression he made of himself on the people of Florence was so dismal that, they never noticed his eventual departure in1487. This took him back to Bologna, where he went on to become the master of studies. Savonarola went on to preach on prophesies he had, such as the occupation of Florence by the French. He went on to become more, outspoken and took a hard stance that sometimes ended making him some kind of a misfit among the people.
He believed in the classification of issues and actions in only two categories: the good and the bad. Savonarola, was later to fall into bad books with the orders of the catholic church. This led to he excommunication by the pope ,who was later to authorize his arrest. All this was later followed his arrest, torture, prosecution and eventual execution,on grounds of heresy sedition and for proclaiming prophetic statements. His execution took place in 1498 where he was burnt at the stake alongside his two ardent disciples.
It is important to note that Savonarola remained defiant onto death. This is attested to by the fact that even though he wrote a confession, he followed it with a meditation, where he pleaded with God to forgive him for pleading to sins he did not commit. Different schools of thought view Savonarola differently, however all agree that Savonarola is one big disputation theme for all and sundry. Savonarola’s thinking later on came to be known as not only a way of thought but also a guiding light for both conservatism thinkers and reformists. cholars have look at the Savonarola way of thought, as a linchpin for serous revolutionary discourse as well as a reason for serous research and study into the history of disputation theory. Either way it is looked at, the Savonarola way of thought can serve any of the above purposes depending on the interest of the one examining it. (Polizzotto, 1995) describes how followers of Savonarola had influence that permeated every facet of Florentine life. This was during the important happenings that saw the transition of the city on from republic to principate.
In his words, their ideology and activities offer the key to demystifying both the political happenings of the latter years of the Florentine Republic, as well as the nature of contemporary political debate. It also gives an insight into the characteristics of the merging Medicean Principate. DISPUTATION This was a preaching method commonly utilized by the Dominicans. It employed a system of thesis, antithesis and synthesis. It was manly distinguishable from methods by its clashing of ideas. This was the academic background from which Savonarola emanated. (Hazel,n. d. p. -17) puts it ‘like his Dominican contemporaries, the young Savonarola was trained in the disputation method, and it has a marked influence on his style of preaching’. In examining the Rhetorical influences that surrounded Savonarola in his formative days, we can form a good idea of the facets of a good renaissance discourse. For Savonarola the summon was the most effective tool of bringing about moral reform. His tendency to rely on the summon for moral reform can be attributed to the fact that he was a Dominican. Dominicans have gone down in history as strong believes in rhetoric and disputation
Savonarola though came to believe in his oratory skill almost by pure accident He initially experimented with rhetoric, to very successful results much to his own consternation. (Hazel, n. d, p. 4-17) one incident confirmed his power to him. While traveling the seas on a boat, he noticed a bunch of soldiers gambling using dice and cards. He so furiously denounced this activity with such bitterness that they stooped the gambling, much to his own surprise. This vitriolic manner would be the benchmark of his future preaching. Savonarola derived most of his rhetoric effectiveness from the fact that he was perceived as a prophet by many.
He was more of what could today be regarded as a doom sayer. His passionate way of preaching eventually earned him very ardent supporters, who later came to play a very pivotal role in determining the success of his campaigns. Savonarola followers were compelled to develop a way by which to survive the turbulent times and be able to carry on their campaign of trying to fight what they believed to be moral decadence. SAVONAROLA AS AN EXAMPLE OF RESISTANCE TO ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE IN CONTEMPORARY ORGANIZATIONS. Savonarola came into the picture in the immediate post renaissance period. his was a time marked by reduced enforcement of the doctrines. It was a period of widespread immorality and more so, among the proletariat. The church orders were also not spared the widespread liberalism in the church at the time. The church was going through a period when it had relaxed its stand on the usage of disguises, jewelery and other such adornments. He got a huge following of a group that he called the weepers. This group went through the city, raiding houses for paintings, jewelry, mirrors, combs and all that they considered unbecoming of good followers of the religion.
