Dante Alighieri was born into an old, distinguished but impoverished family in Florence in 1265. In the middle of the road of his life he was forced into exile. He lost everything: his home, his family, his friends, his political standing. What could he do with the rest of his life? He decided to write a poem. For the next twenty years he worked on what became the most widely read poem ever written in Western Civilization: The Divine Comedy.
|1204||Death of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Fourth Crusade, stops to conquer "ally" Constantinople.|
|1206||Florence: foundation of Arte del Cambio (Bankers Union). Beginning of power of the Guilds (new middle class).|
|1208||Formal chartering of University of Paris by King. University of Bologna already established.|
|1215||Magna Carta signed by King John (son of Eleanor). Cornerstone of English legal protections for indiv.|
|1216||Buondlemonte Murder on Ponte Vecchio in Florence. Event brings international Guelf Ghibelline divisions to Florence.|
|1220||Both Dominic and Francis out preaching in vernacular in streets. Soon church for each in Florence: Santa Maria Novella & Santa Croce. A revolutionary Christian movement; papacy scared.|
|1221||Death of Dominic. (Order of Dominicans) (b. 1170)|
|1226||Death of Francis of Assisi. (Order of Franciscans) (b. 1182)|
|1226||Succession of baby King Louis IX (St. Louis) in France. Louis dominates whole century in France, reigns almost 50 years.|
|1228||Canonization of Francis (extraordinary speed). Papacy immediately begins to build great basilica in Assisi. Contradicts essence of whole Franciscan clerical poverty.|
|1230||King Ferdinand of Leon unites Leon & Castile. beginning of new united Spain.|
|1237||All streets paved in central Florence. sign of prosperity, not true in Rome or Paris.|
|1240||England: the Great Council comes to be called Parliament. Important moment in the evolution of most important legislative body in the West, Marks the change from a royal advisory council to real democratic representative institution.|
|1250||Death of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick the Great (II) in Apuglia, Italy. The last of the great medieval emperors with the real possibility of uniting all the lands of the empire (Germany, Italy, Sicily) into one political unit.|
|1252||Florence: city mints the first gold Florin; prosperous Florence on the march.|
|1256||Wool industry comes to Florence from Lombardy. Now Florence joins wool industry to Florentine banking; Secret of Florentine success.|
|1260||Battle of Montaperti (near Siena) Florence versus Siena. Imperialists with Siena (Ghibellines win). Villain: Bocca d'Abbati.|
|1260||Pisa: revolution in sculpture at Pisa. Nicola Pisano, new humanism, like painting of Giotto.|
|1265||Birth of Dante. (d. 1321 in Ravenna).|
|1265||English Parliament: send 2 knights, 2 burgesses to Parliament. This is the real beginning of representative government in England. The first time ever that a large government solves problem of representation. (not Greece, not Rome)|
|1267||Birth of Giotto in the Mugello, Mountain valley north of Florence (Medici from there too).|
|1270||University of Paris supreme: Aquinas, Bonaventura etc.|
|1274||Little Dante meets 8 yr old Beatrice. May day party in Palazzo Portinari, Via del Corso (still there)..|
|1283||Begin gov of the Priors in Flo (freely elected). Building across from Dante's house. Dante soon is elected to the governing council.|
|1290||Death of Beatrice, age 24. (b. 1266)|
|1290||Rome: important innovation in painting: Pietro Cavallini, who influences Giotto.|
|1293||Giano della Bella leading new government of Priors in Florence. Government issues Ordinances of Justice, Middle Class gov. & constitution. Similar democratic movements in Eng, France, Spain.|
|1294||Florence: begin build the new Cathedral of Florence (Duomo=Domus Dei).|
|1294||Florence: finish new Church of Ognissanti (All Saints).|
|1295||Florence: begin build Santa Croce. (Franciscan church).|
