The mountain is extraordinarily steep. Dante and Virgil ask another group of souls for directions. Dante spends time talking with Manfred among the souls who died while they were excommunicated.
Scattering quickly, that group of souls fled across the plain toward the mountain where Reason leads us to probe deeply into the state of our souls. I stayed close by my faithful Virgil, for who else than he could have guided me up that mountain? But he, for his part, looked remorseful at that moment–his noble conscience, I suspect, shamed by our earlier distraction and Cato’s rebuke. Slowing a bit now, his pace became more dignified, and I, too, moved on from what had just taken place–eager to explore the awesome mountain that rose steeply before us, growing toward Heaven right out of the sea.This opening paragraph serves as a perfect segue from Canto 2. If this is “the mountain that heals,” as Dante calls it, they seem not to have made a good beginning. The newly arrived group of … Continue reading
Behind us, the morning sun’s bright rays created a shadow of my human form on the ground as I blocked its rays. But seeing that, panic quickly seized me: not seeing Virgil’s shadow next to mine, I feared I had been abandoned. Smiling, my Comfort reassured me, saying: “Why are you troubled? Do you think I’m not here still to guide you as I have? It is now evening where my body lies in its tomb–moved from Brindisi to Naples, as you know. Alive once, I could cast a shadow like yours, but don’t be surprised if I no longer do so. Think of the spheres that shine so brightly in the heavens, and yet none of them blocks each others’ light.In the full light of the Easter morning sun, this is the first time Dante has seen his shadow since his pilgrimage started in the dark forest before he and Virgil entered Hell–a clear affirmation … Continue reading
“Spirit-bodies like ours are actually sensitive to pain and to cold and heat. This is willed so in Heaven; but that Power also wills not to reveal the reason why. It’s foolish to think that humans could ever understand the Infinite Mind that apprehends the Trinity of Persons in One God. For now, be satisfied with what what you see instead of trying to understand why. Humans! If we knew everything, there would have been no need for Mary to have borne a son. Remember Limbo where you saw those longing souls who thirst in hope for such knowledge–but in vain. And so the likes of Plato and Aristotle live in endless grief.” Bowing his head amid these anguished thoughts, my dear guide became quiet.Dante’s momentary fear of losing Virgil–his “Comfort”–actually prompts Virgil to reassure his companion about his presence, even though he is dead. Though he refers to his own death in … Continue reading
Soon enough, we came to the foot of that great mountain where we found the slope so steep the most agile legs would not have been much help. Compared to this place, the cliffs and crags between Turbia and Lerici would have seemed like mere stairs!The cities Dante refers to here are at either end of the extremely rugged Ligurian Coast (the Italian Riviera) which stretches from east of Nice in southern France (Turbia), wrapping around Genoa and … Continue reading Stopping abruptly, Virgil scanned the face of that forbidding slope and asked: “How can we find just the right place for one without wings to begin the ascent?”
As I looked upward, blankly, my guide stood there with lowered head trying to think of some way to begin. Then, to the left of us, I saw a crowd of souls moving slowly in our direction–very slowly. “Look over there, Master,” I said. Lots of people are coming who probably know the way, if you haven’t already figured it out.”Recall that Virgil has not been in Purgatory before, so he is as much a stranger here as Dante. The two pilgrims have been assured that they’d find the place to start climbing, but seeing such … Continue reading
Relieved, he looked over toward them and said: “Yes. Now keep your hopes up, my son. They’re moving slow enough, so let’s go meet them.”
We were still quite far from them as we moved in their direction when, quite suddenly, they all huddled together against the towering cliff, looking stunned and staring at us.
“O spirits of the elect, you who ended your lives well,” Virgil called to them, “in the name of the peace you all seek, I ask if you can tell us where this mountain opens a way for us to begin our climb upward? You will agree that the more we learn, the more we hate to waste time.”Note how Virgil’s attempt to solicit the aid of another group of souls is stated so piously and elegantly. The spirits here in Purgatory are among the elect, they ended their lives in a state of … Continue reading
You know how a flock of sheep behaves: one leaves the fold slowly, then another, and then another, until they all move. What the first one does, the others do; and if it stops, the rest huddle unknowingly behind it quietly. In this same way, I saw the leaders of that group of holy souls move toward us tentatively, gentle and dignified. But when those in front saw my dark shadow stretching off toward the cliff, they shrank back, and the rest did likewise, not knowing why.When these sheep-like souls stopped suddenly and backed up against the cliff, were they frightened or confused when they caught sight of Dante and Virgil coming toward them? The answer has to be … Continue reading
At this, Virgil spoke to them softly: “Let me tell you straight away: this is a man’s body that breaks the sunlight here. He is alive, but do not be startled at this. Surely, you realize that he’s here because the power of Heaven wills that he, too, climb this steep cliff.”
