Thursday, May 15, 2014

Dante Slept Here

Winding roads up through the Emilia-Romagna region made Ruth and myself a little car sick - perhaps this was anticipation of the sickness we would feel on leaving the Mussolini veneration sites in Predappio. We stopped in San Godenzo, a delightful little village bisected by the road.  We thought we'd take a quick peek at the church above the road.  We popped into the cute little church.  The plaque just inside the door thanks, in large Roman font, "Il Duce Benito Mussolini," for restoring the church, and helping the town celebrate Dante’s presence

If Romanit√† (the veneration of ancient Rome with the aim of building the third Roman empire) was the dominant register of Mussolini’s cultural policies, fascism was also savvy its cultivation of regional loyalties.  In Tuscany, the cult of Dante – seeking out, or inventing, places associated with his writing and his exile – was part of building national pride.  And the reverse could be true:  Ruth notes that Domenico Venturini wrote a book in the 1920s, entitled Dante Alighieri e Benito Mussolini, which argued that Mussolini realized Dante's dreams.

San Godenzo plays its bit part in the story of fascism in the 1920s.  The little church was restored with the help of Mussolini's architects, the plaza renamed Piazza Dante, and as a result local pride, and loyalty to Mussolini, was strengthened.

Fascism’s marks are everywhere in this country. 

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