Beneath so fair a sky as I describe
twenty-four elders, two by two,
came crowned with lilies.
The Earthly Paradise.—Mystic Procession or Triumph of the Church.
In the Earthly Paradise Matilda walks along the bank of the river Lethe and Dante follows her, albeit on the other bank. Suddenly the divine forest is lit up by a flash that gets brighter and brighter. Meanwhile, a sweet melody wafts through the air. The Poet invokes the Muses, in particular Urania, to help him put into verse the miraculous things to come. He begins to describe the mystical procession he sees, in which the diverse allegorical figures present the history of the Church. Seven candelabra slowly approach on the opposite bank, leaving seven bright streaks behind. Twenty-four elders follow, all dressed in white and wearing wreaths of lilies on their heads. They sing a hymn to the Virgin as they proceed. Then come four animals, each of them crowned with green leafy branches and each having six wings full of eyes. Among the four animals there is a triumphal two-wheeled chariot drawn by a griffin – i.e. with the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion. The wings of the griffin are lifted high. On its right, three women dance by, each dressed in a different colour —the first in red, the second in green and the third in white. On the left side, four more women dance by, all dressed in red. Two dignified elders come after them: one looks like a doctor while the other holds a naked sword. Four more figures pass by, followed by a lone old man in deep sleep. These final seven characters are dressed in white and wear wreaths of red roses and flowers on their heads. As the chariot approaches, a peal of thunder rends the sky and the whole procession stops.
The mosaics of two processions face each other on the walls of the Basilica of S. Apollinare Nuovo: that of the Martyrs and that of the Virgins. This beautiful and powerful iconography seems to have inspired the procession of the twenty-four elders, all dressed in white and wearing wreaths of lilies on their heads, who proceed solemnly two by two in the griffin parade, where Dante meets Beatrice (who scolds him).
Traduzione a cura della classe 5aC A.S.20/21 del Liceo Scientifico A. Oriani di Ravenna
Canto adopted by Dr. Carlo Simoncelli and Dr.ssa Flavia Valmorra
For further information on Sant’Apollinare Nuovo