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Religious Poetry: Saint Frances and Jacopone da Todi


Jacopone da Todi’s Religious Poetry
By Carly Besh
Jacopone da Todi was a vast array of constant divisions; from being labeled a mystic, a poet, a saint, and a heretic or even sane or insane is all now subject to interpretation. Even questions of his veneration are disputed, through the Romantic period he was judged as a ‘poeta mancuto’ meaning he was unworthy for the title of a poet, while later in the 20th century he was named a ‘grande poeta’ by our contemporaries. Jacopone da Todi’s corpus of works left a lasting impression on Franciscan religious poetry in Italian intellectual history. (Louise, 1996)

Jacopone was born circa 1230 in the town of Todi, which is settled atop the hills in Perugia. Born into a minor noble family, he did not endure many adversities during his adolescent years and was well cultured. With his education and rank he became a lawyer and notary, and enjoyed a decently well paying job. In his mid-thirties he was ready to settle down and found the young and beautiful Lady Vanna di Bernardino di Guidone. (Vettori, 2009) After a little time of marriage, as members of high aristocratic society they were dining out and the ceilings floorboards fell onto Lady Vanna, and killed her. Upon her death, he discovered she had been wearing a penitent’s hair shirt. This shock of her death, and the discovery that she was devout to God has been thought to trigger his conversion into a religious friar. (Bruce, 1982)

Jacopone was alive during a turbulent political and religious era in Italian history. Years prior to his birth, Saint Francis of Assisi was revolutionary in his creation of a new order following the words of Matthew 10:9; words that emphasized a person to renounce one’s earthly possessions and following a path of poverty. The first and second orders follow strict adherence to poverty, celibacy and obedience whilst the third order practiced the three fold rule of simplicity, chastity and obedience. St. Francis gained official recognition of his order of eleven disciplines by Pope Innocent III in the year 1209. Following Saint Francis death in 1226, his order was split into two factions, the “Spirituals”(I zelanti) and the “Conventuals”. (Hughes, Hughes, & Zolla, 1982)
The Conventuals were attempting to change the word of St. Francis and lower the extent of poverty that he had preached. They wished for the availability to small amount of ownership of property and use of material comforts. Jacopone quickly converted into the third-fold rule of simplicity, chastity and obedience after the death of his wife, but only after a couple of years was allowed to officially become a friar. While risky, Jacopone was outspoken on the Spiritual side and was clearly opposed to the new current pope, Pope Boniface VIII and the corruption of the Church. He was opinionated and spoke freely about his accusations of the new Pope’s greed for power. The blunt criticisms of Pope Boniface VIII lead towards Jacopone da Todi’s excommunication from the Catholic Church in 1298. The pope sent him to solitary confinement and due to his excommunication he has not been canonized or beatified by the Catholic Church. He was released in 1303 and upon liberation he resided in the convent of San Lorenzo of Collazzone where he passed away. His body was moved, and taken back to his hometown in Todi, and his remains are placed in the San Fortunato church. (Bruce, 1982)

Jacopone da Todi’s religious poetry corpus is mainly in the Italian vernacular, distinctly using the Umbrian dialect. He wrote around 100 poems, that were very personal and for the use of local friars. He is one of the more famous known poets before Dante Alighieri time, who also wrote in the Italian vernacular, and was made famous by his work called the Divine Comedy. Few texts are available of Jacopone works due to the controversy and difficulties determining his authorship. His poems are written in lauda, the form of sacred songs in Italian. Characterized by unique rhyming schemes, and stanzas. Most of his poetry writings take shape as free-form worship and are characterized by devotional praise. (Vettori, 2009)

According to Giuseppe Ungaretti, a contemporary modern Italian poet, Jacopone distinctively wrote into three different categorizes. (Louise, 1996)The first category was autobiographical poetry with links to the matter of death. This was most likely due to the sad untimely death of his wife. This sadness and grievance was portrayed in his early poetry. The second category which Ungaretti puts Jacopone’s work into is that of ‘political satire and lyrical verse’. These texts were written during Jacopone’s outspoken time, and where he ultimately landed himself excommunicated from the Catholic Church. The third and final category was that of ‘poesia pura’, meaning direct expression of the soul. He wrote these poems while imprisoned by Pope Boniface the VIII. (Vettori, 2009)

Works under the first category include “Love, beloved Love, why have You left me”, “Why do you wound me, cruel charity…?” which are both carefully written in meter, and rhyme yet the pitch and tone is fairly inconsistent. His most famous piece of poetry that I believe would fit into this category would be “Lady of the Heaven” that is written in the form of a dialogue between the Virgin Mary and Jesus during his Crucifixion. This is well known since it was instrumental in the development in medieval dramas along the Italian peninsula. (Hughes, Hughes, & Zolla, 1982)

For the second category on political satire and lyrical verse, Jacopone stays on the same subject of Crucifixion and the Virgin Mary in the poem titled, “Stabat Mater Dolorosa” which is deeply moving with verses such as ,“Christ above in torment hangs,
she beneath beholds the pangs
of her dying glorious Son” It has been a focal point in Jacopone’s works, one of the few that has been popularly set to music by various composers. Examples of his work in the third category, classified by ‘poesia pura’, would be like the title” Lady Poverty, burning with charity, Vast is your dominion!” which focuses on the trueness of poverty and how simplicity brings your sinner soul closer to the Divine. (Louise, 1996)

Jacopone da Todi’s life works have been influential to this day, from Dante to influencing the creation of medieval dramas, to the countless friars and laymen he inspired with his rhythm and verse about the Celestial and metaphysical. Though pushed to the side by academics and intellectuals for many years, he is resurfacing and his poetry is in increasingly gaining popularity. From varying perspectives and reviews, such as ‘poeta mancuto’ and ‘grande poeta’ he remains a much disputed poet. His rhythm and rhyme will continue to leave his readers in awe, and give life to his deeply passionate personality and shed new life unto his loving dedication as a friar, and his exemplary service to God.
References
Bruce, L. J. (1982). Jacopone Da Todi’s Mystical Pathology . British Medical Journal(Clinical Research Edition) , 285 (6357), 1803-1804. Retrived May 2,2014 from Jstor: http://www.jstor.org/stable/29509095?origin=JSTOR-pdf
Hughes, S., Hughes, E., & Zolla, E. (1982). Jacopone da Todi “The Lauds”. New York, New York: The Missionary Society of St. Paul and Apostle in the State of New York.
Louise, K. V. (1996, June). Jacopone da Todi, Poet and Mystic: A Review of the History of the Criticism. 22 (2), pp. 46-57. Retrieved May 2,2014 from Jstor: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20717272
Lucchi, L. d. (1922). An Anthology of Italian Poems 13th-19th Century. New York, New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
Vettori, A. (2009, February 20). Jacoponde da Todi. Retrieved February 5, 2014, from The Literary Encyclopdia: http://www.litencyc.com/php/speople.php?rec=true&UID=5551

 

The Works of Saint Francis of Assisi

by Brooke Tomsula

Born in 1182 A.D. St. Francis was baptized as Giovanni Di Beradone. His father a merchant who regularly travel to France maintenance Francis. He was raised in an extremely catholic home and attended Catholic school. Well in the military service he was captured by the rival and was imprisoned for a year in Perugia. When released he suffered a year of sickness. During this time he fled to God for comfort and thus the Saint began his simple life entirely devoted to God.

Throughout the second half of St. Francis his life he produced many works, which we are fortunate enough to still have. The majority of his works focus on two major themes: the love of God, and turning from the attractions of this world. The collection of his works includes: 28 Admonitions, letters, and prayers, which are in forms of poetry and hymns. Two of his handwritten works are on a small double-sided parchment, which include The letter to brother Leo and  Praises of God and the blessing for brother Leo. Three of his works were written in the Umbrian dialect. They include: The Canticle of the sun, The exhortation of St. Clair and her sisters, and The prayer before the crucifix. There are also letters and six personal prayers in his collection.

The most personal and emotional of his prayers was written on the parchment, given to Brother Leo. Praises of God and the Blessing of Brother Leo. It read;

May the Lord bless you and keep you;

May he show his face to you and be merciful to you.

May he turn his countenance to you and give you his peace.

May the Lord bless you, Brother Leo.

It was given to Brother Leo after he believed he had disgraced God, and was extremely depressed. In the rest on the letter it refers to honorable attributes, which mean so much more to God.

The 28 Admonitions were in a style that resemble the book of Proverbs and concentrate on issues that evolved through the growth of the Franciscan order. These I chapters cover topics such as: poverty, chastity, obedience and purity of heart. The first was completed in 1221. It was written to the Saints followers before the official formation of fryers was created. The Rule was never presented to the pope and is the longest and strictest of the 28. The last chapter of a is not the original writing that includes a goodbye message from the saint mirroring Christ’s farewell in the Gospel of John. The 22nd chapter of The Rule was written in 1219 during the time St. Francis believe it is going to die. It includes many of his Testaments. The Rule of 1223, this Admonition primarily deals with the requirements of poverty and seeking out forgiveness. This will was sent to the pope, seeing as it was written after the official establishment of the order, and was approved.

Among his many other works one of his most famous writings is the Canticle of the sun. Also known as praise of the creatures, this religious song is believed to be one of his first works and was originally written in the Umbrian dialect. Supposedly composed in late 1224 is believed that the saint was recovering from sickness in San Domiano when he compose the song. This work primarily rejects man’s worldly attractions and focuses on nature. He regularly acknowledges gods creations as his brothers and sisters, proclaiming his personal ideals of rejecting the materialistic world and affirming his love for “Lady poverty” above all. The song was sung in its entirety for the first time in 1226 A.D. by St. Francis and accompanied by his brothers Angelo and Leo, when the Saint was on his deathbed. The final verse was added just moments before it was sung welcoming “sister death”.

“Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom You brighten the night.
He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,
who feeds us and rules us,
and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of You;
through those who endure sickness and trial.

Happy those who endure in peace,
for by You, Most High, they will be crowned.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Bodily Death,
from whose embrace no living person can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Happy those she finds doing Your most holy will.
The second death can do no harm to them.

Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks,
and serve Him with great humility.”

(St. Fransis, Canticle of the Sun)

There is a beautiful legend attached with this particular song. It is said that the Saint did not write the Canticle down himself due to an eye disease that left him blinded. This legend emphasizes that he uses his inner eye of mine to become even more aware of Gods gift of nature.

Through the writings of St. Francis we can understand his complete devotion to Christ, and the importance of the Passion of His Son. It is also very obvious how much he relied on the Holy Spirit and the enlightenment of God to help him and his order focus on eternity in a world of desire.

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Leopardi’s Life and Work

Leopardi’s Works

by Cali Weber

Leopardi wrote many poems and essays during his short lifetime. I have chosen a few of his most famous poems to look at and do an in depth analysis on, while examining how his world view, his environment, and struggles in life influenced his writing.

Leopardi’s first known poems were written after the Napoleonic Wars and during a time of a lot of turmoil for Italy. During the wars, Recanati was annexed as part of Napoleon’s puppet state, the Kingdom of Italy (Marino 1). After Napoleon’s defeat, the Congress of Vienna restored the power of the pope, which had been vastly decreased during Napoleon’s rule, and returned Recanati, along with most of central Italy, to the Papal States, eliminating all democratic reforms that Napoleon had brought about (Marino 1).

In his poem To Italy, Leopardi laments the weakened state Italy is in. He invokes images of Italy’s glorious past, in which it was a conqueror, but at the time this was written Italy was weak and lay in a state of “helplessness [and] shame” ( qtd in Leopardi 2). On Dante’s Monument also shows Leopardi’s dismay at Italy’s defeated state, and “he turns to Dante and asks from him pity for the pathetic state of his fatherland” (qtd in Poemhunter 5). His works were highly valued by the nationalist movement at the time because Leopardi, like many romantic poets of his time, had a strong sense of nationalism (Cultural Society 1). This can be seen in both of these poems because, even though Italy was divided up into different kingdoms, he addresses all of Italy as one nation.

Leopardi’s most famous poem is called The Infinite or L’Infinito in the original Italian. This was written in 1819 when Leopardi had still not left his hometown of Recanati. The poem reveals his longing to leave Recanati and to travel. This poem was written at a time of intellectual and personal turmoil. The poem divulges the loneliness that Leopardi feels and how it is as though everyone in life has left him behind, but he cannot follow. In the poem this is shown through the hedge that blocks his view of what lies beyond, so he must use his mind to imagine an infinite space beyond the hedge. While he gazes out past the hill, he figuratively drowns so deeply in his own prolific and unfathomable thoughts, that a shipwreck seems sweet to him.

After travelling to several cities in Italy including Rome, Florence and Milan, Leopardi returned to his hometown of Recanati in 1828 and wrote, among others, the poem To Silvia. This poem commemorates the death of a young girl named Teresa Fattorini, who was the daughter of a servant (Carrera 4). Leopardi admired her greatly and perhaps even loved her romantically (Poemhunter 9). In the poem, Silvia has taken on a figurative meaning, because Leopardi is using her as a symbol to represent the unfairness of life. Leopardi uses tuberculosis, which Silvia died of, as a symbol for the cruelty of nature and of reality. Silvia was young and had much to look forward to in life, but reality destroys Silvia’s expectations and dreams. Leopardi’s and Silvia’s lives parallel each other. Leopardi also had many hopes and reveries that were dashed by sickness just like Silvia. This poem explores the concept of the brutality of life and nature, running themes in many of Leopardi’s poems.

