From Miles Unger’s Magnifico (not, I suspect, the most rigorous of biographies, but a damn entertaining read):
“There was, in fact, a conscious strategy on the part of Medici partisans to place before the public an image of a man whose unique status was justified by his native genius. In Medici propaganda he was the paragon of the virtuous citizen. If he could not be king he could at least be il Magnifico, a man who used his immense wealth for the greater good and who embodied all the virtues and talents of the ideal gentleman. It was a point picked up by Savonarola, the Dominican monk who in later years became the Medici’s most relentless opponent. Savonarola certainly had Lorenzo (among others) in mind when he wrote, ‘[T]he tyrant needs to show himself superior in everything … in small things, as in sport, in conversation, in jousting, in horse racing, in doctrine and in all other things …. he seeks to be first; and whenever he is not able through his own powers he seeks to through fraud and trickery.’” (p. 81)
“Lorenzo was inclined to tolerate Savonarola’s excesses, and even to express a certain sympathy with his goals if not his means. These benign feelings, however, were not shared by the monk, who was becoming with each passing day more intemperate and more certain of his own infallibility. When Lorenzo stopped by the monastery, Savonarola made it a point to be away from his cell, and when he was named prior of San Marco he did not conceal his scorn for the man whose family had patronized the institution for generations, failing to pay the customary visit of respect to Lorenzo’s palace. ‘Here is a stranger come into my house who will not even deign to visit me,’ Lorenzo remarked, more in sadness than in anger.
“Despite repeated snubs, Lorenzo tried hard to placate the monk, even inviting him to preach in the chapel of his own palace. If Lorenzo hoped that his courtesy would take the sting out of Savonarola he was mistaken. The sermon he preached in Lorenzo’s house was, if anything, more insulting to the lord of the city than usual. Surrounded by Gozzoli’s opulent frescoes, which embodied everything he loathed, Savonarola delivered a message as notable for its courage as for its tactlessness. ‘I know a city,’ he rumbled, ‘where they tyrants are incorrigible. They do not walk in light, but in darkness. They are haughty and vain. They listen to flattery. They do not restore their ill-gotten gain to those whom they have despoiled. Arbitrarily they impose heavier taxes on the population…. They exploit the peasantry…. They buy up votes and are guilty of dishonesty when they debase the coin of the realm.’” (p. 427)