The passion with which he defended his views was infectious and convincing enough to earn hims the attention of the masses. He further utilized his rhetoric to have people convinced that whatever he was speaking was bound to happen. since the first instance when he convinced the soldiers of the illegitimacy and the immorality of the act they were engaging in, he got convinced of the ability to sway peoples thoughts. The benchmark of the rhetoric of Savonarola is the ability to draw parallelism, between the acts people are engaged in, and prophecies or documentation, or practices of hither.
During his mission to return the people into the accepted practices, or the practices he viewed as acceptable, he had to use rhetoric effectively. Rhetoric served as such a powerful and effective too since as it is stated that it went a long way into attracting meaningful attention. Savonarola viewed the pope as a big failure in allowing the insurgence of renaissance. This was the foundation of his thinking that the pope, was a major hurdle in his efforts to marshal people, back to the accepted and traditionally practiced doctrines. Kreis, 2000) Savonarola viewed himself as an instrument of God, and and did not believe in anything deterring him– not even Lorenzo the Magnificent, could stand in his way. He envisioned the reconstruction Florence as a “respublica Christiana,” a Christian republic, a republic in where allegiance was to the true sovereign God and God alone. This resentment to the establishment was particularly informed by the fact that, Pope Alexander IV had two illegitimate children, which were an obvious testimony of his wayward behavior.
All the sane this was not the only informing idea behind Savonarola’s vehemence. The commitment of the Pope to renaissance gave him a curious mix of both the earthly and the religious. To the conservatism this was a clear and sure show of moral rot and if condoned was bound to bring doom to all and sundry. The biggest challenge that was facing the conservative was in trying to turn people around to their way of thinking, and to fuel sufficient phobia of doom in the people. This activity was also faced by another challenged in that, the church and the ruling powers of the society were so much intertwined.
Therefore for the conservatives to effectively combat the newly adapted and overwhelmingly accepted way of life, they had to wage a battle and sustain in long enough to sway a good following. Both the religious (Pope) and the social (Medici) authorities therefore fell in the bad books of the conservatives. The question of the most effective method of achieving this was then the only answer he had to seek out. Here rhetoric through preaching became the way out and as (Hazel,n. d p. 4-17) puts it Savonarola was opposed to both the Medici and the Pope.
He used his rhetoric though preaching to stir up resentment to both the Medici and the Pope. The two were a very then powerful ruling coalition. The question that is likely to arise is: how was this possible?. Savonarola painted such a grim picture of the impeding damnation and the inferno of hell. He used his rhetoric so effectively that he painted a picture, grim enough to sway even the staunchest of souls. However for the Medici he was to be viewed with suspicion as a man preaching the return to the morality of the medieval times that they were trying to move people from.
This unprecedented opposition of the ruling coalition earned him many supporters In contemporary organizations these days, rhetoric can be a very effective in resisting change. However there are some very basic requirements that must be met in remaining true to the Savonarola example. First and most important, the originators and the propagators of the rhetoric must be fully convinced of the philosophies that inform their rhetoric. This is attested top by the Savonarola example, in that, in as much as there was very stiff opposition to his stance in issues of morality and the tenets of religious beliefs, he stood his ground.
This is despite the fact, that he was fighting what could be correctly termed as, a David versus Goliath battle against the powerful ruling coalition, comprising of the Medici and the Pope. The perpetrators of modern day rhetoric who desire to attain any meaningful success in fighting changes in institutional structures also ought to stand their ground. They also ought to be fully aware of the exact parameters within which their arguments and their expectations lie. This is shown in Savonarola’s depiction of authority as put in the words of ( Hazel,n. Savonarola draws parallelism between the sinners of those days and the merchants who Jesus whipped while they were trading in the temple. In as much as the traders had permission from the Jewish leadership, Jesus on his side was heeding a higher decree from the father. Savonarola therefore advises his followers to act like Jesus and defy the regulations from the rulers since they do not augur well with the biblical teachings. The conviction with which you defend you arguments is perhaps defined by the manner in which Savonarola defended his.
Savonarola is known to have defended his stand all the way to grave, this is evident in the way he wrote down meditations to the effect that, he prayed to God for forgiveness. He sought forgiveness for confessing to sins he felt he wasn’t guilty of. The disputations of Savonarola are very vital in highlighting the effectiveness of rhetoric which is backed by conviction. The passion that is a key requirement especially in such contradictory situations plays a key role in the swaying of the peoples way of thinking.
