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Monday, August 26, 2013

Inferno by Dante Alighieri and Inferno by Dan Brown

Thankfully, I had read Dante's Inferno a good while back and it really helps to read the Divine Comedy before tackling Dan Brown's book, also titled Inferno. Do some study on it. By the way, if you go to Google.com and type in "pronounce Dante Alighieri" to find websites where you can hear someone pronouncing the name. Same with any word you need a pronunciation for. It's pronounced Dahn-tey Al-eeg-yeri.

Dante Alighieri was born about 1265 in Florence, Italy. His mother was mother was Bella, probably of the Abati family and she died when he was about 10 years old. His father was Alighiero di Bellincione, a White Guelph (pronounced Gwelf as rhymes with self). Alighiero soon brought another woman to the house named Lapa di Chiarissimo Cialuffi. They may or may not have been actually married but she did bear him 2 additional children. Francesco and half-sister Tana (Gaetana). At 12 years old, Dante was contracted in marriage to Gemma di Manetto Donati, daughter of Manetto Donati, member of the powerful Donati family. But Dante had met Beatrice Portinari (known as Bice) when he was only 9 years old and had fallen in love without even a word between them. Years after his marriage to Gemma he claims to have met Beatrice again after he was 18 and there were greetings in the street but never a relatiionship. He wrote poetry about Beatrice but not about Gemma. She was his muse. By the time he was exiled in 1301 he and Gemma had three children named Pietro, Jacopo, Antonia and, later, Giovanni. When Beatrice died in 1290, Dante sought refuge in Latin literature.

A full length portrait of Dante Alighieri by Andrea del Castagno in 1450AD.

A profile portrait of Dante by Sandro Botticelli. He is wearing a laurel wreath to symbolize his expertise.

The Guelphs and Ghibellines (pronounced Gib-a-leens) were factions supporting the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor, respectively, in central and northern Italy. During the 12th and 13th centuries, the split between these two parties was a particularly important aspect of the internal policy of the Italian city-states. The struggle for power between the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire had arisen with the Investiture Conflict which began in 1075 and ended with the Concordat of Worms in 1122. However the division between Guelphs and Ghibellines in Italy persisted to the 15th century. Dante's father suffered no reprisals after the Ghibellines won the Battle of Montaperti in the middle of the 13th century. This could mean that Alighiero or his family had some protective prestige and status or that Alighiero was of such low status he was not considered worth exiling. Dante's family had loyalties to the Guelphs, a political alliance that supported the Papacy. The Ghibellines, who were backed by the Holy Roman Emperor.

Dante fought with the Guelph cavalry at the Battle of Campaldino in 1289. This victory brought about a reformation of the Florentine constitution. To take any part in public life one had to enroll in one of the city's many commercial or artisan guilds, so Dante entered the physicians' and apothecaries' guild.

After defeating the Ghibellines, the Guelphs divided into two factions: the White Guelphs — Dante's party, led by Vieri dei Cerchi — and the Black Guelphs, led by Corso Donati. Although the split was along family lines at first soon there arose opposing views of the papal role in Florentine affairs, with the Blacks supporting the Pope and the Whites wanting more freedom from Rome. The Whites took power first and expelled the Blacks. In response, Pope Boniface VIII planned a military occupation of Florence. In 1301, Charles of Valois, brother of King Philip IV of France, was expected to visit Florence because the Pope had appointed him peacemaker for Tuscany. But the city's government had treated the Pope's ambassadors badly a few weeks before, seeking independence from papal influence. It was believed that Charles had received other unofficial instructions, so the council sent a delegation to Rome to ascertain the Pope's intentions. Dante was one of the delegates.

Pope Boniface dismissed the other delegates and asked Dante alone to remain in Rome. At the same time (November 1, 1301), Charles of Valois entered Florence with the Black Guelphs, who in the next six days destroyed much of the city and killed many of their enemies. A new Black Guelph government was installed, and Cante de' Gabrielli da Gubbio was appointed podestà of the city. Dante was condemned to exile for two years and ordered to pay a large fine. The poet was still in Rome where the Pope had "suggested" he stay, and was therefore considered an absconder. He did not pay the fine in part because he believed he was not guilty and in part because all his assets in Florence had been seized by the Black Guelphs. He was condemned to perpetual exile, and if he returned to Florence without paying the fine, he could be burned at the stake. Dante became bitter at the treatment he received from his enemies and disgusted with the infighting and ineffectiveness of his party so he vowed to become a party of one. He went to Verona as a guest of Bartolomeo I della Scala, then moved to Sarzana in Liguria. Later he is supposed to have lived in Lucca with a woman called Gentucca, who made his stay comfortable.

A statue of Dante Alighieri at Piazza Santa Croce made by Enrico Pazzi. Piazza Santa Croce is one of the main squares of the centre of Florence, Italy.

In 1310, Holy Roman Emperor Henry VII of Luxembourg marched into Italy at the head of 5,000 troops. Dante saw in him a new Charlemagne who would restore the office of the Holy Roman Emperor to its former glory and also retake Florence from the Black Guelphs. He wrote to Henry and several Italian princes, demanding that they destroy the Black Guelphs. Mixing religion and private concerns, he invoked the worst anger of God against his city and suggested several particular targets that were also his personal enemies. In Florence, Baldo d'Aguglione pardoned most of the White Guelphs in exile and allowed them to return; however, Dante had gone too far in his violent letters to Arrigo (Henry VII) and his sentence was not revoked. In 1312 Henry assaulted Florence and defeated the Black Guelphs, but there is no evidence that Dante was involved. Some say he refused to participate in the assault on his city by a foreigner; others suggest that he had become unpopular with the White Guelphs too, and that any trace of his passage had carefully been removed. Henry VII died (from a fever) in 1313, and with him any hope for Dante to see Florence again. He returned to Verona, where Cangrande I della Scala allowed him to live in certain security and, presumably, in a fair degree of prosperity. In 1315, Florence was forced by Uguccione della Faggiuola (the military officer controlling the town) to grant an amnesty to those in exile, including Dante. But for this, Florence required public penance in addition to a heavy fine. Dante refused, preferring to remain in exile.

