In Three Fires, award-winning author Denise Mina re-imagines the ‘Bonfire of the Vanities’, a series of fires lit throughout Florence at the end of the fifteenth century – inspired by the fanatical Girolamo Savonarola.
Girolamo Savonarola was a Dominican friar living in Florence at the tail end of the fifteenth century. An anti-corruption campaigner his hellfire preaching increasingly spilled over into tirades against all luxuries that tempted people towards sin. These sermons led to the infamous ‘Bonfire of the Vanities’ – a series of fires lit throughout Florence for the incineration of everything from books, extravagant clothing, playing cards, musical instruments, make-up and mirrors, to paintings, tapestries and sculptures.
Railing against the vice and avarice of the ruling Medici family, he was instrumental in their removal from power, and for a time became the puritanical leader of the city. After turning his attention to corruption in the entire Catholic Church, he was first excommunicated and then executed by a combination of hanging and being burnt at the stake.
Denise Mina brings a modern take to this fascinating historical story – drawing parallels between the febrile atmosphere of medieval Florence and the culture wars of the present day. In dramatising the life and last days of Savonarola she explores the downfall of the original architect of cancel culture and in the process explores the neverending tensions between wealth, inequality, and freedom of speech that so dominate our modern world.