In quel loco fu’ io Pietro Damiano,
e ‘In that place I was known as Peter Damian,
but Peter the Sinner in the House
of Our Lady on the Adriatic shore.
Ascent to the Heaven of Saturn. – Spirits of those who had given themselves to devout contemplation. – The Golden Stairway. – St. Peter Damian. – Predestination. – The luxury of modern Prelates.
The climb up to Saturn’s Heaven, the seventh – where the contemplative spirits reside – takes place once the eagle of the right souls has finished her speech about predestination. For the first time Beatrice doesn’t reveal the passage to a superior heaven through her smile, so as not to blind Dante. In the Seventh Heaven he sees a bright ladder the end of which seems to reach the Empyrean. The souls of the contemplatives move continuously up and down it. One of them stops by the Poet and asks him to express his wish. Dante asks two questions: why this specific soul has drawn near and why this Heaven doesn’t resound with the blessed souls’ glorious music. The soul answers that nobody can know the mind of God – no human mind, nor blessed souls or seraphs, the angels closest to God. Therefore, no one will ever know why only certain souls are bound to talk to the pilgrim. As for the silence, there is no song here for the same reason that Beatrice does not smile, lest Dante’s human abilities are overwhelmed. Upon request, the soul reveals he’s Saint Peter Damian. He then talks about his life, which he spent in solitude and in contemplation in the Camaldolese monastery of Santa Croce di Forte Avellana, until he was appointed cardinal and forced to get back into the world. Saint Peter Damian launches an angry tirade about the decay of the monastic orders and the corruption of the Church. All the souls of the Seventh Heaven cry out in agreement.
The Basilica of Santa Maria in Porto was built from 1554 to 1557 by the Canons Regular. It inherited the function and privileges of the church of Santa Maria in Porto Fuori, which was the House of our Lady on the Adriatic shore mentioned by Dante. The latter was destroyed on 5th November 1944 by aerial bombing, together with its fourteenth-century frescoes from the “Rimini school”, and it was rebuilt after the war. In this church in Porto Fuori, we can still see the sarcophagus of Pietro Degli Onesti, who defined himself “Pietro Peccatore” (= Peter the Sinner). Since the tercet mentions San Pier Damiano (= Saint Peter Damian), who signed himself as “Pietro Peccatore too”, most scholars believe Dante mixed up the two characters. However, others think the tercet distinguishes between the two characters and suggest a different interpretation of the text. The Canons brought the bas-relief of the Greek Madonna, the protector of the city, to the Basilica of Santa Maria in Porto. It is believed to be one of the three Marian images of the saint that inspired the splendid oration to the Virgin that Saint Bernard utters in the last canto of Paradiso. One of the other two was housed in the Metropolitan Basilica but is now preserved in the Archiepiscopal Museum, while the other was in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore but has since disappeared.
Traduzione a cura della classe 5aC A.S.20/21 del Liceo Scientifico A. Oriani di Ravenna
Canto adopted by Dott. Silvio Gambi
For further information on Basilica di Santa Maria in Porto