The construction of visions is within everyone’s purview

The Divine Comedy as pedagogy of the gaze

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Cardinal D. José Tolentino de Mendonça is the guest speaker of the first lecture included in the programme of the Visions of Dante The Inferno according to Botticelli exhibition.

‘It is my belief that The Divine Comedy, with no disrespect to any other proposed interpretations, can also be read as a poetic and spiritual pedagogy of the gaze, as a path to learning to see. It is not, for example, a matter of chance but a consubstantial reason that has led Dante’s work to be constantly revisited by first-rate visual artists such as Botticelli, Blake, Doré, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Rodin and Rauschenberg. It is as though Dante had called on them to see with him, through him, beyond him. At the same time, however, this historical intensity of the visual commentary around the Comedy confirms the visionary strength of a text that does not dictate a point of view or a pattern of images, but simply sets ‘seeing’ in motion. It does not impose a representation of the real, but asks each of us to construct our own gaze. To celebrate Dante is therefore to question ourselves about who we are, recognising that it is this interrogation that allows us to become ourselves, not by reproducing ready-made responses, but through journeys of discovery and new beginnings.’


José Tolentino de Mendonça was born in 1965, on the island of Madeira. He has a doctorate in Biblical Theology and for more than twenty years was involved in teaching and research at the Portuguese Catholic University. In 2018, he was appointed Archivist and Librarian of the Holy See. The following year, he was named Cardinal by Pope Francis. He has written countless essays and poems, which have been translated into several languages. He is a member of the Vatican Committee for the Dante commemorations. He belongs to the ‘Dias de Dante (Days of Dante) – 2021’ scientific commission.