Mosaico di Vita | Consorzio Vini di Romagna
July 2021 | Territory

Ravenna in Dante’s shoes

We retrace Dante's steps through the streets of Ravenna, driven by the same “Love that moves the sun and the other stars”, as the Comedy recites in the end

Paradise in Ravenna

Ravenna is a corner of heaven here on Earth: this is a city of exquisite beauty that boasts eight monuments declared as World Heritage Sites, studded with majestic mosaics from the early Christian and Byzantine periods. Pure heaven for people who love history and culture, as well as those places that seem to keep the true essence of Italy.

But Ravenna is Paradise also because Dante decided to complete his greatest work, the Divine Comedy, in this city.

This choice was encouraged by the city’s then owner, Guido Novello da Polenta, who, while offering him to be an ambassador to Venice, to Doge Giovanni Soranzo, gave him the opportunity to continue his studies and finish the drafting of the famous trilogy at the ancient Byzantine capital. This was a tempting opportunity for the poet who had long been wandering away from Florence.

But some suspect that the poet had already been in Ravenna, in 1303 and in 1310, and crossed the pine forest of Classe, which probably inspired the famous “shadowed forest” cited at the beginning of Inferno and is explicitly mentioned in Purgatorio canto XXVIII, verses 16-21:

for to the leaves, with song, birds welcomed those

first hours of the morning joyously,

and leaves supplied the burden to their rhymes —

just like the wind that sounds from branch to branch

along the shore of Classe, through the pines

when Aeolus has set Sirocco loose.

Relics and hearsay

But there are other places associated with Dante. One of these is the Basilica of San Francesco, also called “Dante’s church” because the poet used to go there to meditate. The most intriguing fact that links the poet with the church comes from rumors that circulate among the people of Ravenna: it is said that the original manuscript, containing the last lines of Paradiso, was walled up in the basilica’s structure. Since we don’t have a copy of Dante’s signature, recovering those parchments would be a dream come true for many philologists and academics.

Originally connected to the church of San Francesco was the oratory called Quadrarco di Braccioforte. Inside its garden are the remains of an ancient wall where Dante's bones were hidden.

Nearby we can find the actual tomb, designed by the architect Camillo Morigia according to 18th-century neoclassical style.

Concrete presence of the poet is represented by the Centro Dantesco Dei Frati Minori di Ravenna, where we can find a library that houses codices, incunabula and printed editions of important works by Dante and on Dante. Here, we can also find the Museum that exhibits important artworks that were purchased during the various editions of Biennale Internazionale Dantesca, and other artistic events promoted over the years. In particular, we can find small sculptures and bronze medals, as well as unique pieces like a wooden box that contained the bones of the poet from 1677 to 1865.

Dante’s new footsteps

Dante continues to leave his traces around Ravenna especially this year, which marks the 700th anniversary of his death. And so, Piazza San Francesco was covered with 1,100 square meters of paper and poetry:

in via Pasolini, famous Brazilian street artist Eduardo Kobra made a portrait:

and illustrator Elisa Lancorelli offers her personal version of the poet, together with other artists, in the exhibition entitled “Dante Plus 700”, open from July 9 to September 5:

Come and read the second part of the article about the bond between Dante and wine: "A glimpse of wine in Dante"