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In 1938 the lawyer Rino Valdameri, director of the Royal Academy of Brera and the President of the Italian Dante Society, proposed to the Italian government the realization of a study center and museum dedicated to the Sommo Poeta. Giuseppe Terragni and Pietro Lingeri were the designers appointed for this construction. In this period, in Italy there was Benito Mussolini's Fascist government, with his idea of exaltation of Italian nationality and imperial politics. In this contest, Terragni’s project had to represent the Italian pride for Italian famous poet Dante, so to celebrate the author of Divina Commedia, glorify Imperial Rome and extol the virtues of a trong fascist state. The structure was meant to be built in Rome on the Via dell'Impero (today via Dei Fori Imperiali).
So compositionally, the Danteum was conceived as an allegory of the Divine Comedy. It consists of a sequence of monumental spaces that parallel the narrator's journey from the "dark wood" through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise. Terragni translated the Divina Commedia in architectonic language designing space and surface, modulating the light and using images and symbols that refer to Dante’s tale and to Roman Empire (symbol of Mussolini’s imperial politics).
In the 10 Novembre of 1938, R. Valdameri, G. Terragni and P. Lingeri, illustrated the project to Mussolini but the subsequent hearings didn’t postpone.
In May 1939 Mussolini signed the Pact of Steel with Hitler's Germany, the Second World War was coming. The Italy went to war in the 10 Giugno 1940. The imposing building dedicated to Dante Alighieri remained a “dream” on paper, it was never realized.
The numerous three dimensional reconstructions made on the basis of the designs and sketches of designers that previous studies have left us allows we to understand this great project. With the reconstruction, proposed here, through the virtual navigation system, you can enter the various rooms, go through the building along the way hypothesised by the designers. You can walk through the architecture beginning the “stretta via” which allude to Dante’s bewilderment that Terragni translated this image in a narrow pass between high walls. So you can pass through high columns, which allude the “selva oscura”, to arrive at Hell Room, very darken room, than you can come up to Purgatory Room and Paradise Room, the room brighter. In this room, 33 glass columns support a structure constituted of steel and glass. Here the reflections of the glass and the glare of the light would have aroused the impression described by Dante, he in XXVIII canto of Paradise described a point so bright as to be dazzle, he can’t keep his eyes open:
un punto vidi che raggiava lume
acuto sì, che ‘l viso ch’elli affoca
chiuder conviensi per lo forte acume
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