RAVENNA, Italy – As every evening for the past eight months, Giuliana Turati opened her worn copy of Dante’s “Divine Comedy” as the last of 13 church bells rang around the grave of the great Italian poet.
Italy honors Dante Alighieri – who died in exile in Florence on September 13, 1321 – in multiple ways on the 700th anniversary of his death. These include new sheet music and gala concerts, exhibitions and dramatic readings in stunning settings across the country. Pope Francis wrote an apostolic letter, the latest from a pope examining Dante’s relationship with the Roman Catholic Church.
But nowhere is the tribute more intimate than before his tomb, which was restored for the anniversary, as dusk falls daily in the city of Ravenna, a former Byzantine capital.
Turati, a longtime Ravenna resident, comes to listen as Dante’s willing lovers read a single song, following the copy of the “Divine Comedy” bearing the year she studied the poet’s masterpiece at school: 1967.
“There is always something new,” Turati said. “Even if you’ve read it over and over, Dante always has something new to tell us.”
The Daily Reading, which is part of a year-long celebration of Dante that began in September, is meant to connect ordinary people – residents and tourists, academics and the uninitiated – with the “Divine Comedy” as an appreciation by the city he adopted while in exile.
Copies of the “Divine Comedy” in 60 languages are kept nearby, and organizers expect they will also be read by foreign tourists once post-pandemic travel resumes.
“Reading Dante is perhaps the truest and deepest tribute we can offer,” said Francesca Masi, general secretary of the Dante 700 organizing committee in Ravenna. “It requires everyone to make an effort to go towards Dante, while too often we ask Dante to come towards us, stretching perhaps a little without understanding him, by ideologizing him. Instead, this solemn way of reading, without commentary, is respectful. “
Dante spent years composing the “Divine Comedy” upon his banishment from his native Florence, the native land of the vernacular which he elevated to literary language through his poetry.
Florence, it seems, would have renounced her pretensions by condemning Dante to exile, his return punishable by death.
The sentence is written in a 14th-century court register on display until August 8 as part of an exhibition on Dante’s relationship with Florence at the Bargello National Museum. The museum is housed in a medieval palace that Dante is said to have known and visited as the seat of the highest judicial magistrate, and where he was convicted in absentia in the same vaulted room which today displays a famous bronze of David by the Renaissance sculptor Donatello.
The museum also has a fresco of Dante, painted by his contemporary Giotto after the poet’s death, and also of Lucifer, depicted with Dante’s own imagery – three heads and the wings of a bat.
“This is very important, because it means that the iconography introduced by Dante was immediately received in Florence in the figurative arts,” said the director of the Bargello National Museum, Paola D’Agostino.
Another exhibition at the San Domenico Museum, near Ravenna in Forli, brings together 300 works from around the world to tell the story of Dante through the ages, from pieces that have influenced him to those he influenced, said the director of the Gianfranco Brunelli museum.
The exhibition, organized jointly with the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and until July 4, includes contemporary art by Dante, elaborate manuscripts of his work, portraits of the poet and pieces inspired by his epic and monumental poem. artists such as Picasso, Giotto, Tintoretto and Michelangelo.
Brunelli said it was no surprise that Dante continued to fascinate people through the centuries.
“Dante’s themes are those of heaven and earth. It is about salvation and forgiveness, things that are very fundamental to human life, “Brunelli said.” For this reason art could do nothing but come back to Dante and his themes an infinite number of times. “
After being condemned to exile in 1302, Dante spent much of the rest of his life in Verona and then in Ravenna, where he arrived in 1318 or 1319. He died of malaria after a diplomatic mission in the Republic of Venice, at 100 kilometers (60 miles) to the north.
In Ravenna, Dante is said to have visited the ancient Byzantine basilicas and the city’s famous mosaics, and it is believed that he drew inspiration from certain passages in his masterpiece. Masi, during a recent tour, reported the “Procession of Virgins” inside the Basilica of Sant’Appolinare Nuovo, which is reflected in a verse from “Purgatory”, the second section of its masterpiece. work: “And they wore whiteness, which in this world has never been.
For this anniversary, another notable adoptive citizen of Ravenna, Riccardo Muti, plans to conduct a new orchestral musical score inspired by “Purgatory” and written by Armenian composer Tigran Mansurian on September 12, as part of the Ravennal Festival dedicated to Dante. It will be followed by performances in Florence and Verona.
The closing festivities in September are to include an annual pilgrimage by officials from Florence, who arrive in Ravenna with an offering of oil to keep the flame above the tomb of Dante’s mausoleum alight for another year.
“Dante has found his peace in this city,” Muti told The Associated Press, adding that he found “a comfort” to live just 200 meters (yards) from the last home “of this extraordinary soul”.
“Personally, I feel this closeness to his bones as a privilege, as if from this tomb emerges a feeling of honesty, of righteousness, of a good omen for the Italian people of Ravenna in the world,” said Muti.