I made my way through Dante’s Divine Comedy, you know Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. Now this epic narrative poem is considered the preeminent work in Italian and one of the greatest works of all of world literature. The poem is deep in medieval Christian theology and Thomistic philosophy specifically the Summa Theologica some call the poem “the Summa in verse”. It is said to represent the soul’s journey to God. Now this was a tough slog for me to get through with all the footnotes in the work. Perhaps reading it in Italian might be better.
We begin with Inferno, on Holy Thursday night in the year 1300. Dante is 35 (half the Biblical lifespan of 70 years) and he meets Virgil who will guide him through the 9 circles of Hell until they meet and Satan in the depths of Hell. The various circles of Hell are seen as describing the recognition and rejection of sin, they meet and talk to several people through all the different circles leading up to Judas encased in ice and Satan himself. They pass the devil and make their way to the Southern Hemisphere and the Mountain of Purgatory.
In Purgatorio, Dante continues his journey with Virgil, it is Easter Sunday and they begin climbing up the Mountain of Purgatory which was pushed up from the circles of Hell. The different levels are based on the seven deadly sins. At the top of the mountain is Earthly Paradise, the Garden of Eden, here Virgil is replaced with Beatrice, who asked for Virgil to get Dante. Beatrice is to whom Dante dedicated all his work.
In Paradiso, it is Dante’s journey with Beatrice we begin back in the Garden of Eden and explores through the 9 celestial spheres of heaven these are based on the cardinal virtues (Prudence, Justice, Temperance, and Fortitude) and Theological virtues (Faith, Hope and Love). The journey begins with the moon and then goes through the planets and the sun. Through this journey he meets many saints until he come before the Triune God appearing as three equally large circles occupying the same space, representing Father, Son and Spirit.
It’s one of those work that everyone need to read at least once in their life so you are bound to want to/have to read it at one point in your life or another.