Hearing this, that holy group gestured with their hands followed by their words: “Turn and lead the way before us.”Virgil seems to resume his earlier–infernal–role here as “explainer” of why they are here and Dante’s special status as a living person – all mandated by Heavenly powers. These … Continue reading
Then one of that group spoke out: “You there, alive. Whoever you are, please look back and think whether you’ve ever seen me when I lived.”Note the similarity of this greeting to Casella’s in the previous canto. Twice now, souls have taken this friendly initiative with Dante here in Purgatory–not always the case in Hell. But it fits … Continue reading
I turned and did as he requested, looking carefully at his face. Apart from a sword cut above one eye, he was blonde and noble-looking. Unable to recall his face, and admitting humbly that I still didn’t recognize him, he said: “Look here,” and pointed to a great gash across his chest.Unlike the encounter with Casella earlier, Dante’s interlocutor can’t exactly see who he’s addressing because Dante, at the moment, is in the lead. We have here a handsome, obviously noble soul … Continue reading
Then he said, smiling: “I am Manfred, the grandson of the Empress Constance.Some brief background on Manfred: Apart from being the grandson of the empress Constance, as he tells us, Manfred was the illegitimate son of the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II and Bianca Lanci and … Continue reading
When you return among the living, I beg you to go to my lovely daughter, whose noble sons rule Sicily and Aragon.Manfred’s daughter was also named Constance. She married Peter III of Aragon. In spite of what rumors there may be about me,As noted already, that he was an Epicurean, a man of questionable morals, and an excommunicate. Note, however, how cleverly the Poet uses the word “rumors” to garner the reader’s sympathy, … Continue reading tell her that as I laid upon the ground dying from these mortal wounds, weeping, I gave my soul over to God whose forgiveness is always granted willingly. Though my sins were terrible, the infinite mercy of God embraces anyone who comes looking for it.In this commentator’s opinion, this is one of the most spectacular scenes of the mercy of God in the Comedy. There is not much more that can be said here except that Dante the Poet is here acting … Continue reading If the archbishop of CosenzaThis would be Cardinal Bartolomeo Pignatelli who was the Archbishop of Cosenza at the time. Cosenza being in the northern part of the province of Calabria. had understood these words in the Holy Book, he would not have disinterred my body as the vengeful Pope Clement ordered him to do. I would still lie peacefully near the bridge at Benevento where my soldiers buried me under a great mound of stones. Instead, my bones lie scattered by wind and rain, outside my kingdom, near the banks of the River Verde, where they were thrown like one who died in infamy.Both Dante, as Poet and Theologian, take a justified swipe at the Church hierarchy here, as he will do on many more occasions before the Poem comes to an end. History makes it clear that there was no … Continue reading
“Understand this: the Church’s curse is not the last word. Everlasting Love can bloom again amidst the slightest hint of hope. It is true that those who die apart from the Church’s fold, even if they repent at the end of their lives, must remain outside this realm and wander along this shore for thirty times as long as they lived apart–though prayers of the faithful can shorten this term. See, therefore, how much happier you can make me by telling my dear Constance that I am here. Explain to her the law that holds me back and how those below can help us much with their prayers.”Dante the Theologian has more to say here as Manfred finishes his basic request: tell my daughter that I am here and to pray for me. It’s ironic that the theologian here puts the theology into the … Continue reading
Notes & Commentary
|↑1||This opening paragraph serves as a perfect segue from Canto 2. If this is “the mountain that heals,” as Dante calls it, they seem not to have made a good beginning. The newly arrived group of souls were so taken by the joyful reunion of Casella and Dante, and then by Casella’s singing, that they completely forgot their purpose. Even Virgil fell under the spell of that moment. Cato’s arrival and scolding served the purpose of Divine Justice in spurring all those lazy souls toward the climb that will save them. As they move toward the Mountain, Dante spends a moment to recover Virgil’s dignity–his “noble conscience”–and seeing Virgil’s recovery enables Dante to put the shame of their lapse behind them as they eagerly face the task ahead of them. All of this is important on the level of spiritual interpretation as we consider that Purgatory is the place where we recover our spiritual dignity by facing our sins and the failures that have impeded our progress toward God. Early in the Inferno, Dante saw this same mountain at almost the same time of day. He thought he would climb it and find his way out of the dark forest (his own moral wilderness). But he was not ready for such an easy escape from the darkness of his wayward life and three beasts, representing pride, violence, and lust, drove him back down into the tangled forest. And here he is again, with his guide Virgil, who took him down into the depths of Hell in order to teach him about the nature of sin and the consequences of bad choices. Now he can legitimately make the climb up this tremendous mountain, not to escape, but ready to be healed.|