A reoccurring entity in Leopardi’s poems is the moon. It is seen in fourteen of the poems in the Canti (Hartley 1). For Leopardi, the moon was the only thing other than his father’s books that he could always take comfort in. In the poem To the Moon, Leopardi delineates how whenever he felt distraught, he would often cry while reflecting on his life and how unfortunate and static it was whilst staring up at the moon. In this poem, Leopardi’s desire to travel and to leave Recanati can be clearly seen. Leopardi also recalls on how he had many dreams as a young man, but he knows that he will never achieve any of them.

Night Song of a Wandering Shepherd in Asia is considered by some scholars to be Leopardi’s best and most profound poem, even though it is not the most well-known or popular. This poem also frequently mentions the moon. As a shepherd gazes up at the moon one night, he begins to ponder the meaninglessness of his own life while questioning the existence of the moon. He ponders whether the moon ever tires of its role, and if it too feels that its existence is purposeless (Cultural Society 1). Both the sheep herder and the moon are symbolic, with the shepherd representing humanity and mankind and the moon representing Nature (Poemhunter 10). Much like in To The Moon and The Infinite, a part of nature, whether it is the moon or a hill with a hedge, serves as a gateway into Leopardi’s inner thoughts and also leads him to ponder the meaning of life, analyzing the universe, and the cruel forces of nature (Cultural Society 1).

In the poem Saturday Night in the Village, Leopardi begins by describing the various citizens he sees from outside his window, such as woman carrying a bouquet of flowers and an elderly woman sitting and chatting with her friends. He expresses the excitement that the townspeople are feeling because the next day is a holiday, and how everyone is celebrating and making preparations. Then he suddenly shifts from this tone of happiness and excitement to an unpleasant one. He muses how everything will soon come to end, and alludes that happiness is fleeting and that this holiday will culminate with bitter disappointment. He also compares this celebration with life because both will end in shattered dreams and disenchantment. I think this poem showcases the loneliness that Leopardi probably often felt. He is very disconnected from anything that is going on in the town. It seems that he has distanced himself from everyone and can only watch and observe from afar.

What inspired a lot of Leopardi’s poems was the heartbreak he felt when every woman he ever loved rejected him. In 1831 he fell in love with a woman named Fanny Targioni Tozzetti, but she never loved him in return (Carrera 4). He wrote several poems about his heartache, including the poem To Himself. He talks about how Fanny’s rejection shattered his heart and destroyed his last hopes of ever being loved by woman. Leopardi reiterates how happiness is merely an illusion and he once again emphasizes the cruelty of life and of nature. Leopardi delineates that he can only find comfort in death, which will free him from the miseries he is experiencing in life.

I think it is understandable why many of Leopardi’s poems have such melancholy tones. He lived a very solitary and lonely life, because he was unable to find love due to his sickness and deformities. Poetry, for him, was a way to express these frustrations and complex emotions. His struggles and his environment contributed both to the gloomy nature of his poems, and to his musings about the meaning of life and the cruelty of nature. He developed a distinct style of intellectual yet extremely emotionally moving poetry that contributed to the flourishing Romantic Movement in Italy and his work solidified him as one of the greatest Italian poets to ever live.

 

 

 

References

Carrera, Alessandro. “Giacomo Leopardi.” The Literary Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 May             2014.http://moodle.fus.edu/pluginfile.php/55750/mod_resource/content/2/Literary%20Encyclopedia%20Leopardi.pdf

“Count Giacomo Leopardi Poems.” Poem Hunter . Np, nd Web. 5 May 2014.             http://www.poemhunter.com/i/ebooks/pdf/count_giacomo_leopardi_2012_3.pdf

“Giacomo Leopardi Essay – Leopardi, Giacomo (Poetry Criticism) -. ENotes.com” enotes.com.    enotes.com, nd Web. 5 May 2014. http://www.enotes.com/topics/giacomo-        leopardi/critical-essays/leopardi-giacomo-78912

Hartley, Heather. “Leopardi, to the Moon.” Rumpusnet The Leopardi to the Moon Comments.   Np, 1 Apr. 2011. Web. 5 May 2014. http://therumpus.net/2011/04/leopardi-to-the-moon/

Leopardi, Giacomo, and Frederick Townsend. The poems of Giacomo Leopardi, . New York:      GP Putnam’s Sons, 1887 Print.

Marino, John. “Italy.” Encyclopedia Britannica. N.p., 8 Apr. 2014. Web. 5 May 2014.             http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/297474/Italy/27717/Naples-and-       Sicily#toc27720.

“THE FUTURE OF ILLUSIONS: LEOPARDI’S CANTI.” The Cultural Society . Np, 6 Feb.      2012. Web. 5 May 2014. http://www.culturalsociety.org/texts/prose/the-future-of-     illusions-leopardi%E2%80%99s-canti/

 

The Life of Giacomo Leopardi

Lauren O. Codina

When one thinks of famous Italian writers, painters, or thinkers, the typical names Dante Alighieri, Leonardo da Vinci, or Michelangelo come to mind. However, during the time of Italian Romanticism (1798-1848), one very important writer distinguished himself: Giacomo Leopardi. Giacomo Leopardi was born in June of 1798, in Recanati, Italy (Herdler and Menger, 1893, p. v). An incredibly smart man, Leopardi’s talents were not limited to writing. He was also a philosopher and philologist. However, Leopardi is best remembered as a writer (“Giacomo Leopardi,” 2012). The works of Leopardi have classified him as one of the greatest Italian writers; his genius inspired a new style of poetry, challenged the capability of translators, and left valuable insight into emerging views of philosophy during the time of Romanticism and Enlightenment.

Before he earned his title as a great Italian writer, Leopardi had to live his life first. Born into a noble family in Recanati, his family consisted of him, his mother, Adelaide Antici Mattei, his father, Count Monaldo Leopardi, his sister Paolina, and brother Carlo (Casale, 1981, p. 3-25). Despite their noble status the Leopardi family had many financial issues and disputes among the family members themselves. His father had a gambling problem, which prompted Leopardi’s mother to watch over the finances of the estate. Both of his parents were strict and pushed Leopardi and his siblings to constantly study (“Giacomo Leopardi,” 2012). In his book, “A Leopardi Reader,” Ottavio Casale compares the relationship Leopardi and his father had, “Monaldo was to Giacomo roughly what Leopold Mozart had been to Wolfgang” (page 9). Aside from the stress his father gave him, his mother was often described as severe and a religious fanatic. Casale described Adelaide as having two priorities, “to repair the family finances…[and] to make sure that the children feared God, hated earth, and looked forward to heaven” (page 9). Leopardi’s poor relations with both of his parents only amplified the abhorrence he held for Recanati. However, he could find a small amount of happiness in his siblings; but nevertheless, he remained a cynic throughout his life, finding comfort only in studying and writing.

His father owned an extensive and large personal library, which became like another home to Leopardi. Besides much of his self study in his father’s library, Leopardi was constantly taught and instructed by private tutors. However, they proved to be ineffective, seeing that by age 10 Leopardi is supposed to have translated works by Horace and Moschus (“Giacomo Leopardi,” 2012). At age 15 he wrote “Storia della Astronomia” – the history of astronomy from the very beginning until his present day. Later, at 16 years of age, Leopardi mastered Greek, Hebrew, and Latin, and became proficient in Spanish, English, German, and French. He continued to write and study throughout his youth. He actually became so intelligent, that his tutors did not believe there was more for him to learn. Sadly, Leopardi studied so long and intensely that it damaged his health. He went blind in one eye and developed scoliosis, eventually becoming a hunchback (“Giacomo Leopardi,” 2014). These terrible medical conditions only contributed to more anger and frustration in his life.

Leopardi often described his home as a prison, and made many attempts to “escape”. In 1822, Leopardi ventured to Rome with Pietro Giordani, another writer. Giordani and Leopardi, prior to their travel to Rome, had frequently corresponded with each other through letters. These letters were emotional, and Giordani quickly became a father figure to Leopardi, since Count Monaldo’s hostility and pressure to constantly improve and study greatly distanced him from Leopardi. However, due to his poor health, Leopardi could not find sustainable work (“Giacomo Leopardi,” 2014). Finding dissatisfaction in Rome only brought Leopardi to a more depressed state when he returned to Recanati in 1823. However, it was in 1824 that he published “Canzoni”, which was his first collection of his poetry (“Giacomo Leopardi,” 2012). This is considered to be one of his greatest works. One year later, Giacomo tried to leave Recanati again and went to Milan, where he would be an editor to Cicero. The years following this led him to Bologna, Pisa, Florence, and his home of Recanati (“Giacomo Leopardi,” 2012; “Giacomo Leopardi,” 2014). Still, Leopardi suffered from his ill health. For him, there was always an unattainable happiness – reflected in his writing and his inability to find happiness even outside of Recanati.

Unsurprisingly, Leopardi was a pessimist, a skeptic – his illness and family/home troubles clouded his mind and disturbed him until his death. However, his pessimism stemmed further than just that. He observed death as a comfort, something to embrace, and thought of life as a joke of the Gods. When it came to love, Leopardi fancied dark loves, finding love only more beautiful when combined with tragedy and death. Perhaps this is a reflection of his personal love affairs. He had no real great loves, and never married. In his lifetime, though, he did love his cousin Gertrude Cassi, but unfortunately for Leopardi she was already married. Leopardi also loved the daughter of the family coachmen, Teresa Fattorini. She died of tuberculosis in 1818, and this devastated Leopardi. It was her death that impelled he wrote “A Silvia”, Silvia representing Teresa. The poem reflected Leopardi’s pessimism and inability to understand why nature, why life, is so cruel. During his time in Florence it is said he loved Fanny Targioni-Tozzetti (“Giacomo Leopardi,” 2014). However, his affections for her did not bear him anything more than further heartbreak.

From poor illness to heartbreak, to isolation and cynicism, it is clear Leopardi’s life was filled with loneliness and sadness. On this Casale wrote, “The poems, however, are loneliness made palpable” (page 4). Yet, what is loneliness to Leopardi? Leopardi may not have excelled at love, and his hometown may have left him feeling isolated, but he did fill this void of loneliness in his letters and friendships, of which he had many. In Florence he befriended Antonio Ranieri; in Rome and through letters, he befriended Pietro Giordani, and the list goes on. His frequent relations with these men, however, have led to assumptions that Leopardi was in fact a homosexual. In the time of Romanticism, it was not uncommon that letters were eloquently written with terms of endearment; it did not matter if two men wrote using terms of endearment. Furthermore, Leopardi himself condemned homosexuality as unnatural (Casale, 1981, p. 12). Leopardi’s reputation varied; he was often judged for his extremely dark opinions about life, and his denouncement of God and/or religion. Ultimately though, Leopardi was respected because he was so gifted and intelligent.

This is the story Giacomo Leopardi – born in Recanati in 1798 and died in Naples in 1837. His life was full of tragedy, solitude, and illness. Still, he was incredibly smart and talented in his writing; he never let blindness or scoliosis prevent him from creating more works. He used his tragedies to create incredible literary works of art that modern translators struggle to reinterpret and mimic correctly. His vast intelligence aided him but also trapped him; his mind was full of knowledge, and his body was too damaged to fully help him process and produce at his highest potential. One wonders what more Leopardi could have created, without his physical hindrances. However, these hindrances (bodily and familial) were perhaps the driving forces of his writing. Had it not been for all of Leopardi’s sorrow, he may not have been capable of balancing his role as a cynic and poet quite as well. This is precisely what Leopardi believed, that sorrow and grief were inevitable, necessary parts of life – happiness being constantly unattainable. Precisely what he lived is precisely what he believed, and he was forever trapped in his pessimistic world of writing.

References

Books:

Casale, O. M. (1981) A Leopardi Reader. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press.

Kirsch, A. (2010, October 25th). Under the Volcano. Retrieved 2 May 2014 from http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2010/10/25/101025crbo_books_kirsch

Encyclopedias:

Carrera, A. “Giacomo Leopardi”. The Literary Encyclopedia. 7 November 2009. Retrieved 02 May, 2014, from http://www.litencyc.com/php/speople.php?rec=true&UID=2695.

Ernesto, L. “Italian Romanticism”. The Literary Encyclopedia. 29 October 2009. Retrieved 02 May, 2014, from http://www.litencyc.com/php/stopics.php?rec=true&UID=7207.

Giacomo Leopardi. (2014). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2 May 2014, from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/336597/Giacomo-Leopardi.

Giacomo Leopardi. (2012). FamousAuthors.org. Retrieved 04:07, 2 May 2014 from http://www.famousauthors.org/giacomo-leopardi.

Websites:

Casa Leopardi. (2005). “Family.” Retrieved from 2 May 2014 http://www.giacomoleopardi.it/engl/famiglia.htm.

Casa Leopardi. (2005). “The Leopardi Palace.” Retrieved from 2 May 2014 http://www.giacomoleopardi.it/engl/palazzo.htm.

Scholarly Articles:

Herdler, A. W. Menger, L.E. (1893). “The Life and Works of Giacomo Leopardi.” Vol. 8, Appendix. Pp. v-xi. Doi: 10.2307/456320

 

Alyssa Wilson

Professoressa Lazzari

IS110T

Composizione per il website

 

Tradurre o Tradire? I Problemi e Malintesi delle Traduzione Letterarie.

