On September 12, 2021, the city of Ravenna, Italy, celebrated its traditional commemoration of the death of Dante ALIGHIERI. The commemoration takes place annually on the second Sunday of September. Dante died between September 13 and 14, 1321, exactly 700 years ago in Ravenna. This ancient city was once the capital of the Western Roman Empire, then the capital of the Ostrogoths, and later, the seat of the Byzantine Exarchate.
The most significant event during the anniversary was “Dante’s Mass,” a commemorative Mass celebrated in Ravenna’s Basilica of San Pietro Maggiore, popularly called “San Francesco.” The basilica was entrusted to the Minorites in 1261. It was the site of Dante’s funeral and stands next to where the body of the great poet is buried.
His Eminence, Gianfranco Cardinal RAVASI, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, presided over the Mass. Those concelebrating included the Most Reverend Lorenzo GHIZZONI, Archbishop of Ravenna-Cervia; Friar Roberto BRANDINELLI, Minister Provincial of the Italian Province of St. Anthony of Padua (Northern Italy); Monsignor Pasquale IACOBONE, Secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archeology; and Friar Ivo LAURENTINI, Director of the Dante Center, Rector of the Basilica and Guardian of the friary in Ravenna.
The Mayors and the Assessors of Culture of Ravenna and Florence, with their respective delegations, also attended the Mass. The Mayor of Florence, Dario NARDELLA, again presented the oil this year and rekindled the lamp that burns in Dante’s tomb.
The next evening, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, a ceremony was held in the basilica to commemorate the death of the poet at the time which tradition says was the hour of his pious passing. After the solemn ceremony the day before, this event felt more like a gathering of friends and relatives coming together to remember a loved one who had passed from this world to eternal life. The Mayor of and the Archbishop of Ravenna were again present, together with the Minister Provincial, who greeted the assembly with some words of welcome. Next, a passage from the Life of Dante by Giovanni BOCCACCIO was read. The work was written between 1351 and 1365 and the selected passage recounted the end of Dante’s earthly life. The reading was followed by a musical performance of Requiem by Domenico CIMAROSA.
After that, there was a reading of the final canto of Dante’s Paradiso, Canto XXXIII, which begins with St. Bernard’s famous prayer to the Virgin. This was followed by a speech from “our Cardinal,” His Eminence, Friar Mauro M. Cardinal GAMBETTI. Friar Mauro was at one time the Minister Provincial of the former Province of Bologna, which, until 2013, had been a pillar of support for the friary and the Dante Center in Ravenna.
The evening concluded with a performance of the Te Deum by Baldassarre GALUPPI. It was sung by the basilica’s Cappella Musicale under the direction of Giuliano AMADEI.
Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ…and his poet, Dante ALIGHIERI!
Friar Maurizio BAZZONI
Photo © Giampiero CORELLI – Ravenna