Sunday, May 22, 2016

Boniface and Dante

As we get more deeply into the loving portrait of old Florence drawn by Cacciaguida in Paradiso 15-17, a couple of additional links to the biography of the poet have surfaced:

For whatever reason, here's a story about Boniface VIII, who according to this writer qualifies as "the worst pope in history:"
Not content with committing one mortal sin at a time, he was known for engaging in threesomes with a married woman and her daughter. If you’re keeping track, that’s three divine laws broken in a single night (adultery, incest, and breaking the vows of celibacy). Which is reprehensible or efficient, depending on your perspective. Link

And here's a snippet of another review of the new biography of Dante by Marco Santagata, a scholar from Pisa:

The central story, after all, is not the complexity of 13th- and 14th-century Italian politics. It is the extraordinary poet, with his endless ‘reflection on what he was doing’. Santagata teases out the many ways in which Dante was not merely self-obsessed, but also self-inventive. He came from relatively modest origins: his father was a moneylender. In Paradise, however, when Dante meets his crusading ancestor Cacciaguida, they both agree that Florence has been wrecked by mercantile shyster-bankers and money-men and that the world will only come to its senses when it is once again ruled by noblemen. So, though not himself an aristocrat, Dante writes as though he were one.


Pete D'Epiro said...

While Boniface VIII was certainly no saint, the writer you quote who claims he was the worst pope should check out the doings of the dozen pontiffs of the so-called papal Pornocracy, which lasted from 904 (the election of Sergius III) to 964 (the death of John XII). Some of these guys combined the talents of Huns with those of porn stars. As for Boniface, a contemporary of his, the Florentine chronicler and politician Dino Compagni, who knew Dante and was, like him, a White Guelph, describes the pope as follows: "He was of great daring and lofty intellect, and he led the Church as he saw fit, and beat down those who stood in his way." The more famed Florentine chronicler, Villani, describes our man as "very learned in Scripture," which, whether or not he believed in it, still puts him in a totally different class from the thugs, bravos, and dimwits of the Pornocracy.

Tom Matrullo said...

Thanks Pete -- I too wondered at the distinction conferred on Boniface -- so many others might well have him beat, if not "beaten down," for the honor.

Readers might wish to know that there's a fine chapter on the Pornacracy in your book, The Book of Firsts, with some excellent scabrous tales, especially about John XII.