Researches and Texts





The Commedia reached “the glory of the tongue” by means of a substantial intertextual elaboration of the Lectura super Apocalipsim, which Petrus Iohannis Olivi, a Franciscan friar, finished writing in 1297/1298; barely ten years before Dante started to write the “sacred poem” in 1307 circa. This on-going research explains the astonishing metamorphosis of the text (that is also an example of the art of memory) and the criterion the author followed, which may be philologically verified. An entirely ‘mediaeval’ Dante re-emerges where the literal meaning, directed to the general public, contains other, mystical, senses meant only for the small group of Spiritual Franciscans who could have reformed the Church through their preaching. However, a comparison between the two texts also allows readers to perceive the transition to the Renaissance secular ideals during the “Autumn of the Middle Ages” in the passages where Dante transfers the characteristics of Olivi’s exegesis that concentrate entirely on the history of the Church onto the whole of humanity, with its needs such as language, philosophy and monarchy.


Petrus Iohannis Olivi and Dante. A Research Project.

When he frescoed the Vatican’s Stanza della Segnatura Raphael portrayed Dante twice, once as a poet in the ‘Parnassus’ and once as a theologian in the ‘Disputation of the Holy Sacrament’. The question is did Dante actually have this split personality? The answer may perhaps be found by investigating the relationship between this native of Florence and Petrus Iohannis Olivi, the Franciscan Friar from Languedoc and author, in the last years of his hard life, of such a Lectura super Apocalipsim to be quite rightly considered his summa of life, ideals and way of thinking.

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[“Collectanea Franciscana”, 82 (2012), pp. 87-156; 695,52 KB]


Petrus Iohannis Olivi in the Italian Peninsula. Images and Influences between Literature and History

[ALBERTO FORNI, Pietro di Giovanni Olivi nella penisola italiana: immagine e influssi tra letteratura e storia in Pietro di Giovanni Olivi frate minore. Atti del XLIII Convegno Internazionale. Assisi 16-18 ottobre 2015, Spoleto 2016 (Società Internazionale di Studi Francescani – Centro Interuniversitario di Studi Francescani), pp. 395-437. Translation by Susan Aulton.]

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transcription from the manuscript lat. 713 kept in Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France (1318-1319) html 11 mag. 2022

“Olivi’s Lectura was medieval eschatology’s last and greatest attempt to appear as a living and active force both in history and in the life of the Church”. (Raoul Manselli)

PDF [published: 18 Nov. 2009; updated: 30 Sept. 2015; 745 pages; 7, 73 MB]

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A. FORNI – P. VIAN, Un codice curiale nella storia della condanna della Lectura super Apocalipsim di Pietro di Giovanni Olivi: il Parigino latino 713, «Collectanea Franciscana» 81 (2011), pp. 479-558; 82 (2012), pp. 563-677.

As demonstrated by the countless notes written in the margins and between the spacing, Paris, lat. 713 was certainly in the hands of the censors who, ordered by Pope John XXII, examined the «pestifera postilla» in 1318-19 and collated the sixty articles considered to be heretic or erroneous. No other witness, amongst the sixteen surviving manuscripts, has such importance for age, authority and historic value.

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Spiritual Topography of the Commedia

[published: 2 Sept. 2014; 1087 pages; 10, 33 MB]

Hyper-textual links to almost each verse or group of verses lead to the exegetic «cloth» provided by the Lectura super Apocalipsim from which the «good tailor» made the «gown».

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The Third Period of Church History. Reasoning corrects errors.

[published: 1 Sept. 2010; 244 pages, 3,58 MB]

Demonstration tables of «Aristotele e l’Ecclesia spiritualis: la nuova cittadinanza “di quella Roma onde Cristo è romano”» (§§ I-III), paper delivered at the International Conference on Dantesque studies, held during the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the Unification of Italy, entitled Il mondo errante. Dante fra letteratura, eresia e storia (Centro universitario di Bertinoro, 13th -16th September 2010). Accomplishment of rational man and moral sense, the third period of Church history contains all the elements that Dante deemed useful to reach happiness on earth.