|1299||Florence: begin build the Palazzo dei Priori. (the current Palazzo Vecchio) biggest in Italy. Florence now most dynamic city in all Italy.|
|1265||Birth of Dante. (d. 1321)|
|1267||Birth of Giotto. (d. 1337)|
|1300||May Day, fight in Il Corso (Florence). Gov decides to exile fighters (Dante in gov that makes decision).|
|1301||Florence government moves into huge new Palace. (Palazzo Vecchio).|
|1302||Dante exiled from Florence. Wanders in northern Italy.|
|1303||(Sept) Incident at Anagni. Officers of French king seize the Pope. Shows power of France.|
|1304||(Jul 20) birth of Petrarch in Via dell'Orto, Arezzo (house still there). (Jul 29)exiled Whites of Florence (Dante) try force and fail. Dante never sees Flo again.|
|1305||Papacy moves to Avignon till 1377 ("Babylonian Captivity"-Petrarch). Giotto painting the Scrovegni (Arena) Chapel in Padua.|
|1310||Emperor Henry VII comes to Italy, Florence rejects him. Giotto's Ognissanti Madonna now in Uffizi.|
|1311||Petrarch and family to Pisa, meet Emperor. Little Petrarch (7 years old) meets Dante (46 ) at Pisa. Duccio's Maestá installed on altar of Cathedral of Siena.|
|1312||Petrarch's family settles in Avignon. Petrarch lives early years in France.|
|1313||Birth of Boccaccio.(d. 1375) Death of Dante's friend Emperor Henry VII.|
|1314||Dante's Inferno completed. Ms. copies in circulation. Hundreds of copies survive.|
|1321||(Sept 14) Death of Dante in Ravenna. (b. 1265)|
|1323||Death of Marco Polo (travel diaries, journeys. reminds of Dante's Ulysses!).|
|1325||Petrarch makes his first recorded book purchase for what will be the largest personal library in the 14th century: Augustine's City of God for 12 florins. The book is now in the library of the University of Padua with Petrarch's notation of its purchase and price.|
|1326||After father's death Petrarch settles in Avignon. Buys house in Vauclause.|
|1329||First set of Flo Baptistry doors by Andrea Pisano. (Pisa ahead of Flo in sculpture).|
|1337||Petrarch's first visit to Rome. deeply impressed with ruins. Beginning of new thinking about ancient Rome (are we the same or different?). Petrarch returns to France, settles in Vauclause near Avignon.|
|1337||Beginning of 100 Years War, terrible destruction in France. Death of Giotto.|
|1339||Lorenzetti's "Good and Bad Government" fresco for Palazzo Communale, in Siena while financial chaos in the banking world of Florence when the King of England fails to make his payments on huge loans from Florentine banks for the costs of 100 Years War. Reverberates back to Florence and all over the international Florentine banking world. (Boccacio's father working for Bardi bank one of those hit by the default; the family has to come home to Florence).|
|1341||Petrarch crowned Poet Laureate of Italy. in the Senatorial Palace on the Capitoline, Rome, and made a citizen of Rome.|
|1343||Birth of Chaucer.(d. 1400).|
|1345||Petrarch finds copy of Cicero's collected letters to Atticus in Verona. Letters show Cicero actively engaged in politics. Petrarch meets with Dante's son Pietro while in Verona (suppose they talked poetry).|
|1346||Battle of Crécy, English defeat best of French chivalry. power shift, shows growing dominance of England in 14th C.|
|1348||Black Death hits Italy. Petrarch's Laura dies in the plague. Boccaccio begins his Decameron.|
|1350||Petrarch's first visit to Florence; met at city gate by Boccaccio.|
|1353||Petrarch packs up and leaves Vaucluse. Return permanently to Italy (to Milan first).|
|1355||(Jan)Holy Roman Emperor Charles V comes to Italy. Meets with Petrarch privately and debates the merits of the life of solitude Versus the life of action. Emperor invites Petrarch to come with him to Rome (Pet declines). Emp Charles is crowned in Milan with the ancient crown as "King of Italy," title and crown going back to Lombard days.|
|1356||Battle of Poitiers, total Eng triumph, capture King of France John II. Hundred Years War has now totally devastated France. France in decline, Eng & Italy in the ascendance. (July)Petrarch goes on diplomatic journey to Prague to meet with his friend Holy Roman Emperor Charles on behalf of the Visconti of Milan. Long difficult journey but emperor greets Petrarch like friend.|
