Destination of thousands of tourists that every year visit Dante’s Tomb, the so-called QUADRARCO OF BRACCIOFORTE is a little corner of tranquillity in the very heart of Ravenna.
The Quadrarco of Braccioforte is sited in the so-called Zone of Silence, inextricably linked to the memory of the Supreme Poet. In the 10th century, the historian from Ravenna Andrea Agnello wrote in his chronicles that here, in the past, was a little oratory, connected through a portico to the near Basilica of San Francesco, which is no longer there today.
Legend has it that the name “Braccioforte” is connected with the story of two worshippers. They were willing to do anything in order to be listened by the Lord. The two men had sworn an oath invoking the “strong arm” of Christ, which in Italian is “braccio forte”, right where now the monument stands, in front of the Christ’s image that was preserved here.
DANTE AND THE QUADRARCO
The spoils of the Supreme Poet were buried where today is a little courtyard, between Dante’s Tomb and the Basilica of San Francesco. They were buried there in order to keep them safe from the bombings of the Second world war.
A little mound of earth covered with ivy, right at the centre, takes us back to those memories. Here is a gravestone that says “Under this mound the bones of Dante found safe rest from 23 March 1944 to 19 December 1945”.
In truth, Dante’s spoils had never been in danger nor threatened by bombings. Nonetheless, in the name of an extreme safeguard, the fascist party official Alessandro Pavolini had made an agreement to move the poets remains in Valtellina (a valley in the Lombardy) in case of danger.
The relationship between the Quadrarco and Dante resides also in other elements of the area – first of all an old wall.
Today, the wall has been restored, but it used to border with the old Franciscan Cloisters. Between the 16th and the 19th century, the friars hid here the Poet’s spoils more than once, to keep them safe from any pretenders – especially Florence.
Then, there is the imposing centuries-old oak, wanted by Carducci to commemorate the Supreme Poet at the beginnings of the 20th century. With its arms, the oak embraces and protects the entire area. Lastly, the so-called “bell of Dante” is another symbol, on the top of the staircase, just behind the tomb.
THE GARDEN OF THE QUADRARCO
Inside the Quadrarco’s courtyard, a series of marble sarcophagi are preserved. Among them, two dating back between the 5th and the 6th century a.D. stand out; they were used some time later by the members of two noble Ravenna families, Pignata and Traversari.
Since 1921 the Quadrarco is enclosed by a wrought iron fence, created by Umberto Bellotto from Venice.