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Municipality of Ravenna

Dante’s Tomb

Via Dante Alighieri, 9 - Ravenna
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In the heart of Ravenna, is a little corner of peace and respect dedicated to the memory of DANTE ALIGHIERI, the father of the Italian language.

In this area, in the shadow of a majestic oak planted by Giosuè Carducci at the beginning of the 20th century, is DANTE’S TOMB, the Supreme Poet’s last resting place.

Built between 1780 and 1781 on the project of architect Camillo Morigia, the so-called “sugar bowl”, as the Ravenna people have friendly nicknamed it, stands out against the end of Via Dante Alighieri. It is the undisputed queen of the Zone of Silence.

On the architrave of the entrance is a marble plaque reciting “Dantis Poetae Sepulcrum”, which makes it easy to recognize.

THE MYSTERY OF DANTE’S SPOILS

When Dante died, in 1321, his tomb was supposedly a sarcophagus set in a simple chapel, maybe inside the Church of San Francesco. It was Guido Novello da Polenta, the lord of Ravenna, who asked for the construction of the chapel to homage him one last time.

In 1483, Bernardo Bembo, who ruled the city on account of the Republic of Venice, decided to restore the sarcophagus. The burial place was further enhanced with a marble bass relief portraying Dante’s face. Today, the bass relief by sculptor Pietro Lombardo is visible inside Dante’s Tomb.

The Supreme Poet’s spoils have been a bone of contention between Ravenna and Florence for a long time, so much so that between the 16th and the 18th century, Dante’s remains went missing again for no less than two hundred years! It came out that the Franciscan friars hid them, so that Florence couldn’t get them.

The current mausoleum was built between 1780 and 1782. Ordered by Cardinal Luigi Valenti Gonzaga (1725 – 1808) and designed by the Ravenna architect Camillo Morigia (1743-1795), who created a little Neoclassical temple made of simple lines and sombre decorations.

On that occasion, the spoils were recovered and placed in their original urn. They didn’t stay there for long, though. At the beginning of the 19th century, Napoleon ordered the confiscation of monastic property. Therefore, the friars were forced to leave, but first they made sure to hide again the chest with the spoils.

On 25 May 1865, during some maintenance works at the monastery, a bricklayer accidentally found in a wall of the Quadrarco di Braccioforte a wooden chest. Luckily, a young student, Anastasio Matteuggi, saved the box from destruction.

The chest had a script saying “Dantis ossa a me Fra Antonio Sancti hic posita anno 1677 die 18 octobris”, which means “These bones of Dante placed by me on the date of 18 October 1677”.

On that occasion, the remains were reassembled and put on display in a crystal urn for a few months. Then, it was entombed again inside the little temple we all know today.

Since then, besides the transfers occurred during the Second world war in order to avoid destruction, the spoils haven’t been moved any more. This story full of adventure that for centuries has nourished the mystery of Dante’s remains has come to an end at long last.

Dante’s Tomb

The tomb’s inside, which has been covered with marble on the occasion of the 1921 centenary, preserves the sepulchre with Dante’s spoils and the bass relief by sculptor Pietro Lombardo.

On the sepulchre’s top is engraved the Latin epitaph written by poet Bernardo Canaccio in 1327:

Iura monarchie superos Phlaegetonta lacusque
lustrando cecini fata volverunt quousque sed quia pars cessit melioribus hospita castris
actoremque suum petiit felicior astris hic claudor Dantes patriis extorris ab oris
quem genuit parvi Florentia mater amoris

Which means: «The rights of monarchy, the skies and waters of Flegetont, / Visiting I sang until my mortal destinies arrived. / Since my soul went hosted in better places, / and even more fortunate reached among the stars his Creator, here I am enclosed, / Me (Dante), exiled from the earthly land, which generated Florence, mother with little love».

At the foot of the sarcophagus, a bronze and silver wreath, donated by the victorious army of the First world war. On the right the ampoule created by sculptor of Trieste Giovanni Mayer and donated by the Istrian-Dalmatian cities in 1908.

At the centre of the little room, a votive lamp burning with the oil donated by Tuscany. Every year, in fact, on the second Sunday of September, the Municipality of Florence sends a delegation and offers the oil to commemorate its fellow citizen.

CONTACTS

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Florence and Ravenna, a Comedy-like quarrel

In light of the countless events that happened, it seems almost a miracle that Dante’s remains are still in Ravenna today. Kept in the little mausoleum dedicated to him, a few steps from where he lived the last years of his life, and from the Basilica of San Francesco, where his funeral was celebrated.

In the past, many fought to have the privilege to house the tomb, and not always with the best of intentions. One hundred years after his death (1328), for example, Cardinal Bertrando del Poggetto claimed the remains of the Supreme Poet, kept in a stone sarcophagus of the Da Polenta family. He wanted the spoils because he was accusing Dante of heresy for having written the De Monarchia.

The real historical contender, however, had always been the city of Florence. Proud of being his place of birth, Florence wanted to redeem the ancient wrong of the exile sentence, hosting Dante’s bones in a monument designed by Michelangelo inside the Church of Santa Maria Novella.

In 1519, thanks to the kinship with Pope Leo X, a delegation of the Medici almost obtained Dante’s remains, were it not for the fact that, in the meantime, the Franciscan friars had made the box of bones disappear in a wall of the Quadrarco of Braccioforte.

The Spoils came and went at least one more time, between the 17th and the 18th century, on the occasion of the suppression of the Franciscan monastery. They were recovered again by chance in 1861, when in the same area, the small mausoleum was created.

On the occasion of the World Wars, however, the box was moved again, and placed in safety under a mound of earth that can still be seen today when entering the area of the Quadrarco di Braccioforte. Since December 1945 Dante has returned to the mausoleum for eternal rest.

Further information

Opening times

From November to March: 10am – 6pm
From April to October: 10am – 7pm

1 January 2022: 1pm – 6pm

Closing time

Dante’s Tomb is closed on 25 December

Entrance fee

Free admission

How to get there

Dante’s tomb is in the very heart of Ravenna, in a pedestrian area limited to the traffic, within the so-called Zone of Silence (Basilica of San Francesco, Old Franciscan Cloisters, Dante Museum, Quadrarco di Braccioforte).

On foot: the monument is easily reachable on foot from the railway station, just within a short walk

By bus: just 20 m. away, in Piazza Caduti della Libertà is a bus stop serviced by every urban route.

By car: the city centre of Ravenna is limited to the traffic. To discover the nearby parking areas, look HERE.

Accessibility

The tomb can be seen even from outside the building itself, and it provides unimpeded view for people with physical disabilities.

A cura della Redazione Locale
E-mail: turismo@comune.ravenna.it

Last edit:22 September 2021

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