Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Cross That Dante Bears: Pilgrimage, Crusade, and the Cruciform Church in the Divine Comedy

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Cross That Dante Bears: Pilgrimage, Crusade, and the Cruciform Church in the Divine Comedy

Article excerpt

Mary Alexandra Watt, The Cross That Dante Bears: Pilgrimage, Crusade, and the Cruciform Church in the Divine Comedy (Gainesville, FIa.: University Press of Florida, 2005). xii + 227 pp. ISBN 0-8130-2876-0. £51.50. Mary Alexandra Watt sets out to examine in full the purpose and significance of the shape of the cross in Dante's Commedia. Locating her examination of the text within a wider cultural context, she begins by reminding us of the general pervasiveness of the image of the cross in the Middle Ages, focusing particularly on the visual arts, cartography, and church architecture. Having established this background and provided discussion of the general allegorical significance of the cross, Watt argues that the cross occupies a fundamental position in the Commedia as both the literal and figurai shape of Dante's journey. The reader, she argues, is alerted to the structure of the cross on various levels of the poem by a series of textual clues. These clues range from straightforward references to and images of the cross and all things cruciform within the text, to the major themes of pilgrimage and crusading, all of which Watt examines in detail.

The first half of the book explores the affinity between the Commedia., pilgrimage, and crusading, through the shared shape of the cross, for which the author argues by focusing on cartographic representations: she sees Dante's poem as an equivalent to the shape of the cross found on contemporary maps. …

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