Dante Alighieri, an Italian man in the 1300s, wrote one of
the greatest poetic treatises on Heaven and Hell that has lasted to this
day. The Divine Comedy is in three
parts, one that details his spiritual travels through Hell, one for Purgatory, and
the other that takes him through Heaven, guided always by a figure of
In “Inferno,” the poet finds himself lost in dark woods, and
though he tries to find his way out, he ultimately meets the ancient poet,
Virgil. Virgil explains that in order to
reach Paradise, Dante must first follow him on a tour of
Hell, and then leads him down through the gates. For Dante, there are nine circles of Hell,
each tailored to the sinners who go there.
The sixth through the ninth circles have inner levels within each of
them, and on the fourth level of the ninth circle of hell (where traitors to
their masters reside) he finds Satan himself. The two poets exit Hell in time for the sun’s
rising on Easter Sunday, and that is where Virgil leads him on to Purgatory.
In this place, Dante is marked with seven P’s for each of
the sins, and as they climb, these are removed and the climbing becomes easier.
Purgatory, too, is terraced like Hell, but
here the sinners could climb higher with proper prayer and repentance
measures. There are seven terraces to
Purgatory, with their corresponding historical and very real figures, and after
the seventh he passed through a wall of fire to be guided in Paradise
by his Lady, Beatrice, leaving Virgil behind.
To pass through the river Lethe, Dante is told to confess
his sins, but he instead faints and is carried across to find Beatrice. He finds Heaven has seven Spheres for each
virtue and those who lived them so fully they became inhabitants, then Fixed
Stars where many Apostles lived, and finally the ninth heaven (space itself)
allowed him to witness Christ and the Virgin Mary entering and to gaze upon
divinity as the angels sang. He’s left
alone, though, to be one with God, and has no words to describe the greatness