Many are the times, when very passionate public, speakers who are actually trying to sell ideas, that could otherwise have been viewed as vague, have been accepted instead of their more informed yet less passionate counterparts. A good example of passionate public rhetorician is one catholic priest by the name of Charles Coughlin of the 1930. He spoke co passionately about the occurrences of the time on public radio that he gained a very wide public audience. This is not withstanding the fact that he was talking about the normal happenings.
It is however important to note that he used to approach these arguments with passion and controversy. The rhetoric however is always effective if ,and only if it is directed. This was a real highpoint of Savonarola. He directed the gall of his rhetoric towards the failing of the ruling elite and the church leadership. The modern times rhetorics especially those opposed to institutional changes normally make informed attacks of specific institutions, people, or activities in trying to give ground to their rhetoric.
This has been demonstrated in most cases in instances when the perpetrators of rhetoric have painted grim pictures of doom in the peoples minds, if the organizations do not remain the way they are. However this directed criticism has to be informed by facts that cannot be easily disputed. This was the case in the instance when the followers of Savonarola knew for a fact that the deeds they were fighting against were realities that could not be contested. The other key reason for any rhetoric to be effective is its being backed by action.
In any resistance to organizational changes. Actions can always play a key role in swaying people into thinking your way. This is actually a very vital display of conviction and commitment to the cause. In as much as power of rhetoric delivery is likely to earn one good following, resistance to institutional change is actually a major challenge. Savonarola backed his rhetoric with radical actions and these were both bold and rampant. The adherents of his rhetoric alongside him, attacked all that they thought represented the rot in the church.
They also attacked and burned all that was associated with the laxity that came with the renaissance, This was the hallmark and the culmination of his disputation rhetoric. Groups of youths that were drawing inspiration from him roamed the city in vigilante groups, they collected all that was associated with the demeaning change and burnt them at what later came to be called the fire of vanity. This eventually convinced the people that the disputationist had a case, they therefore swayed their stand and started following him in larger numbers.
However it is of importance to note that, any action taken in the efforts to resist the advent of change should be taken with a lot of moderation. This is due to the fact that the extreme tends to shock people into resting the efforts directed at resisting the change. This can be justified by the case of what eventually happened to Savonarola. The activities of people being held at ransom by marauding youths led to resentment amongst the people. This was also due to the fact that the people felt that they were denied the pleasures of the changing times.
The other failure was due to lack of moderation in public displays of allegiance to the French. Savonarola sided with the French in their occupation of the city of Florence, this landed him inn bad books with the populace. It is therefore of essence that in passion in resisting organizational change ought to be metered and moderated. In modern times leaders who try to resist change using rhetoric should be guided by the principle of moderation and public acceptability of pronouncements and deeds. This can enhance a steady yet acceptable and successful resistance.
The people following Savonarola also required to have regulations, this was however a major failing of the Friar which eventually was instrumental in occasioning his downfall. THE DISPUTATION PREACHER AS A CATALYST FOR ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE. Savonarola has widely been depicted as big resistance and a conservatist. He was known for resisting the changes that the proletariat were introducing into the thinking of the people and the church. Much as all this is true, he can as well be observed as a person who played a pivotal role in awakening peoples thinking and perception of hierarchy and stipulations.
Savonarola came into the picture during a time when the Pope and the Medici had such a cordial and strong relationship. It was during the time when a decree from the pope was treated as law. Great lessons on effective change can be learnt from the preacher. First he openly opposed the moral rot in the religious orders at that time. The eventual reformation that took place in the orders of the church, that eventually led to the protestant movement, were not a mere accident. We can not also, exclusively say that they, emanated from the Ninety five theses that were authored Martin Luther.
