Dante Alighieri began writing his “Divine Comedy,” which traces a pilgrim’s progress to our true home in heaven, in the year 1308 and completed the work in the year 1320, publishing it in 1321, the same year he died. The “Comedy” begins in a Dark Wood of Despair and ends with the Beatific vision as Dante enters fully into the mind of God. In this new translation, written in this interim septuacentennial anniversary period between completion and publication and beautifully illustrated with the sculptures of Timothy Schmalz, Daniel Fitzpatrick makes the work accessible to the 21st century reader in celebration of Dante’s 700th anniversary.
This new translation and illustration of Dante’s “Divine Comedy” is quite timely given the pandemic Italy and the rest of the world are facing. What started as a devotion to the world’s most famous poet quickly evolved into a global fundraiser to aid hospitals and other organizations in and for Italy. Daniel Fitzpatrick and Timothy Schmalz have chosen to graciously donate their time and energy to help save Italy by offering donors a full year’s worth of Fitzpatrick’s translations of Dante’s “Divine Comedy” accompanied by images of Schmalz’s canto sculptures. Donors will receive biweekly installments of the “Divine Comedy” translations and images via email.
La Gazzetta spoke with renowned sculptor Timothy Schmalz about this project. “For the past 700 years, Dante Alighieri has been considered almost a ‘mascot’ of Italy. Not too long ago, I decided to do what has never been done before, in honor of his 700th anniversary in 2021.” He began sculpting each of the 300 cantos of Dante’s “Divine Comedy.” His goal was and is to create a visual doorway to encourage people to read Dante’s work. This project honoring the world-famous poet quickly took on a new form when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Italy and the rest of the world.
Schmalz’s 2-foot-by-1-foot sculptures are meant to serve as a visual translation of Dante’s work. Combined with Fitzpatrick’s written translation, their images will be provided to donors of the Help Dante Help Italy worldwide fundraiser for as little as a $5 donation. “Dante can help Italians and everyone in the world right now in more ways than the donations,” Schmalz says. While the donations are extremely important to send aid to Italian hospitals and provide funding for relief of migrants and the homeless in Italy, Dante’s words can provide comfort and solace to people at a time like this. “Dante’s writing is beautiful, powerful and hopeful. Even hope and beauty can be found in the section titled ‘Hell.’ His words offer a sense of structure. And, structure can be very comforting during a time of chaos – which is what the world is experiencing right now. I truly believe that this is the perfect time to become familiar with Dante’s work.” In doing so, you can also contribute to a fund designed to offer aid to our home country.
Schmalz tells La Gazzetta: “This summer was meant to be my 13-year-old’s first trip to Rome. We were so excited to immerse ourselves in the Italian culture. He even learned Italian over the winter to prepare for our trip! Now, we both feel robbed. The world feels robbed. To fill the void, I decided to start sculpting the cantos. Now the cantos can become that doorway for others to get to know Dante as I do. This time can become a time of reflection, a time to welcome Dante’s work into the silent period of our lives. Readers will be richer and better for reading it. It’s like doing ‘cultural sit-ups!’”
If you would like to donate to the Help Dante Help Italy fund, visit https://ca.gofundme.com/f/dantedi-a-newly-translated-and-illustrated-comedy. For every donation of at least $5, donors will receive the full year of translations and images to their respective email address.
As donations increase, the opportunity to receive a hard copy of the translations in book forms is available. For all $250 or more donations, donors receive a hard copy of all three printed books and a larger sculpted gift item.
Schmalz’s passion for Dante is unmatched. “The idea that Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” 700-years-later, is not just a masterpiece, but a masterpiece that is motivating people to help Italy, proves how important he and his work are to the Italian culture.”