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I. Dante’s “High War” between Latin and the Vernacular. Notes on Gustavo Vinay’s research on the De vulgari eloquentia.

[published: 8 June 2009; 360 pages; 6,79 MB]

Dante did not finish his Convivio and the De vulgari eloquentia since he abandoned both in order to devote himself to the Commedia, which was quite a different type of composition. What made him change his mind around 1307, a year that Giorgio Petrocchi recognized as critical? Was it the unresolved problem of the relationship between the Vernacular and Latin and between illustrious vernacular (vulgare illustre) and municipalisms (inferiora vulgaria) as maintained by Gustavo Vinay? The answer is that he came across an exceptional text, the last eschatological vision of the Western Middle Ages, finished in the year of the death of the author (1298) and spread in Italy by the Spiritual Franciscans during the first decade of the fourteenth century: the Lectura super Apocalipsim by Petrus Iohannis Olivi. With the intention of finding the reasons that drove the author to travel to eternal places, this preliminary essay, that introduces the online publication of the results of a long investigation, ventures into the unexplored ‘laboratory’ in which Dante created a new language.

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II. The fight against doubt: a modern martyrdom (Francesca and the “Donna Gentile”).

[published: 4 Nov. 2009; 174 pages; 2,96 MB]

Olivi maintains that in the “sixth period” of the Church (that is in modern times) a new form of psychological martyrdom was inflicted upon spiritual men, which is quite unlike the physical form of martyrdom endured by the ancient witnesses to faith. These modern martyrs suffer since, when faced with their persecutors who perform miracles, claim authority and have false Scriptures, they begin to doubt the revealed truth. A “certamen dubitationis” in which even the most wary followers are defeated. A misleading doubt that ruins Francesca and Paolo, Guido da Montefeltro and Count Ugolino and that even Dante has to fight against.

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III. The Sixth Seal  (Chapters 1-10)

[published: 21 July 2010; 683 pages; 4,90 MB]

Dante was only acquainted with Joachim of Fiore through the works of Olivi and in a context that was not strictly Joachimite. His poem is saturated with the eschatological conception that, “As well as the spiritual group’s belief in fighting for reform, was also … a genuine historical sentiment, reformation strain and soul saving anxiety, which in 1300, the jubilee of the Nativity, triggered a new and wonderful event that, in the meaning of the fullness of the times, had to correspond to a fact” (Arsenio Frugoni). The spiritual sense of countless characters and situations, from Beatrice to St Francis and Matelda to Cacciaguida, together with unexpected and devastating events such as the war of the Sicilian Vespers and the Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy up to the Greyhound’s prophesies and “a five-hundred ten and five (un cinquecento diece e cinque)” refers to the most original part of the Lectura super Apocalipsim (the “sixth period”, the “novum saeculum”).

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A Five-Hundred, Ten and Five (Chapter 11)

[published: 14 Feb. 2011; 118 pages; 2,04 MB]

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IV. The Lectura super Apocalipsim and the Commedia. Correspondence between the Texts.

[published: 18 Nov. 2010;  168 pages;  3,22 MB]

For the purpose of garnering all the rules found in the relationship between the texts, this essay currently examines two aspects. The first starts from a selection of approximately 300 hapax legomena in the Commedia in order to ascertain the context in which they are found and if they constantly show any form of correspondence with the Lectura. The second aspect examines the exegesis of the instructions given to Ephesus, the first of the seven Churches in Asia to which Saint John writes in the first vision in the Apocalypse (Apoc 2, 1-7). Since Olivi often refers to Richard of Saint Victor, the comparison between the Lectura and the Commedia also demonstrates that Richard’s doctrine has been passed down to Dante through Olivi’s theology of history.

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