|1359||Boccacio visits Petrarch. House in Milan near Sant' Ambrogio.|
|1361||Milan sends Petrarch amb to France. Petrarch sees France devastated. Petrarch treated like cultural genius in Paris. Petrarch visit to France shows new Italian cultural preeminence.|
|1362||Agreement betw Petrarch and Venice: his personal library to become first public library in Europe since Classical times.|
|1367||At urging of his friend Petrarch, Pope Urban V returns to Rome, Turns around comes back to France in a year.|
|1368||Duke Lionel of England marries Violonte Visconti in Milan Cathedral. Chaucer, Petrarch and Froissart all attend.|
|1373||Gov of Florence hires Boccaccio to lecture on Dante at the Badia. Beginning of lectures on Dante that continue in Florence to this day. Chaucer in Florence, probably met Boccaccio but he never mentions Boccaccio in his papers (yet borrows so much from him, why no mention?).|
|1374||Death of Petrarch at Arqua near Padua. (b. 1304)|
|1375||Death of Boccaccio at Certaldo outside Florence. (b. 1313)|
|1377||Pope Gregory XI returns papacy to Italy permanently. End of "Babylonian Captivity."|
|1378||Schism within Roman Catholic Church(till 1415). French cardinals go home to France elect another pope. Two Popes. (later three!)|
|1387||Milan conquers Verona. Milan on the march, look out Florence!|
|1390||Siena and Pisa join Milan alliance; Flo increasingly isolated.|
|1392||Coluccio Salutati finds more letters of Cicero. Strengthen image of Cicero as active citizen immersed in civic affairs. Salutati delighted with info. This contrasts with Petrarch's reaction to letters found in 1345.|
|1396||Florence hires Manual Chrysoloras: Teaches Greek to Florentines at gov expense..|
|1399||Siena and Perugia formally turns gov over to Visconti of Milan. Florence in danger.|
|1400||Milan close to conquering all of northern Italy thus bringing whole of north under one ruler for the first time since Roman times. Florence increasingly hysterical as Milan pushes south. Death of Chaucer.|
|1401||Competition for Bronze north doors of Baptistery. Brunelleschi vs Ghiberti, on subject of Sacrifice of Isaac. Ghiberti wins the commission.|
|1402||(Jun)Milan defeats Florence-Bologna army. All northern Italy now open to Milanese control. Never before has any other city-state in Italy come so close to unified control of all of the north.|
|1402||(Sep) Gian Galleazzo Visconti ruler of Milan dies, Milanese conquest stops. Soon the whole Milanese empire disintegrates. Florence independence saved; closest she ever comes to losing freedom (until modern times).|
Dante's Inferno: The Cantos
Canto I. Prologue.
The Dark Wood (La Selva Oscura).
The three Beasts: leopard, lion, wolf.
Dante meets Virgil.
Canto II. Discouragement.
"I am not Aeneas, I am not Paul."
We learn how Beatrice called Virgil.
Canto III. Gate of Hell.
Full of Virgilian echoes: Aeneid Book VI.
The old man in the boat.
The neutrals, Dante's invention.
Canto IV. Limbo.(from Latin for "edge")
The Virtuous Heathens:
Homer, Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Cicero.
Canto V. Second Circle: Paolo and Francesca.
Lustful, Paolo and Francesca, (lines 88-142),
Reading a book; the kiss; "we read no further."
Dante hears their story and swoons.
Canto VI. The Third Circle. Ciacco.
The Gluttonous, Ciacco of Florence(line 58).
Ciacco the first Florentine Dante meets.
They talk of Florence (60+).
Canto VII. The Fourth Circle.
Hoarders and Spendthrifts.
Attached to earthly possessions.
Fortune (line 68).
Canto VIII. Enter the City of Dis(=Hell).
Filippo Argenti (Florentine).
Canto IX. Continue into city of Hell.
Virgil the rationalist falters before evil.
The travelers meet the heretics.
Canto X. The Sixth Circle. Heretics.
Farinata degli Uberti. The great baron.
Florence vs. Siena.
One of greatest figures in the Divine Comedy.
Canto XI. The Seventh Circle.
Virgil explains the plan of Hell (line 16).