|↑2||In the full light of the Easter morning sun, this is the first time Dante has seen his shadow since his pilgrimage started in the dark forest before he and Virgil entered Hell–a clear affirmation that he is truly alive. But as quickly as he sees his shadow, he doesn’t see Virgil’s–and he panics. While all of this happens in just a moment, it also reminds us of the bond that has grown between the two travelers and how much Dante depends on his mentor to guide him and explain what he sees. At the same time, this is symbolic of the bond that exists between the soul and God. And here at the beginning of Purgatory the only way is up, and so with our souls and God. That Dante is alive in the afterlife is also vitally important for us to bear in mind as we journey with him (and Virgil). Ultimately, Dante’s corporeality is foundational for the success of the Poem. At the same time, though, it seems that Dante the pilgrim can’t fully grasp the significance of his corporeality apart from Virgil’s presence near him to validate the fact. The irony here, of course, is that Virgil is dead. He is a spirit. And yet, if we have followed the two of them from the beginning of the Inferno Virgil is as much a living presence as Dante is.|
|↑3||Dante’s momentary fear of losing Virgil–his “Comfort”–actually prompts Virgil to reassure his companion about his presence, even though he is dead. Though he refers to his own death in Brindisi and reburial in Naples, his point is that, while his spirit-body might not cast a shadow, light still passes through him and gives him a kind of corporeal appearance. More than this, though, is his pointing to the cosmos and how light passes unblocked through all the great spheres. While this is another affirmation of Dante’s cosmology, it’s a spiritual affirmation that points to the Light of God which passes unhindered into our souls.
But the ever-attentive Virgil most likely senses that Dante wants to know more–even though there isn’t more he can understand. Dante’s frequent questions have, and will continue to have, a significant role in the structure of the Commedia. Not only are his questions ours as readers, but the answers also keep the Poem moving forward. Virgil repeats what Dante and we readers have already observed about spirit bodies in Hell: they are sensate. And this will continue with the souls throughout Purgatory. Both realms actually require this of the sinners; otherwise, the Poem would be unsatisfactory. Interestingly enough, even in Paradise, the souls will be sensate–not in suffering pain, but experiencing unimagined joy and happiness. These features of the afterlife are ordained by God, Virgil tells Dante, and it’s useless to try to fathom the Divine Mind. Be satisfied with what you have, he tells him. One might recall here God’s words to the prophet Isaiah (55:9): “As far as the heavens are above the earth, so far are your ways from mine.” Virtually all commentators on the Comedy suggest that Virgil is a symbol of human reason as far as it can take one. It stops short of Divine Revelation, and that is what Virgil wants Dante to understand here.
Throughout this exchange between Virgil and Dante, the subject is knowledge and, perhaps, the limits of knowledge or the dangers of knowledge. And yet, this is the glory of humans as God’s greatest creation. We can think. And we can choose. Recall Virgil’s statement to Dante when they entered Hell in Canto 3 of the Inferno: “These are people who have lost the good of the intellect.” In other words, they made bad choices, they thought wrongly, and violated their free will–God’s greatest gift. In doing so, they chose to be far less than what God created them to be. The tragedy of this failure is eternal damnation. Not because God willed it, but because they chose it!
On the other hand, the souls in Purgatory are definitely not damned. Quite the opposite: they are guaranteed a place in Heaven. But they’re here because they need to repair the damage their bad choices did to their souls. They didn’t make ultimate bad choices like the damned, but they still need to be purged and healed of every inclination that led them astray in life. Soon enough, we will meet souls who, even at the very last moment of their lives, repented and are saved. Much later in the Inferno (Canto 26), Dante and Virgil encountered Ulysses, whose pride led him to seek a knowledge that was forbidden him, and which killed him–eternally! It would seem that Dante the pilgrim doesn’t know that the Earthly Paradise (the Garden of Eden) is at the top of the Mountain of Purgatory, where the great drama of knowledge led Adam and Eve into the first sin. One wonders whether Virgil is subtly referring to this when he speaks of humans’ thirst for knowledge in reference to the Incarnation of Jesus. Most likely, if Adam and Eve had not sinned, there would have been no need for Jesus as the human revelation of God. And it may well be this knowledge that was denied to the great classical philosophers and poets in Limbo. Recall that Virgil described them in Canto 4 of the Inferno as the “masters of those who know,” and he was one of them. In a sad and sobering moment, he ponders the tragedy he shares with them–living in endless grief.
