“No other artist has aged as well as Dante Alighieri. He has never really gone out of fashion, except perhaps during the Enlightenment. Just after his death, his Divine Comedy was the subject of heavy-duty theological commentaries in Latin, a level of study generally reserved for works of sacred theology. A century later, during the Renaissance, ambitious designers, whose heads were full of cartography and perspective and new worlds, ambitiously mapped out Dante’s view of the afterlife, as if it were a newly discovered continent (see, for example, Botticelli’s famous map of hell).
“Now, during the 700th anniversary year of Dante’s death, Pope Francis has written an apostolic letter in his honor, calling him a ‘prophet of hope’ and a ‘witness to the innate yearning for the infinite present in the human heart.’
“In short, nothing makes you crave mercy, thirst for it with a dry mouth, quite like Dante’s avant-garde, modernist poem of pain and human failure. And I think this is what has motivated the pope to turn literary critic! At the heart of Dante’s poem is a fragmented vision. But paradoxically, it was precisely because Dante’s human plans failed him that he, purged of mere earthly longing, could emerge as the poet of hope and desire and mercy.” [. . .] –Jason M. Baxter, America, the Jesuit Review, August 20, 2021 (retrieved January 12, 2022)
Read the full text of Baxter’s article here.
Also, check out our post on Baxter’s book about the Divine Comedy here.