Based on Aristotle and Cicero.
Canto XII. The Seventh Circle. Minotaur..
The Violent against others.
Guardians are beasts.
The Minotaur stands for brute force.
Canto XIII. The Seventh Circle:
The Violent against themselves.
Suicides, Piero delle Vigne.
Canto XIV. The Seventh Circle.
The Violent against God: blasphemy.
Capaneus, the old man of Greece.
Canto XV. The Seventh Circle.
The Violent against Nature: sodomites.
Brunetto Latini, important Florentine poet.
(Dante's friend and teacher in Florence).
Canto XVI. The Seventh Circle:
The Violent against Nature.
Three Florentines: Guido Guerra, Aldobrindini and Jacopo Rusticucci. Big discussion of Florence(73).
Canto XVII. Geryon.
The Usurers. Descent to Malebolge.
Malebolge= evil pouches (in the ledges).
Geryon flies them down to Eighth Circle.
(great image, 79+).
Canto XVIII. The Eighth Circle. Fraud.
Cantos XVIII-XXX cover the Eighth Circle.
Fraud, panderers, (great image 28+, Rome).
Canto XIX. The Eighth Circle. Popes.
Fraud in the church, simony.
Dante angry at church corruption.
Sell spiritual riches of Church.
Pope Nicholas III.
Canto XX. The Eighth Circle.
Intellectual Fraud: astrology.
Astrology perverts freedom of Christian.
Denies free will.
Canto XXI. The Eighth Circle.
Fraud in government, "barratry;" dishonesty in public office. A match for simony of Canto XIX for the Church. This was crime Dante was accused of so he gives more space to this (XXI-XXII) totally unique, sharp, nasty, rough, savage satire.
Canto XXII. The Eighth Circle.
Ciampolo of Navarre.
Canto XXIII. The Eighth Circle.
Fra Catalano of Bologna.
Talk of Florence (line 91+).
Canto XXIV. The Eighth Circle.
A mood of lasitude. Dante tired.
Fraud, thieves, Vanni Fucci.
Canto XXV. The Eighth Circle.
Fraud, thieves, five Florentines.
Canto XXVI. The Eighth Circle. Ulysses.
Fraud, false counselors, Ulysses=Odysseus. One of greatest of all the cantos. Ulysses one of greatest characters of Inferno. Ulysses is only major character in whole of Inferno who is NOT a contemporary of Dante. Clearly he is special. He gets to tell his story without interruption. A mini-epic. Ulysses is a traveler like Dante himself, classical figure famous as traveler.
Canto XXVII.The Eighth Circle, Guido.
Fraud, false counselors, Guido da Montefeltro.
The Guido story should be read together with the Ulysses story of the previous Canto.
Canto XXVIII. The Eighth Circle.
Fraud, false counselors including false religion such as Mohammed and Moslem, the most powerful religious challenge to Christianity in Dante's time.
Canto XXIX. The Eighth Circle.
Fraud, alchemists, falsifiers of elements.
Canto XXX. The Eighth Circle.
Fraud, counterfeiters. Notice to this Florentine a falsifier of coinage is really bad. This reminds us of Florence's pride in its golden coin, the Florin.
Canto XXXI. The Ninth Circle. Treason.
The Giants, bodyguards of Satan, the Towered Castle, the towered structure recalls the great menacing feudal towers of Florence that you saw in our slides including the one right across from his house which was reclaimed from feudal powers to become first home of new democratic government. This towered imagery important.
Canto XXXII. The Ninth Circle. Bocca.
Treason, traitors, Bocca degli Abbati (line 79+), great figure, viewed as supreme traitor to Dante's Florence at Battle of Montaperti, near Siena.
Canto XXXIII. The Ninth Circle. Ugolino.
Treason, Ugolino, another of Dante's greatest most tragic characters, along with Paolo-Francesca, and Ulysses.
Canto XXXIV. The Ninth Circle. Satan.
Treason, Satan, Judas, Brutus. Notice great imagery of freezing Lake of Cocytus, far from life, far from light, far from salvation.
Dante's Purgatorio: The Cantos
Canto I. Prologue.
At the foot of the mountain.
