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In the footsteps of Dan Brown’s ‘Inferno’ : The church of Dante and Beatrice

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The small church of Santa Margherita dei Cerchi, described vividly in Dan Brown’s “Inferno, is located in a tiny side street in the heart of Florence. The shoppers in the Corso walk past it without even noticing it, but for the “Inferno” fans, this church is a mandatory stop.

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KNOWN AS THE Church of Dante, the sanctuary of Chiesa di Santa Margherita dei Cerchi is more of a chapel than a church. The tiny, one-room house of worship is a popular destination for devotees of Dante who revere it as the sacred ground on which transpired two pivotal moments in the great poet’s life.
“Inferno” – Dan Brown

According to popular legends, the church was the place where Dante Alighieri first met Beatrice Portinari and instantly fell in love with her. Supposedly the poet also married Gemma Donati in this church.

With the exception of the Madonna-themed altarpiece by Neri di Bicci, almost all of the original art in this chapel had been replaced with contemporary pieces representing the two celebrities—Dante and Beatrice […]The paintings were of widely varying quality, and most, to Langdon’s taste, seemed kitschy and out of place.
“Inferno” – Dan Brown

Langdon turned instinctively to his left and gazed upon the modest tomb of Beatrice Portinari. This was the primary reason people visited this church, although not so much to see the tomb itself as to see the famous object that sat beside it. A wicker basket. This morning, as always, the simple wicker basket sat beside Beatrice’s tomb. And this morning, as always, it was overflowing with folded slips of paper—each a handwritten letter from a visitor, written to Beatrice herself.
“Inferno” – Dan Brown

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They would like us to believe that Beatrice actually lies in this tomb, but this is not the case. She married Simone de ‘Bardi, and would therefore have been buried with the other members of this family in the Santa Croce Church.

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