BYU-Idaho Radio · Dante 700 Display Interview with Rebecca Dorney

Dante Alighieri, posthumously famous author, poet, and political thinker, heavily influenced western art, literature and religion with his literary works, including his “Divine Comedy” and “Inferno.” 

Dante 700, a new display set up in the David O. McKay Library, commemorates some of Dante’s contributions to literature. The name of the exhibit alludes to the anniversary of his death on Sept. 14, 700 years ago. The display is located on the second floor of the library in the Special Collections section.  

Dante 700 consists of artwork that was influenced by his literature, a costume depicting something Dante may have worn and artifacts that date back to Dante’s time. In an interview with BYU-Idaho Radio, Special Collections Archive Assistant Rebecca Dorney explained that most of the special collections artifacts from Dante’s era are either donated to the university or purchased in auction after authenticity is verified.  

Modern readers and writers still draw insight from the writings of Dante and the artwork depictions he inspired. Dorney asserted that Dante’s journey in the “Divine Comedy” largely influenced the Christian faith because of its theme of self-discovery where Dante learns the answers to the fundamental questions of life.  

“The ‘Divine Comedy’ had a huge impact on Christianity,” Dorney said. “He introduced a lot of ideas, brought up some from old religious scholars and prophets and things and kind of tied it all together. We, especially within (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), look at the Divine Comedy as special because Dante recognizes he’s lost…and so his journey through hell, purgatory and paradise is kind of symbolic of an Atonement process or a reckoning with himself and discovering the purpose of life and the afterlife.”  

BYU-Idaho Special Collections is open weekdays from 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Students can visit in person and take an audio tour through the Dante 700 display by scanning the QR code located inside the brochure at the front of the exhibit.