The Dominican monk Savonarola was executed on the Town Hall Square in Florence on 23 May 1498. He was hanged and burned, and his ashes were cast into the Arno River. He suffered martyrdom for the sake of his faith—as well as for his acts.
Savonarola was a relatively late source of inspiration for Kierkegaard; it can also appear a bit arbitrary how the Dane became aware of the Italian. But in the critical years (from 1851), when Kierkegaard was busy casting his role in the concluding attack on the church, the monk came along and stepped into the arena, becoming one of the marked models, which Kierkegaard uses to clarify his position—also as a poet.
For Kierkegaard, Savonarola is primarily a truth-witness, as well as a blood-witness, and for a witness it is essential that “faith, this restless thing, should be recognizable in his life.” The witness is the prototype of reduplication.
Savonarola became one of milestones, marking Kierkegaard’s swing away from the view that the inward (faith) is not visible in the outward (action). The new view is that the true Christians, in and with their lives, are witnesses and suffer for their faith—as, for example, Savonarola.
It is Savonarola (among others), whom Kierkegaard has in mind when he throws himself into the decisive attack on the church in an article in Fædrelandet, on 18 December 1854. Savonarola is generally included in the picture when there is talk of truth-witnesses and blood-witnesses, of prototypes and imitation—and of to die to. Savonarola’s voice is heard indirectly in several of the published works; he appears directly, mentioned by name, in the journals.
In my paper I will remark on how Kierkegaard reads and understands the works/figures which are relevant in the context of Savonarola—and in Kierkegaard’s “new position,” namely, the New Testament/Christ, Savonarola himself and finally Martin Luther. Here “she,” i.e. Regine Olsen, also plays a role and is a part of “the relation.”
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