Though Dante died 700 years ago, high school students from Mater Dei Apostolate and from the University of Minnesota Duluth met at the Bagley Nature Center Classroom on the UMD Campus to talk about the enduring value of Dante’s work.
The dialogue, held on Dec 3, 2021, showed that a 700-year-old book still speaks to contemporary audiences.
“He shows what we believe to be true in our faith as Catholic Christians with how he paints and explains heaven, hell and purgatory,” said Anthony Lemke, a junior at Mater Dei. In the Mater Dei curriculum, students read the Esolen translation of the Divine Comedy in their sophomore year, in courses taught by Mrs. Abigail Boeser. The panel was moderated by Mr. John Niemann.
“Dante helps us to understand that even if there are bad leaders in the church, that shouldn’t affect our faith because Jesus Christ is the head of the Church,” said Gianna Gannucci, a junior at Mater Dei.
Five students from Mater Dei engaged three undergraduates enrolled in a medieval history class taught by Associate Professor Matthews. The students engaged in lively back and forth about the value of Dante as a record of the medieval mind and as a book with insights for today’s student.
After the panel, students were invited to contribute to a canvas prepared by Krista Twu, Associate Professor of Medieval Literature in the Department of English. "Dante in Duluth 2021 showcased how the humanities can connect the future with the past, across different disciplines, and among people of different faiths and of none." The canvas included passages in Dante’s Florentine (Italian) language, also translated into English, and students were encouraged to use brush and bleach to add their own words to the canvas.
The canvas will be hung in the Kathryn A. Martin library in commemoration of Dante and in celebration of the thoughts and feelings of the students from Mater Dei and UMD who discussed his work.