Ficino, Pico and Savonarola

The Evolution of Humanist Theology 1461/2-1498


This book presents a study of humanism, theology, and politics in Florence during the last decades of the fifteenth century. It considers the relations between humanists and theologians and between humanism and religion. Modern scholarship on humanism has not taken sufficient account of the deep interest shown by Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499) and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494) in theology and religion. This book presents a detailed and innovative account of Ficino’s De Christiana religione (1474) and of Pico’s Apologia (1487), in the context of explaining the evolution of a humanist theology. The book ends with a consideration of the stormy events of the 1490s, when Girolamo Savonarola (1452-1498) became a leading spiritual and political figure in Florentine public life.
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Biographical Note

Amos Edelheit, Ph.D. (2007) in History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas, Tel-Aviv University, is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the De Wulf-Mansion Centre, Catholic University of Louvain.

Table of contents


Chapter One: Giovanni Caroli – The Conduit of the Sense of Spiritual and Political Crisis in Florence.
1. Introduction. Giovanni Caroli and his Times.
2. Liber dierum lucensium: prooemium and Book One.
3. Liber dierum lucensium Book Two.
4. Liber dierum lucensium Book Three.

Chapter Two: Humanist Theology in Practice. The Historical Context
1. Declamationum liber:
a. The Turkish Danger and its Religious Connotations
b. Classical, Biblical, and Patristic Allusions. The Disappearance of the Doctors
c. The Attitude to Rhetoric
2. Ficino’s Praedicationes.
3. Poliziano’s Sermons.
4. Rinuccini’s Sermons.
5. Nesi’s Sermons.
6. Other Sermons.

Chapter Three: Marsilio Ficino and the Conditio Religionis: Quandiu duram et miserabilem hanc ferrei seculi sortem sustinebimus?
1. Some General Introductory Remarks.
2. De Christiana religione: The “Manifesto” of the New Humanist Theology:
a. Prisca religio and its Divine Inspiration. Religion As the Characteristic of Man
b. Praeparatio Evangelica
c. The Incarnation As An Intervention of the Eternal in the Temporal
d. The Teachings of Christ
e. The Apostles and the Propagation of Christianity
f. The Decline of the Christian World and Ficino’s Proposals for Renewal

Chapter Four: Giovanni Pico della Mirandola and His Theological Method: Between opinio and fides.
1. The Theological Crisis.
2. Quia errare in opinione Thomae, non est errare in fide – The Dispute in Rome 1486, and the Apologia.
3. Pico’s Attitude to Philosophy: Between Academic Skepticism and Religious Certainty.

Chapter Five: The Savonarola Affair – The Government of God As Republican Practice.
1. The Savonarola Affair: A Case-Study in the History and in the Historiography of the Renaissance.
2. Savonarola: An Anti-Humanist or A Pro-Humanist?
3. Savonarola and Politics
4. The Notion of Reform: The Transition From Theology to Politics
5. Spiritual and Political Vision: The Preaching Prophet and his Slogan



All those interested in the intellectual history of the Italian Renaissance; the history of Florence in the fifteenth century; history, philosophy, and theology between the late Middle-Ages and the Early Modern period.


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