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Tuesday, July 20, 1999 Published at 10:49 GMT 11:49 UK

World: Europe

Dante's ashes discovered

The sack of ashes was last seen in 1929

Repairmen working on the bookshelves at a library in Florence have found a sack of ashes from the tomb of Dante, 70 years after librarians mislaid it.

The ashes were taken from the great Renaissance poet's tomb at Ravenna during commemorations in 1865, the 600th anniversary of his birth.

[ image: Dante Aligheri: no rest for his ashes and bones]
Dante Aligheri: no rest for his ashes and bones
"The powder within was taken from the carpet on which repose the casket and the bones of Dante Alighieri," a document with the ashes says.

This is not the first time that the mortal remains of Dante, Italy's greatest poet and the author of The Divine Comedy, have been disturbed.

Not at rest

The Florentine poet died in 1321 in the northern town of Ravenna, shortly after finishing Paradise, the last book of The Divine Comedy.

[ image:  ]
Since his death, Dante has been anything but left in peace in his tomb. His bones have been moved once, and it seems some of his ashes have yet to find a final resting place.

The trouble started during ceremonies to mark the 600th anniversary of Dante's birth.

An ardent admirer reached into his tomb and pulled out handfuls of dust.

The ashes were divided into six sacks, four of which vanished. The fifth was found in the ceiling of the Italian Senate in 1987.

It was the sixth and final bag of ashes which was discovered by astonished workers in the national central library in Florence, as they reorganised the rare manuscript section.

The small, rectangular sack was last seen in 1929 when it was shown to librarians attending a world congress. It's unclear where the ashes will be put next, but the authorities here will want to keep track of them this time.

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