"To travel over better waters,
the little bark of my wit now lifts her sails."
Poetry; the poet;
Our journey and his journey..
A new mood; new light; new music.
Canto II. The Ship of Souls.
Casella's song of love.
The ship coming up the Tiber.
The souls like doves.
Canto III. The Excommunicants.
Virgil's shadow. Where is it?
Manfred, would-be Emperor (line 112).
Dante being rather generous to Manfred.
Canto IV. Begin the Ascent.
Belacqua who was slothful.
Slow to pursue his own salvation.
Indolence and laziness the mood.
Canto V. Penitents at Last Hour.
Those who waited to the last possible minute.
Buonconte talks of Tuscany. The Battle of Campaldino.
Canto VI. The Power of Intercession.
Dante's encounter with Sordello.
Sordello's impassioned lament over the conditions of Italy.
"Italy enslaved; house of misery; ship without a pilot."(line 76)
Canto VII. The Valley of the Princes
Greetings of Virgil and Sordello.
Meeting with the princes.
Canto VIII. The Guardian Angels
Nino Visconti and Conrad Malaspina.
Canto IX. The Gate of Purgatory.
Dante approaches the Gate. Three steps.
The seven p's on his brow.
Peter and the Church and Purgatory.
Canto X. The First Terrace of Purgatory.
Here we begin Purgatory proper.
Here begins cure of roots of sin.
(vs the sins themselves in Inferno)
Canto XI. The First Terrace: Pride
Examples of pride: the Oderisi.
NOTE: Line 94+ interesting in their reference to the painters of the day. "In painting Cimabue thought to hold the field and now Giotto has the cry."
Canto XII. The First Terrace: Pride
Examples of pride: Saul, Holofernes.
The Ashes of Troy (line 61).
Canto XIII. The Second Terrace: Envy
Examples of kindness.
Sapia (line 109).
Canto XIV. The Second Terrace: Envy
Line 16: The Arno. Rises in Falterona.
Lines 40+: Casentino, Arezzo, Florence.
Guido del Duca.
Canto XV. The Third Terrace: Anger
The purgation of blinding anger.
The angel of mercy.
Canto XVI. Third Terrace: Anger
The purgation of anger. But most important in this canto is Marco Lombardo's oration on the dignity of man and on human freedom. This canto is central to the whole scheme of ethics in the Divine Comedy and essential to the two succeeding cantos in which Virgil discusses Love.
Canto XVII. The Third Terrace: Anger
Virgil's Discourse on Love.
This and the next canto contain some of the most important intellectual material for understanding the whole structure of the Divine Comedy. As Virgil explains, the whole of the universe is moved by Love. Love is God's plan. "Neither Creator nor creature was ever without love" (line 91) And thus the whole of Purgatory is organized in relation to the actions of love in our lives. God is love and the whole of his creation moves with and toward Love. Here the most important theologian is Saint Augustine and his Christian interpretation of Plato. These ideas are explicit in the New Testament and most memorable of all is Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians: 13.
Canto XVIII. The Fourth Terrace: Sloth
Continuation of Virgil's Discourse on Love.
Examples of sloth and zeal.
The Abbot of San Zeno.(line 118)
Canto XIX. The Fifth Terrace: Avarice.
Purgation of avarice; more churchmen
Pope Adrian V. The only pope that Dante meets in Purgatory. There are many in Inferno!
Canto XX. The Fifth Terrace: Avarice.
Examples of generosity and of avarice.
The canto full of Frenchmen and reveals Dante's distinct anti-French bias. Hugh Capet and the Capetians.(line 49+)
Canto XXI. The Fifth Terrace: Statius.
In this Canto Dante introduces another guide in the person of Publius Papinius Statius (45-96 AD) who now augments the leadership of Virgil as an example of Christian Rome (as opposed to Virgil's pagan Rome). Statius was author of an epic called The Thebaid which was enormously popular in the Middle Ages. He is not very interesting, but now he tags along. Sometimes you can't even remember that he is there, but he pops up again. He is not one of Dante's great literary achievements.
Canto XXII. The Sixth Terrace: Gluttony.
Statius talks about himself and Virgil.
