DFG/ANR - A Hebrew Dante: Moshe da Rieti's "Miqdash Me'at," its Cultural Background and its Reception

Principal Investigators:

Prof. Elisabeth Hollender/ Seminar für Judaistik, Goethe University Frankfurt

Prof. Alessandro Guetta/INALCO, Département d’études hébraïques et juives, Paris



Frankfurt: Dr. Saskia Dönitz, Valeria Nju

Paris: Silvia Negri, M.A.

Moshe ben Yitzḥaq of Rieti (Mosè di Gaio, Rieti 1388-Rome, before 1466) was the main Jewish-Italian philosopher and poet of the first half of the 15th century. His most famous work, Miqdash me’at (Little Sanctuary) is a poem of about 5000 Hebrew verses in terza rima (the meter used in Dante’s Divine Comedy) with a religious, scientific and philosophical content. Using a subdivision that corresponds to the different areas of the Jerusalem Temple, Rieti expounds first the profane or “external” sciences of the medieval trivium and quadrivium. He specifically refers to various ancient Greek thinkers, such as Aristotle, Euclid, Ptolemy and Porphyry, as well as Arab (al-Fãrãbi, al-Ghazãlī, Avicenna, Averroes) and Jewish (Gersonides) philosophers. His principal point of reference is Maimonides, who “reconciled” the profane sciences with the Torah. Among all disciplines, poetry occupies a prominent place, as it allows the author’s love of intellectual contemplation to express itself fully. Another section of the work includes a description of Paradise, reminiscent of Dante in the general inspiration but also in the use of elements drawn from Jewish literary tradition. Rieti’s work reflects the transition between the so-called “medieval” world and different perspectives expressed with neo-platonic and kabbalistic concepts, mystical visions, but also an intellectual turmoil that pervades all his writings. His oeuvre is among the most important and original poetic/philosophical endeavors of the Late Middle Age/early Renaissance Jewish and Italian culture; but is accessible only through a 19th century incomplete edition, without notes or commentary.

A French/German research group, whose principal investigators have complementary research skills and experiences (and worked together in the past), together with a number of younger researchers, will conduct a thorough study of the text, that will include an English translation and a tentative edition with extensive notes and an in-depth research of the cultural context and reception. Alessandro Guetta (INALCO, Paris) is a specialist of Jewish-Italian intellectual history (mainly Philosophy and literature) and has already published extensively on Moshe da Rieti; Elisabeth Hollender (Goethe University, Frankfurt) is a specialist of Hebrew poetry and commentaries of Hebrew religious poetry. Three years of philological, philosophical and literary research will make a remarkable and virtually unknown work of European-Jewish literature of the late Middle Age available to specialists and a broader audience.