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The Divine Comedy

 To preface this page of The Divine Comedy I have borrowed a couple lines from Dante's "Convivio" which I think are most appropriate: “Since knowledge is the ultimate perfection of our soul, in which resides our ultimate happiness, we are all therefore by nature subject to a desire for it.” -Canto I

Metaphorically speaking what connects Starlight Tower to the "Divine Comedy" at this time, is the coincidence of events that took place for the former and take place for the later presently. Just like Dante's primal figure faces a midlife crisis and embarks on his quest to find himself and God, our own protagonist, Starlight Tower having also reached midway to his own life is in search to find qualified people that will restore him to all the glory he is famous for. Certainly we are no way near the dire straights poor Dante was, we already know of the happy ending that awaits our beloved Starlight Tower but I thought it could be a good morale-boost injection refreshing our collective memories and inspire us to be patient while events seemingly taking for ever resolute successfully and our productive board of directors chooses wisely the rehab contractors. And on the other hand if you happen to side on the extra-optimists category (to which I belong) you can envision the task already completed since we already reside in "Paradiso" with our Nine Heavens (happy to be on the ninth!) and our Empyrean. It just can not get better than that!


The Inferno
The "Inferno", although is only a part of Dante's "Divine Comedy", a masterful poem considered as one of the greatest masterpieces of literature in the world comparable with the best epic poems ever written "Iliad" and "Odyssey" works by the Ancient Greek poet Homer, has become famous as sole entity and is published as "Dante's Inferno".
 
The "Divine Comedy" was not titled so by Dante but simply "La Commedia" (The Comedy) which at his era did not meant funny (like today) but a story with a happy ending. After his death the word "Divina" was added by Giovanni Boccaccio (Italian poet and author born in Florence 1313 - 1375) who was a big admirer and lecturer of Dante's work making it "La Divina Commedia".
 

The "Gates of Hell"
Divine Comedy
"Abandon all hope, you who enter here"
 
The "Divine Comedy" is divided into three canticas (cantiche) that correspond to the three realms of the afterlife used as physical divisions in the story line: Inferno (Hell), Pulgatorio (Purgatory), Paradiso (Paradise). Each cantica consists of thirty three cantos except the Inferno that has thirty four making it a total of one hundred cantos.
The cantos are written in "terza rima" which utilizes three-line "tercets" (stanzas)
The first and third lines rhyme, then the second line rhymes with the first line of the next tercet. This establishes a melodic overlapping continuation that produces a soft iambic rhythm very pleasant in reading. (and my personal favorite in writing, example my farewell poem to a beloved uncle in twenty nine, four-line tercets, written in Greek).
 
Dante subdivides his realms as follows:
* The Inferno: which is composed of nine levels plus the Vestibule making it ten.
In the Inferno, the sinners are divided according to three vices: Incontinence, Violence, and Fraud and then are further subdivided by the seven deadly sins.
 
* The Purgatory: which is composed of seven terraces, plus two ledges in the Ante-Purgatory and the Terrestrial Paradise making it ten. In the Purgatory, penance is ordered on the basis of three types of natural love.
 
* The Paradiso: which is composed of nine heavens plus the Empyrean heaven making it ten. The Paradise is divided according to three types of Divine Love and then is further subdivided according to the three theological and four cardinal virtues.

As you see the number 3 plays a major role in these divisions. Some say is related to Dante's fascination with numerology whereas others say is the Triad of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit.
 
The poem is a narration of Dante's imaginary journey to find God after suffering a terrible personal misfortune (see mini bio at end of page), feeling the need to understand why and find answers.

He starts the poem saying how he found himself spiritually lost. (-Inferno, I, 1-3)
Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura
ché la diritta via era smarrita.
Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself in a dark wood,
where the right way was lost.


Beatrice (who is dead and the woman Dante loved when he was only nine years old and idolized the rest of his life) listens to him and asks Virgin Mary for help by sending him a guide so he can see the errors he has done and find his way. She agrees and sends Virgil (the ancient Roman poet that has written the "Aeneiad"). Dante starts his three-day trip on Good Friday by descending to Hell then climbing up Mount Purgatory on the other side of the world and finally arriving to Heaven in the sky. Virgil acts as his first guide through the Inferno and Purgatory, his second guide is Beatrice herself and finally last guide is Saint Bernard who takes him to see God.

The Inferno is filled with unforgettable scenes that are given to us so vividly and in such detail describing the circles in Hell, characters doomed there and their punishment according to the degree of their sin which makes easy to understand why it has been for centuries such endless source of inspiration to artists of all media.
 
Focusing briefly on the poetic and aesthetic qualities of the work in order to get the full flavor because there are numerous translation versions is worth investigating until you come across the one you enjoy the most. But which ever version you read make sure to have the melodic original as well even if your Italian are not so good or you don't speak the language at all. To illustrate this comment I put bellow an excerpt taken upon Dante's encounter and exchange with Francesca and three translation versions.

Italian Original Inferno
- Canto V, Circle 2 , Carnal Sinners, 121 - 129

E quella a me: «Nessun maggior dolore
che ricordarsi del tempo felice
ne la miseria; e ciò sa 'l tuo dottore.

