In his encyclical of April 30, 1921, Pope Benedict XV claimed Dante as the highest poet of the Church and exhorted Catholic colleges to begin teaching The Divine Comedy alongside conventional theological texts. In response to the Pope’s encyclical, Mother Estelle Nolan, founding dean of Loretto Abbey College, brought Dante to the College community with a spectacular production of The New Life or the Masque of Love. Mother Estelle made sophisticated use of the visual and performing arts to bring to life Dante’s spiritual message, focusing on episodes and themes relevant to the women of St. Michael’s College.
Subsequently, she argued, in articles and speeches, for the development of a curriculum in which the study of Dante and the spiritual culture of the late Middle Ages could play a significant role in the spiritual and aesthetic formation of modern students.
The Annual Dante Lecture was established by Alberto Di Giovanni and Caroline Morgan Di Giovanni. This year’s lecture is also supported by Fondazione Italia®.
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