01 August 2018, The Tablet

Dante’s Catholic pilgrimage

The Divine Comedy reconsidered

Dante’s Catholic pilgrimage

A representation in the Duomo, Florence, of Dante with his poem, The Divine Comedy


Dante Alighieri’s great medieval pilgrimage through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise, The Divine Comedy, may at times be hard for us to understand. There is such a grave religious intent in the fourteenth-century poem – the unflinching look at sin, the stony steps towards salvation – that some have misconstrued it as a work of abstruse medieval theism. Attitudes to Dante changed after the Protestant Reformation, when The Divine Comedy was used as justification for why the Pope should no longer remain head of the Church in Northern Europe.

Dante’s was a fierce pauperist Christianity that judged the Church, not by the papacy, but by the standard of Christ and the Gospels.

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