The Australian says that in a phenomenon that even the local priest is hard put to explain, the tomb of Beatrice Portinari in a Florence church is covered in love notes from girls appealing to the woman who bewitched and inspired Dante to help them to ensnare their own ragazzi (boys).
Fr Roberto Tassi, priest at the 11th-century church of Santa Margherita de' Cerchi, said some of the notes were joyful and some "desperate".
Some were lengthy, while others were written in the abbreviated language of SMS text messages. All had the same purpose, however: to enlist the aid of Dante's emerald-eyed "Goddess of Love" in affairs of the heart.
"You who inspired the great Dante, inspire love in my boyfriend as well!" onestates.
"Help me, Beatrice, to find the man of my life - I who am worthy of love!" reads another.
Some of the notes suggest that the appeals have had an effect. "If it was you, Beatrice, who sent me this love, a gift from heaven, then thank you, thank you, for having interceded for me," one reads. "Please now make it last forever."
The notes began to appear on the tomb in February, when a school group visited the church, which lies between the cathedral and Palazzo Vecchio, the Medici-era town hall in the heart of Florence. "I saw that some of the girls had left love notes on the tomb," Fr Tassi said. "I thought it was right not to remove them but to leave them there."
Since then a mound of notes has grown - in Italian, English, French, Spanish and even Japanese.
"I find the whole thing rather beautiful," Fr Tassi told La Stampa. "In my view, these are both hymns to earthly love and expressions of love for God at the same time."
Dante first saw Beatrice at Santa Margherita de' Cerchi - the local church for both their families - when she was aged eight and he was nine. He remained entranced by her throughout his life, even though he married Gemma Donati while Beatrice married Simone dei Bardi, a banker, in 1287. She died only three years later, at the age of 24.
Lovelorn girls turn to Dante's muse (The Australian, 13/4/07)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Beatrice Portinari (Wikipedia)
Santa Margherita de' Cerchi (Wikipedia)
Pope's dad found "good Catholic girl" in personal ad (CathNews, 12/9/06)
13 Apr 2007