A reminder of Virgil's famous Fourth Eclogue in which he seems to prophesy the coming of Jesus Christ,(line 70).
Canto XXIII. The Sixth Terrace: Gluttony
This encounter with Forese Donati is a very important glimpse into the personal life of Dante in Florence which becomes more interesting later when Dante meets Beatrice and she accuses him of falling into sin. Forese was Dante's best friend and in this their encounter we get the idea that they were pals in the pursuit of vice (line 115). It is ONLY with Forese that Dante talks about Beatrice thus we can all understand that this meeting with Forese is very important. And soon Dante will meet Beatrice herself.
Canto XXIV. The Sixth Terrace: Gluttony
The Dolce Stil Nuovo.
The encounter with Forese Donati continues. Here the two continue to talk about poetry and Florence. The Dolce Stil Nuovo, the Sweet New Style, was the new poetry of Courtly Love of which Dante was a master.
Canto XXV. The Seventh Terrace: Lust.
Here on the Seventh Terrace lust is purged.
Statius delivers a discourse on the soul that sounds a little like a Scholastic philosopher who expounds ideas that are Aristotelian and Thomistic.
Canto XXVI. The Seventh Terrace: Lust.
Here Dante meets individuals guilty of excessive love, i.e.. lust. Among those he encounters are two poets with whom Dante continues the discussion of poetry that began earlier. This canto shows Dante's intense concern with poetry and his own poetic achievements. Guido Guinicelli and Arnaut of Provence.
Canto XXVII. Beyond the Terraces:
And Into the Fire.
Dante's journey up the mountain now takes him into the Fires of Purgation. At line 127 we hear the last speech of Virgil who will soon disappear from the poem.
Canto XXVIII. The Earthly Paradise:
Another Dark Wood.
Dante returns to another dark wood, but this one is welcoming and rich and green and beautiful. This is the original paradise unwounded by Adam and Eve's sin. Here is this Wood Dante will meet Matilda across the cool fresh stream. Matilda will lead him forward to the next revelation.
Canto XXIX. Pageant of Divine Revelation.
Matilda leads Dante to the Pageant that now unfolds as if on a stage across the river. There he sees the great Cart of the Church Triumphant roll into view, accompanied by the parade of Old Testament prophets, New Testament evangelists, and other saints.
Canto XXX. Beatrice
Cantos XXX-XXXI are the great cantos of Beatrice. The cart rolls to a stop and revealed atop the cart is Beatrice. (Canto 30, line 30). And suddenly Dante feels the old love's great power.(line 39). Suddenly he looks and Virgil is gone. He is devastated. Now Beatrice confronts him with his own moment of Judgement.
Canto XXXI. Dante's Confession.
Dante breaks down under the stress of his confrontation with his old love. He collapses in tears and confesses that false pleasures turned his steps away from the good and the true that Beatrice had inspired. Canto 31 is intensely personal, private, confessional. Beatrice takes him: "Hold me. Hold me." And bathes him and refreshes him. Like a mother with a child.
Canto XXXII.Pageant of Divine Revelation:
The Pageant: Law and History.
The cart tied to the tree.
The disasters to the cart (the church).
The Church and the Empire.
Beatrice and the Cart.
Canto XXXIII. Dante Reaches the Summit.
The prophecy of Beatrice. Dante purified. Dante now ready to mount to the stars. Beatrice leads him higher. He would tell us more but . . . oops. . . he runs out of paper!
Dante's Paradiso: The Cantos
Canto I. Appeal to Apollo
"Oh Good Apollo, make me worthy of this last labor." Now Dante ascends from the earth to the spheres of heaven. The Paradiso is the Cantica of Beatrice. The recurring theme is the difficulty of conveying the experience in language. Thus the whole of Paradiso is a continuing essay on poetry itself and on language, memory, and expression. The light of Paradiso is bright full noon after the darkness of Inferno and the promising Dawn of Purgatorio.
Canto II. Sphere of the Moon.
