The first news we have about the church of Santa Margherita dei Cerchi in Florence dates back to 1032.
This small church is known primarily as the Church of Dante: tradition says that Dante met his muse Beatrice here for the first time and fell in love with her.
In the church is a painting by a British artist of the nineteenth century that shows this meeting.
In his Inferno, Dan Brown has this to say about it:
…is more of a chapel than a church.
In fact, it is very small and almost bare.
The church of Santa Margherita dei Cerchi was under the patronage of the Cerchi family and then of the Donati and Adimari families.
Gemma Donati of the Donati family became Dante’s wife, and they were married in this church.
According to other sources, this marriage took place in the nearby church of San Martino.
Beatrice’s family had its tombs here, and her father, Folco Portinari, is buried there.
Beatrice, however, was married to a member of the Bardi family and was probably buried in the tomb of her husband’s family, that is, in the cloister of Santa Croce Church.
Many visitors like to think that sweet Beatrice is buried here in the church, and in front of what tradition identifies as Beatrice’s tomb is a chest full of messages that lovers leave to Beatrice, asking her to protect their love.
If you want to learn more about Beatrice and Dante’s love, we recommend The Figure of Beatrice by Charles Williams.
In Santa Margherita also rests Beatrice’s nanny: Monna Tessa, who, according to tradition, inspired Beatrice’s father to establish the Hospital of Santa Maria Nuova.
Santa Margherita dei Cerchi is located in one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Florence, and it was only twenty meters away from Dante’s home, which was in front of the Castagna Tower.
Today, where Dante’s house was located is the museum dedicated to the poet and to The Divine Comedy.
The home of the Portinari family was instead in Via del Corso, a few meters away.
Robert Langdon and Sienna are too much in a hurry when they enter the small church to stop and think about its romantic meaning.
We, however, thinking of the church that saw the blossoming love between Dante and Beatrice, one of the greatest romantic love stories of literature, cannot help but notice that Dante dedicated his entire poetic work to Beatrice, who guides him even in paradise!
And Gemma Donati? We mean Gemma Donati Alighieri.
Dante never mentions his wife in his poetry or in his writings. We only know from a notary deed dated 1332 that she was already dead.
Do you think that we are not romantic? No, we are!
Dante fell in love with Beatrice at the age of 9… how could we blame him?!