The mouth is not lifted by the savage meal
A careful reconstruction of the famous episode of "Tower of Fame" leaves serious doubts about the version dantesca.Una faded parchment, from unreadable characters. The scattered bones of five corpses, preserved in a church in Pisa. Ancient manuscripts and modern laboratory tests, DNA analysis and forensic investigations.
Here are the elements of mystery.
The clues scattered by some clever thriller writer to clarify or confuse, perhaps even more an enigma than seven hundred years old. Yes, because we are talking about an investigation of a violent death. In fact, a true massacre, a terrible end that has all the characters multiple murder: the death of Ugolino della Gherardesca, who ended his days in the Tower of Muda with two children and two grandchildren. Key witness is Dante Alighieri, born in Florence, a professional poet. Actually witnessed an ambiguous, perhaps biased, is not always reliable, but in this investigation and weighs his words count. He is, in fact, that at the thirty-third canto of Dante in his Divine Comedy opens with a gruesome scene on his fantastic encounter with Ugolino gnawing on the bowed head of Archbishop Ruggieri: "The mouth lifted by savage meal / that sinner Forbo to ‘hair, / Which he had to head back trouble ". Start the famous, immortal and sound, as when during the execution of a work, Jim Dale says in his commentary, "the cello introduces the theme of a memorable romance." The triplets Dante wind laden with grief and sorrow, the magnificent cruelty. Eating his executioner – the Archbishop Ruggieri of Pisa in winter 1289 that he finally sealed the prison in which Count Ugolino was imprisoned with their children and Uguccione Gaddo, Nino said with his grandchildren and Anselm Brigade, condemning them to starvation – Ugolino recounts the agony of watching the deaths of his heirs, until "afterwards, rather than ‘the pain, he could’ the fast". Even the one hand, ambiguous, full of sinister meaning in which some of you have read allusions to cannibalism: a passion yet another mystery that even Jorge Luis Borges.
The whole tragedy of Ugolino of Pisa, the whole antipisana closed the episode with Dante’s invective against Pisa, "shame of the nations", a nest of betrayal and cruelty, which the poet wishes to remain drowned and submerged by the waters of ‘Arno. In short, the impression is that all the singing, the entire construction of the character of Ugolino, some subtle omissions, serve to Dante to unleash his curse against Pisa and Pisa. A decade ago, the Pisan brought to the bar, Count Ugolino, to see if it was actually the victim described by Dante. "The trial ended with acquittal in half a sentence in half," says Maria Luisa Ceccarelli Lemut, Professor of Medieval History at the University of Pisa. "Count Ugolino was not a saint. In his poetic interpretation says that Dante lived seventy years, that the children were two adult men, does not explain that his nephew Nino Brigade, nicknamed the significant, a twenty-five was already responsible for a murder. And Anselm was twenty, a man made for the times. The death of Ugolino and his family was atrocious, but the Count of Donoratico has its faults as its merits. " The historical reconstruction, made on the chroniclers of the documents, returns the figure of a haughty and arrogant aristocrat, leader of a clan. He had gone to war in Pisa, perhaps he had speculated on the lack of wheat, supplying the city from its barns Maremma. He is accused of having facilitated the defeat of Pisa at the hands of the Genoese in 1284, then manage to get elected mayor of the city, the republic feud. So, rightly or wrongly, that resentment against him are resolved in triplicates condemned to die of starvation in the Tower of Muda, since then renamed the Tower of Hunger. Son of his time, the bitter and violent political struggles, of deception and betrayal, resentment Guelphs and Ghibellines, Ugolino della Gherardesca is not a poor victim, on the other hand, Dante throws him into Hell with his executioner, knowing What is its past, dark shadows.
Many doubts, many suspects. To the point that one wonders if indeed the Count Ugolino and his family have gone the way described by Dante. If multiple murder was, then it is right to investigate. And in the winter of 2001 a team of researchers at the University of Pisa, coordinated by Francesco Mallegni, professor of archaeological science, he began to search for corpses, or at least what was left.
The historical and scientific survey, sponsored by the City and the Province of Pisa, has allowed us to identify the remains. In a chapel in the church of San Francesco in Pisa. But those bones and those skulls are really those of Ugolino, Gaddo, Uguccione, the Brigade and Anselm? Inside a metal faded parchment, dated 1928. Almost illegible. But a journalist will be able to find a copy of the text published on a regular fascist right in 1928, when these remains were taken and then put in their place. And the text corresponds, in points decipherable. Returns the record of a previous translation, which dates back to 1899, and certifies the authenticity of the remains: "The bones enclosed here with certainty belong to the bodies of Count Ugolino de ‘his children and grandchildren died in the Tower of Hunger …". For two years, experts and scientists have studied and measured every detail of those bones, to be certain. They determined that the oldest was over seventy years, an imposing physique, height above average. Features also returning the remains of two other individuals – probably the children of Ugolino – aged between 45 and 50 years, also two species of giants. The third and fourth body belong to two younger men. This would be enough to give confirmation. But scholars are moving forward. The examination of DNA, which also involved a technician of the Department of scientific investigations of the police, it allows to establish relationships and affinities. Another confirmation. But what to tell these remains? Fulvio Bartoli, who has studied the teeth, which actually supports in their later years these five men had been subjected to a very poor diet, by inmates. In short, on bread and water, in short. And the assumption that Ugolino was able to eat the flesh of children (remember? "Rather than ‘the pain, he could’ the fast"), the analysis seems to exclude it. The conditions of Ugolino is such as to indicate that he died first, and his teeth were so badly to be reduced is unlikely that he could become a cannibal. And then another question: some signs of stab wounds, bone, they might even think that someone has raged over the bodies. Maybe after the death. Or not. Resists the idea that a Executioner charity has given the coup de grace to the five prisoners now reduced to the extreme.
But it is clear that at the end of the study – published in 2003 by Edizioni Plus-Pisa University with the title of Count Ugolino della Gherardesca between anthropology and history, edited by Francesco Mallegni and Maria Luisa Ceccarelli Lemut – back to light the true defendant, the number one suspect: Dante Alighieri. It was his false testimony? Not quite, not quite. Of course, that verse that alludes to his father who feeds the children is subtly treacherous. And perhaps the Argentine writer Borges is right that, having examined the various arguments, he concludes: "Dante wanted us to think that Ugolino (Ugolino of his Inferno, not that old) have eaten the flesh of his children? Would venture this answer: Dante wanted not that we thought, but her suspicions. The uncertainty is part of his plan. "
Gaetano Savatteri, journalist and writer