Warning to the Reader: O You who in a little boat have followed behind my ship, that singing makes her way forward, turn back to see your shores again. Beware. You may get lost and then you will be in trouble. These waters have never been sailed before. (These lines remind one of the opening lines of Purgatorio where we encounter another little digression on poetry and the poet: the little boat of my wit.) Beatrice explains the spots of the moon and the order of the universe. Beatrice gazing upward and he is following her.
Canto III. Sphere of the Moon. Piccarda.
The stories of Piccarda Donati and Empress Constance both of whom are taken out of the convent into the real world. Faith inconstant.
Canto IV. Sphere of the Moon. The Soul.
The progress of Dante's mind to God. Beatrice resolves two of Dante's doubts about the free will Plato's ideas about the soul.
Canto V. Sphere of Mercury: Vows.
The stories of Piccarda and Constance have raised the subject of sacred vows and how we are to obey them. Here Beatrice discourses on vows
Canto VI. Sphere of Mercury: Justinian
"I was Caesar and am Justinian." Here we get the only canto in the whole of the Divine Comedy that gives us a single speaker all the way through. This is Justinian's canto as spokesman for the concept of the Holy Roman Empire. Dante chooses Justinian as the embodiment of the one great moment in the history of the empire when the secular and religious arms cooperated as he thought they should do. Here we get some history of the empire and a dissertation on the proper world order. Dante's choice of Justinian as the spokesman for the empire was surely influenced by the fact that he was living in Ravenna, the site of the great Justinian architectural creation of San Vitale, while he was writing the Paradiso.
Canto VII. Sphere of Mercury.
Justinian departs and Beatrice delivers a somewhat Scholastic dissertation on human redemption: the Divine Plan. Divine Justice.
Canto VIII.Sphere of Venus: Chas. Martel.
In the sphere of Venus we encounter stories of love marred by wantonness. But most fascinating about canto VIII is Dante's meeting with Charles Martel, an important figure in Florentine history.
Canto IX. Sphere of Venus: Cunizza, Folco.
Here are stories of love transformed. Dante meets Cunizza, sister of the tyrant ruler of Treviso, Ezzolino, and Folco. Folco delivers a scathing and somewhat un-paradisiacal denunciation of Florence. (Now in his last years, living in Ravenna, Dante seems to become more harsh in his assessment of his beloved Florence.)
Canto X. Sphere of Sun: Thomas Aquinas.
The Theologians (X-XIII)
Remember: for Dante the Sun is another planet, the fourth planet. Here at the beginning of Canto X Dante addresses us directly to lift up our eyes to the beauty of the creation. Now we will meet some of the philosophers who have written on that creation. We meet Thomas Aquinas in
Canto XI. Sphere of Sun: Saint Francis
Canto XI is a hymn of praise for Saint Francis of Assisi delivered by the Dominican Thomas Aquinas as in the next canto the Franciscan Bonaventura will praise Saint Dominic.
Canto XII. Sphere of Sun: Saint Dominic.
Saint Bonaventura of equal fame in the world of thirteenth-century Paris theology with Thomas Aquinas, now delivers another hymn of praise, this one for Dominic.
Canto XIII. Sphere of Sun: Prudence.
Saint Thomas Aquinas delivers an oration on the beauty and perfection of God's creation..
Canto XIV. Sphere of Mars: Fortitude
The Warriors. (XIV-XVII)
Now in these cantos of the sphere of Mars we will meet great warriors in the cause of the Lord. And in Canto XIV Solomon delivers a discourse on the resurrection of the body.
Canto XV. Sphere of Mars: Cacciaguida.
In cantos XV-XVII Dante meets his ancestor Cacciaguida and engages in the most intimate dialogue of the whole of the Paradiso. With Cacciaguida, Dante discusses his own family, his own personal story, and most shocking to him, hears Cacciaguida's prophecy about his future (after 1300) in Florence. These three cantos are rich and wonderful and completely human.
Canto XVI. Sphere of Mars: Cacciaguida.
Cacciaguida talks of the great families of Florence and their decline. Here is the ever-present vision of Dante: things used to be better than they are now.
Canto XVII. Sphere of Mars: Cacciaguida.
The most important lines in Canto XVII have to do with Dante's future which his ancestor knows. Lines 46 begins the lamentable prophecy: that Dante will be driven out of Florence.
