The popular image of Dante as a theologian
My paper at the Italian Academy's Fellows' Seminar focused on legends describing an episode in the life of Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), the famous Florentine poet. These, usually short, anecdotal stories begin to appear in manuscripts around the end of the 14th and the beginning of the 15th century. They narrate how Dante was supposedly accused of heresy by a member of the clergy. In some versions this person is an inquisitor, and in others a friar or even the pope himself. The story continues to describe how Dante managed to evade this accusation and to vindicate himself by writing a vernacular poem that not only proved beyond doubt the orthodoxy of his faith, but also established Dante's status as a paragon of lay-vernacular piety. All versions of this legend are followed by the poem Dante allegedly wrote as his doctrinal defense - a pseudo-Dantean text aptly titled Credo di Dante, whose real author was Antonio Beccari da Ferrara (1315-c.1373).
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