We could have sworn Dante was buried in Florence because we saw the tombs of Michelangelo, Rossini, Machiavelli, and Galileo when we visited the Basilica of Santa Croce.
After our Florence visit, we took a train to Ravenna, Italy. Our new tourist map noted the “Tomba Dante Alighieri”. What? Now we were confused.
So, where is the body? Florence or Ravenna?
We turned to Google to settle the matter, and it was quite an amazing story. Dante loved his hometown of Florence and became involved in politics. Unfortunately, he chose to support the losing side and made matters further worse for himself by proposing support for secular rule (a universal monarchy under the Holy Roman Emperor) rather than religious rule (under the Pope). He was sentenced to death and exiled from Florence. He left Florence. What choice did he have? He hoped Florence would relent and always expected to return.
In death, Florence had a change of heart and wanted its native son’s body to be returned. Ravenna declined and Dante was buried in Ravenna.
Two hundred years later, the pope ordered Dante’s remains to be returned to Florence. Florence sent a delegation to get the body, but the Franciscan friars in Ravenna stole his remains and hid the body in a false wall.
Over the years it seemed the secret of where the body was located may have been forgotten.
Florence built its tomb for Dante in the Basilica of Santa Croce in 1829, but Dante’s remains never left Ravenna. Florence’s tomb had become a cenotaph. In 2008 Florence officially apologized for its exile of Dante.
Can you believe it took them until 2008 to apologize? Don’t worry, I don’t think the Ravenese will return the body!
Florence is a proud city and Ravenna is steadfast.
Yes, but as a big fan of Ravenna, I’m hoping they keep the bones. Florence wouldn’t forgive him in life, they don’t deserve him in death. Just an opinion, I am not one for exiling those we don’t agree with politically.
We do agree!
Loved this fascinating story, Beth which reminded me of a similar situation we ran into regarding the remains of Christopher Columbus in The Dominican Republic, aka Hispaniola. Although Columbus died in Spain, his wish was to be buried in Hispaniola next to his son Diego and his body was reinterred at the cathedral in Santa Domingo. When Spain ceded Hispaniola to France at the end of the 18th century, his remains were sent to Havanna and a hundred years later, returned to Spain when the Spanish-American war broke out. However, Santa Domingo claims the wrong body was removed and maintains a monument where he is buried which draws thousands of tourists (like us) each year. The Cathedral in Seville, Spain (also a huge draw for us tourists) asserts that his body is there in a huge, heavily gilded sarcophagus. The DR refused to have their Columbus remains tested but DNA tests on the Spain remains show a close match to his brother. And then there’s speculation that he may have been divided and may indeed be in both places… 🙂 Anita
Wow! What a fascinating story! We saw the tomb in Seville. Guess we need to travel to Santo Domingo now.
Better a late apology than none, even if it did not comfort Dante himself.
This apology was a very, very long time coming. Wonder if it sets some sort of record?
I fear there might be many more outstanding apologies…
Beth – close enough to one thousand years later and the controversy lingers…amazing. I am impressed and disgruntled at the same time 🙂 But the story is a great one!
Goodness, the poor man wouldn’t know if he was coming or going.
What a great story! Many thanx…. Email from me coming soon re: reunion
What a story!