 

“Tradurre uguale tradire” è un pensiero che si vede in tutte le culture e le lingue letterarie. In Italia, questo è il proprio motivo per studiare il greco e il latino a Liceo Classico, per capire e per apprezzare le poesie che hanno costruito un nuovo modo di pensare, cioè un modo diverso di vedere il nostro mondo. Se qualcuno impari la lingua dell’opera, è più probabile che tradurrà la lingua meglio, ma se non è familiarissimo con la lingua, e non capisce il contesto, e se è troppo parziale al suo stile, allora tradirà quasi sicuramente il lavoro dello scrittore originale. In questo caso, io parlerò dello scrittore italiano Giacomo Leopardi. Studierò la sua opera L’Infinito, e cercherò di capire perché ci sono tante traduzioni, e perché è così difficile interpretare e tradurre una poesia.

Nel suo articolo, Ruth Feldman, una traduttrice che parla l’italiano e l’inglese, dice che la traduzione di una poesia è come la sorellastra della poesia;[1] la traduzione è quasi come scrivere una nuova poesia per molti traduttori, ma non lo dovrebbe essere secondo lei. Creda completamente nella fidelità, dice,che il traduttore deve mettere via il suo stile e immergersi nello spirito, nel pensiero, e nello stile dello scrittore originale, così sembrerebbe come se lo scrittore l’avesse scritto in quell’altra lingua.[2] Lei dice anche che il traduttore dovrebbe conoscere la lingua molto bene.[3] Racconta delle storie di traduttori che non conoscono bene la lingua straniera, e l’autore che non sa parlare l’inglese, quindi si fide completamente della traduzione del traduttore, e non può commentarlo e correggerlo perché non sa che qualcosa non andasse bene. Nel caso di Leopardi, lui è morto, quindi non è possibile chiedergli come vorrebbe dire le sue parole in un’altra lingua, quindi lo lasciamo fare ai nostri traduttori.

Ovviamente, sapere la lingua molto bene è necessaria. Se non conosci bene la lingua non potrai capire nemmeno il testo. Ma capire il testo, e capire il contesto è completamente diverso. Nonostante capire le parole, il traduttore deve capire la storia, la cultura della lingua. Per esempio, tante persone chiedono come si dice “I’m sorry” in italiano. È sempre difficile, perché dipende alla situazione. Loro aspettano il risposto “mi dispiace,” ma non si dice mi dispiace quando stai chiedendo perdona o scusa a qualcuno in italiano. Dunque di solito si dice, scusami. Loro chiedono perché non sia “mi dispiace” com’è scritto nel loro libro d’italiano, e quindi si deve spiegarli che “mi dispiace” si dice solo quando non c’è niente da fare nella situazione, tipo un incidente dell’auto, o una morte nella famiglia. Chiedere scusa, però, è quando hai sbagliato e vuoi che la persona ti perdoni. In inglese è la stessa frase, ma nella cultura italiana, è più complicato, tu chiederesti scusa quando non ci fosse niente da fare? No, quindi le due frasi sono diverse. Si vede questa praticità anche nel congiuntivo. Il congiuntivo non esiste proprio in inglese, perché qualcuno dice le possibilità come cose certe, ma in italiano, una lingua più romantica, le credenze e le opinioni non sono cose sicure, sono possibilità, dunque hanno una coniugazione diversa. Allora sapere la lingua non basta, conoscere la cultura e perché è fatta così è una cosa indispensabile nelle traduzioni, perché queste piccole così diventano grande nello scopo della lingua.

Ruth Feldman ha parlato anche dell’idea di non sporcare la poesia con lo stile del traduttore, e invece di immergersi nello stile dello scrittore originale. Ma questo è difficile, perché tutti noi essere umani siamo un po’ parziali, anche se cerchiamo di non esserlo. La nostra storia, le nostre esperienze nella vita ci creano la nostra identità, e questa identità è legata molto al nostro stile di scrittura. Quindi, è complicato non permettere questo stile di influenzare il nostro lavoro o traduzione. Però è essenziale che la traduzione sia il più imparziale, perché così potremmo tutti capire l’opera in un modo diverso di tutti gli altri. La nostra comprensione e la nostra traduzione non dovrebbero incontrarsi, ma come lo possiamo fare se sono indeterminati fra loro? Il traduttore dev’essere molto familiare con lo stile dell’autore originale, deve capire il suo stile, e deve cercare di comprendere perché lo scrittore avesse scelto quella parola invece di un’altra. Che cosa voleva dire? Che cosa si sentiva quando scriveva quest’opera?

Per Leopardi e la sua opera, L’Infinito, sappiamo che lui era uno scrittore molto melanconico, e che si sentiva catenato dentro le mura della sua città di Recanati. Quindi, la sua descrizione nella sua poesia dovrebbe avere le parole che illustra questa sensazione di richiusura. Parla anche della sensazione d’infinito, del tempo che non si ferma mai, quindi anche questa sensazione dev’essere descritto nelle parole scelte. Il traduttore non può neanche solo tradurre le parole, deve tradurre il sentimento, altrimenti tradirà la poesia.

Ho preso due traduzioni diverse dell’Infinito e possiamo vedere che le differenze sono immense. La prima traduzione, di Richard Jackson, del 2011 è una bellissima poesia, ma non sembra la stessa opera di Leopardi. Per esempio:

“Ma sedendo e mirando, interminati

Spazi di là da quella, e sovrumani

Silenzi, e profondissima quiete…”[4]

È questa che ha scritta Leopardi, ma era tradotta così da Richard Jackson:

“Seated here and lost in an endless meditation

Which discovers a vaster space within,

Boundless silence and deep inner quiet…”[5]

È un bellissimo lavoro, ma “boundless silence” non ha la stessa emozione che ha sovrumani silenzi, che si traduce come “superhuman silence.” Ovviamente sovrumano non è lo stesso di sconfinato (cioè boundless in inglese).

Poi ho trovato un’altra traduzione da Mike Towler da 1998, quindi è più vecchia, comunque direi che le parole sono da una scelta migliore di quelle precedenti.

“But as I sit and watch, I invent in my mind

Endless spaces beyond, and superhuman

Silences, and profoundest quiet;…”[6]

Però, qualche uso di parola inglese l’ha sbagliato, oppure era disagevole. Come l’ultima riga:

“And to shipwreck is sweet for me in this sea.”[7]

Che scritta da Leopardi legge così:

“E il naufragar m’è dolce questo mare.”[8]

Che nella mia traduzione sarebbe:

“And I am shipwrecked in this sweet sea.”

Ovviamente ci sono tante differenze, ed è per varie ragioni. Quando impariamo un’altra lingua, ognuno usa delle frasi e delle parole un po’ diverse, quindi ognuno capisce le poesie e le opere artistiche in una maniera diversa, e questo è perché siamo tutti fatti diversamente in fondo, quindi niente che faremo e capiremo sarà mai uguale; dipenderà alle esperienze del lettore. Però, il traduttore deve cercare di camminare nel mezzo, catturare le emozioni dello scrittore, ma cercare di dimostrarle nel modo corretto della nuova lingua. Non è per niente facile, ecco perché ci sono i traduttori professionali, perché tradurre vuole tanto studio, non solo della lingua, ma anche della cultura, del contesto, e dello scrittore in sé.

Per concludere, scriverò la mia traduzione dell’Infinito. Non sono una traduttrice professionale, quindi magari non sarà perfetta, ma è una prova ad applicare le idee che ho trovato nella mia ricerca.

“Always dear to me was this small hill

And this barrier that excludes much

Of the terrestrial horizon from view.

But, sitting and admiring, unending

Spaces there, and a superhuman

Silence, and a profound quiet

Me in my thoughts I decieve myself, where for a little while

My heart isn’t alarmed. And like the wind

I hear storming between these plants, and I this

Voice of infinite silence

Comparing: and eternity emerges

And the dead seasons, and the present,

and life, and the sound of her. And like this in this

immensity, my thoughts drown:

and I am shipwrecked in this sweet sea.”

L’idea di tradurre e non tradire è più complicata che sembra. Il traduttore ideale dovrebbe essere innanzitutto familiarissimo con tutti i due delle lingue tradotte, e poi deve assolutamente capire il contesto di cui era scritto la poesia o l’opera in generale. Se il traduttore non capisce né la cultura, né la storia, non riuscirà mai a scrivere una buona traduzione, dunque tradirà l’autore originale. Nel caso di Leopardi, esistono tantissime traduzioni dappertutto, ma uno deve capire che lui non era felice nella sua vita, era melanconica, quindi le sue parole devono riflettere questa tristezza e disperazione che lui provava. Alla fine però, la traduzione dipenderà a chi la stia leggendo: il lettore deciderà ultimamente se l’opera tradotta, è una tradizione, o una traduzione.

 

Parole: 1476

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliografia:

Feldman, Ruth. “Translating Italian Poetry.” Forum for Modern Language Studies, 1997. XXXIII, Issue 1. 3-16.

Gallo, Niccolò. Garboli, Cesare. “L’Infinito,” in Giacomo Leopardi: Canti. Torino: Einaudi, 1962. 105-106.

Jackson, Richard. “’The Infinite,’ a poem by Giacomo Leopardi translated by Richard Jackson.” Numéro Cinq. Ultima visita, 10/03/2011. http://numerocinqmagazine.com/2011/03/12/the-infinite-a-poem-by-giacomo-leopardi-translated-by-richard-jackson/.

Towler, Mike. “L’Infinito: Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837).” Senza titolo. Ultima visita, Aprile 1998. http://www.tcm.phy.cam.ac.uk/~mdt26/poems/leopardi2.html.

 

 

[1]Ruth Feldman, “On Translating Italian Poetry,” Forum for Modern Language Studies, 1997, XXXIII Issue 1, 3.

[2] Ruth Feldman, “Translating Italian Poetry,” 3.

[3] Ibid, 3.

[4] Niccolò Gallo e Cesare Garboli, “L’Infinito,” in Giacomo Leopardi: Canti, (Torino: Einaudi, 1962), 105.

[5] Richard Jackson, “’The Infinite,’ a poem by Giacomo Leopardi, translated by Richard Jackson,” Numéro Cinq. Ultima visita, 10/03/2011. http://numerocinqmagazine.com/2011/03/12/the-infinite-a-poem-by-giacomo-leopardi-translated-by-richard-jackson/.

[6] Mike Towler, “L’Infinito: Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837),” Senza titolo, Aprile 1998, http://www.tcm.phy.cam.ac.uk/~mdt26/poems/leopardi2.html.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Niccolò Gallo e Cesare Garboli, “L’Infinito,” 106.

 

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Assisi: Saint Francis’ Life and Giotto’s cycle of frescoes in the Basilica

Frescos in the Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi

By Bettine Carey

In 1228, two years after his death, a basilica was built in the Rose City in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi. This basilica was constructed in three parts: the crypt where Saint Francis’s remains are buried, a lower level and the upper level. The basilica was consecrated in 1253 by Pope Innocent IV, after which the work on the frescos commenced. The walls of both the lower and the upper levels are covered in beautiful frescos completed by a variety of talented artists. Because of the lack of reliable documentation from the time period, there is some debate about who all the artists were, and which frescos they completed. This paper will look into the different artists who played a part in the completion of the frescos while acknowledging the controversies surrounding the ownership of the paintings.

 The Lower Level of the Basilica

Because of the hilly landscape of Assisi, the lower level of the basilica of Saint Francis was built into the side of the hill, giving it the feeling of being underground. The lower level of the basilica was completed in 1230, about ten years before the completion of the upper level. The ceiling of the lower level is painted a dark blue, giving the impression of a night sky overhead. The paintings on the walls of the lower level of the basilica are covered in colorful frescos, which add an air of lightness to the feeling of nighttime.

The frescos on the walls of the lower level of the basilica depict the life of Christ, the Virgin, and the life of Saint Francis. The completion of these frescos took place between the 14th and 17th centuries, during the Renaissance time period. The Renaissance was a period of mastering the art of perfection. The idea of the “perfect” Renaissance man was outlined in The Book of the Courtier, written by Baldassare Castiglione among other authors. A Renaissance man should be knowledgeable in many fields of study: literature, history, politics, art and so on. Renaissance artists practiced in many different mediums; painting, sculpture, architecture and more. Because of the wide range of mediums they were capable of working with, many artists were well known in more than one area of art. Many of the artists who painted the frescos in Saint Francis’s basilica were well-known sculptors, or architects in addition to painters. Only the best Renaissance artists were recruited for the decorating of important monuments. Because of the scarcity of documents regarding this time period, there is some uncertainty regarding the exact identities of the artists who contributed to the frescos in the Saint Francis basilica, but some conclusions regarding the specific artists can be drawn from the few documents and artistic comparisons available today.

In the nave of the lower level of the basilica, an artist who was never named, simply called the Master of Saint Francis, painted five scenes comparing events from the life of Saint Francis to episodes from Christ’s life. The comparison between Saint Francis and Christ is continued to the right of the alter in the form of images showing the infancy of both figures. It is thought that the artist Giotto di Bondone completed this painting, although no one knows for certain. Other artists who contributed to the decoration of the lower part of the basilica are Lorenzo Lorenzetti, Cesare Sermei di Orvieto, Cimabue, Simone Martini, Dono Doni, and Giacomo Giorgetti.

The lower level of the basilica of Saint Francis is also home to the remains of the Saint. Due to the fear of tomb raiders, Saint Francis’s body was buried in the crypt and sealed off until around 1818 when they were finally rediscovered. There are other bodies buried with Saint Francis in the crypt, his first four followers: Friar Leo, Friar Masseo, Friar Rufino, and Friar Angleo.

