WPC: A Prolific Genius in Florence, Italy

It’s no secret that I’m in love with a brilliant Florentine.  He’s quite a bit older than me, but in love, age does not matter.

Dante Alighieri by Sandro Botticelli. Source: Wikimedia Commons

See his picture on the right?   Red is a good color for him, don’t you think?  What?  You think he’s not very handsome and he looks far too serious?  But it’s not his looks that captivate me. It’s his poetry.  His poems, written over 7 centuries ago, still speak to me, to all of us, in this age of uncertainty and political divisiveness.

All right.  You’re still skeptical.  You’re wondering  how words written in the 1300’s can still resonate in our modern technological world.  In this post about the prolific Florentine genius Dante Alighieri, I’ll try to convince you.

Here’s a little background:  Dante was born into a family of wealth and privilege in a powerful region of what is now modern Italy.  However, his beloved Florence was rocked by a political struggle between two parties, vying for the control of the city.  At the same time, the papacy was trying to solidify its own political power, as well as the Holy Roman Emperor.

The path to paradise begins in hell.― Dante Alighieri 

The Duomo and Baptistry at night. Florence, Italy. Shot with a Fuji X-T2

In this maelstrom of conflicting interests and jostling for power, Dante fought as a soldier in battles against the Ghibellines–who wanted to control the city.  When Dante’s party won, he held several political offices and at one point he was sent to Rome to negotiate with the pope.  That’s when his life dramatically changed.

O human race, born to fly upward, wherefore at a little wind dost thou so fall?― Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy

Bust in Boboli Gardens. Shot with a Fuji Xt-2.

The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.~Dante Alighieri

Detail. Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise. Florence Baptistry.

While Dante was in Rome, the opposition party attacked Florence and took control of the city.  That’s when Dante realized that the pope was backing the opposition.  With the pope’s support, the opposition party established control of Florence.  The new ruling party fined Dante a large sum  and sentenced him to 2 years of exile from his beloved city.  When he refused to pay, he was condemned to permanent exile.  In the next few years, he took part in numerous attempts to oust the ruling party, but became embittered by the infighting among his political allies and the treachery of his enemies.  He decided to became a party of one.

Midway along the journey of our life I woke to find myself in a dark wood, for I had wandered off from the straight path.~Dante Alighieri

Tuscan hillside at Dusk. Shot with a Fuji X-T2 and processed with the Topaz painting filter.

What power does one person have to impact the world?  Dante provides an answer.  In his magnum opus, The Divine Comedy, he strikes out in a totally new direction.  He writes a series of epic poems about an imaginary journey through hell, purgatory and paradise, filled with his heroes, his enemies and his allies.  Through this allegorical journey, he weaves great philosophical and political commentary and finds inspiration and support from his guide Virgil and his childhood sweetheart, Beatrice Portinari, whom he had fallen in love at first sight when he was just 9 years old.  Unfortunately, their love was destined to be bittersweet.

There is no greater sorrow than to recall happiness in times of misery. Dante Alighieri

In Centro Historico, Florence, Italy. Shot with a Fuji XT2.

As was the custom, Beatrice and Dante’s families had betrothed them at a very young age to other people, whom they married.  But Dante continued to love Beatrice who died when she was still very young.  His love for her would last throughout his entire life.  She became his muse, his inspiration.

A mighty flame followeth a tiny spark.~Dante Alighieri

Young Beauty. From Santa Maria Novella Chapel. Shot with a Fuji X-T2.

Dante’s legacy has endured for over 700 years.  The poet T.S. Eliot, who was greatly influenced by him, elevated Dante to the highest stature, joined by only one other poet–Shakespeare.  He said that they ”divide the modern world between them. There is no third.”

So, what do you think?  Have I convinced you?  Do you share my love of Dante?  Or, are you at least more curious about him now?  I hope so!  And have an inspiring week, everyone!

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23 replies »

  1. Wow! I find these photographs exquisetly beautiful. Their clarity makes them so tangible to me. I find myself sinking into a very peaceful quiet space as I look at the Duomo and Baptistry. Inspiring.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, you did so much better than Dan Brown in Inferno to make Dante appealing and that too without any cloak and dagger stuff weighing the post. The photographs fit perfectly and more than that , I can see why you love his poetry… some of the quotes you shared were absolutely divine.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Beautiful – and a tribute to Dante. I always used him well during lessons – and I hope the message of his importance came through to my students. There were always great discussions about his placing of the different sins…and my students gladly drew new elevations in his hell with the “sins” of our times. Interesting post as usual!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I haven’t read Dante and this post has absolutely convinced me. Have downloaded The Divine Comedy! Thank you, I loved reading this and the pictures are gorgeous as always.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Bron. That’s great! Some of the editions have side by side translations in Italian and English, which work really well. It can be full of references to other historical people we wouldn’t know, but there are treasures in his work too. I hope you enjoy it! And thanks, as always, for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate that!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Patti, your photography and story telling, of my favorite place ever … is stunning and makes me want to revisit this magical place again very soon. Hope you two are having the experience of a lifetime. Paul

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Really good write up. Thanks for putting it out there. I recently fell in love with some of Dante’s cantos from the Divine Comedy. What are his most loved cantos in English? Could you name at least 5, assuming that is possible, please try?

    Like

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