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  • Dante Alighieri

    May/June c.1265 - September 14, 1321
    Part 5 of 13: Wanderings

    It is very difficult to determine with exactness the order and the place of Dante's wanderings. Many cities and castles in Italy have claimed the honour of giving him shelter, or of being for a time the home of his inspired muse. He certainly spent some time with Count Guido Salvatico in the Casentino near the sources of the Arno, probably in the castle of Porciano, and with Uguccione in the castle of Faggiuola in the mountains of Urbino. After this he is said to have visited the university of Bologna; and in August 1306 we find him at Padua. Cardinal Napoleon Orsini, the legate of the French pope Clement V., had put Bologna under a ban, dissolved the university and driven the professors to the northern city. In May or June 1307 the same cardinal collected the Whites at Arezzo and tried to induce the Florentines to recall them. The name of Dante is found attached to a document signed by the Whites in the church of St Gaudenzio in the Mugello. This enterprise came to nothing. Dante retired to the castle of Moroello Malespina in the Lunigiana, where the marble ridges of the mountains of Carrara descend in precipitous slopes to the Gulf of Spezzia. From this time till the arrival of the emperor Henry VII. in Italy, October 1310, all is uncertain. His old enemy Corso Donati had at last allied himself with Uguccione della Faggiuola, the leader of the Ghibellines. Dante thought it possible that this might lead to his return. But in 1308 Corso was declared a traitor, attacked in his house, put to flight and killed. Dante lost his last hope. He left Tuscany, and went to Can Grande della Scala at Verona. From this place it is thought that he visited the university of Paris (1309), studied in the rue du Fouarre and went on into the Low Countries. That he ever crossed the Channel or went to Oxford, or himself saw where the heart of Henry, son of Richard, earl of Cornwall, murdered by his cousin Guy of Montfort in 1271, was "still venerated on the Thames," may safely be disbelieved. The only evidence for it is in the Commentary of John of Serravalle, bishop of Fermo, who lived a century later, had no special opportunity of knowing, and was writing for the benefit of two English bishops. The election in 1308 of Henry of Luxemburg as emperor stirred again his hopes of a deliverer. At the end of 1310, in a letter to the princes and people of Italy, he proclaimed the coming of the saviour; at Milan he did personal homage to his sovereign. The Florentines made every preparation to resist the emperor. Dante wrote from the Casentino a letter dated the 31st of March 1311, in which he rebuked them for their stubbornness and obstinacy. Henry still lingered in Lombardy at the siege of Cremona, when Dante, on the 16th of April 1311, in a celebrated epistle, upbraided his delay, argued that the crown of Italy was to be won on the Arno rather than on the Po, and urged the tarrying emperor to hew the rebellious Florentines like Agag in pieces before the Lord. Henry was as deaf to this exhortation as the Florentines themselves. After reducing Lombardy he passed from Genoa to Pisa, and on the 29th of June 1312 was crowned by some cardinals in the church of St John Lateran at Rome; the Vatican being in the hands of his adversary King Robert of Naples. Then at length he moved towards Tuscany by way of Umbria. Leaving Cortona and Arezzo, he reached Florence on the 19th of September. He did not dare to attack it, but returned in November to Pisa. In the summer of the following year he prepared to invade the kingdom of Naples; but in the neighbourhood of Siena he caught a fever and died at the monastery of Buonconvento, on the 24th of August 1313. He lies in the Campo Santo of Pisa; and the hopes of Dante and his party were buried in his grave.

    Part 6: Old Age and Death


    In this biography:
    Part 1: Introduction
    Part 2: Political Life, Part 1
    Part 3: Political Life, Part 2
    Part 4: Dante's Ghibellinism
    Part 5: Wanderings
    Part 6: Old Age and Death
    Part 7: Divina Commedia
    Part 8: Convito, Vita Nuova & Canzoniere
    Part 9: De Monarchia & De Vulgari Eloquentia
    Part 10: Eclogues, De Aqua et Terra & Letters
    Part 11: Authorities, Editions & Commentaries
    Part 12: Translations, Other Aids & Bibliography
    Part 13: Related Articles, Sites, etc.


    This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

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