Dante was standing near the Ponte Vecchio, a bridge that crosses the Arno River in Florence. It was just before 1300... Dante saw Beatrice standing on the bridge. He was a young man, she even younger, and that vision contained the whole of eternity for him.
Dante did not speak to her. He saw her very little. And then Beatrice died, carried off by plague. Dante was stricken with the loss of his vision. She was the intermediary between his soul and Heaven itself.
Six hundred fifty years later, during World War II, the Americans were chasing the German army up the Italian "boot." The Germans were blowing up everything of aid to the progression of the American army, including the bridges across the Arno River. But no one wanted to blow up the Ponte Vecchio, because Beatrice had stood on it and Dante had written about her. So the German army made radio contact with the Americans and, in plain language, said they would leave the Ponte Vecchio intact if the Americans would promise not to use it. The promise was held. The bridge was not blown up, and not one American soldier or piece of equipment went across it. We're such hard bitten people that we need hard bitten proof of things, and this is the most hard bitten fact I know to present to you. The bridge was spared, in a modern, ruthless war, because Beatrice had stood upon it.
-- Robert Johnson "The Figure of Beatrice in Dante's Divine Comedy"
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