My thoughts on Ante-Purgatory

Cantos I-IX

Ante-Purgatory is discussed in these first nine cantos of The Purgatorio.  This area is located at the base of the mountain, and contains those individuals who were excommunicated from the church, but more on that in a moment.

One of the more interesting things to take place early on, is the fact that Virgil has to wipe clean the dirt and filth from Dante that was accumulated from Hell, after it was determined they didn’t escape the Inferno.  My first impression of the description of Purgatory was that it isn’t nearly as depressing as the Inferno is, mainly because in this place, people know they are on their way to Paradise, in this case Heaven.

However, the most significant item I find of interest, is the fact that ante-Purgatory is full of those who were excommunicated.  I can’t help but wonder if that was a little bit of a stab at the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church during the 14th century.  It was pretty common belief, at the time, that if you were excommunicated from the church, you were beyond salvation and that you would go straight to hell.  In ante-Purgatory, Dante describes that they have to walk in this area, like sheep in a herd, for thirty years per year they were not reconciled with the church.  He definitely impressed on me that while excommunication was something to be feared; however, church leaders ultimately didn’t decide whether you went to heaven or not.  That, I believe, is definitely something that the church wouldn’t have agreed with at that time in history.

Although, and here is something I find really interesting, that time could be cut down by those who are still living praying for them.  There were several instances where individuals that Dante encountered asked him to tell their loved ones to pray for them to decrease their time in ante-Purgatory.

Additionally, I found it particularly interesting that there was a section for negligent rulers.  Calling out specific rulers as being negligent, but past, and recently deceased.  To me, that would be a message to current monarchs, during the 14th century, that may have been negligent, to treat their subjects better.

Also, in this area a depiction of two angels driving a serpent out of Purgatory really caught my eye.  I found that to be particularly appropriate, as if God was trying to keep those awaiting to be purged of their sins, from being influenced by further sin from the serpent.  God was protecting those that are still subject to committing acts of sin.  I found that description to be quite appropriate given it’s ante-Purgatory.

Finally, in order to ascend the mountain to reach the first terrace, Dante slept, because you cannot make progress in Purgatory during night, it depicts that you need  the light of God to ascend the mountain, so Dante slept, and had a dream and transferred him to the first terrace of pride.  The dream was quite descriptive as well.

Very much a good and descriptive beginning of The Purgatorio.  I’m looking forward to seeing how Dante describes how each of the sins are purged.


About Jeremy

Husband, book lover, Civil War Buff. If I could read for a living I would, but unfortunately, it doesn't pay the bills!

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