“The new TM-Dante and TM-Ravenna units are now available with ST 2110 functionality, and existing owners can add this option via a free firmware update.” —The Broadcast Bridge, May 7, 2020
“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
“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: everybody’s or nobody’s, untouchable heritage or living culture? The Festival answers with Young Artists for Dante, the daily events in the Ancient Franciscan Cloisters by the poet’s Tomb, from June the 1st to July the 5th at 11 in the morning. There are students, actors, musicians, dancers; they are local artists and groups, or they answered to the international call for proposals, and stood out among the dozens applications. Week after week, they will reveal five points of view on Dante’s universe, at the crossroads between history and imagination, poetry and music, body and soul. In collaboration with the Municipality of Ravenna, Società Dante Alighieri, and Società Dantesca Italiana, and with the support of the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Ravenna, hosting the events in the Cloisters it owns, the Festival offers Young Artists for Dante to the audience of citizens and visitors at the symbolic admission fee of 1 euro.
Dante: so superior to be out of reach, father of the Italian language, a pillar of literature of all times, all places; the author of a work that mirrors and contains the whole world, human and divine. But also Dante: in the language the Italians speak everyday, in the ideas, in the opinions; his profile is unmistakable, symbol of a culture that still conquers the heart and the imagination of people from any tradition, any country. The Festival that has made of the city’s history the keystone of its own identity – looks forward to the year 2021, the 7th centenary of Dante’s death, while it thinks and rethinks Dante – not far, but very close – with the third edition of Young Artists for Dante.” —Ravenna Festival, May 25, 2018
“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