Dante is Exiled from Florence

Sentenced on charges of corruption on 27 January 1302, Dante Alighieri never saw the city again.

Dante Alighieri, holding a copy of The Divine Comedy, painting by Agnolo Bronzino, c.1530. Alamy.

Late medieval Florence was riven by factional disputes based on support for, or opposition to, papal power. Dante Alighieri, briefly one of the city’s six governing officials, was of the latter party. But, after Charles of Valois entered the city in November 1301, Dante’s allies were overthrown; and on 27 January 1302 Dante, aged around 36, was one of a number sentenced to exile on charges of corruption. His wife and children remained in Florence; he never saw the city again.

Although The Divine Comedy is notionally set in Easter week 1300, Dante is thought to have started writing it around 1308. The retrospective setting allows him to foretell the bitterness of exile: ‘How salt is the taste/Of other people’s bread, how hard the way/Going up and down other people’s stairs.’

The poet Giovanni Boccaccio says Dante visited Paris while in exile and Gladstone believed he studied in Oxford, but it is unlikely that he ever left Italy. He lived for periods in Arezzo, Bologna and Verona and his last few years were spent in Ravenna, where he died in September 1321. 

In the 19th century, Florence built a grand tomb to house his remains in the Basilica of Santa Croce, but Ravenna resisted their removal. The tomb in Florence remains empty.