 The Upper Level of the Basilica

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The sidewalls of the upper level are covered with frescos of events from Saint Francis’s life. It is thought that the artist Giotto di Bondone painted these frescos, although there is some controversy surrounding this topic. Giotto di Bondone was born in 1266 or 1267 near Florence, Italy. Because of the lack of documentation from that time period, much of Giotto’s life is subject to debate. Customary to the tradition, Giotto started his artistic career as an apprentice; he may have been apprenticed to Cimabue, although it is not certain because of the lack of documentation. Around 1290, when Cimabue traveled to Assisi to make his contribution to the frescos of the lower level of the Saint Francis basilica, Giotto went with him. It was during this time period that the frescos in the upper level of the basilica were supposedly painted by Giotto.

An alternative perspective believes that instead of Giotto, three other masters painted the Franciscan frescos. Those three masters were the Master of Legend of St. Francis, the Master of Obsequies of St. Francis, and the Cecilia Master. Regardless of who the artists were, the frescos in the Saint Francis basilica remain to this day one of the greatest cycle of frescos of the time period.

In 1228, in conjunction with the commission of the basilica of Saint Francis, Thomas of Celano was commissioned to write a book on Saint Francis’s life. As per usual for books about Saints during that time period, Tomas’s work was filled with half-truths and various versions of the truth of Saint Francis’s life that would portray the saint in the best light. Despite the inconsistencies in the text, Thomas of Celano’s work remains one of the most informative texts regarding the life of Saint Francis. The frescos in the upper level of the basilica of Saint Francis are all based on events that took place in Thomas of Celano’s book.

The 28 frescos that line the walls of the upper level of the basilica of Saint Francis depict events from the saints life that tell the story of his journey through a life of poverty and holiness. The cycle of frescos also serves as a template for how the Franciscan Friars should live their lives. Art scholars think that Giotto, or his school, painted 25 of the 28 frescos, the other three were painted by the Saint Cecilia Master.

In addition to the decorations in the great hall of the upper level of the basilica, the transept, cross vaults, and apses also boast beautiful frescos. These frescos, 34 in total, show events from the Old and New Testament of the Bible. The artists responsible for these works of art include Cimabue and his school, Giotto, and Jacopo Torriti.

Conclusion

The frescos in the Basilica of Saint Francis are exemplary of the traditional style of art during the 13th to 17th centuries, documenting the life of not only Saint Francis, but also Christ and the Virgin. The importance of these frescos goes beyond the face value. They represent the history of Saint Francis, the life of Christ, the devotion of the Virgin, they provide current Friars with a template for how they should live their lives. The art in the basilica of Saint Francis will remain influential to Italian culture for many years to come.

References
Assisi and the Basilica of St. Francis. (n.d.). Italian Tourism Official Website. Retrieved May 2, 2014, from http://www.italia.it/en/travel-ideas/unesco-world-heritage-sites/assisi-and-the-basilica-of-st-francis.html
Assisi and the Basilica of St. Francis. (n.d.). Italian Tourism Official Website. Retrieved May 1, 2014, from http://www.italia.it/en/travel-ideas/unesco-world-heritage-sites/assisi-and-the-basilica-of-st-francis.html
Assisi, the Basilica of San Francesco and Other Franciscan Sites. (n.d.). – UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved May 2, 2014, from http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/990
Assisi: San Francesco. (n.d.). ARTstor Library. Retrieved April 30, 2014, from http://library.artstor.org/library/iv2.html?parent=true
Burr, D., & Halsall, P. (1996, January 1). Medieval Sourcebook: Thomas of Celano: Lives of St. Francis. Medieval Sourcebook. Retrieved May 2, 2014, from http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/stfran-lives.html
Giotto di Bondone. (2014, April 28). Wikipedia. Retrieved May 3, 2014, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giotto_di_Bondone
Potter, P. (2002). Giotto di Bondone (c. 1267-1337). St. Francis of Assisi Receiving the Stigmata (c. 1290). Emerging Infectious Diseases, 8(12), 1531-1531.
Saint Francis cycle in the Upper Church of San Francesco at Assisi. (2014, January 17). Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved May 4, 2014, from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Saint_Francis_cycle_in_the_Upper_Church_of_San_Francesco_at_Assisi
The Basilica of St Francis and the Sacro Convento. (n.d.). Assisi OnLine. Retrieved April 30, 2014, from http://www.assisionline.com/assisi__162.html

 

 

The Life of St. Francis

By Francesca Marino

Legend has it that in the Italian city of Gubbio there once lived a terrifying and ferocious wolf that ate the citizens and animals living in the town. Many people left Gubbio due to their fear of the wolf. A very passionate and brave man decided this could not go any further; this brave man chose to go forth and confront the wolf. When the wolf was found the man made the sign of the cross and asked if the wolf would please no longer cause any harm to the citizens and animals of Gubbio and in return they would always make sure the wolf was well fed. The man then stood in front of the town, with the wolf at his side, and claimed the wolf had done evil only out of hunger but did not intend to cause harm. The brave man then made a pact between the wolf and the citizens of Gubbio to be brothers with one another and since then no harm was ever caused by the wolf again. This brave man is no other than Saint Francis of Assisi.

Saint Francis of Assisi was born with the name Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone during 1182 in the town of Assisi located in Umbria, Italy. The exact birthdate of St. Francis is not known. He was one of seven children in a very wealthy silk merchants family. Francis’s mother, Pica Bourlemont, had Francis baptized under the name Giovanni but his father, Pietro Bernardone, quickly decided to give him nickname Francesco, meaning “the Frenchman”, which was then shortened to Francis. Due to the families wealth Francis was provided with a life of luxury.

Francis lived a rather spoiled youth, one very typical to a young man from a merchant’s family. Everyone loved him and attended to all his meticulous needs. Francis spent his adolescence at wild parties that surrounded his life in sin; nothing Francis said or did was rooted by good intentions. He achieved to live up to all his fathers expectations. Francis was a good businessman and invested his love in France, which is exactly what his father wanted but all this did not satisfy Francis, he wanted more. Francis wanted to go to war; he set out to fight as a knight in battle when Assisi declared was on Perugia.

The first war did not meet Francis’s expectations, he soon found himself with chains around his ankles in a gloomy dungeon. Francis was captured as a prisoner and used for ransom where he was not released until a year later. In attempt to take on war again Francis set out as a knight for the Fourth Crusade. This is where he received his first, unexpected, calling.

On the first night out at war Francis had a dream where God told him that he had everything all wrong and should return home immediately, and so that is exactly what he did. Despite all the shame and humiliation he received from his father and peers for giving up in battle Francis aimed his goals towards something greater. Francis realized he had lost his zest to life and then began to invest an immense amount of his time in prayer and set out to build a powerful relationship with God; the vision deepened his ecclesiastical awakening.

Francis then took part in a pilgrimage to Rome; on this journey he joined the poor in begging at the doors of churches. One evening at the church of San Damiano while Francis was praying he heard Christ on the crucifix speak to him saying “Francis, Francis, go repair My house, which as you can see, is falling into ruins.” (Thompson 1) Francis took this vision from Christ too literally; he thought Christ wanted him to repair the church that he was physically in at the moment. So he gathered fabric from his fathers shop and sold it to get money to repair the crumbling church. When Francis’s father heard what he had done, he considered it an act of theft and punished Francis by forcing him to stand before the Bishop of Assisi and the town to return the money. Here Francis not only returned the money but also stripped off all his clothes. He then turned to the crowd and said “Pietro Bernardone is no longer my father. From now on I can say with complete freedom, ‘Our Father who art in heaven.’” (Dominic) During the following months Francis lived as a beggar in the region of Assisi.

Francis vowed to give up all his possessions and take on a life of poverty when he heard a sermon about Mathew 10:9. He now had nothing but everything he could possibly need. Francis then began to preach about devoting his life to God and to show obedience towards the church. One by one people began coming to Francis, they desperately wanted to live the life Francis was living. “His companions came from all walks of life, from fields and towns, nobility and common people, universities, the Church, and the merchant class.” (Brand 144)

Once Francis gained followers he began to see the purpose and reasoning as to why God has brought him to this point in his life. In 1209, Francis and his eleven followers went to Rome to request permission from Pope Innocent III for a new religious order. When Francis and his beggars arrived to Rome the Pope was so shocked by their appearance they were immediately thrown out. A few days after the friars arrival the Pope then had a dream about a “…tiny man in rags holding up the tilting Lateran basilica.” (Montgomery 1) The Pope saw this as a sign from God and immediately after this envision Francis was called back by the Pope and grated permission to preach. On April 16, 1210 the Franciscan Order was founded.

In 1209, while Francis was preaching in the church of San Ruffino in Assisi, Clare of Assisi stood in the crowd. Fracis’s words touched her deeply and helped her realize her calling. Francis and Clare began to work together and they then established the Order of Poor Ladies, which is now known as Poor Clares. This Order for women gave women the opportunity to seek out a life similar to those in the Franciscan Order.

Shortly after the Poor Clares grew very large and the Third Order of Brothers and Sisters of Penance was formed for those who could carry out the principles of Franciscan life in their day-to-day lives.

In 1219 Francis set off for a journey to Egypt where he hoped to covert the Sultan of Egypt, where a crusader army was located. Here it is documented that Francis unhesitatingly entered into a fire and came our suffering no burns. This incident is illustrated in the 13th Century Fresco Cycle, done by Giotto, which is located in the Basilica of Assisi today.

Francis soon had another vision, in this one he saw the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. This vision was unlike his others and because of it he received the stigmata. Saint Francis is the first recorded person to bear the wounds of Christ’s Passion. The wounds weakened Francis and brought his life to a peaceful end on October 3rd, 1226.

In my mind, Francis stands out and shines bright in particular related to other saints due to his love of nature. Francis felt that nature is God’s creations and nature was not only something he liked to admire but felt that it was a part of his brotherhood. It is a powerful thing to ponder how St. Francis considered a hawk his brother just as much as he did the Pope. It has been noted that Francis was capable of communicating with animals in ways that go beyond the average human capability. For example, how Francis was able to communicate with the wolf of Gubbio.

On July 16th, 1228 Saint Francis of Assisi was proclaimed a saint by pope Gregory IX. St. Francis is known as the patron saint of animals, the environment, and is one of the two patron saints of Italy. October 4th is the national ‘Feast Day’ a holiday created in the honor of Saint Francis where the Catholic church holds ceremonies to bless the animals. Along with being an Italian Catholic friar and preacher he also is documented as being the first Italian poet. It is amazing to imagine the accomplishments he made during one lifetime. Saint Francis of Assisi impacted the teachings of the Catholic Church in ways that will never be forgotten. St. Francis continues to be a prominent role model in my life, as I wish to approach life by finding value in love and nature not in possessions.

 

Works Cited

Brand, Peter, and Lino Pertile. The Cambridge History of Italian

    Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996. Print.

Dominic, Dustin. “St Francis of Assisi Full Movie.” YouTube.

YouTube, 10 May 2013. Web. 05 May 2014.

Montgomery, Brian. “St. Francis of Assisi – Saints & Angels –

Catholic Online.” St. Francis of Assisi – Saints & Angels – Catholic Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2014.

Paschal, Robinson (1913). “St. Francis of Assisi“. Catholic Encyclopedia.

New York: Robert Appleton Company.

Ruth, Margaret The Word made flesh: a history of Christian thought

September 25, 2009.

Thompson, Anne B. “The Life of Saint Francis: Introduction |

Robbins Library Digital Projects.” The Life of Saint Francis: Introduction | Robbins Library Digital Projects. E. Gordon Watley, n.d. Web. 05 May 2014.

 

THE BASILICA OF SAINT FRANCIS, ASSISI

By Khyra Wilhelm

Assisi is a small town settled high in the slopes of Mount Subasio in the the central region of Umbria, and has become one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Italy due to its historical, cultural and religious significance.[1] Saint Francis was a man of great importance in Italy, who lived and died in Assisi, and to whom the city’s most important monument is dedicated: the Basilica of Saint Francis. He was regarded by his followers with incredible devotion and reverence due to his religious instruction and his character, which is embodied in the construction of the basilica. The basilica is important not only as an artistic and architectural triumph, but because it is largely reflective of the importance of Saint Francis and his life work.

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Saint Francis was born Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone in 1182, the son of a wealthy cloth merchant in Assisi. As a young man Francis enjoyed the easy, luxurious life of a privileged family and is often cited as a “free-spending playboy” in his youth.[2] During the battles between Perugia and Assisi in which he fought, Francis was captured and after a year as a prisoner of war he was ransomed by his rich father.[3] The following year was spent recovering from a sickness that Francis had contracted during his time of imprisonment, which led to an intense introspective period.[4] After his recovery Francis left Assisi with the intention of joining the Fourth Crusade as a knight but returned, much to the scorn of his father and friends, after experiencing religious visions of Christ and Mary.[5] Upon his return to Assisi Francis took to the streets preaching and soon had many followers. If not a knight, Francis’ father expected his son to work for the family business, but Francis renounced all legal claims to the family fortune, stripped off his expensive clothes and adopted a life based on that of Jesus and the Apostles, a life of poverty.[6] It was during this time that Francis began to write; these poems were religious in nature and the first to be written in the Italian language, instead of Latin, giving the poor access to religious literature.[7] As he traveled, Francis preached of poverty, repentance and compassion for the poor and sick.

