Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Thursday 23 September |
Saint of the Day: St. Pio of Pietrelcina
home iconArt & Culture
line break icon

Visitors to Dante’s tomb pay homage with daily readings of his work


Shutterstock | Bill Perry

John Burger - published on 05/26/21

Ravenna is the commemorative ground zero for the 700th anniversary of the death of the Divine Comedy's author.

Dante Alighieri, whose Divine Comedy has taken generations of readers through an allegorical journey of the afterlife, might be the least able person to rest in peace this year. Day after day, admirers come to his tomb in the Italian city of Ravenna, taking turns to read aloud from his most famous work. 

The reading marathon by the tomb may be the most intimate one of hundreds of events commemorating Dante in this 700th anniversary year of his death.

Italy began a year-long celebration, Viva Dante, last September, with events from public readings to concerts to church services in his honor. In addition, institutions around the world are offering both virtual and in-person exhibits, tours and discussions that people can attend to learn more about Dante’s life, according to Smithsonian Magazine.

Giuliana Turati, who first read the Divine Comedy when she was in school in the 1960s, is one of the regulars reading at the tomb, which was recently renovated for the anniversary. For Turati, the epic poem never gets old.

“There is always something new,” Turati told the Associated Press. “Even if you have read and reread it, Dante always has something new to tell us.”

“Reading Dante is perhaps the truest and most profound homage that we can offer,” said Francesca Masi, secretary general for Ravenna’s Dante 700 organizing committee

As if to encourage that, near the tomb are copies of the Divine Comedy in 60 languages, available for foreign tourists to read. 

Dante died in Ravenna, while in exile from Florence, on September 13, 1321. So this is ground zero for this year’s commemoration. Area museums have special displays, including the San Domenico Museum, near Ravenna in Forli, which brings together 300 works from all over the world to tell the story of Dante through the ages, from pieces that influenced him to ones he influenced, according to AP. 

In addition, just being in Ravenna and visiting places that Dante knew and that inspired his works, is a good way to honor the poet. The wire service points out that Dante would have visited the city’s ancient Byzantine basilicas (Ravenna was a Byzantine capital) and famed mosaics. There’s a painting of the “Procession of the Virgins” inside the Basilica of Sant’Appolinare Nuovo, for example, which is reflected in a verse from “Purgatory:”

“And they wore white-whiteness, that, in this world has never been.”

From death to life

One of the highlights of the year will be a September 12 performance of a new orchestral piece inspired by Purgatory, to be performed at the city’s annual Ravenna Festival. Written by Armenian composer Tigran Mansurian, the piece will be conducted by an adopted citizen of Ravenna, the conductor Riccardo Muti.

Muti told AP he has found it “a comfort” to live just yards away from the tomb “of this extraordinary soul.”

“I personally feel this closeness to his bones as a privilege, as if from that tomb emerges a sense of honesty, of righteousness, of a good omen for the Italian people from Ravenna to the world,” Muti said.

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Domitille Farret d'Astiès
Attacked with acid as a baby, Anmol Rodriguez overcomes and inspi...
Our Lady of La Salette
Philip Kosloski
How Our Lady of La Salette can give us hope in darkness
Philip Kosloski
An alternative Hail Mary to Our Lady of Sorrows
Philip Kosloski
Pray this Psalm when you successfully recover from an illness
Cecilia Pigg
7 Ways the saints can help you sleep better at night
Philip Kosloski
Your body is not a “shell” for your spirit
Philip Kosloski
Why do some Eastern Catholics use spoons for Holy Communion?
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.