Dante Alighieri

birth1265 in Florence, ItalyPicture of Dante Alighieri
death1321 near Ravenna, Italy

Dante was born in 1265 to an influential Florentine family. His mother died a few years after his birth. At age 12 he was betrothed to Gemma Donaty, the daughter of a family friend. Approximately eight years later the pair married as planned but, totally unplanned, Dante was in love with Beatrice Portinari.

The two had met when she was nine years old and Dante experienced love at first sight. He never confessed his love to her and she died unexpectedly in 1290. In 1295 he published his first book of verse entitled "Vita Nuova" in which he detailed his love for Beatrice.

Also around 1290 he began to study politics and philosophy and Dante held a number of important public positions. However, in 1302 he fell out of favor and was exiled for life. His banishment from the Florentine political scene was really the beginning of his most productive artistic period.

In exile, he wrote his eternal Divine Comedy and many other works that were highly influential. Life as an exile was not always easy and he was expelled from Bologna as well. He reportedly died from malaria while returning to Ravenna from a diplomatic mission he had undertaken for Prince Guido Novello da Polenta.

American Sons of Italy Medal1921

The obverse bears bust of Dante Alighieri facing right. Around top, AMERICAN SONS OF ITALY; around bottom, "VINCA · TUA · GUARDIA · I · MOVIMENTI · UMANI!"; to left and right of bust, 1265 - 1321

The reverse bears laurel and oak branches around central field. Around top, SONS OF ITALY GRAND LODGE; around bottom, STATE OF - NEW YORK; in central field, FOR EXCELLENCE IN ITALIAN / TO / ANGELINA GUARDINA

The Order of the Sons of Italy is the largest and oldest national organization for men and women of Italian heritage in the United States. It was founded on June 22, 1905 by Dr. Vincenzo Sellaro to help assimilate Italians into American society during the immigration boom of the early 20th century. In 1928 Dr. Sellaro was given the key to the City of New York in recognition of his social and medical achievements.

1921 was the 600th anniversary of Dante Alighieri's death and the medal celebrates both the poet and the Italian language. It was awarded to young students for excellence in Italian. The Italian quote on the obverse is from the 33rd Canto of Dante's Divine Comedy and translates to:

"May your protection curb his mortal passions!"

The medal measures 68.9mm in diameter and was struck by the Medallic Art Company of New York.

References: MACo 1921-080