The Basilica of Saint Francis is comprised of two separate churches on different levels, the Upper Basilica and the Lower Basilica, as well as a crypt, in which the body of Saint Francis is interred. The basilica is situated on the far west end of the city, atop a hillside previously called the Colle d’Inferno, the Hill of Hell, because it was where criminals were put to death on the gallows. This land was property of the Papacy and, after the death and canonization of Saint Francis, was donated for the construction of the church; thereafter the hill became known as the Colle di Paradiso, or the Hill of Heaven.[8] The basilica was decorated by numerous late Medieval painters from Roman, Tuscan, Florentine and Sienese schools, built in both Romanesque and Gothic styles, and for this reason it is a beautiful example of the development of art during the Italian Middle Ages.[9] The Basilica of Saint Francis has played a significant role in establishing the most typical characteristics of Italian Gothic architecture and uses the fresco as the main artistic feature and medium for conveying religious messages, rather than stained glass.[10] For this reason, the basilica has influenced the development of art and architecture within Italy.[11] The frescoes inside the Basilica were painted by Giotto, Cimabue (Giotto’s master), the Lorenzetti brothers and Simone Martini, arguably the greatest painters of the 13th and 14th century.[12] Assisi has become an important pilgrimage site, for both its religious and spiritual significance as well as its artistic and architectural significance.

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The Upper Basilica is open and expansive, with soaring Gothic columns and decorated in bright colors. It contains the world famous frescoes painted by Giotto and his school in the late 1290s–twenty-eight panels in rich detail surround the room in the lower part of the nave depicting the life of Saint Francis according to the Legenda Major, the 1266 biography of Saint Francis by Saint Bonaventure.[13] Beginning on the right with “Francis Honored by the Simple Man,” and continuing clock-wise, viewers follow the progression of the life of Saint Francis, his funeral, posthumous miracles and canonization. Although these frescoes are thought to be the work of Giotto, the true authorship is still disputed as to whether the frescoes were completed by the master or his students. The upper part of the nave contains a cycle of thirty-four scenes from the Old and New Testament, painted by followers of Cimabue and the Roman School. The works of Cimabue can also be seen in the cross vaults, transept and apses. The main entrance and the facade of the Upper Basilica was built between 1280 and 1300 in a Gothic style with a large, ornate rose window above the door. This rose window and other stained glass within the church are among some of the best examples of Medieval glasswork in Italy.[14]   

In stark contrast to the light and spacious Upper Basilica, the Lower Basilica is darker and more austere. The lower part of the church reflects the Romanesque style and was designed by Brother Elias, one of Saint Francis’ first and most loyal followers, to resemble a huge crypt, giving it a low-hanging ceiling with ribbed vaults and hues of dark blue with golden stars.[15] An unknown artist began the frescoes of the nave in 1260, making these the oldest in the church. It was also decorated by the grand masters of the Florentine and Sienese schools of the 1300s, including Giotto and his inner circle, Cimabue, Simone Martini and Pietro Lorenzetti.[16] Five scenes from the Passion of Christ decorate right side while the left depicts five scenes from the Life of Saint Francis; in placing the two stories side by side in this juxtaposition Saint Francis is compared to Christ.[17]

Saint Francis died on October 3rd, 1226 and the following day construction of the basilica began. It is believed that plans for construction had already begun prior to both his death and his canonization in 1228 by Pope Gregory IX. However, after his death, the body of Saint Francis was secretly buried by Brother Elias and the other friars in the Basilica of Saint Claire for fear that followers would raid the tomb and spread his body as relics.  After the completion of the Lower Basilica in 1230 the body was moved to the secret crypt in the Basilica of Saint Francis and was only rediscovered in 1818, then opened for pilgrims to visit the burial place of the saint. The construction of the Upper Basilica began in 1239 and lasted until 1253. At the completion of both churches, Upper and Lower, Pope Innocent IV consecrated the site and later, in 1288, the church was raised to the status of a Papal Church by Pope Nicholas IV. The popularity of the church increased in the years after its construction and from 1270 to 1350 side chapels were added for noble families, destroying the preexisting frescoes in the opening of the walls. In 1934 Saint Francis’ most faithful brothers–Brother Rufino, Brother Angelo, Brother Masseo and Brother Leo–were entombed in the corners around the alter. More recently, in 1997, the Umbria region was struck by two earthquakes that destroyed many venerable buildings, including the vault of the basilica, which crumbled into 3,000 pieces and killed four people.[18]

Behind the basilica is the friary Sacro Convento, made up of numerous Romanesque arches and buttresses that provide support for the entire building. The friary came into operation early in its history, in 1230, but construction continued over a long period, giving it a blend of styles, including Romanesque and Gothic. Given that the church was situated on a hillside and therefore had limited space for expansion, the main supporting wall was forced to stretch in the opposite direction, toward the city. This great wall resembles a fortress from the valley below. Today the friary has been converted into a museum containing works of art and relics donated by the pilgrims that have flocked to the city over the centuries.[19]

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Saint Francis was a man extremely dedicated to God and to others; he believed that one must give from the heart, give love to those that have no love and peace for those who have no peace. Saint Francis was not a man to bargain with his faith and believed that truly following Christ meant leaving everything behind for spiritual devotion, because in order to be spiritually rich one cannot be materialistically rich. He believed in obedience to Christ, dedication to Poverty, and giving one’s life over to Chastity. People of all styles of life were drawn to Saint Francis for “his repudiation of the worldliness and hypocrisy of the church, his love for nature, and his humble, unassuming character earned him an enormous following throughout Europe, posing an unprecedented challenge to the decadent Papacy.”[20] In a period of clerical corruption and “dissatisfaction with opportunities for spiritual life and the expression available within the existing ecclesiastical and social structures,” Saint Francis embodied the belief that an ordinary layman could have a direct relationship with God.[21] Saint Francis brought about a changing of ideals in religion during the Middle Ages and represented a new movement toward personal religion. Saint Francis’ followers were drawn to the nature of his character–dedicated, committed, compassionate, selfless, and humble. Furthermore, “the short period of [the basilica’s] construction, rare for a church of this size, is often explained as a measure of the great love that the people of the time had for St. Francis.”[22] Even in the early 15th century pilgrims from all over Europe were making their way to Assisi to honor the saint. The creation of this great monument, the short period of its construction, the care taken to protect the body and the numerous important artists that decorated the church all point to the influence that Saint Francis had. The basilica is a reminder of the importance of Saint Francis, not only in his life and work, but among his followers as well.

 

Bibliography

“Assisi and the Basilica of St. Francis.” Italian Tourism Official Website. Accessed May 5, 2014.             http://www.italia.it/en/travel-ideas/unesco-world-heritage-sites/assisi-and-the-   basilica-of-st-francis.html.

“Assisi: Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi.” Sacred Sites: Places of Peace and Power. Accessed       May 5, 2014. http://sacredsites.com/europe/italy/assisi.html.

“Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Last modified March     7, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilica_of_San_Francesco_d’Assisi.

Whatley, Gordon E., Thompson, Anne B., and Upchurch, Robert K.“The Life of Saint Francis: Introduction.” University of Rochester. Accessed May 5, 2014. http://    d.lib.rochester.edu/teams/text/whatley-saints-lives-in-middle-english-collections-    life-of-                                                                         saint-francis-introduction

Winke, Rebecca. “Saint Francis Basilica in Assisi.” About.com, Italy Travel. Accessed May 5,      2014.   http://goitaly.about.com/od/assisi/ss/saint-francis-basilica-assisi.htm.

Zamora, Antonio. “Assisi – a picturesque medieval walled city.” Scientific Psychic. Accessed        May 5, 2014. http://www.scientificpsychic.com/alpha/travel/italy/assisi.html.

 

[1] Antonio Zamora, “Assisi – a picturesque medieval walled city,” Scientific Psychic, accessed May 5, 2014,

http://www.scientificpsychic.com/alpha/travel/italy/assisi.html.

[2] Gordon E. Whatley, Anne B. Thompson, and Robert K. Upchurch, “The Life of Saint Francis: Introduction,” University of Rochester, accessed May 5, 2014,

http://d.lib.rochester.edu/teams/text/whatley-saints-lives-in-middle-english-collections-life-of-saint-francis-introduction.

[3] Antonio Zamora, “Assisi – a picturesque medieval walled city,” Scientific Psychic, accessed May 5, 2014,

http://www.scientificpsychic.com/alpha/travel/italy/assisi.html.

[4] Gordon E. Whatley, Anne B. Thompson, and Robert K. Upchurch, “The Life of Saint Francis: Introduction,” University of Rochester, accessed May 5, 2014,

http://d.lib.rochester.edu/teams/text/whatley-saints-lives-in-middle-english-collections-life-of-saint-francis-introduction.

[5] [5] Antonio Zamora, “Assisi – a picturesque medieval walled city,” Scientific Psychic, accessed May 5, 2014,

http://www.scientificpsychic.com/alpha/travel/italy/assisi.html.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Gordon E. Whatley, Anne B. Thompson, and Robert K. Upchurch, “The Life of Saint Francis: Introduction,” University of Rochester, accessed May 5, 2014,

http://d.lib.rochester.edu/teams/text/whatley-saints-lives-in-middle-english-collections-life-of-saint-francis-introduction.

[8] “Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, last modified March 7, 2014,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilica_of_San_Francesco_d’Assisi.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] “Assisi and the Basilica of St. Francis,” Italian Tourism Official Website, accessed May 5, 2014,

http://www.italia.it/en/travel-ideas/unesco-world-heritage-sites/assisi-and-the-basilica-of-st-francis.html.

[12] Ibid.

[13] “Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, last modified March 7, 2014,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilica_of_San_Francesco_d’Assisi.

[14] Winke, Rebecca,“Saint Francis Basilica in Assisi,” About.com, Italy Travel, accessed May 5, 2014      

http://goitaly.about.com/od/assisi/ss/saint-francis-basilica-assisi.htm.

[15] “Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, last modified March 7, 2014,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilica_of_San_Francesco_d’Assisi.

[16] “Assisi and the Basilica of St. Francis,” Italian Tourism Official Website, accessed May 5, 2014.

http://www.italia.it/en/travel-ideas/unesco-world-heritage-sites/assisi-and-the-basilica-of-st-francis.html.

[17] “Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, last modified March 7, 2014,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilica_of_San_Francesco_d’Assisi.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] “Assisi: Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi,” Sacred Sites: Places of Peace and Power, accessed May 5, 2014,

http://sacredsites.com/europe/italy/assisi.html.

[21] Gordon E. Whatley, Anne B. Thompson, and Robert K. Upchurch, “The Life of Saint Francis: Introduction,” University of Rochester, accessed May 5, 2014,

http://d.lib.rochester.edu/teams/text/whatley-saints-lives-in-middle-english-collections-life-of-saint-francis-introduction.

[22] “Assisi: Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi,” Sacred Sites: Places of Peace and Power, accessed May 5, 2014,

http://sacredsites.com/europe/italy/assisi.html.

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Dante’s Life and Work

Dante: The Divine Comedy and Other Works

By Dara Webb

Dante Alighieri is heralded as the first and indeed one, if not the most, influential Italian poets of all time. Known specifically for his famous Divine Comedy, Dante often comments on religion, something so incredibly crucial to life during the 14th century; indeed, his other works, such as De Monarchia discuss religious law and as The Cambridge Guide to Dante states, “share this pattern of self-commentary” (Jacoff 35). While not as famous, his other works are just as crucial to the development of Italian literature and in the establishment of a vernacular Italian language and solidifying its importance.

Of course, Dante’s most famous work is the Divine Comedy, which follows Dante’s progression through Hell, Purgatory and, eventually, Heaven. The work incorporates figures important to Dante’s life on a multitude of levels. Dante includes Pope Boniface VIII as a figure which represents spiritual corruption, for example, a comment on the sour relationship between the two. The epic includes Beatrice as an angel as well as Virgil as Dante’s guide through Purgatory. The work contains, like most of Dante’s works, moral, religious, philosophical and political issues. Especially poignant is his experience in the second circle of Hell, where he encounters Paolo and Francesca; love is an important symbol in the Divine Comedy and that of Paolo and Francesca’s is a complicated example. As the two are in hell because of an unspecific love or lust, perhaps the example was more shocking at the time as it shows the line between both is narrow and often blurry, but there is an albeit subtle difference. At the end of Canto V, we see Dante faint, overcome by the story; perhaps this is because he recognizes this story could have been his and is overcome by emotion, especially as he seems to empathize, if not sympathize with their situation, “Thine agonies, Francesca/Sad and compassionate to weeping make me” (Alighieri 33). Ideas such as this, where lust is condemned as a sin by the Church and papacy, especially in Dante’s time, are advanced and even contradictory to papal authority and the traditional values of the time. This self-reflection, however, contributes to what has already been acknowledged as self-commentary.

La Vita Nuova is a collection of love poetry and Dante’s first work. La Vita Nuova was dedicated to Beatrice, a recurring figure in Dante’s work and a woman he loved, seemingly unrequited, even after her death. While in no respect Dante’s best work, La Vita Nuova is shocking for a thirteenth century work. It is “blasphemous in the way it glorifies a mortal woman” (Jacoff 36). As previously stated, the Church influenced almost all aspects of life at the time, and this glorification of Beatrice is another example of Dante pushing the boundaries of his time. The audience of La Vita Nuova was fairly restricted, mostly to poets within Dante’s circle, which may have shielded it from criticism from the Church. However, it is important to explore how even at the beginning of his career, young Dante still challenged the boundaries of papal rule and even moral and philosophical questions. Though this work did not reach the larger audience of his other works, it is an important example of Dante as a developing poet.

