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Francesco Petrarca

Francesco Petrarca

*  1304 Arezzo
† 1374 Argua

The Italian Humanist Francesco Petrarca, also known simply as Petrarch, was born on July 20, 1304, in Arrezo, Italy. Followed his father's exile for political reasons, he went first to Pisa, then to Avignon. There he was instructed in grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic. He finally began studying law in Bologna for a time, then in Montepellier, but he never finished his course of studies. While he was in Montepellier, he experienced the art of the troubador, which awakened his interest in Roman poetry and literature. Returning to Avignon in 1326, he met the married Madonna Laura for the first time, who was his source of inspiration until her death. His famous "Canzoniere", a poetry collection dealing with his unrequited love for her, is dedicated to her. With this form of love poetry, Petrarch had a paradigmatic influence on European poetry of the Middle Ages. The new style was named for him, Petrarchism. After journeys through France, Belgium, Germany, and Italy, during which he met his later students Boccaccio and Cola di Rienzo, he returned to Vaucluse in 1337. For the next few years, he dedicated himself exclusively to his work. Within the context of Italian literature, Petrarc's work represents the transition from a medieval tradition, beholden to Dante, to a modern literature. This is mainly because of his introduction of Italian as the langauge of his poetry. In his "Epistulae," Petrarch's humanistic attitude is shown in full. Also, the first depiction of nature in European literature appears here: a description of climbing Mount Ventoux, from whose pinnacle Petrarch described the surrounding landscape. In order to appropriately honor Petrarch, the old Roman tradition of the crowning of the "poeta laurentis" (poet laureate) was reintroduced in 1341. He went to Milan in 1353 in order to put his diplomatic abilities to use in the service of the viscount. In 1362, he worked in Venice. Petrarch returned to Argua in 1368, where he died on July 18, 1374.