Church and State in the Comedy

The Political Vision of the Divine Comedy by Joan Ferrante

Chapter 02, “Church and State in the Comedy”

THE PROPER FUNCTlONING of the empire on earth depends not only on its relations with individual cities and kingdoms, but also on its relations with the papacy. The jurisdictional dispute between secular and ecclesiastical authority, the third and certainly the most controversial question Dante takes up in the Monarchy, also permeates the Comedy. He deals with it directly in Marco Lombardo’s discourse on the two suns (Pg. 16) and in the various attacks on the Donation of Constantine, and indirectly in his own frequent and clear denial of any but a spiritual and didactic function to the church and in his unrelenting criticism of the greed, corruption, and abuse of their position by individual popes and churchmen. In the Monarchy, Dante deals with the questions theoretically; in the Comedy, he confronts them more practically. The emperor is the only figure who can keep peace on earth because only he is not vulnerable to greed (Monarchy, 1.11); greed for money and power is the dominant characteristic of the churchmen in the Comedy. Christ told his disciples his kingdom was not of this world, that they were not to possess gold and silver (cited in Monarchy, 3.10.14), but churchmen in the Comedy pursue little else. The nature of the church is its form, and its form is the life of Christ, sacrifice, teaching, good example (Monarchy, 3.15), a life which in the Comedy is eschewed by all but the early popes and martyrs and a handful of later reforming saints, all men who avoided worldly power and possession. The Monarchy ends with the statement of man’s two goals, befitting his two natures: the earthly paradise, to which he is led by the emperor through reason, philosophy, and morality, and the heavenly paradise, to which he is guided by the church through faith and spiritual teaching. In the Comedy, Dante is led to the Earthly Paradise by Virgil, the poet of empire, who glorifies the empire’s meaning and history, and to heaven by Beatrice, the figure of theology, the faith on which the church is based. Both Dante’s guides are surrogates for the malfunctioning organs of empire and church which they represent, and which Dante comes to represent when he is crowned in the Earthly Paradise.

The major moral obstacle to achieving the perfect state is greed for wealth and power; the major political obstacle is the papacy. The church interfered in local and international politics and asserted its right to do so on the basis of Scripture and canon law. Papal jurisdiction in temporal affairs was opposed by both monarchists and imperialists, but the former dominated the debates in the thirteenth century. The most interesting material and the largest volume in the church-state controversy during this period was produced by the struggle between Pope Boniface VIII and the French king Philip IV. Giles of Rome wrote on both sides of the issue in different periods; John of Paris, James of Viterbo, a series of clever but anonymous pamphleteers, and a virtual army of skilled and learned canonists took part in it (see introduction). The basic arguments for and against papal supremacy are similar; monarchists differ from imperialists mainly in their assertion of the independence or autonomy of individual states. When Dante draws on the monarchist arguments, he turns them to the support of the empire; in the Comedy, he condemns the French royal house almost as severely as he does the papacy because it offers the most powerful secular opposition to the empire outside Italy.

Boniface, who brought the conflict to a head, is an important figure in Dante’s Hell, although he does not appear as a character in it. Dante had personal as well as philosophical reasons to condemn him, which he does by assigning him a place in Hell, although he is not yet dead in 1300 when the journey is supposed to be taking place. Boniface’s role in Italian, particularly Florentine, politics and in Dante’s own exile, along with his extreme position on papal supremacy, would be enough to explain Dante’s animosity towards him.[01] But Boniface inspired the same kind of fierce hostility in much larger circles during his lifetime and for many years after his death, well into the period when Dante was writing the Comedy and long after the French king had effectively gained control of the papacy by the election of French popes and the transfer of the curia to Avignon. It is not surprising that Boniface is a powerful presence in the poem and seems to personify the corruption of the papacy for Dante even though he died years before Dante wrote most of it.

A brief survey of Boniface’s actions and the stories that circulated about him should explain Dante’s presentation of him. The troubles between Philip and Boniface began with jurisdictional clashes of various kinds: Philip imposed taxes on the clergy without first getting papal permission, and the pope, in response, forbad payment (Clericos laicos, l296); the king then stopped all passage of money out of the country, a blow to papal finances. [02] Boniface created a new bishopric separating Palmiers from Toulouse, and the bishop he appointed to it proclaimed that he was subject only to the pope, in temporal as well as spiritual matters, not in any way to the king, whom he went out of his way to insult; eventually the king had him arrested (Dupuy, Histoire du Differend, 197-98, Digard, Philippe le Bel vol. 2, 51 ff.). Boniface produced a series of bulls, some asserting his claims, some retracting them, and the situation was complicated by false bulls and letters circulated in his name, which made more extreme claims and elicited strong responses from the king’s party.[03] It did not help that the king’s party included disaffected Italian cardinals of the Colonna family, old enemies of Boniface whom he had removed from their posts. Perhaps the best known of Boniface’s authentic statements is the bull Unam Sanctam, 1302, claiming a divine hierarchy in which spiritual power excels any earthly power in dignity and nobility and establishing the earthly power; the spiritual power can judge the earthly, whereas only God can judge the spiritual. Anyone who does not accept the pope’s position is a heretic, and it is essential to the salvation of any human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.[04]