Dante’s Convivio differs to the previously mentioned works; it addresses philosophical arguments as well as some political, touching also on some basics of the sciences and arts. Most importantly, it is written in the Italian vernacular. This vernacular presentation of such things would have been incredibly important to society; it meant that the illiterate masses would have been able to have at least oral access to advances of the time. With the introduction of a vernacular to literature there was a movement towards mass literacy, but equally some form of education to the masses. The integration of a common Italian language to Italian literature is also a crucial development on Dante’s behalf; literature before this point may have been written in a region-specific dialect, but for the most part was written in Latin. With the introduction of a source of information written in a common language, it made the information a little less elitist; normally, education like this was reserved for a higher, male class. While common language literature may not have instituted class equality (but may have contributed towards it), it indeed made information a little more readily available to the lower classes – or those who had access to literature, at any rate. He changes his audience from primarily women to a primarily male one, and this is a large step forward from La Vita Nuova.

De Monarchia follows again in a similar vein as most of Dante’s other works; while indeed most of his works followed a religious path, De Monarchia discusses both religious and secular power. Dante’s viewpoints on these matters, regardless of De Monarchia, were controversial at best. His viewpoint on papal demands in Florence, for example, led to a conflict between himself and Pope Boniface VIII and Dante’s lifelong exile from his birthplace of Florence. To challenge the papacy or even promote discourse on papal rule was taboo; the Pope was the most powerful man in Europe at the time. Dante’s outright resistance and distaste for the Pope is evidence of his character, and he does not shield his personal views from much of his work. This is an important aspect as mentioned, including his self-commentary throughout his work.

De Vulgari Eloquentia was an essay written by Dante, dealing with the development of the vernacular language, and the relationship between Latin and the vernacular Italian language. The development and utilization of the a common language in literature has been an important development in the history of every country. Indeed, one of the biggest developments in the 16th century Reformation, for example, was the development of a vernacular bible instead of the only Latin, mass distributed vulgate. Though the Reformation was a few centuries after Dante, even during Dante’s time the majority of people were illiterate and most did not even understand Latin. The development of vernacular literature meant that the masses could at least understand what was being read to them, allowing a small step towards mass literacy. Indeed, he “insists from the outset on the greater nobility of the vernacular” (Jacoff 58). His belief in the mass use of a common language is perhaps a large step towards the common use of the vernacular in Italian poetry and indeed everyday life.de_vulgari_eloquentia

Dante Alighieri is aptly described as one of Italy’s most important poets. His works are diverse, but each addresses critical developments in what would become Italian society. Without the introduction of a vernacular Italian language, for example, Italian unity and mass literacy may have come far later. His criticisms of policies at the time and outright disagreements with some papal rule may have landed him in exile, but without these criticisms and essays it is impossible to tell how society reacted negatively to papal rule. Dante’s introduction of a common Italian language to poetry and political observations laid the foundation for later Italian poets and authors. Without his contributions, the Italian literary system would be unrecognizable, and Dante Alighieri has left an indelible mark on the Italian literary system.

 

Bibliography

Alighieri, Dante. The Divine Comedy. Public Domain, 1555. iBook file.

Alighieri, Dante. La Vita Nuova. Dover Publications, 2012. iBook file.

Alighieri, Dante. De Monarchia. Bibliolife, 2011. iBook file.

Alighieri, Dante. Il Convivio. Public Domain, 1321. iBook file.

Alighieri, Dante. De Vulgari Eloquentia. Scrivere, 2012. iBook file.

Jacoff, Rachel. The Cambridge Companion to Dante. Cambridge University Press, 2007.

 

Dante’s life

By Tamara Grasty

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Dante Alighieri was born in Florence on May 12th in 1265. His family had a long standing history of political involvement which would later have a deep impact on his adult life and literary works. Around the time when he lost his mother in 1273 Pope Gregory IX and Charles of Anjou met to create peace between the city’s opposing Guelfs and Ghibellines; Dante was a Guelf. Guelf’s supported the political autonomy of Florence. The Ghibellines supported papal control which opposed the Hohenstaufen emperors. Charles Anjou had defeated the Hohenstaufen armies in Benevent around 1265 with approval from the papacy and the Guelfs. This made the Guelfs a powerful party in Florence around the time of Dante’s birth. By the end of the century, the Guelfs had splintered into White and Black factions as a result of family rivalries and differing economic interests and loyalty to the pope. The Blacks were more committed to Guelf and papal interests while the whites were more moderate. The early defeat of the Guelfs, known as Montaperti is mentioned in Inferno 10. The festival of this event may have been the source of such rich inspiration for Purgatoria or Paradiso. In addition to the political rivalries, there were rivalries between noble families, like the Donati and Cerchi. When he was nine he met Beatrice Portinari, his childhood love and a lifelong muse. When he was twelve, he was betrothed to Gemma Donati, a daughter of family friends.

During his adolescence he pretended not to like Beatrice in order to make her jealous and love him more. However, this plan backfired and instead she grew to dislike him. She eventually married someone else and he continued to admire her from afar. Dante’s father remarried and Dante had half sibling, Tana and Francesco, who were close to him. During his childhood, he attended grammar school run by the Dominicans and subsequently to the school of Santa Croce where he was trained in classical and Medieval Latin texts. There he encountered poetry and literature from the Provence and France. When Dante is 18, his father dies and he marries Gemma Donati. Together they have four children, Jacopo, Pietro, Giovanni, who were all named after apostles who witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration, and Antonia. This is when enters public life.

He was originally optimistic as it meant meeting aristocrats, office-holders, educators, poets and rich merchants. This would presumably lead to friendships with some of the most influential people in his area including Brunetto Latini, a prominent intellectual, Guido Cavalcanti, a poet, and Cino da Pistia, an aristocrat. This is also how he became acquainted with Nino Visconti and Guido da Polenta. This is where he first heard the legend of Paolo Malatesa and Francesca Polenta, which inspired a canto in the Inferno. By this point the lovers had already died although it had happened so recently that rumors still circulated. Because of that canto, people are still investigating their deaths.

In 1289 Dante was a soldier in the battle of Campaldino against Arezzo, this victory brought the Guelf party back into power. Despite his political and martial involvement, he kept writing. He wrote a collection of sonnets called Il Fiore, Vita Nuova and Il Detto. Vita Nuova contains allusions to his lifelong love, Beatrice and as a work it marks his shift in literary style as he tries to portray the unique, profound love. On June 8, 1290, Beatrice dies, devastating Dante. In addition to this, another blow is dealt as Pope Boniface VIII was inaugurated in 1294 after the death of Pope Celestine V. In 1294 Dante met King Charles Martel of Hungary.

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A year later, Dante shifted his attention toward politics. In 1300, Dante became one of six Florentine Priors. During his two month tenure, from June 15th until August 15th, the priors decide to exile the leaders of the Black and White Guelf factions, which includes one of Dante’s friends, Guido Cavalcanti, who died later in August of the same year. After Dante’s summer tenure expired, the White faction leaders were recalled from exile. However, Pope Boniface VIII was against the moderate White party and so he called the French King Charles of Valois to militarily intervene. Dante was sent on an embassy to Pope Boniface VIII to try to persuade him against the invasion of Tuscany. It was during this time that Pope Boniface VIII allowed the loyal Black Guelfs to exile the White leaders, including Dante and many of his friends. The punishment for returning from exile without permission was death. His wife, Gemma Donati, had strong family ties to Florence and was not particularly important to his social activities or even his literary work work, nor was she invested in his public affairs. Because of this, when he was exiled his family was not.

The length of his exile was partly due to a highly critical letter he wrote to the Pope Boniface during his exile which detailed his support of the Roman emperor, which was the power opposing the papal control. His exile was never lifted; the nineteen years he spent in exile, were the worst of his life. He loved Florence and would never return. During his exile he was lonely and distraught as he constantly traveling from city to city which makes pinpointing his activities difficult. In 1308 he began writing his most famous work, the Divine Comedy. However, it is known that he conspired in a military seizure of Florence. It is also known that he spent time in Forli, Verona, Arezzo, where he was said to have met Ser Pertaccco, Treviso, Pauda, where he met Giotto who was working on the Scrovengni Chapel, Venice, Lunigiana, and Lucca.

He eventually settled in Verona in 1312 and resettled again in Ravenna with his host Guido Novella of Polenta in 1319. These years of exile are reflected greatly in his works with grim clarity. He eventually accepted he would never return to Florence again. It is not known why Dante agreed to leave Verona for Ravenna, however, it was a beautiful, contemplative place reminiscent of Byzantine times and Emperor Justinian which helped evoke the final images of Purgatoria and Paradiso. This is the city where he finished the last cantons of Paradiso. Dante died on September 13, 1321. He was buried in a tomb adjoining a Franciscan monastery and although his remains were moved over time they have never left the city. Although Florence has since tried to retrieve Dante’s bones, they did not honor him publically for many centuries. It wasn’t until 1830 when the first proper Florentine monument was built for him.

Dante’s writings and poetry have marked him as one of the greatest Italian authors in history although his political contributions were also significant in his time. His work in life reflect the importance of religion in Papal States. Catholicism guided daily interactions as well as inspiring timeless works of art through music, painting and literature. His most famous work, the Divine Comedy, is an ode to the religious moral imperatives prominent of his time. Through this work he intended to entertain while instructing his readers on how to live a righteous life. This work, was written, in part, to atone for his earlier poetry which he believes may have encouraged others to sin. His struggle with unholy or lustful love in relation to his muse Beatrice was difficult, but he managed to overcome his flesh and abide by his wife and children fulfilling his role as an Italian catholic patriarch.

Works Cited

“Dante Biography: Philosopher, Scholar, Poet.” Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, 2014. Web. 27 April 2014. <http://www.biography.com/people/dante-9265912#awesm=~oCgeSlba0KEXPp&gt;.

Forman, Robert J. “Dante.” Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia (2013): Research Starter. Web. 30 April 2014.

Jacoff, Rachel. The Cambridge Companion to Dante. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1993. Print.

O’Connor, Anne. “Dante Alighieri- From Absence to Stony Presence: Building Memories in Nineteenth-Century Florence.” Italian Studies (2012): 307-335. Humanities International Complete. Web. 30 April 2014.

Wetherbee, Winthrop. “Dante Alighieri.” Stanford University. Stanford University, 29 Jan. 2001. Web. 25 April 2014. <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/dante/&gt;.

 

 

 

 

 

AN INTRODUCTION TO DANTE’S DIVINE COMEDY

By Leslie Morales

Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy is considered a masterpiece of medieval Italy, not only due to its extensive influence, but also due to its broad symbolism and literary genius. When one studies the Divine Comedy, it is important to discuss Dante’s political affiliation, the influence of his beloved Beatrice, and the poet’s attention to the individual passage that men must take to join the inherent order of the Universe. These concepts are crucial in understanding the Divine Comedy since they represent a larger view of the medieval world that many, including Dante, shared. This view encompassed the corruption of the church and the common hope for justice preached to take place in the after-life.

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In a letter addressed to Can Grande della Scala, which can be found in Mark Musa’s “Introduction to Dante and His Works,” Dante sets forth his purpose and method in writing the Divine Comedy. In it, Dante speaks of the different meanings contained in the work, he writes,

“For the clarity of what will be said, it is to be understood that this work is not simple, but rather it is polysemous, that is, endowed with many meanings… The first is called “literal” and the second “allegorical”… inasmuch as they are different from the literal or historical.”[1]

This letter tells the reader of the work’s mixture of history, mythology, and theology to form a whole work that conveys a story through the dictation of many others. Furthermore, the letter also connects the reader to Dante’s reason for labeling his masterpiece as a comedy.

According to Mark Musa, Dante stated that the word “comedy” derives from comus and oda that together mean a “rustic song.”[2] Musa continues to explain that unlike a tragedy, which begins in tranquility but comes to a sad end, Dante saw his work as a comedy. Dante argued that a comedy may begin under adverse circumstances, but can always have a happy ending so his work should be labeled as such. Furthermore, the author’s choice of the Tuscan dialect instead of Latin as the language of his poem is a sign of the humility that Dante wrote his poem with. According to Musa, “the language of comedy is humble, whereas that of tragedy is lofty.”[3] In other words, because the Divine Comedy begins in Hell, but has a happy ending in Paradise and was written in a vernacular language known to common men, Dante titled his work the Commedia.[4]

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Although not much is known about Dante Alighieri, what is known is that he was born in Florence sometime in late May or early June in 1265. As Robert Hollander, a Princeton University Professor, states Dante was the son of Alighiero di Bellincione d’Alighiero and Donna Bella.[5] Dante’s family was considered noble by reason of titles and dignities but they held modest economic and social circumstances. Hollander continues to explain that like most of Florence’s lesser nobility Dante’s family was affiliated with the Guelf Party, which supported the pope, but later held allegiance for the imperial party when faced with the church’s corruption.[6]

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It is important to note Dante’s political life when one explores the Divine Comedy because it shows the change in the poet’s political focus shift from the Empire towards the Church. In his earlier book, De monarchia, Dante writes of the intellectual benefits that a global community under one ruler could bring to humanity.[7] This idea was revolutionary because in Dante’s day, the only existing universal community was the Church. However, the Church condemned his idealistic work since it implied that happiness could be achieved without the Church, a statement that an individual considered a heretic would make in Dante’s time. [8] Hence, he was forced to realize that neither the monarch nor the empire but rather the pope and the Church would dominate Italian politics. Dante’s dissatisfaction is noticeable throughout various passages of the Divine Comedy. For example, in Purgatory canto XVI, Dante the Pilgrim encounters Marco Lombardo who explains that the current leadership of the church has been the reason why the world has gone corrupt:

On Rome, that brought the world to know the good,

Once shone two suns that lighted up two ways:

The road of the world and the road of God.

