It was on this day in 1327 that the Italian sonneteer Petrarch first saw his beloved Laura, during a Holy Week service at the Church of Sainte-Claire d’Avignon. No one has ever been able to prove whether or not Laura really existed, but she was probably Laure de Noves, a noblewoman living in Avignon with her husband Hugues de Sade.
Petrarch was 22 years old, and she was a teenager, maybe 17. He fell instantly in love, writing:
It was the day when the sun’s heavy rays
Grew pale in pity of his suffering Lord
When I fell captive, lady, to the gaze
Of your fair eyes, fast bound in love’s strong cord.
Given the content of his poetry, it seems likely that the two never had an affair, but for the rest of his life he idealized her and wrote sonnets about her beauty and purity.