Boniface tried to excommunicate Philip at different times. On one occasion, 1301, when no one would publish the decree, the pope complained to a French official: “Nos habemus utramque potestatem” (“We have both powers,” spiritual and temporal); the Frenchman replied “Utique Domine, sed vestra est verbalis, nostra autem realis” (“That may well be, my Lord, but yours is verbal, ours is real,” Dupuy, Histoire du Differend 193, Riviere, Le. Probleme, 121). Boniface tried again, in 1303, to excommunicate Philip and place his subjects under anathema unless they renounced their oaths to the king; but before he could publish the bull, Philip had him captured in a rather blatant display of real power. Boniface’s position as pope was complicated by the fact that questions had been raised about his legitimacy because he had ascended while the previous pope, Celestine V, was alive. If the pope was the bridegroom of the church, there could be no other husband while he lived, divorce being frowned upon even in regard to an institution. The objection, as stated in the records of the hearings held on Boniface after his death, was:

… sicut vir non debet adulterare uxorem suam, ita nec Episcopus Ecclesiam suam, id est. ut illam dimittat ad quam consecratus est; et sicut uxori non licet dimittere virum suum, ita ut alteri se vivente eo, matrimonio societ, aut eum adulteret, licet fornicator sit vir eius; … absit enim quod Romano Pontifice vivente alter possit eligi: iam enim Ecclesia non esset una unius, sed una plurium; … non esset formosa et electa, sed deformis et monstruosa, dum in uno corpore Ecclesiae duo capita forent, quod esset omnino monstruosum, ridiculosum et absurdum.

. . . just as a man should not defile his wife, so the bishop should not defile his church, that is, put away her to whom he was consecrated; and as it is not permitted to a wife to put away her husband, so that she might join in matrimony with another while he is still living, even if her husband is a fornicator, . . . it is not fitting that while the Roman pontiff is alive, another be chosen: for then the church would not be one of one but one of many; . .. it would not be beautiful and elect, but deformed and monstrous, while there were two heads in the one body of the church, which would be in every way monstrous, ridiculous and absurd. (Dupuy, Histoire du Differend, 449)

There are a number of interesting points in this passage besides the marriage imagery: (1) the husband as fornicator, compare the Ottimo’s commentary on Purgatory 32, calling Boniface the lover (drudo) of the curia, not her legitimate spouse 2.576-77;[05] (2) the two-headed monster, an image the church often used to support its own claims to supreme power in Christendom, which Dante turns around in the Comedy (see below); and (3) the separation of a bishop from his diocese, a touchy point, since Boniface was himself criticized for abusing the practice.[06] It did not help matters that Boniface was popularly believed to have tricked Celestine into renouncing the papacy and retiring to a monastery. A contemporary Italian chronicle claims that Boniface had a tube inserted in the wall of the former pope’s bedroom, which he spoke through for three nights, pretending to be the angel of God and telling Celestine to renounce his position.[07] When he did, Boniface had him imprisoned in a monastery in case he should change his mind–or get a different message–until he died. Thus, Boniface’s papacy was tainted from the beginning. When Boniface died, chronicles report, he fulfilled the prophecy that he came to power like a fox, he would rule like a lion, but die like a dog.[08]

While he reigned, Boniface was accused of almost every imaginable vice; the attacks range from plays on his name to criminal allegations. Guillaume de Nogaret, one of Philip’s advisers who was to play an important role throughout the conflict, publicly called Boniface a master of lies even in his name: “faciens se, cum sit omnifarie maleficus, Bonifacium nominari et sic nomen falsum sibi assumpsit,” “though a malefactor in every way, he took on a false name and had himself called Boniface.”[09] An official act, made in the presence of king and court by several nobles, accused Boniface of various heresies and blasphemies, of fornication, simony, idolatry, demon-worship, war-mongering, sodomy, assassination, violation of the confessional, political intrigue, embezzlement of crusade funds, and of saying he would rather be a dog or an ass than a Frenchman. The point of the last accusation was to show that he did not believe the French had souls, though it sounds more like the outburst of a strong temper. The same accusations were made for years after his death. Philip threatened to have him tried for heresy as a means both of controlling subsequent popes and of blackmailing them to dissolve the Templars, and Philip compelled the church to hear witnesses and take depositions against Boniface for eight years after his death. It is a curious irony, and one that must have appealed to Dante, that Boniface is a presence throughout the Comedy, although he cannot actually appear in it because, according to the fiction, he is still alive, just as he was a constant presence in the hearings against him, though he could not appear at them because he was already dead.

