Dante's tomb to be restored

Mon, 03/27/2006 - 05:16

The tomb of Italy's greatest poet, Dante, is to be restored.

The tomb in the northeastern city of Ravenna will be cleaned up in a seven-month project starting after Easter, officials said.

The Florentine author of the Divine Comedy died in exile in Ravenna on the night of 13 September 1321, aged 56. His ashes were placed in a sarcophagus in cloisters next to a Franciscan church - and later hidden in a wall when Napoleonic troops forced the friars guarding the tomb to disband.

The friars had refused repeated requests from Florence to return the remains of the Tuscan city's most famous son - even when backed by two Medici popes and Michelangelo. The ashes were only rediscovered in 1865 when a big neoclassical building was built to house the remains.

They have stayed in that building ever since - apart from a brief reburial in the cloister garden to keep them safe from retreating German soldiers in 1944.

The tomb draws thousands of visitors a year to Ravenna, rivalling the lure of its world-famous Byzantine mosaics. Florence has had to be content with an empty tomb in the church of Santa Croce - which many tourists believe is the real thing.

Topic: Dante