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March 25, 2022

Daisaku Ikeda Pays Homage to the Italian Poet Dante Alighieri on the 700th Anniversary of His Death

Dante Alighieri steel engraving iStock
Dante Alighieri (1265–1321) ©iStock

On March 25, 2022, Daisaku Ikeda contributed a message of homage to Dante Alighieri (1265–1321) for a commemoration of the 700th anniversary of the poet’s death held in the Italian city of Ravenna. The message was requested by Ravenna’s Mayor Michele De Pascale, as Mr. Ikeda has often written and spoken about Dante.

After Dante was exiled from his birthplace of Florence for ending up on the losing side of a political conflict, he was welcomed as a guest of honor in Ravenna, which became his home and is where he wrote his celebrated masterpiece The Divine Comedy.

In his message, President Ikeda stated that in these uncertain times, the celebrations honoring this great master of Western literature who aspired to “save those living in misery and lead them to the state of bliss” was profoundly significant. He recalled reading Dante’s work in his youth amidst the devastation of World War II. It was, he said, a time of desolation, of wandering through the “dark forest” of life in search of a guidepost, as evoked in the beginning of The Divine Comedy itself.

He recalled also how, when asked during their dialogue, the renowned British historian Dr. Arnold Toynbee had described Dante as his favorite author because of his achievement in transmuting the pain and misfortune of his exile into a great inspirational masterwork for the people of the world.

Event in Ravenna commemorating the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death
Participants at an event in Ravenna commemorating the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death

Mr. Ikeda affirmed that now, 700 years after Dante’s passing, in this time of hardship, we should learn from the soul of the poet—from his spirit of justice and fraternity—which sheds the light of hope on humanity. He expressed his wish that the laurel wreath that crowns Dante’s head in depictions—symbolic of the victory he achieved in life—be placed on the heads of the youth of the world who are striving to illuminate the 21st century.

Francesca Masi, ceremony coordinator, remarked that Mr. Ikeda’s ideals are deeply resonant with Dante’s spirit, which shows the way to humanity’s happiness and is as relevant today as ever.

 [Adapted from an article in the April 6, 2022, issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, Soka Gakkai, Japan]

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