Dante and his secret love for Beatrice

by Stefania Bufano

by Mauro Savino

Dante Sculpture by Enrico Pazzi

Dante. Sculpture by Enrico Pazzi in front of the Basilica Santa Croce

The references to Fioretta and Violetta are only a few examples of the importance of women in Dante’s poetry often considered by many scholars a shield to hide his secret love for Beatrice. In his Work Vita Nova, Dante speaks about his love representing her as an angel or a kind of miracle. In fact, her name means beatitudo, that is “she who gives bliss”, an angelic being coming down from Heaven thus it’s difficult to understand whether their relationship is real or divine representing a recurrent question by scholars and common people. Notwithstanding, it’s possible to identify Beatrice. Her name was Bice, she was Folco Portinari’s daughter, a Florentine wealthy banker. Dante made her acquaintance around 1285 and she died five years later.

Dante's Church florence

Dante’s Church – Chiesa di Santa Margherita de’ Cerchi

Did Dante really love Beatrice? He dedicated her Vita Nova, but we are unable to state if it is the story of a physical relationship since Beatrice represented something sacred. Influenced by the Franciscan spirit of his time, Dante considered Beatrice a literary and symbolic figure, a way to reach God representing the role of Christ thus her death is like the Ascension into Heaven. It is relevant to understand if Dante really loved Beatrice only just as an anecdote whilst it is less important to the author’s aims. Our curiosity is not satisfied but it should be evidenced that Dante lived during the Middle Ages and at that time the body itself was considered insignificant. Dante himself considered his love for Beatrice a supreme and unique love and although he loved her only in this way, he certainly loved her a lot.

(English revision by Silvia Maiella)

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Letters to Beatrice Dante's Church florence

Letters to Beatrice

Letters to Beatrice Dante's Church florence

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Chiesa di Santa Margherita de’ Cerchi (Dante’s Church)

Piazza Santa Croce

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Dante's Church florence

Visitors. Dante’s Church – Chiesa di Santa Margherita de’ Cerchi

[Special thanks to Alberto Gherardini, SB]

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