DanteAlighieri1

Dante Alighieri Statue at Meridian Hill Park

Dante Alighieri is a public artwork by an Italian sculptor named Ettore Ximenes, and is a tribute to the major Italian poet of the Middle Ages of the same name, mononymously referred to as Dante.   It rests on a granite base, with the statue depicting a standing Dante wearing a robe and a laurel wreath on his head.  In his hands he is holding a copy of “The Divine Comedy,” his epic poetic trilogy depicting an imaginative and allegorical vision of the afterlife describes Dante’s journey through Hell (Inferno), Purgatory (Purgatorio), and Paradise (Paradiso).  Originally called Commedia and later called Divina by Giovanni Boccaccio, who wrote a biography of Dante.  The Divine Comedy is widely considered the preeminent work of Italian literature, as well as one of the greatest masterpieces of world literature.

Dante was a Medieval Italian poet, writer, political thinker and moral philosopher.  He known in In Italy as il Sommo Poeta, or “the Supreme Poet.”  He is also called the “Father of the Italian language.”  He was born in Florence in the year 1265.  Unfortunately, relatively little is known about his life.  Much of what is known of the writer comes from his essays and writings.  Dante did not write of his family or marriage, but it is known that he married Gemma di Manetto Donati, and they had several children, of whom two sons, Jacopo and Pietro, and a daughter, Antonia, are known.

Dante Alighieri is a casting of an identical statue located at Dante Park in New York City, and was donated to the city of D.C. as a “gift of the Italians of the United States” by Carlo Barsotti, the founder of Dante Park and editor of Il Progresso Italiano-Americano, an Italian-language daily newspaper published in the United States at that time.

On this bike ride, I rode to see the statue, which is located at the southeast corner of Meridian Hill Park, which is located in northwest D.C.’s Columbia Heights neighborhood, on land bordered by 15th, 16th, W, and Euclid Streets (MAP).  It was dedicated at that location in December of 1921, in a ceremony attended by numerous dignitaries, including President Warren G. Harding and his wife, Florence, who may or may not have been named after the city where Dante was born.

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