“The Dante Code”

“Renaissance art fans will note that this sketch evokes Botticelli’s famous 1495 portrait of Dante Alighieri, the medieval author of the Divine Comedy. In this cornerstone of Italian literature, Dante describes his mythical journey through hell, purgatory, and paradise, guided first by the shade of the Roman poet Virgil and later by the ghost of Beatrice Portinari, the girl Dante loved in childhood but never married. Among other things, the Divine Comedy is an allegory of Christian suffering and redemption, a romantic love story, a veiled account of Dante’s political exile from his beloved Florence, and a cultural manifesto that established the Italian language as a legitimate literary alternative to Latin. There are no obvious references to Iceland in the Divine Comedy, an epic poem of more than 14,000 lines whose original manuscript has never been found, or in any of Dante’s other works. Nowhere in the various accounts of Dante’s life is it mentioned that he ever visited Iceland. So why are we here?

We’re here because Gianazza has spent the past decade trying to prove his theory that the Divine Comedy is not a mythical story about the afterlife but rather a factual, albeit coded, account of a secret journey to Iceland Dante made in the early 1300s. Why would Dante shlep all the way from exile in sunny Ravenna to a cold, foggy island populated by Scandinavian farmers and their livestock, and not tell anyone? Gianazza believes that Dante was following in the footsteps of medieval Christian warriors called the Knights Templar. He hypothesizes that these knights had visited Iceland a century earlier carrying a secret trove that they concealed in an underground chamber in the Jökulfall Gorge.

The Templars picked Iceland for their hiding place, Gianazza believes, because it was one of the most distant and obscure places known to medieval Europeans, who sometimes identified it with the frozen, semimythical Ultima Thule of classical geography. The Templars calculated the exact coordinates of the chamber and identified landmarks to orient future visitors. Years later Dante acquired the secret knowledge, made a pilgrimage to the site, and then coded the directions into his great epic so that future generations might follow in his footsteps. Like Dante before him, Gianazza is searching for what some might call the Holy Grail, a term that he avoids. Having cracked Dante’s code, he expects to find early Christian texts and perhaps even the lost original manuscript of the Divine Comedy, all sealed in lead to guard them from the damp Icelandic weather. Gianazza launched his quest several years before Dan Brown published The Da Vinci Code, but in some ways he’s a more cautious, real-life version of symbologist Robert Langdon, the hero of Brown’s best-selling thriller.”    –Richard McGill Murphy, Town & Country, January 18, 2013

Patrizia Tamà, La Quarta Cantica (2010)

Patrizia Tamà’s La Quarta Cantica (Mondadori, 2010), the first of a trilogy featuring a protagonist named Beatrice Maureeno, is a historical crime thriller with a Dantesque premise: it pivots on the existence of a previously undiscovered, mysterious fourth canticle.

“Una giovane donna si aggira in stato confusionale per la stazione di Firenze. Non ricorda più nulla: chi è, come si chiama, perché è lì. Eppure non è una vagabonda qualsiasi. Lo intuisce il misterioso clochard che la soccorre. E se ne rendono subito conto i medici dell’Ospedale di Santa Maria Nuova, dove viene ricoverata. Grazie alle cure di un medico che pareva aspettarla come un dono, comincerà presto a dissolversi la nebbia che le riempie la mente e lei vedrà a poco a poco riemergere se stessa, l’identità che credeva perduta. Scoprirà così di essere una studiosa di materie dantesche, inglese ma di origini italiane, giunta a Firenze sulle tracce di un segreto antico, che da settecento anni scorre nell’ombra come un fiume sotterraneo. Ricorderà di chiamarsi Beatrice. Ma le sue sono ricerche pericolose, conducono in Germania, in Turchia, e possono costare la vita, perché non è la sola a dare la caccia a una verità dirompente. [. . .] Davvero il Sommo Dante concepì una Quarta Cantica? E di che cosa si tratta? Davvero la occultò perché fosse consegnata ai posteri in un’epoca finalmente pronta alle sue rivelazioni?” — Google Books

For more, see the review on the blog Il sussurro delle Muse.

Le interviste impossibili: Umberto Eco incontra Beatrice

“Qui puoi ascoltare ‘l’intervista impossibile’ che Umberto Eco realizzò con Beatrice, la ‘donna di Dante.’

[. . .]

In questo dialogo, il filosofo italiano è il primo a offrire a Beatrice la possibilità di esprimere le proprie opinioni e i propri sentimenti. La vostra immagine di Dante Alighieri ne uscirà certamente alterata.

Beatrice discute con Eco in un ottimo italiano, ma utilizza spesso (siamo infatti, almeno dal suo punto di vista, nella Firenze del XIII secolo) espressioni e forme che non appartengono all’italiano standard di oggi.”    –Italiana Lingua e Cultura, YouTube, June 29, 2016

“The 34 Greatest Poets of All Time”

Dante Alighieri

Birthplace: Florence, Italy

Famous poem: Divine Comedy

Famous quote: ‘Consider your origin; you were not born to live like brutes, but to follow virtue and knowledge.’