|↑4||The cities Dante refers to here are at either end of the extremely rugged Ligurian Coast (the Italian Riviera) which stretches from east of Nice in southern France (Turbia), wrapping around Genoa and ends just south of La Spezia (Lerici). It’s a considerable distance between these two cities, and is known for its steep cliffs and daunting mountain passes. As always, the reference to real places enhances the reality of the poem, particularly for those who have experienced them.|
|↑5||Recall that Virgil has not been in Purgatory before, so he is as much a stranger here as Dante. The two pilgrims have been assured that they’d find the place to start climbing, but seeing such impossibly steep cliffs before them, Virgil quips that they’d do better as birds if they expect to make any progress. In the spiritual realm, any kind of a conversion can be mirrored in what faces our two travelers. At the beginning, turning one’s life around can seem to be an impossible task, and Dante may be recollecting his last (failed) attempt to climb this mountain at the beginning of the Inferno. Yet at each point, Divine Assistance changed the impossible to the possible. Still feeling overwhelmed, Dante sees a crowd of souls moving toward them slowly – definitely a good sign. And note that it is Dante who sees the way forward in the approaching crowd. Virgil is still downcast.|
|↑6||Note how Virgil’s attempt to solicit the aid of another group of souls is stated so piously and elegantly. The spirits here in Purgatory are among the elect, they ended their lives in a state of grace, and he addresses them in the name of the peace they seek. And while the scene ends rather comically, there’s room for an aphorism that captures the “project” of Purgatory: the more one learns (in this case about oneself and about the need for purification) the less inclined one is to waste time progressing. Soon enough (Canto 4), we’ll meet souls who wasted too much time in turning their lives around – as a matter of fact, unbeknownst to Dante and Virgil, the whole lower part of the Mountain of Purgatory is reserved for just these kinds of souls. Thus, Virgil’s aphorism sets the stage for what is about to take place. In the meantime, however, our Pilgrims are not prepared for the reaction they are met with when they approach these new souls.|
|↑7||When these sheep-like souls stopped suddenly and backed up against the cliff, were they frightened or confused when they caught sight of Dante and Virgil coming toward them? The answer has to be both. One can imagine that just as the living might be frightened by a ghost, ghosts/spirits might well be frightened by the living. This becomes apparent when we realize that it’s Dante’s shadow that betrays him as a living being among them. But the souls’ confusion is a bit more subtle. Dante and Virgil were moving directly toward the mountain face after the earlier “beach party” was broken up by Cato. Dante spied those souls moving toward them from the left, and he and Virgil started off toward them (to their left as well). What most likely startled the group was that the Pilgrims were going the wrong way. The proper movement in Purgatory, as we will soon learn, is obviously up, but it’s also (get the symbolism) to the right – that is, counter-clockwise.
Interestingly, Hollander notes: “Not only were they going in the wrong direction, they were also moving quickly, not at the reverential and thoughtful pace of penitence.” On the level of spiritual interpretation, this suggests that not only is it difficult to turn one’s life around, one also makes mistakes as one strives to learn the right path–and stay on it.
|↑8||Virgil seems to resume his earlier–infernal–role here as “explainer” of why they are here and Dante’s special status as a living person – all mandated by Heavenly powers. These “admission tickets,” as it were, have reinforced, and will continue to do so, the necessity and significance of their journey through the realms of the afterlife. And let’s not forget: there’s a third ticket for the reader. Note that the group of souls are now all headed in the right direction–with Dante and Virgil in the lead.|
|↑9||Note the similarity of this greeting to Casella’s in the previous canto. Twice now, souls have taken this friendly initiative with Dante here in Purgatory–not always the case in Hell. But it fits well here where the souls’ humility, openness, and honesty are virtues that go hand in hand with their purgation.|
|↑10||Unlike the encounter with Casella earlier, Dante’s interlocutor can’t exactly see who he’s addressing because Dante, at the moment, is in the lead. We have here a handsome, obviously noble soul who bears a mark of violence on his face. He expects that Dante might recognize him; but when he fails to do so, he shows the pilgrim an even larger wound on his chest. While not pushing this identification too far, one is reminded of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to his Apostles and how he showed them his wounds. Manfred, as we will see, is hardly a Jesus-figure. But his presence here in Purgatory is rock-solid evidence of the mercy of the Savior!
