School History

Dante Alighieri, was one of the greatest poets of the Middle Ages. His epic poem, The Divine Comedy, ranks among the world's finest works of literature. Critics have praised it, not only as magnificent poetry, but also for its wisdom and scholarly learning. Many scholars consider The Divine Comedy a summary of medieval thought.

Dante had a tremendous influence on later writers and scholars. Geoffery Chaucer and John Milton imitated his works. He also influenced writers of the 1800's such as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Tennyson, Lord Byron, Victor Hugo, and Friedrich Schlegel.

Dante was born in Florence, Italy. His mother died when he was a child, and his father, when Dante was about eighteen years old. Dante received a rich education in classical and religious subjects, studying in centers such as Bologna, Padua and Paris.

Dante's idealized love for a beautiful girl, Beatrice Portinari (1266-1290), provided much inspiration for his literary works. He saw her only twice, once when he was nine and again nine years later.  Although grief-stricken after Beatrice's death, Dante married Gemma Donati before 1294. They had at least three children.

Dante was active in the political and military life of Florence. He entered the army as a youth and held several important positions in the Florentine government during the 1290's. Dante became involved in a political dispute between two groups, the Guelphs and the Ghibellines, who were fighting for control of Tuscany. A political group within the Guelphs gained control of Florence about 1300. This group was hostile to the poet and banished him in 1302, condemning him to death if he returned to Florence. Dante spent the last few years of his exile in Ravenna, and was buried there.


Among Dante's early writings, the best known is La Vita Nuova (The New Life), written about 1293. This work is a collection of thirty-one poems with prose and comments describing his love for Beatrice. The New Life shows the influence of troubadour poetry that flourished in southern France during the 1100's and 1200's.

Dante also wrote several non-fiction works. About 1303 and 1304 he wrote De Vulgari Eloquentia (On Writing in the Italian Language). This work in Latin prose stresses the importance of writing in a common Italian language, rather than in Latin or a minor dialect. Dante hoped that the Italians would develop a national literary language to help unite the country.

Il Convivo (The Banquet, 1304-1307) is an unfinished work written in Italian, consisting of three odes, with, detailed comments on each. The work shows that Dante had a wide knowledge of Philosophy and Science. De Monarchia (On Monarchy, 1313?) is an essay in Latin prose. Dante called for the state, in the form of the Holy Roman empire, to join with the church in guiding man to a better life on earth and joy in heaven. Other works include a group of miscellaneous poems and several letters.

Dante wrote The Divine Comedy while in exile (1302-1321). The poem describes the steps in his spiritual development and focuses the reader's attention on life after death. The Comedy is a vision and an allegory. It is a vision of the world beyond the grave; it is an allegory of the life and destiny of a person. It is divided into three major parts: Hell, Purgatory and Heaven. Guided by the Latin Poet, Virgil, Dante begins his allegorical journey in The Inferno on Good Friday morning. On the Mountain of Purgatory, Beatrice becomes Dante's guide and leads him to Heaven and to God.

In The Divine Comedy, Dante teaches that through knowledge, good choices and divine grace, we too will ultimately arrive at our destination, and experience eternal happiness with God.

At Dante Alighieri Academy, we continue to espouse Dante's philosophy as we guide our young people in their spiritual journey. As Christian educators, we help our students to find meaning in life and ways of contributing to society.