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Dante arrived in Ravenna in 1318 and stayed here until the day of his death, in September 1321. The Great Poet considered Ravenna a suitable place to finish his masterpiece, the Divina Commedia. In fact, he finished to write the Paradiso precisely here.
In 1519, the famous debate between Ravenna and Florence in order to decide in which city Dante’s body should have rest begun. The citizens of Florence obtained the permission to take the poet’s remains directly from Pope Leo X, but once arrived in Ravenna, they found the grave empty: the Franciscan friars made a breach through the wall from the inside of the convent and stole the bones, concealing them into the near monastery.
The tomb, built in neo-classical style, has got a square plan and the temple is crowned by a small cupola. The external facade is very simple, with the door surmounted by the coat of arms of Cardinal Gonzaga, and on the lintel it is written in Latin: Dantis poetae sepulcrum.
Inside, above the sarcophagus, there is a 1483 bas-relief by Pietro Lombardo, depicting Dante in meditation at a reading desk. At the foot of the grave there’s a bronze wreath given by the survivors of World War I in 1921. On the ceiling, a eighteenth-century votive lamp burns perpetually, fueled by olive oil of the Tuscan hills that is donated every year by Florence on the 14th of September (the anniversary of the poet’s death).
On the back of the tomb there is a stair that leads to the museum, that is divided in 5 rooms where several relics are guarded: a copy of Dante’s monument in Trento, some plaques and parchments, some poet’s masques, the case of Father Antonio Santi and the glass urn in which the skeleton of Dante was displayed in 1865. The exhibition ends with portraits, sketches and busts.
BASILICA OF ST. FRANCIS
The church was buit by Bishop Neone as “Basilica of the Apostles” (Peter and Paul). The building was later renamed Basilica of St. Francis because in 1261 the Franciscan friars received it as a concession. The interior of the church is divided in 3 naves by two series of rounded arches supported by 12 columns in each side.
The present floor is 3.50 meters higher than the original one, as it can be seen in the presbytery: under this area you can find the 9th-10th century crypt, reachable descending a double staircase. It is impossible to enter the crypt, but there is a small arch window through which you can see on the floor the ancient mosaics, restored in 1977. Among these, there is an inscription that refers to the original purpose of this place, that is hosting the ashes of Bishop Neone.
Since the crypt is below the sea level, the water floods the room, as if it was a small swimming pool for different fishes, creating a very evocative atmosphere.
QUADRARCO DI BRACCIOFORTE
On the right of Dante’s tomb, there is the gate to enter this old oratory, connected to the church by a portico. Two sarcophagi are placed under the Quadrarco: one of the Prophet Eliseus and the other one of Pietro Traversari. On the facade of the first one, dating back to the early years of the 5h century, Christ is depicted on the throne, dominating a lion and a dragon, the forces of evil. The second sarcophagus, of the end of the 5th century, is decorated with a slate and two crosses on the sides. In the garden, the remains of the ancient wall which hid the case containing Dante’s bones is preserved and commemorated by a plaque.