The one sun has put out the other’s light,

The sword is now one with the crook – and fused

Together thus, must bring about misrule,

Since joined, now neither fears the other one. [9]

This conversation shows the lament that Dante carried towards the corruption and control that the Pope and the church held in Italy and most of Western Europe.

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Apart from Dante’s political stance, it is equally important to discuss his beloved Beatrice’s influence on his work. In the Divine Comedy, Beatrice encompasses Dante’s earthly love for her and the divinity that she adopts in his literary after-life. Beatrice as a guide to the Pilgrim is often identified as “divine revelation” and “wisdom”.[10] She, along with Virgil, personifies the light that guides the Pilgrim through his journey, for this reason many see her as Dante’s representation of all that is good, as well as the theological personification of grace. [11] Beatrice’s long lasting influence on the poet can be seen in Mark Musa’s statement that, “Dante’s emotional attachment to Beatrice brought him to idealize her more and more as the guide of his thoughts and feelings.”[12] As a result it came as no surprise that Beatrice played a major role in his poem as the pilgrim’s guide; serving as a reflection of Dante’s real life infatuation with her.

Although no one knows when Dante began composing the Divine Comedy, some argue as early as 1307[13], what is known is that Inferno was completed by 1314.[14] And as Boccaccio states, the final touches to Paradise were made in 1321, the year of Dante’s death.[15] The Divine Comedy consists of 100 cantos, divided into three major canticles: Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise. Each section contains thirty-three cantos, with Inferno being the exception. Inferno has 34 cantos because it includes the opening canto that serves as an introduction to the poem as a whole. As the reader can see, the appearance of the number three is eminent throughout the whole poem- three canticles with thirty-three cantos each. Dante’s obsession with the number three in the Divine Comedy can be accounted to the number’s importance in Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity and can be further observed in the rhyme structure that Dante developed for the poem.

For the Divine Comedy, Dante invented a rhyme scheme known as terza rime, tertiary rhyme.[16] As Musa explains, Dante divided each canto into three line stanzas in which the first and third line rhyme with each other while the second line rhymes with the first and third lines of the next terzina and so on. Dante’s devotion to the number three can be interpreted as the poet’s wish to make a connection to the Christian Holy Trinity of God, Son, and Holy Spirit in his work. As one explores Dante’s poem, one can’t help but notice the increasing importance that the individual and human spirituality take as the Pilgrim’s journey unfolds.

Dante centers the Divine Comedy on the individual journey that men must take in order to become one with the Universe. Although the drama of the poem centers on the Pilgrim’s journey to God, its main idea is the movement of the soul towards its final goal: to become one with the Universe. This idea of becoming one with the Universe can be seen in the last lines of Paradise,

But as a wheel in perfect balance turns,

I felt my will and my desire impelled

By the Love that moves the sun and the other stars.[17]

This line is important because it shows Dante’s affinity and belief in a higher order of the universe. Furthermore, the overall intricate execution of the poem can be seen in Dante’s technique to end each canticle of his masterpiece with the word “stars.” This method not only emphasizes the author’s kinship with celestial entities but also marks the genius of Dante’s work. In the article, “Divine Comedy, Divine Spirituality” by Robert Royal, the author points out that the key point for a reader to keep while reading the Divine Comedy is that Dante meant what he said – that the Divine Comedy is about the divine, that it tells the tale of the soul’s journey to God. He writes, “If we fail to see the Divine Comedy as spirituality, we’ll never grasp it as poetry.”[18] This statement is evident in the tone of the poem and the lightness and divinity that Dante writes Paradise with. I agree with Royal’s attention to the spiritual aspect of Dante’s masterpiece and I trust that in my paper I was able to transmit to the reader a clear introduction of the vital topics that are essential in understanding and appreciating the Divine Comedy.

Dante Alighieri’s masterpiece, the Divine Comedy is an outstanding example of literary genius due its intricate allegories and symbolism. Moreover, when one studies Dante’s epic poem it is important to consider Dante’s political affiliation, the influence of Beatrice as a character and person, and the author’s affinity with the order of the Universe. All three topics are crucial in the understanding of the Divine Comedy and the underlying meanings the poem offers. The Divine Comedy serves as a reflection of the views shared by many in medieval Europe; Dante along with others, exposed in their works the corruption and beliefs that they witnessed, offering present day readers a door into their world.

 

Bibliography

Alighieri, Dante. The Divine Comedy. Translated by Mark Musa. Bloomington: Indiana Press University, 1984.

 

Boccaccio, Giovanni. Life of Dante. Translated by Philip H. Wicksteed. Richmond: OneWorld Classics, 2009.

 

Hollander, Robert. “Biography of Dante Alighieri.” Princeton Dante Project. Accessed May 3, 2014. http://etcweb.princeton.edu/dante/pdp/.

 

Lafferty, David. “A Beginner’s Guide to Dante – An Introduction to The Divine Comedy.” David Lafferty Website, June 18, 2008. Accessed May 3, 2014. http://davelafferty.com/home/home/2008/06/18/a-beginners-guide-to-dante/

 

Musa, Mark. Introduction to The Divine Comedy. Bloomington: Indiana Press University, 1984.

 

Royal, Robert. “Divine Comedy, Divine Spirituality.” In The Wilson Quarterly, 122. Washington, D.C.: Wilson Quarterly, 1999.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Mark Musa, introduction to The Divine Comedy, (Bloomington: Indiana Press University, 1984), 42.

[2] Mark Musa, introduction to The Divine Comedy, (Bloomington: Indiana Press University, 1984), 42.

[3] Ibid., 42.

[4] Mark Musa, introduction to The Divine Comedy, (Bloomington: Indiana Press University, 1984), 43. Musa explains that the word Divina was not part of Dante’s original title.

[5] Robert Hollander, “Biography of Dante Alighieri,” Princeton Dante Project, accessed May 3, 2014, http://etcweb.princeton.edu/dante/pdp/.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Mark Musa, introduction to The Divine Comedy, (Bloomington: Indiana Press University, 1984), 41.

[8] Ibid., 41.

[9] Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy Volume 2: Purgatory, trans. Mark Musa (Bloomington: Indiana Press University, 1984), XVI. 106- 112.

[10] David Lafferty, “A Beginner’s Guide to Dante – An Introduction to The Divine Comedy,” David Lafferty Website, June 18, 2008, accessed May 3, 2014, http://davelafferty.com/home/home/2008/06/18/a-beginners-guide-to-dante/

[11] Ibid.

[12] Mark Musa, introduction to The Divine Comedy, (Bloomington: Indiana Press University, 1984), 19.

[13] Robert Hollander, “Biography of Dante Alighieri,” Princeton Dante Project, accessed May 3, 2014, http://etcweb.princeton.edu/dante/pdp/.

[14] Mark Musa, introduction to The Divine Comedy, (Bloomington: Indiana Press University, 1984), 43.

[15] Giovanni Boccaccio, Life of Dante, trans. Philip H. Wicksteed, (Richmond: OneWorld Classics, 2009), 62.

[16] Mark Musa, introduction to The Divine Comedy, (Bloomington: Indiana Press University, 1984), 43.

[17] Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy Volume 3: Paradise, trans. Mark Musa (Bloomington: Indiana Press University, 1984), XXXIII. 143-145.

[18] Robert Royal, “Divine Comedy, Divine Spirituality,” in The Wilson Quarterly, (Washington, D.C.: Wilson Quarterly, 1999), 122.

 

 

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The city of Urbino: literature, art and architecture

The Art of Urbino By Karolina Sotomayer The Ducal Palace in Urbino contains numerous works of art in the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche. This gallery is famous for exhibiting one of the most important collections of Renaissance art in the world. Containing paintings by Titian, Raphael and Piero Della Francesca, it is a must-see when in Urbino. The following words will uncover some of the wonderful artistic masterpieces that can be found in the gallery. images-9 Probably one of the most jaw-dropping and significant places of the palace is the famous Studiolo for Federico da Montefeltro. The artist, who up to date remains unknown, should be praised for the masterpiece he has created. The intricate woodwork and the details of the walls of the studiolo are simply breathtaking. On the top wall of the room, one can appreciate a series of portraits of Cardinal virtues as well as other well-known people of the time, mostly members of the church and of Federico’s court. The general area can be divided into three registers, each filled with images that represent mainly the liberal arts. The artist therefore, has included images of books and scientific instruments as well as symbols of many subjects related to this education system. Grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy are some of the subjects present in the walls of the studiolo. Probably one of the most notable pictures however, is Federico and the prince’s portrait, in which the prince is wearing a robe, presumably symbolizing their humanistic ideals and a lance, whose meaning has various interpretations. One of the explanations given to why it is inverted is that it symbolizes the intention of creating war to reach a state of peacefulness. In the same manner, we see Federico holding a book, which represents the kind of man he wanted to be perceived as; he wanted people not only to know him as a wise man in decisions of war, but also as an educated person, as a lover of literature and the arts. In the article titled The Inlaid Decorations of Federico da Montefeltro’s Urbino Studiolo: An Iconographic Study, Luciano Cheles (32) describes the studiolo inscriptions in the following way,   Generally speaking, the studiolo inscriptions are reminders that the room is the refuge of a cultivated person. They fulfill this function better than the books, the scientific instruments, etc., for words being conventional signs, they denote literacy to a literate élite. There are more words in the studiolo than in any other part of the palace.   Apart from being the “refuge of a cultivated person”, it was also a room meant to embody the concept of vita contemplativa, or contemplative life, mainly characterized by the presence of landscapes from the Montefeltro territories and subjects from the liberal arts such as philosophy. The studiolo is an example of the variety of forms art could take during the Renaissance period for it is not very common to see an entire room’s walls covered in woodwork. The gallery contains other significant works that have given the place its prestige and fame. La Muta, one of Raphael’s earliest paintings resides in the Apartment of the Duchess at the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche; this painting is also known as the Portrait of a Gentlewoman. Dated around 1505-07, the oil on canvas painting was given the name of The Silent One not as a means of describing the woman portrayed but to keep her identity unknown. There is a clear resemblance with Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa for Raphael had great influence of Florentine art and Da Vinci himself. In previous portraits to the Renaissance period, the faces of Federico da Montefeltro and Battista Sforza are done in profile and in rigid, straight poses; during the Renaissance period, art found a new road and the people in portraits began to look more natural and their poses more relaxed. The resemblance of La Muta with the Mona Lisa is in the softness of the skin and in the variation of the body posture seen in the hands, which are one placed on top of the other and the torso, which allows the portrait to be in ¾ perspective. Raphael was present during the making of the Mona Lisa and so he learned one of Da Vinci’s most valuable techniques, which can be found in the hands. These are crucial to the addition of realism to the figure, and how this woman wanted to be seen. The hands of La Muta are one placed on top of the other, symbolizing virtuosity; in the same way, she holds a handkerchief as a symbol of piety. Da Vinci’s version of the hands seems to be unsurpassable for his time; however, Raphael did a similar version adding his own signature technique, the index finger pointing forward gives a chance to enhance the details of the knuckles, making the hands seem even more real than those of the Mona Lisa. The pointing index finger does not only serve this purpose; this position of the hand is known as mano pantea, characteristic of Renaissance paintings, it meant the person had a spiritual life but no right to give blessings; this symbol is often found in pictorial depictions of Christ. It may seem hard to believe that so many messages can be hidden in a single pair of hands, however, even the jewelry the woman is wearing, such as the rings on her index fingers can tell us about her spirituality, confidence and wealth.Unknown-6 Another treasure found at the Galleria of the Ducal Palace is the Ideal City. Like, the studiolo, this masterpiece’s author remains an enigma to many. After various analyses and comparisons to other works of his, the creation of this painting has been attributed to a painter known as Cosimo Rosselli around the 1480’s. As a gift from the pope to Federico da Montefeltro, the Ideal City is said to have an Albertian character, meaning it has a formal style of composition, scale and decoration. Based on the laws of logic, the artist has managed to create beauty and balance. This concept of equality of powers is reflected in the buildings at the sides of the central building through their equal sizes and heights. During the Renaissance period, an enlightened government was that which respected its citizens’ freedom in order to manage a peaceful and harmonious society. In this way, it is clear that all the elements in the painting revolve around the central piazza and the central building. There are doubts on what this building’s purpose is, however most assume that it is a temple. The concept of the ideal city therefore, was extremely important during the Renaissance period, especially in Urbino under the Duke of Montefeltro’s power. According to Baldassare Castiglione, a writer of the time who was part of the court in Urbino, “Federico’s aim was to build a city in the form of a palace” (16). Even though nobody knows what this meant, it was clear that the Duke wanted to build a city that was not being imposed on its people and the landscape. During the Renaissance, people began to look closely at how things should be done and how people should behave; the perfect example of this is the Book of the Courtier, written by Castiglione himself in which he deals with the subject of what the ideal Renaissance man should be like. This is the same idea exposed in the painting of the Ideal City.Unknown-7 A visit to the national gallery of the Ducal Palace is a glance back at a period in history when people woke up and changed the way they perceived their life purposes. People became more curious and acquired the desire to improve, to gain more knowledge instead of believing solely what their religion told them. Likewise, Renaissance art was a return to discovering the human capacities and appreciating the human body and its mysteries.           Works Cited   Author Unknown. The Renaissance Ideal. Date unknown. Page 16. Print.   Cheles, Luciano. “The Inlaid Decorations of Federico da Montefeltro’s Urbino Studiolo: An Iconographic Study.” Kunsthistorischen Institutes, (1982). 32. Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz. Jstor. Web. April 23, 2014.   Galleria Borghese.it. “Portrait of a Gentlewoman (The Silent One).” Galleria Borghese. Web. April 14, 2014 http://www.galleriaborghese.it/urbino/en/eritratto-gentildonna.htm.     Niyazi, Hasan. “Raphael’s sublime ‘La Muta’ and the mano pantea.” 3Pipe-Problem, 2011. Web. April 16, 2014 http://www.3pipe.net/2011/03/raphaels-sublime-la-muta-and-mano.html.   Saalman, Howard. “The Baltimore and Urbino Panels: Cosimo Rosselli.” The Burlington Magazine. Vol. 110, No. 784 (Jul., 1968). The Burlington Magazine Publications Ltd. Jstor. Web. April 23 2014.   Russano, Massimiliano. “Ideal-City Paintings Express Renaissance Concepts.” The Epoch Times. Web. April 23, 2014 http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/arts-entertainment/ideal-city-paintings-express-renaissance-concepts-247129.html.   Bibliography for Pictures Artist unknown. Studiolo for Federico da Montefeltro. Nd. Ducal Palace of Urbino.   Luciano Laurana. The Ideal City. Circa 1480. Galleria Nazionale delle Marche.   Sanzio, Raphael. Portrait of a Gentlewoman. 1505-07. Oil on canvas. Galleria Borghese.