Charles Singleton offers some wonderful insights at this point in his commentary. “Nothing in the account given in Purgatorio XXV of the aerial body assumed by the soul in the afterlife will explain how it is that the diaphanous “body” of Manfred should bear wounds at all, his two mortal wounds, as they are called in vs. 119. But it may be noted that St. Augustine, for one, speaks of the desire that we the faithful have to see, in the heavenly kingdom, the marks of the wounds that the blessed martyrs received in the name of Christ, and he adds that possibly we shall see those wounds. See The City of God, XXII, xix, 3: ‘For, in the martyrs, such wounds will not be a deformity; they will have a dignity and loveliness all their own; and, though this radiance will be spiritual and not physical, it will, in some way, beam from their bodies.’ Thus the possibility of such wounds remaining in the “body” after death is somehow allowed. Manfred is no martyr – indeed, he died in contumacy of Holy Church. And yet, in spite of excommunication by the Church (‘the Church’s curse’), he is already one of the ‘spirits of the elect’. But is there not something of the martyr about Manfred, with the curious twist to it that he has somehow been persecuted by the Church?”
|↑11||Some brief background on Manfred: Apart from being the grandson of the empress Constance, as he tells us, Manfred was the illegitimate son of the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II and Bianca Lanci and grandson of the Hohenstaufen Emperor, Henry VI. It’s clever of the Poet to have him introduce himself this way, so as to keep an air of propriety. (Recall that Frederick, reputed to be an Epicurean–and therefore a heretic–was mentioned by Farinata in Canto 10 of the Inferno.) Manfred was the last Hohenstaufen king of Sicily and ruled there from 1258 until his death in 1266–a year after Dante was born. Thus, it’s odd that he should ask Dante if he recognized him. Like his father before him, he was accused of being an Epicurean. He was urbane, spoke several languages, cultivated an environment of artistic refinement at court, was a composer and patron of the arts, and was, in fact, noted for his handsome bearing. After his father and his half-brother, Conradin, died (he was said to have murdered them!), he crowned himself King of Sicily. His political wranglings and his various battles ran him afoul of the papacy on several occasions, and he was excommunicated twice. At the horrific Battle of Montaperti, he sided with the victorious Ghibellines against the Florentine Guelfs. Dante mentions this battle in Canto 32 of the Inferno when he accidentally (?) kicks one of the frozen traitors in the face. The traitor was Bocca degli Abati who, posing as a Guelf, cut off the hand of the Florentine standard-bearer, who then dropped the signal flag and threw the army into chaos and eventual defeat. (It might be noted here that Dante admired Manfred and his father in spite of their many moral failures because they were enlightened and refined rulers.) At Manfred’s last battle–at Benevento, near Naples–he was both betrayed by his nobles and outnumbered by his enemies. Before he was killed on the battlefield, he most likely received the two wounds he shows to Dante. Because he was excommunicated, though, he was denied a Christian burial in holy ground, and he was buried on the battlefield where he died. There is a wonderful legend at this point that each enemy soldier who passed his grave laid a stone at the spot out of respect. Later, Pope Clement IV ordered the local Archbishop to unearth Manfred’s body and bury it outside the kingdom along the banks of the Verde River, as though to have done with the likes of him for good!
Villani, in his Chronica, VI,46, provides us with an interesting picture of Manfred: “comely of his body and as dissolute as his father, and more so. He was a musician and singer, and delighted in the company of jesters, courtiers, and courtesans, and always dressed in green; he was very liberal and courteous and debonair, so that he was greatly loved and gracious; but, all his life he was an Epicurean, caring neither for God nor His saints, but only for bodily pleasure. He was an enemy of the Church and the clergy.” As negative as this might sound, we’ll soon discover that this is exactly what will make Manfred’s appearance here as one of the “elect” so utterly remarkable!
