Journey through the Dante Urbinate: Canto XXXIII, Ugolino

From blazing flames to ice, our journey beside Dante and Virgil continues in the ninth circle of the Inferno!

The two poets have arrived at Antenora, where traitors to family or country are punished. Here they meet Count Ugolino della Gherardesca, who is the subject of one of the most famous and terrifying stories in the Divine Comedy.

At the center of the frozen lake, Virgil points out to Dante two damned souls in front of them, one on top of the other. The one on the top is Ugolino della Gherardesca, portrayed in the act of gnawing on the tonsured head of Archbishop Ruggieri degli Ubaldini, whom he betrayed to the Ghibellines, who killed him.

The following miniature shows Count Ugolino, still astride the body of Archbishop Ruggieri, as he interrupts his macabre meal to tell Dante the horrible story of himself and his children. At the end of his story, whose purpose was to defame the memory of Ruggieri, Ugolino goes back to gnawing on his head.

Source: Ambrogio M. Piazzoni, Una nuova lettura della Commedia, La Divina Commedia di Federico da Montefeltro. Il Dante Urbinate. Commentario.

Illumination from Dante Alighieri’s Divina Commedia, Ms. Urb. lat. 365, f. 89v and 90r, 1478-1482, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana.

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