11. Church of S. Elena near the Cathedral

It is 20th January 1320. It’s cold. Dante is nervous: many of the invitees have not come to the conference. Someone in the audience lowers his eyes: he cannot withstand Dante’s fiery gaze. Someone thinks: “he’s really been in hell…” But how would you call that endless peregrination from one place to another, condemned to forever climb other people’s stairs, forced to live alongside clowns, jesters, and courtiers? What else could a righteous man, rich in intellect and genius, think of that continuous begging for hospitality in exchange of ambassadorial services, never having a real job, that security that could guarantee him at least dignity and a future for his children?
Here, in S. Helena, he has hope: through his dissertation on a topic that was much debated at the time (the issue of sea level relative to the earth), he has a chance to show all his wisdom and his ability to master physics to the professors and scholars of the University of Verona, then a vivid cultural centre, acquiring dignity as a renowned scholar, and maybe a chair… Many will boycott him though, the unmistakable sign that he will never receive the long‑awaited recognition…
Yet there is knowledge, now and forever, knowledge: the “consolation from philosophy”. God is not questioned, faith, love and poetry are fundamental; but man has also intellect, rational abilities, and those too will save him from the dark forest. In “Quaestio de aqua et terra” Dante has an intuition regarding the foundations of future science by perceiving a contradiction between empirical data and the theoretical model of the world obtained from abstract disciplines such as theology. Trying to have the full attention and respect of the wise men of his time, he doesn’t omit any detail in his meticulous dissertation. Once again, we can feel the energy and the passion of a man who, even in a dark and brutal age, never ceases to believe in the rationality of man.

Related posts

Subscribe to the newsletter

Privacy - Having read the informative note, and in compliance with Decree no. 196 of 30 June 2003, I consent to the processing of my personal data necessary to access web and mailing services reserved to the online users of IAT Verona.

Newsletter archive