The City of Urbino

By Kirby Franklin

Although few people have heard of Urbino, it was a mecca for culture, art, and commerce during the Renaissance period. The city especially developed this reputation under the rule of Federico III da Montefeltro, duke of Urbino from 1444 to 1482, because his influence created the great structures that we see to this day. The sight of Urbino, nestled on top of a hillside, is a direct representation of the medieval town it was envisioned to be. While architectural information lacks in the Roman and Medieval periods, it set the basis for what Urbino would become. Today, the main attractions to Urbino would have to be the architectural masterpieces, the Palazzo Ducale (Ducal Palace) created during the Renaissance period. During the Roman period, Urbino went by the name of Urvinum Mataurense, meaning “the little city on the river Mataurense”. Life during this time period was rather simple. Most of the citizens devoted their time to agricultural practices, so leisurely activities like architecture were not a top priority. However, the city center was a lively place that contained a basilica dedicated to the Roman architect Vitruvius, as well as other public buildings including baths, theatres, and temples. The Roman inhabitants built the infamous city walls during the third and second centuries BC (six portions of the original wall have survived to this day). This was their contribution to the architectural city that we see today. images-12 Unfortunately, very little information is known about the physical appearance of Urbino during the medieval time period. The most drastic change that occurred had to do with the expansion of the city at the end of the eleventh century. Land outside the city walls almost entirely belonged to the Church and lacked development, but the religious administration brought a considerable amount of urbanization to previously rural places. The need to contain the city within the walls persisted, so when the city grew, the walls grew with it. Very little changed occurred with this growth, the new additions mostly consisted of new living quarters and street patterns. Thus, setting the groundwork for the architectural masterpieces of the Renaissance to take place. At the end of the twelfth century, the then duchy of Urbino passed a law that allowed for further changes to happen to the city, but this time on a much larger scale. With this consent, during the middle of the fifteenth century, Duke Federico III da Montefeltro initiated the construction of the Ducal Palace. This undertaking would completely revamp the city, which made it a radical step for the town that required a great deal of care and effort so as to not destroy the existing urban structures. The foundation of the city had long ago been set by the Romans, therefore Montefeltro’s original blueprints had to be modified in order to accommodate this. An architect from Dalmatia, Luciano Laurana, was assigned to take on this task. He designed the façade, the infamous courtyard, and the grand entrance staircase. His contributions to the palace embodied what the people of the time envisioned as the exquisite living quarters that royalty were to live in. What Laurana created perfectly met Federico’s standards; he wanted to “create a city in the form of a palace…an ideal but impossible city, existing only in the mind.” Montefeltro wanted transformation, and that is what he got. Perhaps the most famous portion of the building, and the part that was constructed first, is that of the Palazzetto della Iole. The name originates from the fact that the main room has a marvelous chimney with figurines of Iole and Hercules carved into it; this attention to detail is what grants the Palazzetto della Iole its honorable reputation. The façade, for example, has a different exterior from the rest of the palace with its arched windows, most of which have mullions cutting the windows in half. The six windows in the middle feature ledges with ovolo moldings, leaves of ivy, and garlands of oak leaves. Three arched windows follow the other six; they have the same moldings, but the decorations are different, proving that the last three were made at a later date. Near the windows we can clearly see remains of medieval buildings where Federico had the intention of “pulling them down in order to avail himself of their site” (Rotondi, 19). On the inside of the palace, the Sala della Iole, Sala degli Affreschi, and the Sala dell’Alcova are the most grand rooms. Two of these rooms have vaulted ceilings with a medallion of Montefeltro’s eagle. For reasons unknown, Luciano Laurana only oversaw construction of the Ducal Palace for six years, after that, he left the creation in the hands of other architects and designers. His departure, unfortunately, makes it difficult to determine which other parts of the palace should be accredited to him or others.images-13 The second phase of the palace contains a mixture of Laurana’s designs with the finishing touches from other decorators. For instance, Laurana designed the marvelous entryway, but the decoration of the Grand Staircase is credited to Federico Conte, as his initials appear throughout the piece. Oddly enough, “there is a complete absence of heraldic emblems,” (Rotondi, 55) meaning that the Montefeltro family has no obvious representation as visitors enter the palace. The third phase largely represents the works of Francesco di Giorgio. One of his contributions to the palace was his work in the Duchess’s suite and the restoration of the ceiling in the Sala delle Iole. The palace typically had vaulted ceilings that gave the inside of the building elegant characteristics. Francesco di Giorgio, however, preferred a heavier look and made the ceilings flatter. Another glorious aspect to the palace is the Secret Garden, which both architects contributed their ideas to. Laurana began the project, designing a portico, a patio, a basement to support what was above, and a space to collect rainwater. Although some aspects were not exactly executed in this way, the end design was somewhat similar to this, with arches and floor level changes. Francesco di Giorgio comes into play with his hydraulic works. In order to supply the plants with water, a cistern (giant tank) was placed at the top of a spiraled ramp that led to the vegetation below. We know this is attributed to him because “during his youth he had been in charge of water installation in his native Siena” (Rotondi, 67). Clearly, the Ducal Palace is a place with various complicated, yet beautiful features. Urbino has a great deal of historical significance, and even more when it comes to our travel course. It is the setting for literature, art, and architecture throughout various time periods in history. Although, one could argue that its greatest achievements occurred during the Renaissance period. The Ducal Palace, of course, is an architectural work of art that has a great deal of history, as it was such a huge project. It undoubtedly holds many more treasures than mentioned here, but the most important aspects were portrayed as best as possible.

Renaissance Literature of Urbino: The Book of the Courtier

By Kloie Rush-Spratt

The age of the Renaissance in Italy was marked by art, knowledge, and culture. In Urbino, the most significant example of such is the building of the Ducal Palace and it’s influences it had on literature. Although the literature from the Italian Renaissance varies from region and was influential, Urbino holds much literary significance because of its source of the ideals of the Italian Renaissance. In the Italian Renaissance literature is another expression of the values cherished during this time period. Although literature found Urbino is but a few, this can be seen clearly with Baldassare Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier and even in Giovanni Santi’s poetry. When Federico Montefeltro commissioned the Ducal Palace in the 1400’s he wanted to show Renaissance Italy that Urbino was a civilized city of culture. Montefeltro’s encouragement for education and art was at the root of his design. This made Urbino a center of attention from all over Italy and, from the help of Baldassare Castiglione, all over Europe as well. Castiglione looked at Urbino and saw that the city set the foundations for the ideal Renaissance man. In 1507, Castiglione wrote his first draft of The Book of the Courtier. The book is essentially the discussion on what makes the perfect cultured and ideal Renaissance man and woman. The topics covered range from the value of painting or sculpture, to the use of language, and the degree of a warrior-like status. What is important to note about The Book of the Courtier is the narrative style. The book is written as a dialogue–which is an important insight into the values of Italian Renaissance Culture. The book is not an instruction pamphlet–not dictatorial. Instead, the topics are all opened to debate and are debated. Each courtier in the book is offered a chance to speak and are given equal value. This highlights Montefeltro’s goals with Urbino, for it to be a city of growth through sharing of knowledge. Interestingly enough, that is how this book is presented. Another example of Renaissance ideals is the language the book is spoken in. In The Book of the Courtier there is a discussion on language of the ideal courtier. In this discussion there is favor for the Tuscan, romantic, lyrical language over the “archaic” Latin. This is seen in the book as the old men have a distaste for the new ideals of the Renaissance and relish in the ways of the medieval past. This is immediately put to shame by Castiglione who finds this lack of open mind to be limiting and ultimately a mistake. This preference of contemporary language is notable in Castiglione’s own style of writing. Olga Zorzi Pugliese does an analysis in her book Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier (Il Libro Del Cortegiano): A Classic in the Making. Pugliese also discerns how Castiglione’s language is less militaristic. The tone in the book is also lightened by the constant jests made by the characters during their discussions, creating a feel of an open space for an easy going debate. Despite the ideal man having to progress to contemporary times, there are still some ideals that continue from the medieval times. Although there is a rise in the appreciation of art and dance, the ideal man is also to have a specific physique that is comparable to one of a warrior. Yet, while the man must have high self-esteem, what must be noted is the lack of arrogance the man should have. He’s fighting should not be for himself but for the righting of general wrongs, to even correct the prince if need be. This interesting equalization of a courtier and prince leads into the ideals of self-respect and humility. The ideal courtier is expected to uphold their own honor, presenting themselves as an individual. However, the courtier must not be flashy and wear subdued colors to showcase their elegance and humility. Although this may seem to contradict the idea of creativity, it actually highlights another Italian Renaissance value. For example, Castiglione also coined the word sprezzatura, which is the certain nonchalance a courtier must have of all his knowledge–he must avoid to impress. This reflects the design of the Ducal Palace, which although is tall, spacious and grande, has a simple elegant design that was meant to be open to the people. This idea of being sophisticated yet humble is another value seen in the Italian Renaissance that is reflected in literature. Also, on a note of equality, there is a discussion of the high respect for women the courtiers must have. This dialogue goes into the third book of the novel in which there is a strong defense of women and the need to be equal with men, to rid of their tyranny. Castiglione’s perceptive argument of women versus men is insightful, and ahead of his time. It is interestingly enough to note that feminism discussion has no conclusion. In fact, the debate is loosely connected to the idea of the ideal courtier and oddly enough that is last discussion in The Book of the Courtier. Perhaps Castiglione’s purpose with this was to make a point that there is not always closure. Also the ideal man is connected to all topics of conversation and although he must strive for truth, he must always be open to debate and alternative opinions. Another writer from Urbino was the famous painter Raphael’s father, Giovanni Santi. Although not as influential, Santi’s poetry also recognizes the value of art–specifically paintings. Santi’s most known work is “The Life and Deeds of Federico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino” and is ultimately a tribute to Montefeltro’s excellence and all the culture he had brought to Urbino. In this epic Santi praises many artists, showing the high esteem held for them in this time period. Santi was held close to the Ducal Palace because of his respect for such culture, and often wrote and staged theatrical events. Unfortunately, Santi has been overshadowed by the prestige of his son, making it difficult to find many of his works. Renaissance literature coming for the city of Urbino is scarce, yet the grand influence of The Book of the Courtier has impacted Europe for centuries. Urbino as a city of culture was recognized early on with the architecture of the Ducal Palace and was emphasized by the artwork by Raphael and “The Ideal City.” Even with Santi’s poetry one can see the potential the ideal Renaissance city had. However, the writings from Castiglione were the most influential as they fueled an cultured intrinsic lifestyle that was adapted by many. Ultimately, The Book of the Courtier sets the standards of man as having honor, integrity, athleticness, and, overall, culture. Many subjects are left open, such as women or preference of a prince over republic. These discussions that bear no certain conclusion are only an example of Castiglione’s belief in growth–that nothing is settled and there is always room for improvment. The Book of the Courtier was read by the courts all over Europe, namely England. It’s strong value in art, knowledge and culture has been used as instruction for the perfect courtier throughout centuries since. Indeed, Castiglione’s literary contribution highlights not just the peak of Urbino’s excellence, but also the values of Italian Renaissance culture. Works Cited Cavallo, Jo Ann. “Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier (Il Libro Del Cortegiano): A Classic in the Making by Olga Zorzi Pugliese.” Rev. of Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier (Il Libro Del Cortegiano): A Classic in the Making. Renaissance Quarterly Spring 2009: 206-07. JSTOR. Web. 3 May 2014. Morris, Roderick C. “Reconsidering Raphael’s Father.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 9 June 2009. Web. 2 May 2014. Osborne, June, and Joe Cornish. Urbino: The Story of a Renaissance City. Chicago: U of Chicago, 2003. Print. Pugliese, Olga Zorzi. Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier (Il Libro Del Cortegiano): A Classic in the Making. Napoli: Edizioni Scientifiche Italiane, 2008. Print.

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