Ma s'a conoscer la prima radice
del nostro amor tu hai cotanto affetto,
dirò come colui che piange e dice.

Noi leggiavamo un giorno per diletto
di Lancialotto come amor lo strinse;
soli eravamo e sanza alcun sospetto.
 
Translation Version A
And she to me: There is no greater sorrow
Than to be mindful of the happy time
In misery, and that thy Teacher knows.

But, if to recognize the earliest root
Of love in us thou hast so great desire,
I will do even as he who weeps and speaks.

One day we reading were for our delight
Of Launcelot, how Love did him enthrall.
Alone we were and without any fear.

Translation Version B
And she told me, "Nothing is more painful
Than to recall the time of happiness
In wretchedness: this truth your teacher knows.

"If, however, to learn the initial root
Of our own love is now your deep desire,
I will speak here as one who weeps in speaking.

"One day for our own pleasure we were reading
Of Lancelot and how love pinioned him.
We were alone and innocent of suspicion.

Translation Version C
And she to me: The is no greater woo
than the remembering in misery the happy time, and that thy teacher knows.
 
But if thou hast so great desire to know the first root of our love, I will do like one who weeps and tells
 
We were reading one day, for delight,
of Lancelot how love constrained him.
We were alone and without any suspicion. 


Divine Comedy

"Inferno chart of Hell" by Italian painter Sandro Botticelli (born Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi 1445 - 1510)


Divine Comedy

"Dante Alighieri" Fresco from "La Divina Commedia" by Domenico di Michelino (1465) in the "Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore" or The "Duomo of Florence"
 
In this fresco, Dante Alighieri is holding a copy of his Divine Comedy that on close up reads the "Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita..." and with his right hand points to a line of sinners going down to the circles of Hell to the left. Behind him is the Purgatory with Adam and Eve on the top representing the Terrestrial Paradise. Above them is the sun and the moon representing the Heavenly Paradise. And finally to Dante's left is the city of Florence with the Campanile and Dome of Santa Maria del Fiore dominating the city but who did not exist in Dante's time and was built later on.

Divine Comedy

The "Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore" or The "Duomo of Florence"

The "Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore" or The "Duomo of Florence", was built in 1296 by Arnolfo di Cambio also called di Lapo (born in Colle di Val d'Elsa, Tuscany 1240 - 1302/1310) but its construction continued for the next century and a half. In 1334 the painter architect Giotto di Bondone (1267 - 1337) designed and built the Campanile. The Basilica however became famous later for its colossal dome that was designed by architect and sculptor Filippo Brunelleschi (born in Firenze, 1377-1446) and build without any wood framework in 1420 and finished in 1446. It stands 177 feet above ground level, while its height from the drum base to the top is about 108 feet and over four million bricks were used for its construction!
On the bottom left you can see a corner of the Battistery di San Giovanni that has the three famous bronze doors: one by Andrea Pisani and two by Ghiberti one of them being the Gate of Paradise.


Brief biography of Dante Alighieri
He was born in Florence Italy in 1265 and died in Ravenna in 1321 where he was buried at the Church of San Pier Maggiore that later was called San Francesco and on his grave there are a couple of verses from his friend Bernardo Canaccio that read: Parvi Florentia mater amoris "Florence, mother of little love".
He was an admired poet and intellectual but also active in the turbulent politics of Florence. He was raised in a family loyal to Guelphs that supported the Papacy and in constant friction with the Ghibellines of the neighbor town Tuscany who supported the German emperor.
In 1289 he participated in the battle of Campaldino against the Ghibellines where the Guelphs defeated them and he makes reference of this battle in his "Purgatorio". In 1300 the Guelphs who have started to bitterly fight among themselves are divided in two factions the "Bianchi" (White) and "Neri" (Black) Guelphs and in 1302 the Black Guelphs seize power in Florence. Immediately, they banish all the White Guelphs including Dante who coincidentally was away on a political mission in Rome so he was exiled and sentenced to death in absentia. He never again returned to Florence.
So during the long years of the exile he came to terms with his misfortune hence the birth of this literary masterpiece "Divine Comedy" where he found his spiritual catharsis.
The big love of his life was Beatrice Portinari a woman he met when he was only nine years old and idolized all his life and some scholars say she may be the young woman he writes about in his autobiographical "Vita Nuova". He was married to Gemma di Manetto Donati and had 4 children. When he was condemned into exile, his wife did not follow him but remained in Florence.


Divine Comedy

Doré's White Rose  Illustration to Dante's Divine Comedy, Paradiso by Gustave Doré.
Dante and Beatrice staring the *Empyrean and the Nine Angelic Circles in the form of a rose
(Canto 31: The Saintly Throng in the Form of a Rose)
 
*Empyrean: derives from the Ancient Greek, "in fire" or "on fire" from the word "pyr" fire. According to ancient cosmologies (cosmology: from the Greek cosmologia product of two words: "cosmos" = world and "logos" = words) the place in the highest heaven is supposed to be occupied by fire hence appropriate residence for God or Gods. Dante incorporates this principal in his Empyrean Heaven placing Beatrice and himself there.
 

 
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