Canto XVIII. Sphere of Jupiter: Justice
The Rulers of the Earth (XVIII-XX).
In the sphere of the pure, white Jupiter we meet some of the just rulers of the earth: Joshua, Charlemagne, and Robert Guiscard.
Canto XIX. Sphere of Jupiter: The Eagle.
"Before me appeared with open wings the beautiful image" the image of an eagle, the Divine power. The eagle speaks about divine justice.
Canto XX. Sphere of Jupiter: King David.
Dante meets some of the great rulers: King David, Trajan, Constantine.
Canto XXI. Sphere of Saturn: Temperance.
The Contemplatives (XXI-XXII)
Notice that the contemplatives are higher in heaven than the rulers. Thus Dante accepts the Medieval notion that the highest calling is to leave the world and devote oneself to prayer and contemplation. Here he meets Peter Damian who was from Ravenna.
Canto XXII. Sphere of Saturn: Benedict.
Dante is overwhelmed with amazement at the wonders of the heavens and runs to his Beatrice like a child running to his mother. Here Dante meets Saint Benedict, father of Western monasticism. In line 151, Dante gives us one of the great images of the DC: he looks down onto earth and sees us all down here as on a threshing floor, in the midst of the separation of the wheat from the chaff. (Luke 3:18.)
Canto XXIII. Sphere of the Fixed Stars.
The Greatest Saints (XXIII-XXVI).
Now Dante and Beatrice ascend into the sphere of the Fixed Stars where they meet the Greatest Saints who each examine Dante on various aspects of the faith.
Canto XXIV. Sphere of the Fixed Stars.
Saint Peter on Faith..
Peter examines Dante on Faith. The exchange resembles an academic examination in the medieval university.
Canto XXV. Sphere of the Fixed Stars.
Saint James on Hope.
James examines Dante on Hope. Our author opens this canto with a heartfelt hope of his own: that he might return one day to his Florence.
Canto XXVI. Sphere of the Fixed Stars.
Saint John on Love.
John examines Dante on Love. An especially interesting passage is Dante's speculations on the origins of language which begin at line 114.
Canto XXVII. The Crystalline Sphere
Ulysses and the Threshing Floor..
Now the travelers are moving up beyond time and space. Here in the Crystalline Sphere the canto opens with the invocation of the Trinity. Most memorable are the wonderful lines that begin at line 79 when Beatrice invites him to look down on this little earth and he sees the "mad track of Ulysses" and the threshing floor.
Canto XXVIII. The Crystalline Sphere.
The Angelic Orders.
Beatrice explains to Dante the Angelic orders. His material comes from both Old and New Testament sources.
Canto XXIX. The Crystalline Sphere.
The Angelic Orders.
Beatrice continues to explain the functions of the angels and various divine powers.
Canto XXX. The Empyrean.
The name of this the final upper reaches of Heaven comes from Latin signifying pure fire and pure light. Both the ancient classic culture and the Christian used this image of pure fire and pure light to imagine heaven. Beatrice and Dante now ascend into the Empyrean which takes them beyond time and beyond space. Thus Dante must remind us continually that he will be inadequate to the task of describing for us what he saw and experienced. This theme is one of the central themes of the whole of the Paradiso as opposed to the other two Cantica. Here in the Empyrean they see the river of light and the Celestial Rose.
Canto XXXI. The Empyrean.
Goodbye to Beatrice. Hello to Saint Bernard.
In Canto XXXI Beatrice leaves Dante and Saint Bernard of Clairvaux takes over as his new guide. Bernard was the most famous of Medieval mystics and thus the change of guides signals that now at this level of Dante's progress he must become a mere prayerful pilgrim.
Canto XXXII. The Empyrean.
Bernard directs Dante's gaze into the vision of the Celestial Rose where he can see all the saints gathered.
Canto XXXIII. The Beatific Vision.
Now Dante reaches the highest insight and sees the whole of the Beatific Vision in which we see all and understand all of the whole of creation and of all time. And in this supreme moment of insight, he sees the Universe as a Book, "In its depth I saw that it contained, bound by Love in one volume, that which is scattered in the leaves of the universe."(lines 85-87)