Dantis ossa A me Fre Antonio Santi hic posita Ano 1677 die 18 Octobris
Medical experts were summoned. They made, Miss Phillimore tells us, “a careful examination of the bones, and proceeded to reconstruct the skeleton.... The stature answered to that of the poet as nearly as the measurement of a skeleton can represent the living form, and the skull found in the chest corresponded exactly with the mask taken from Dante’s face immediately after his death, which was brought from Florence for the purpose of making this comparison.”
What seems to have happened has been made clear for us by Dr. Ricci. Between 1483, when Bembo reconstructed the tomb, and 1520, when the Florentines again claimed the body, and for the first time with a certainty of success, the body of Dante disappeared. It seems that in 1520 the Franciscans entered the mausoleum, abstracted the body, and hid it to save it for Ravenna. In June 1677 Fra Antonio visited the bones in their hiding place and verified them. In October of the same year they were built into the new wall where the old entrance to the Braccioforte chapel had been; to be discovered by chance in 1865.
It is curious that even as the last cantos of the Divine Comedy were discovered by means of a dream, so a dream went before the discovery of the bones of Dante.
“The sacristan of the Franciscan confraternity,” we read, “called La Confraternita della Mercede, was wont to sleep in the damp recesses of the ancient chapel of Braccioforte.” His name was Angelo Grillo ... This sacristan declared himself to have seen in a dream a shade issue from the spot where the body was found, clad in red, that it passed through the chapel into the adjoining cemetery. It approached him, and on being asked who it was, replied, ‘I am Dante.’ The sacristan died in May 1865, a few days before the discovery of the bones on the 27th of that month. Upon June 26, 1865, the bones of Dante were replaced in their original sarcophagus, ornamented by Pietro Lombardi, after having lain in state for three days, during which thousands from all over Italy passed before them. There it is to be hoped they will remain.
[Illustration: CAMPANILE OF S. FRANCESCO]
When we come to examine what is left to us of mediaeval Ravenna, of the buildings which were erected there during the Middle Age, we shall find, as we might expect, very little that is either great or splendid, for, as we have seen, after the first year of the ninth century Ravenna fell from her great position and became nothing more than a provincial city, perhaps more inaccessible than any other in the peninsula. Her achievement such as it was in the earlier mediaeval period consisted in the production of three men of real importance, S. Romuald of the Onesti family of Ravenna, who was born in the city about the year 956 and who founded, as we know, the Order of Camaldoli; S. Peter Damian, who was born there about 988; and Blessed Peter of Ravenna, Pietro degli Onesti, called Il Peccatore, of the same stock as S. Romuald.