|↑12||Manfred’s daughter was also named Constance. She married Peter III of Aragon.|
|↑13||As noted already, that he was an Epicurean, a man of questionable morals, and an excommunicate. Note, however, how cleverly the Poet uses the word “rumors” to garner the reader’s sympathy, when, in fact, hardly any of Dante’s contemporaries would have believed that Manfred could have been saved. And yet this is exactly the point that the Poet, through Manfred, wants the reader to understand–no one but God knows ultimately the state of a soul at the moment of its death.|
|↑14||In this commentator’s opinion, this is one of the most spectacular scenes of the mercy of God in the Comedy. There is not much more that can be said here except that Dante the Poet is here acting as Dante the Theologian. His interpretation of God’s mercy here brings to the fore the lengths He will go to save even a rotten sinner as Manfred may have been. Furthermore, in case we have forgotten where we are, we are in Purgatory where sinners are made whole and ready to see God–but we haven’t even started climbing the Mountain yet and already we have a stunning example of God’s mercy and love for these souls. Without pressing the issue too far, does the Poet want the Pilgrim and the reader to consider seriously what God will do for us–even at the last minute? Hear this terrible sinner make his confession and assure us of the generosity of God’s forgiveness for anyone who wants it. He not only “gives” us forgiveness, He “embraces” us with it!|
|↑15||This would be Cardinal Bartolomeo Pignatelli who was the Archbishop of Cosenza at the time. Cosenza being in the northern part of the province of Calabria.|
|↑16||Both Dante, as Poet and Theologian, take a justified swipe at the Church hierarchy here, as he will do on many more occasions before the Poem comes to an end. History makes it clear that there was no love lost between Manfred and the Church, especially its leaders. At the same time, and this should not be lost on the reader of this Poem, that Dante often denounces the Church hierarchy for its failure to lead according to the principles of the Gospel. He will show us on several occasions his disgust for kings and popes who lust after each other’s prerogatives instead of following their own appropriate paths. This confusion of roles, he will note, is the cause of so much strife between the Church and the State. One winces at the disgraceful behavior of both Pope and Cardinal in the shameful way they treated Manfred’s body, contrasted with the reverence with which he was originally buried on the battlefield. In a very real sense, Manfred was excommunicated and declared anathema for a third time–even though he was dead. Ironically, it was only in death that Manfred was finally deposed and literally thrown out of his kingdom by those who tried to do it while he was alive.|
|↑17||Dante the Theologian has more to say here as Manfred finishes his basic request: tell my daughter that I am here and to pray for me. It’s ironic that the theologian here puts the theology into the mouth of the heretic and excommunicate. Yet it’s this unexpected turn that manifests the ongoing richness of the Gospel where Jesus often turned his hearers on their heads with the parables he told them. In a sense, Dante creates Manfred the Evangelist who, by his own admission, was a terrible sinner. But he also knows first-hand that God’s Love trumps the Church’s laws. The oft-quoted adage, “Hope springs eternal,” takes on new meaning here. The color green, by the way, is often associated with the virtue of hope. Green was Manfred’s favorite color; he often wore green clothes. And Manfred body was shamefully thrown along the bank of the River Verde (Green River).
All of this is not to say that Manfred is excused from the purgation he deserves. He is here in Purgatory. But his punishment–and that of others like him–is, in some ways, worse than those we will encounter further up the Mountain. We learn from him that souls who lived apart from the community of the Church–even if they repent at their death–must wait along the Mountain’s shore thirty times as long as they lived apart before they can begin their actual purgation. Though the prayers of the faithful can help them. In a sense, Dante the Poet keeps them from the main community of penitents until a specific waiting time has been accomplished.
A few words about Purgatory: Apart from various concepts about heaven and hell, the idea of a purification after death appears in the Judeo-Christian tradition in the Second Book of Maccabees (12:42-44) in the Hebrew Bible where we encounter the idea of praying for the dead that they may be purified in the sight of God. However, there were classical antecedents to this in Greek and Roman philosophical literature. Christians were praying for their dead by the second century AD. But moving toward a place or state between heaven and hell took several centuries to develop. Often it was a place of fire, real or symbolic, as a means of purification. One thinks of the biblical verse, “gold purified in the furnace” (Eccl. 2:5). It wasn’t until the Second Council of Lyon in 1274 (Manfred died in 1266 and Dante was born in 1265) that the Church made a clear definition of Purgatory, teaching that after death some souls are purified, and that those in Purgatory benefit from the prayers and other good deeds done for them by the living. The council declared that if one repents before dying but still needs to make satisfaction by some form of penance for sins or other omissions of good deeds, they would be cleansed and purified by various punishments after death. Furthermore, the punishment(s) in Purgatory can be relieved by prayers and other good deeds for them by the faithful still living. Thus, both Dante’s and Manfred’s theology seems to have been in line with Church teaching at the time.