Dante Alighieri

The author of the Divine Comedy was Dante Alighieri and lived between 1265-1321. The Divine Comedy is a tapestry of allegory and recounts the poet's trip through Hell, Purgatory, and finally Heaven. The subject of the whole book is "state of the soul after death straightforwardly affirmed." Its grand theme is medieval through and through, the Christian drama of the soul. It is an inescapable fact that medieval life was pervaded by the Christian attitude. Dante progresses through the nine circles of hell, and, subsequent stages of purgatory and Paradise.

Dante was a good Christian who simply wanted the pope to stay out of politics. Dante is the most famous name in medieval literature. He was a fervent disciple of Thomas Aquinas and depicted as the poet that put Summa Theologica into verse. After vehement political activities, Dante became an exile and offered another masterpiece in his Latin work "On Monarchy," which vindicates the claims of the empire against the papacy.

What Augustine did for sin, Dante did for the punishment of sin. For Dante, the ultimate horror was not that man burned, but that sin froze, and man remained for all eternity what once he was. Truth, according to Dante, is hidden behind the veil of allegory. Dante's constructive purpose was to set Christendom of the right road to the apocalypse. In the last days, the Church would be refashioned into a Church of the spirit.

His De Monarchia is an overt attack on the theory of papal overlordship formulated by the canon lawyers. For centuries, this treatise was kept on the index of prohibited books. It offers the classical instance of a great work utilizing to the full the moral structure of creation. He was a man of prodigious learning and deep piety. Dante was particularly uncomplimentary to his contemporary Boniface VIII, whom he consigned to Hell, along with several other popes. In Dante's view, it is regrettable that Constantine ever made his Donation to the pope and thereby involved the vicar of Christ in worldly matters.

Those who think that the doctrine of justification by faith never reached the medieval mind should read with care the closing verses in which the Purgatory reaches a sublimity never touched in poetry before or since. There was healing in both state and church.
[03, 05, 22, 26, 42, 45, 52, 53, 68, 85

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