April 26, 1336: Petrarch ascends Mont Ventoux!

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A Brief History

On April 26, 1336, famed Italian scholar and poet Francesco Petrarca (better known as Petrarch) ascended Mont Ventoux, a mountain in the Provence region of southern France.

Digging Deeper

Petrarch is famous for much more than mountain climbing.  Often considered the founder of Humanism, his rediscovery of Cicero’s letters is also often credited with initiating the 14th-century Renaissance.  Petrarch is additionally acknowledged as the first to develop the concept of the “Dark Ages” existing between the Classical Era of Greece and Rome and his own era of Renaissance.

A true “Renaissance man”, this polymath also traveled widely in Europe, served as an ambassador, and, according to page 240 of Volume 11 of the NSA Family Encyclopedia (Standard Education Corp., 1992), he has been called “the first tourist”, due to his traveling just for pleasure

Recreation rather than necessity was thus the basic reason he, along with his brother and two servants, climbed to the top of Mont Ventoux, a height of some 6,273 feet!   Some time after his adventurous ascent, he described the exploit in a celebrated letter addressed to his friend and confessor, the monk Dionigi di Borgo San Sepolcro.  In this letter, Petrarch claimed to have been inspired by Philip V of Macedon’s ascent of Mount Haemo and that an aged peasant had warned Petrarch against attempting to scale Mount Ventoux.  At the top of the mountain, Petrarch saw the awesome views only available from such heights and was moved to reflect upon his life, particularly his legendary love of Laura:

Laura de Noves (1310–1348) could be the Laura that Petrarch wrote about extensively; however, she has never been positively identified as such.

Have any of you, dear readers, climbed any mountains?  Do you think such recreational adventures are worthy uses of our time?  Finally, what if anything has moved you to reflect upon your life and loves?  Please let us know in the comments below.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Bishop, Morris.  Petrarch and His World.  Indiana University Press, 2002.

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About Author

Dr. Zar

Dr. Zar graduated with a B.A. in French and history, a Master’s in History, and a Ph.D. in History. He currently teaches history in Ohio.