They started all the way with the public denunciation of the proletariat by Savonarola. It ought not to escape our attention that such deeds as these call for guts and conviction. Therefore Savonarola was key in starting the reformists thinking that saw major changes in the church. Similarly the contemporary leaders of the day could borrow a leaf from the stance of Savonarola and stand their ground in the face of such daunting tasks. This can point people in the right direction if the strong and vitriolic rhetoric is to be used effectively. If such tactics are used then much can possibly be accomplished. his will all be a catalytic role since just like Savonarola accomplices will be essential for the wider goal to be achieved. The use of rhetoric to instigate social change also ought to be well informed and guided by the need for general good of the involved society. It is in this respect that Savonarola was able to obtain a good following. In the first instance, he painted a very grim picture of the realities facing the people. Painted a very dull picture of what awaited the people in in future. With this clearly understood, he prodded people into following him into a revolution that was to same people from the inevitable eternal damnation.
People followed his advice since they felt that by so doing they could evade the oncoming apocalypse. It is in this light that, the contemporary leaders in the current day organizations, ought to inform people of the doom awaiting them in the future if the present is not well dispensed with. They need to match the rhetoric so stated with words leads the people to revitalize and energize their need to do good. The driving force behind this need to do good is the underlying fact that the good is like a boomerang. The thinking and speech of Savonarola was clearly against the grain and the activities of the time.
He brought to the fore the failings of a papacy which very many revered till then. True to form, the contemporary leaders of these days are supposed to give room for fresh, radical and new ways of thought. This can be a vital way of energizing peoples thoughts. not all that is radical or new is bad. this was clearly shown in Savonarola’s time. In as much as Savonarola fell into bad books and was eventually hanged, he was right in several claims. For example he argued that the Vatican had turned into a den of prostitution, this was right due to the fact that the pope was outright promiscuous.
Therefore people ought to be allowed free reign of thought and encouraged into offering new ideas. Rhetoric is good tool of encouraging and enhancing involvement of the masses into peoples activity. This is shown in how effectively Savonarola was able to cajole the people of Florence into feeling a s part of his vision. (Hazel, n. d) he reverts to his analogy of Christ driving money changers out of the temple with ropes. He sees his tongue as the major ropes and then asks people to be the other smaller ropes with which to drive out the church officials. In this way he manges to fit the people into the picture. hey now feel like they are part of the battle against the moral rot. They therefore are given the feeling that they have a role to play in driving the agenda forward. The contemporary organization leaders these days ought to adopt the same attitude, if their rhetoric is going to be effective. There is need to orient people into feeling that they belong to the wider picture. The ability to integrate the people in the people into the picture helps in creating a progressive force . The ability to have people working in tandem for a common goal as well helps in increasing the peoples resolve to do things together and do them well.
The protests that Savonarola mounted were three pronged, they addressed the three major issues of the society. He addressed the love for splendor and money, hence the economy. He addressed the prophetic revelations he had, hence religion. Finally he addressed the failure of the Medici hence he addressed the political administration. Therefore for any modern rhetoric to be effective, if Savonarola is to be used as a benchmark, the modern leaders ought to address and effectively so, the above three major issues.
The effective handling of these three makes a wholesome and effective approach in any Rhetoric. CONCLUSION Modern users of rhetoric ought to put in mind and effectively integrate the Savonarola approach. this is a sure way of ensuring efficiency. little has been said about the good that was raised by the rhetoric of Savonarola, however a lot can be learnt from his approach. His approach was very much in line with the accepted and very much utilized approaches to rhetoric. In modern times the approach to the rhetoric always uses the same reasoning as the guiding light.
Effective address of the issues at hand ought to be a key consideration in the delivery of rhetoric. Zeal and passion are also key in the delivery. The interplay between such delivery and well planned out actions increases the effectiveness. Disputation also serves as a good way of engaging the thinking of all and sundry. Disputation though tends to be more of and elitist approach which can be a major impediment to the engagement of masses in a discourse. However it is more effective since it is more mind engaging and provokes more insightful thinking.
Many a times different people have used rhetoric effectively. This has always produced wide mass following and public acclaim. The key lies in following Savonarola’s example, and like he did, appealing to the emotions. Rhetoric and disputation world over have been very effective in instigating radical changes to any systems that are publicly accepted and acclaimed. For one to effectively utilize the same, it is essential to familiarize with the users of yesteryears and know how effectively they did so. To say that Savonarola was simply effectively with his rhetoric would be an understatement.