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Italy Library Finds Dante Ashes

July 19, 1999

FLORENCE, Italy (AP) _ Workers reorganizing the bookshelves at a library in Florence found a sack of dust from the tomb of Dante on Monday, 70 years after librarians mislaid it.

The sack held ashes scooped from the poet’s tomb at Ravenna during commemorations in 1865, the 600th anniversary of the birth of the Florentine poet.

``The powder within was taken from the carpet on which reposed the casket and the bones of Dante Alighieri,″ a weathered, notorized document with the ashes attests.

A parchment with the sack bears what it says is an imprint of Dante’s skull.

Dante, Italy’s greatest poet, died of malaria in 1321 soon after finishing ``Paradise,″ the last book of ``The Divine Comedy.″

During the 19th-century commemoration, sculptor Enrico Pazzi, who idolized Dante, reached into the tomb and pulled out handfuls of dust, said Antonio Giardullo, a director of Florence’s National Central Library.

Pazzi divided the ashes into six sacks, four of which have disappeared. A fifth was found in 1987 in a medallion inserted in the ceiling of the Italian Senate.

The sixth, the one rediscovered Monday, was presented to the director of the national library in Florence in 1889 in honor of his efforts to establish a Dante room at the library.

The sack was last seen in 1929, when it was presented before a world congress of librarians.

Librarians apparently lost track of it in a move to a new building in 1935, the library said Monday.

Library workers came upon the small, rectanglar sack Monday while reordering the rare manuscript section of the library.

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