At the southwest corner of St. Michael’s campus in the University of Toronto, there is a sculpture garden depicting what is widely considered the greatest work in the Italian language. To commemorate the 700th anniversary of Dante Alighieri in 2021, artist Timothy Paul Schmalz created a sculpture for each of the 100 cantos in the Divine Comedy. Standing in the middle of the project is a life-size sculpture of Dante at work in exile.
The work reflects the poet’s journey through Hell and Purgatory and finally to Heaven as depicted in The Divine Comedy. Each sculpture highlights one of the most interesting scenes from the canto, creating a visual read of the epic poem.
The poem consists of 100 cantos, which are grouped together into three sections, or canticles, Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. There are 33 cantos in each canticle and one additional canto, contained in the Inferno, which serves as an introduction to the entire poem.
World renowned artist Timothy Schmalz, born in Elmira, Ontario and based in St. Jacobs, created the “Homeless Jesus” in 2013, installed at the entrance to Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee and the Vatican. In 2019, his 20-foot bronze sculpture, “Angels Unawares,” was placed in Saint Peter’s Square, with Pope Francis highlighting its role as a reminder of the Evangelical challenge of hospitality.
Installed in May 2023, The Dante Gardens’ prominent location at the southwest corner of St. Michael’s College (at the intersection of St. Joseph’s and Queens Park) makes it visible and accessible to passersby. It’s a truly beautiful place to pause and engage with the profound themes of Dante’s Divine Comedy, and ponder some of life’s biggest questions during your busy day.