Dante's Divine Comedy, the 14th century epic poem describing a journey through the various levels of Hell, Purgatory and Heaven and the persons or types of persons who inhabit each level (including some of Dante's living contemporaries). How much of Dante's description describes explicit Church doctrine as of his era, and to what extent, if any, did Dante influence Christian theology going forward?
The geography of the afterlife is not a topic where the church had "doctrine" as such, though there have always been a variety of traditions and stories about this sort of thing. Dante's scheme does reflect an underlying theology, so I'll tackle this from a theological perspective. The layouts of Hell, Purgatory and Heaven are all in some sense "orthodox" in that they are drawn from recognized classifications of sin and virtue. Dante does not claim that this is how things literally are in those realms - especially when we get to Heaven, and the entire scheme is reinterpreted several times, as he grows in understanding. The moral truth is what counts.
There are some specific areas where Dante does things which are novel, and sometimes opposed to actual doctrine.
Contemporary doctrinal criticism of Dante was more about his politics, which were perceived as anti-Papal and anti-clerical. His idea of the division of responsibility between Pope and Emperor - a prototype for modern separation of church and state - was arguably heretical, even as late as 1864 and the Syllabus of Errors.
I believe there are many points on which Dante had disagreed with the Church teachings of his times.
For example Divine Comedy was written around 1308 A.D. to 1321 A.D, in which he has depicted many Popes as suffering eternal damnation in hell namely Pope Anastasius II and Pope Nicholas III. Even though The doctrine of Papal infallibility was defined dogmatically in the First Vatican Council of 1869–1870, it had been believed before that, appearing in medieval traditions. So the Pope was supposed to be infallible regarding his decisions about Catholic faith and such a person being in hell was definitely against the dogmatic beliefs of the Church.
He has condemned Pope Nicholas III for
I think Dante "defined" the afterlife for many. I have read that the masterpiece was NOT the Inferno but rather the Purgatorio. Having read the entire Commedia many times, I tend to agree with that assessment. The mountain structure of the Purgatorio and the ending, where Dante parts company with Virgil and has his encounter with Beatrice, is profound and beautiful.
It is useful to contrast the early church and its optimism with the Medieval and modern church, so imbued with Augustine. Dante seems to have fallen on the side of Augustine, IMHO, but you still see signs of the hope that the earlier Patristic fathers embraced, among them Clement and John Cassian.
protected by David Stratton♦ Jun 8 '13 at 14:44
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