The cradle of geniuses: a walk through Florence in the footsteps of the great creators

Dante, Brunelleschi, da Vinci, Michelangelo, Galileo… Maybe in the city where the great were born, lived and created, some special microclimate?

Vokrug sveta went to Florence in the footsteps of the geniuses of the past and in search of the geniuses of the present.

The cradle of geniuses: a walk through Florence in the footsteps of great artists

At the entrance to the Basilica of Santa Croce, visitors are greeted by a monument to Dante Alighieri. And the queue. To get inside the church, at least five minutes, but you have to defend. So I join the string of tourists from different countries, waiting to admire the white marble facade of the majestic temple. From the inside, it seems even bigger and more majestic. Paintings by Giotto and Vasari, sculptures by Donatello and Rosselino…

But it is not so much the interior decoration and masterpieces of fine art that attract numerous visitors to the basilica, but the opportunity to touch the tombs of geniuses. Santa Croce is called the Temple of Italian Glory: here lie the ashes of prominent Florentines, world-renowned artists, scientists, poets, politicians – mostly of the Renaissance.

To the left of the entrance, behind the first altar, the tomb Galileo Galilei: on both sides of the sarcophagus with the bust of a scientist – two female figures, symbolizing Astronomy and Geometry. Opposite Galileo, in the right nave, rests Michelangelo Buonarroti. Allegorical Painting, Sculpture and Architecture mourn for him.

Going further, I find myself at the monumental tomb of Dante Alighieri. The sculpture of the poet himself sits on the sarcophagus in severe thought. The inscription on the pedestal: Onorate l’altissimo poeta (“Honor the highest poet”) is a line from Dante’s Inferno. Next to -marble figures of inconsolable Poetry and proud Italy.

– That's just the ashes of the author of the “Divine Comedy” are not here. This is a cenotaph, an “empty grave,” says the guide Olga Vypirailo, a specialist in Northern Italy, who became my “Virgil” in Florence.

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Great repentance

The poet died in a foreign land , in Ravenna, where his real grave is located. He had to leave his hometown: Dante was too indifferent citizen and was actively involved in political struggle.

A representative of the “White Guelphs”, he advocated the independence of Florence from both the emperor and the pope. But in 1301, supporters of the pope, the “black Guelphs,” seized power in Florence, and Dante, who had previously held an important post in the city council, was sentenced to exile. He was accused of bribery, extortion, obtaining illegal income, and at the same time pederasty. And they were faced with a choice: pay a huge fine or go into exile for life.

The cradle of geniuses: a walk through Florence in the footsteps of great artists

Dante left, but did not remain homeless. The rulers of many cities were glad to give shelter to the famous exile. He lived in Bologna, in Paris, in Verona, and spent the last years before his death in Ravenna. Under pain of death, Dante could not return to Florence, to the grave of his muse Beatrice, the Platonic love for which inspired the poet to great works – “New Life” and “Divine Comedy”.

– During Dante's lifetime, even “Comedy” was by no means appreciated by everyone,” says Olga. “The church elite condemned the poet for writing a work in the “vulgar” language, that is, in the folk Florentine dialect. And at the end of the 19th century, when Italy became a single republic, this dialect became the basis of the state language. It is spoken by modern Italians.

Today Florentines revere the “highest poet”. In 2008, the city's municipality even officially apologized for banishing Dante 700 years ago. Tour guides take tourists to the places associated with his name: to the house-museum of Dante on St. Margaret Street, to the church next door to him, where the same Beatrice is believed to be buried.

The Florentine authorities have been proving for more than a hundred years that they repent of the expulsion of their great countryman. Beginning in 1908, on the second Sunday of September (the month of Dante's death), the mayor of Florence sent a delegation to the mayor of Ravenna with a request to return the ashes of the poet home. And he brings a gift of selected olive oil to maintain the fire in the lamp of his tomb. However, the Ravenians are adamant about these Florentine “calls” and every time they refuse.

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