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Sunday, 7 September 2014

Dante Alighieri

Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) was an Italian poet from Florence whose father was Alighiero di Bellincione. His mother was Bella degli Abati, who died when Dante was 7-years-old.

When he was nine-years-old Dante encountered Beatrice Portinari, daughter of Folco Portinari, with whom he fell in love. He saw her frequently after the age of 18, often exchanging greetings in the street, but never knew her well.

When Beatrice died in 1290, Dante sought refuge in Latin literature. In many of his poems Beatrice appears such as semi-divine, watching over him constantly.

When Dante was 12, he was promised in marriage to Gemma di Manetto Donati, daughter of Manetto Donati, member of the powerful Donati family. But by this time Dante had fallen in love with Beatrice.

The exact date of his marriage to Gemma is not known: the only certain information is that, before his exile in 1301, he had three children (Pietro, Jacopo and Antonia).

Dante became a doctor and a pharmacist. He did not intend to take up those professions, but a law issued in 1295 required that nobles who wanted to assume public office had to be enrolled in one of the Corporazioni di Arti e Mestieri, so Dante obtained quick admission to the apothecaries' guild and could consequently begin his political career. The profession he chose was not entirely inapt, since at the time books were sold from apothecaries' shops

The Guelphs were a political alliance that supported the Papacy family in Florence. Dante Alighieri, fought in the front of the Guelph troops in the 1289 Battle of Campaldino against the Ghibellines. After the victory Dante gained an important part in public life.

After defeating the Ghibellines, the Guelphs divided into two factions, Bianchi (The Whites) and Neri, (the Blacks). Dante was a leader of the Bianchi, who opposed the bankers who wanted to involve France in Papal ambitions.

The Neri triumphed over Dante's men and the Bianchi leader was accused of misapplication of monies. He pleaded his innocence but on March 10, 1302, Dante was sentenced to permanent banishment from Florence, and to the death penalty should he ever return.


Dante never saw his wife again, although some of his children visited him shortly before his death.

Dante was a fervent Catholic but an enemy of the papacy, having attacked the Pope's interference in secular affairs. His basic philosophy was that all virtues and vices proceed from love.

Once during Dante’s time as a magistrate, he omitted to kneel in church when the Holy Sacrament was being elevated. When his enemies brought Dante before the bishop, he absolved himself saying, "If those who blame me, had their eyes and minds on God as I had, they too would have failed to notice events around them and they most certainly would not have noticed what I was doing.”

Dante wore long, grey robes and he possessed a red headdress with laurel leaves on.


Dante once smashed up the workshop of a blacksmith whom he heard singing his poems as he worked, but muddling up the words.

Dante tried to train his cat to hold a candle up for him while he was working.

At some point during his exile, Dante conceived The Divine Comedy, an imaginary journey through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise, but the date is uncertain.

Dante Alighieri, detail from Luca Signorelli's fresco, Chapel of San Brizio, Orvieto Cathedral

Dante completed his The Divine Comedy in 1321.  Written in the Tuscany dialect, he finished it only a few months before his death. So successful was Dante's work that the Tuscany dialect became the standard language of Italy.

The Thinker, Rodin’s iconic sculpture depicts Dante contemplating The Divine Comedy and the rings of hell.

Source Wikipedia

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