[. . .]

Poetry — one of the most important and time-honored forms of literature in the world — brought us greats like William Shakespeare and W.B. Yeats to ancient poets like Homer and Dante Alighieri to American treasures like Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson.”    –Mo Elinzano, Deseret News, March 20, 2015

In the Footsteps of Dante 2018

“Dr. Alvis has led us with the right blend of overview patterns and delicious historical tidbits as he weaves the narrative of Dante’s Renaissance world through its fragmented political entities, community structures, waves of republican and tyrannical governments, along with the artists and architects that illuminate the countless points of light on this complex palate. At the center of all is the narrative of Dante himself, and both the secular and religious references and implications of his works.”    –Montrose School, In the Footsteps of Dante 2018, June 22, 2018

Dante and Beatrice in Florence

Florence, Italy

Contributed by Darren Fishell, Bowdoin ’09

Dante’s Florence on the Apple App Store

 

 

 

“Did you know that you can still find a famous rock, called Dante’s Stone, where nineteenth-century travelers, including Mark Twain and Wordsworth, once paid homage to the great poet? Have you seen the oldest fresco of Dante? It’s in a restaurant, but they’ll let you in to see it even if you don’t eat there.

 

[. . .]

 

“The user interface has been streamlined to be intuitive and responsive. You can select any of its approximately one hundred points of interest either from the menus or the two interactive maps. Each document was written by professional medievalists who put what you’re seeing into historical context. The fruit of our archival research and years of study is presented in a witty and fun style that teaches while it entertains.”    –Quod Manet, LLC, Apple App Store, 2018

 

“After 700 years, Dante could finally be on his way home to Florence”

“Seven centuries after the poet Dante was exiled from Florence, the Tuscan city wants him back – or at least what remains of him.

“The author of The Divine Comedy was banished from Florence for political reasons and eventually died in Ravenna on the Adriatic coast, where his remains are kept in a huge white tomb.

“Now Florence is probing the possibility of bringing him back ‘home’ for the 700th anniversary of his death, to be commemorated in 2021.

“Reclaiming the remains of the poet is potentially big business – around 400,000 people visit his tomb in Ravenna each year. [. . .]

“His remains are held in a tomb next to the Basilica of St Francis and Florence supplies the oil for the lamp that illuminates his resting place, in a perpetual act of penance for having banished him.

“Florence would like to have Dante back, for a limited period rather than permanently, in time for the 2021 commemorations of his death.

“But keenly aware of the intense regional rivalries and jealousy that still exist between Italy’s former city states, it is proceeding diplomatically.” [. . .]  — Nick Squires, The Telegraph, July 31, 2019.

Contributed by Cathy Robison, Clemson University

Dante’s Last Laugh

“Dante Alighieri will forever be associated with Florence, city of his birth and the dialect he helped elevate such that it would one day become the basis of Italy’s national language. Yet when Dante died nearly 700 years ago this week, Florence isn’t where he ended up.

“The story of how Dante’s remains came to be in Ravenna isn’t that complicated. It’s how they came to stay there that gets strange.

“When the poet died, sometime between September 13-14th, 1321, he hadn’t seen Florence for some 20 years. Exiled for life after finding himself on the losing side of a war for control of the city, Dante spent the next several years roaming, defiantly refusing conditional offers to return home on terms he saw as unjust.” [. . .]   — Jessica Phelan, The Local, September 14, 2018

Mapping Dante’s Inferno, One Circle of Hell at a Time

“I found myself, in truth, on the brink of the valley of the sad abyss that gathers the thunder of an infinite howling. It was so dark, and deep, and clouded, that I could see nothing by staring into its depths.”

“This is the vision that greets the author and narrator upon entry the first circle of Hell—Limbo, home to honorable pagans—in Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, the first part of his 14th-century epic poem, Divine Comedy. Before Dante and his guide, the classical poet Virgil, encounter Purgatorio and Paradiso, they must first journey through a multilayered hellscape of sinners—from the lustful and gluttonous of the early circles to the heretics and traitors that dwell below. This first leg of their journey culminates, at Earth’s very core, with Satan, encased in ice up to his waist, eternally gnawing on Judas, Brutus, and Cassius (traitors to God) in his three mouths. In addition to being among the greatest Italian literary works, Divine Comedy also heralded a craze for “infernal cartography,” or mapping the Hell that Dante had created.

“This desire to chart the landscape of Hell began with Antonio Manetti, a 15th-century Florentine (like Dante himself) architect and mathematician. He diligently worked on the “site, form and measurements” of Hell, assessing, for example, the width of Limbo—87.5 miles across, he calculated. There are several theories for why it was so important then to delineate Dante’s Hell, including the general popularity of cartography at the time and the Renaissance obsession with proportions and measurements.” […]    –Anika Burgess, Atlas Obscura, July 13, 2017