Beatrice was Dante’s true love: she was a real person, and Dante decided to use her as an important character in his masterpiece, The Divine Comedy.
In this epic poem, Beatrice talks to Dante, the author and a character himself, for the first time in Canto 2 of Inferno: she descends into Limbo and prays that the poet Virgil can rescue Dante. She then reappears in Canto 30 of Purgatory, when Virgil disappears.
Finally, Beatrice accompanies Dante in Paradise to the point closest to God that he is allowed to reach.
Their last meeting is set among the blessed in Heaven at the end of their afterworld journey.
The guide who leads Dante to just one step away from contemplating God in The Divine Comedy was the same Beatrice Portinari who lived in Florence?
Academicians now recognize Beatrice to be Bice Portinari, a real person of a rich Florentine family: She married Geri Simone dei Bardi, one of the most influential men in the city.
Because of his father’s wishes, Dante married Gemma Donati in 1285, and they had three sons and a daughter.
If you want to learn more about Beatrice, we recommend The Figure of Beatrice by Charles Williams.
We know that the house of Beatrice’s family was not far from the house of Dante, located in the old town of Florence; in fact, it is in the current Via del Corso.
Tradition says that Dante and Beatrice were also neighbors outside the walls of Florence—near the hill of Fiesole, where the Portinari and Alighieri families had two neighboring summer villas. It is plausible that Dante and Beatrice met each other as children there.
In his Vita Nova, Dante says he saw Beatrice for the first time when they were children: he was nine years old and she was eight.
He never forgot her after this meeting.
He meets her again after nine years in an unexpected way: Beatrice was walking with two women on Lungarno (one of the Florence streets along the Arno River).
Dante remembered the episode well, but he ran away without saying a word.
Afterward, there were only two other short meetings between the two: one in the church of Santa Margherita dei Cerchi (the church visited by Robert Langdon and Sienna Brooks in Dan Brown’s Inferno) and one at a wedding feast.
Wedding feasts in Tuscany today are very popular, but we can see that they were very interesting also in the past…
Today, we know that Dante’s love for Beatrice was real. She represented the ideal of beauty and grace but was also a real woman.
Beatrice died at the age twenty-four. Dante was devastated and took refuge in poetry. He was not able to find peace, however, until he decided to start writing The Divine Comedy.
Thereafter, Beatrice appeared to Dante as the woman/angel that guides him in Paradise, but she also remained a real woman who made his heart beat in the streets of Florence.