Prince Guido Novello da Polenta invited him to Ravenna in 1318, and he accepted. He finished Paradiso, and died in 1321 (aged 56) while returning to Ravenna from a diplomatic mission to Venice, possibly of malaria contracted there. He was buried in Ravenna at the Church of San Pier Maggiore (later called San Francesco). Bernardo Bembo, praetor of Venice, erected a tomb for him in 1483. Florence eventually came to regret Dante's exile, and the city made repeated requests for the return of his remains. The custodians of the body in Ravenna refused, at one point going so far as to conceal the bones in a false wall of the monastery. Nonetheless, a tomb was built for him in Florence in 1829, in the basilica of Santa Croce. That tomb has been empty ever since, with Dante's body remaining in Ravenna, far from the land he had loved so dearly.

The Museum of Bargello

The Chapel of Bargello

The fresco in the Chapel of Bargello that includes Dante in the red cloak. It was done by Giotto di Bodoni and is the oldest portrait of the poet and done during his lifetime.

To give you a short summary of Dante's Divine Comedy... it's an epic poem in 3 books: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradisio. Dante is guided through his idea of Hell first by the Roman poet, Virgil, and then by Beatrice, the object of his love. Virgil guides Dante and explains what they see along the way. They begin by going through the gates of hell called the Vestibule and traversing the circular path down through funneling levels that take him to the core in the center of earth where satan, himself, dwells. Each level of hell is reserved for punishing certain sins.

Dante on earth with the rising island of Purgatoria behind him and the Gates of Hell on the left with demons herding people down to Hell. It is a fresco in the nave of the Duomo of Florence, Italy and was done by Domenico di Michelino.

Diagrams of the circles of Hell

Diagram of just Upper Hell

Diagrams of Lower Hell
The 8th Circle of Hell is actually filled with 10 circular ditches to be crossed. Each ditch filled with people being punished. This 8th Circle of Hell (with it's 10 ditches) was called The Malebolge ("ditches" and pronounced Mal-ai-bole-cheh).

Diagrams of the Eighth Circle of Hell called The Malebolges with it's ten ditches.

Lower Hell

"Geryon's flight" see below

A section of Virgil leading Dante (the ones in color) through the 8th circle of Hell called the Malbolges. The Malbolges are a series of ten ditches where sinners are punished. This shows the first and second ditches.

When they finally arrive at the lowest circle of Hell where satan is, we are surprised that it is not a fiery inferno but rather a frozen lake filled with frozen people. I can only tell you that this description gave me the chills, literally. Satan stands in the frozen lake with wings outspread, his 3 faces eating people.

Botticelli's Map of Dante's Hell

A closeup of the section of Botticelli's Map of Dante's Hell that shows the bottom of Hell where satan stands in the frozen lake. He is devouring people from all of his three faces, his wings oustpread.

Until you read it for yourself you cannot understand how Dante's Hell seems to catch the horror of hell. It is NOT a comedy as we know "comedy". "In the fourteenth century, Italian literature was, by requirement, divided into two categories: tragedy, representing high literature, was written in formal Italian; comedy, representing low literature, was written in the vernacular and geared toward the general population." pg 82 of Dan Brown's Inferno.

Here are photos of things and places in Dan Brown's book.

This is Michelangelo's Last Judgement

The part in Michelangelo's Last Judgement that shows Charon wielding his oar forcing straggling passengers out of his boat and into Hell to be greeted by demons.

A portion of Michelangelo's Last Judgement that shows the crucifixion of Haman the Agagite. The Bible has Haman as being hung but Dante had him crucified and that's the way Michelangelo painted it.

Geryon as the Master of Fraud has the head of an honest man but the paws of a lion, the body of a wyvern (winged creature with a reptilian body, two legs, a barbed tail, and a poisonous sting at the tip of his tail.) He comes to meet and transport Virgil and Dante to the eighth circle. This lithograph is one of Gustave Dore's Inferno series.

Catrovacer (Cerca trova)("seek and ye shall find") is a mysterious inscription that is located at the top of Giorgio Vasari’s mural of the "Battle of Marciano in Val di Chiana" (1563) in the Palazzo Vecchio in the town hall of Florence, Italy. This Palazzo Vecchio is a massive, Romanesque, crenellated fortress-palace. It's in the Salone dei Cinquecento (Hall of the Five Hundred). The Battle of Anghiari (1505) is a currently lost painting by Leonardo da Vinci referred to as "The Lost Leonardo" and which some think has been found BENEATH Vasari's mural.

La Porta Romano in Florence

Pitti Palace

Boboli Gardens

Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy with the Piazza dell Signoria

Studiolo of Francesco de Medici

The Baptistry of San Giovanni

The Gates of Paradise at the entrance of The Baptistry of San Giovanni

The interior of the dome ceiling.

The Baptismal Font at the Baptistry of San Giovanni

Santa Lucia

Gondolas and their Ferro di Prua

St. Mark's Basilica, Venice, Italy

Sophia Hagia in Istanbul, Turkey

The Basilica Cistern, Yerebatan Saray─▒, "Sunken Palace". It is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul (formerly Constantinople), Turkey.

The upside down Medusa head

I did enjoy reading Inferno by Dan Brown. There was too much action in a 2 day period. It keeps your mind whirling. But because of the action it also keeps your interest.

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