This exhibition is definitely filed under ‘times I wish I lived in New York’…
Not only does it engage my general manuscript nerdery, but it also ticks the ‘birth of the Italian language’ and ‘roots of Italian poetry’ boxes to make a trifecta of medievalist joy.
In Dante’s Paradiso (XI, 55-57), Francis gets this glowing write-up:
‘Non era ancor molto lontan da l’orto, / ch’el cominciò a far sentir la terra / de la sua gran virtute alcun conforto.’
‘Not much time as yet had passed / when he first lent his comfort to the earth / by the greatness of his virtuous power.’
For Dante, Francis may have been a model of exile and of the humility of which Dante himself keenly felt the lack. In this episode in the Divine Comedy, Dante gives us a biography of Francis that hinges on the image of Francis in love with an oft-scorned lady, who is a symbol for poverty. The importance of the poverty of priests to Dante’s view of the ideal church is paramount and the cause of much ranting in both the Divine Comedy and in the Monarchia in particular.
To see the early manuscripts of such a significant figure as Francis would be truly exciting.
Oh well, here’s hoping they bring it on tour, or indeed, that I get the chance to visit the archives at some point! (If the Vatican Library let me in, I may have a shot!).
Text and translation, as ever, from the Princeton Dante Project.