Boniface was posthumously accused of the same variety of sins: of fornication and sodomy with specific partners (Dupuy, Histoire du Differend, 527, 539-41), of political intrigues, particularly against the Ghibellines. When told that the church in which a group of Ghibellines was taking refuge had not been destroyed because it contained the bones of saints who would be angry when the resurrection came, the pope said: “You’re trying to do penance before you sin–destroy the church and don’t worry about them, they’ll no more rise from the dead than my horse that died yesterday” (Dupuy, 543). This story must remind readers of the Comedy of Hell 27: after Boniface tricks Guido into sinning by promising absolution, a devil comes for Guido’s soul and points out that one cannot be absolved who does not repent, and one cannot repent and will at the same time (27.118-19). The situation is reversed here, but the words are similar and both incidents reveal the abuse of religious belief to lead others into sin for political advantage. The most persistent accusations against Boniface are those of blasphemy and heretical beliefs: that he denied the resurrection; that he disparaged the Eucharist as “no more Christ’s body than I am,” “it’s only dough” (“immo pasta est”), and Christ’s mother, “no more a virgin than my mother was” (Dupuy, 538).

Whether there is any truth to these charges, they indicate the scope and persistence of the tradition of Boniface as an archvillain. The same view is to be found in early commentaries on the Comedy: Pietro, Dante’s son, calls Boniface “princeps clericorum hypocritarum,” “the prince of hypocritical clerics” (240); Guido describes him as “perversa conscientia depravatus et arroganti superbia elevatus,” “depraved by a perverted conscience and exalted by arrogant pride” (559). The Ottimo misses no opportunity to pass on rumors about him: on Hell 3, he remarks that Boniface deceived Celestine with tricks; on canto 19, that he got his position by simony, that he sold church positions or bestowed them on unworthy relatives, and that he corrupted cardinals with money, gifts, or promises; on 27, speaking of the war between Boniface and the Colonnesi, the Ottimo tells a gratuitous story about Boniface’s nephew, sick for love of a woman. Boniface invited the woman to a banquet, had her seated before a door so that during the dinner she could be pulled into another room, where his nephew was waiting to rape her (1.468). On Purgatory 16, discussing the separation of powers, the Ottimo says that Boniface crowned himself and girded on the sword, and made himself emperor, “e fecesi egli stesso imperador” (2.291); on canto 20, he mentions that Boniface excommunicated Philip over the see of Palmiers; on 32, in connection with the corrupt curia, he notes that Dante had had experience of it in the time of Boniface when he went there as ambassador for his commune, and that he calls Boniface the lover, not the legitimate husband, of the church (2.577). On Paradise 9, he explains that the prophecy that Rome will soon “be freed of the adultery” refers to Boniface, who came to the pontificate by simony and deception; on 17, he describes Boniface’s intrigues with Corso Donati, and finally, on canto 27, we are told that Peter’s indignation at his place being usurped refers again to Boniface, elected by simony and deception. It is clear from the Ottimo’s frequent remarks, as well as from the French records, that Dante’s view of Boniface as the corrupt pope is a popular contemporary view.

The papacy, even after Boniface, was at a low point while Dante was writing the Comedy. Popes had allowed themselves to be removed, with the curia, from the traditional seat of the church at Rome to Avignon, where the French Monarchy could exert a powerful influence. Clement V undermined the empire by withdrawing his support from Henry Vll and refusing to crown him at St. Peter’s, at Philip’s insistence; he further undermined it after Henry’s death by claiming that the emperor swore fealty to the papacy (Romani Principes) and that the pope could assume power in the empire when it was vacant (Pastoralis cura). But he also contributed to the decline of the papacy by giving in on the Templars and exempting the French Monarchy from Unam Sanctam (in Meruit).[10] Popes had made extravagant claims and practiced continual intrigues. They were perceived by their enemies as greedy, petty men, leading the church in the wrong direction and giving a bad example to the Christians they were supposed to guide, and that is how Dante portrays them in the Comedy, where their corruption is condemned from the beginning of Hell to the summit of Paradise. A pope is included among the first souls Dante sees in Hell, because he rejected the task God set for him, but probably also because his abdication left the way open for Boniface.[11] In the circle of gluttony, a reference is made to the political intrigues of the pope (Boniface) in Florence, when he pretended to favor peace but really encouraged one party against the other. In greed, all the condemned souls Dante notices are clerics, among them popes and cardinals, their greed set in direct opposition to God’s will as manifest by Fortune, who disposes wealth and power according to a divine plan. The canto begins with the guardian monster shouting “Pape Satan, pape Satan,” probably suggesting “Pope Satan.”[12] Among the heretics, there is a cardinal and a pope, Anastasius, who either was led into heresy by his deacon, or led him; the Italian is purposely ambiguous: “lo qual trasse Fotin de la via dritta”) Hell 11.9: “whom Photinus drew away from the right road” or “who drew Photinus from the right way”) and either meaning is shocking, since it is the pope’s responsibility to protect the faithful from heresy. In any case, the pope presents a striking contrast to Virgil, who delivers a lecture on the categories of sin to Dante later in the same canto. The poet, as so often in the Comedy, provides the guidance the church fails to give.

Among the sodomites (homosexuals) in Hell, there are several clerics and a bishop who was “transferred” by the pope (Boniface ):

. . . dal servo dei servi fu trasmutato d’Arno in Bacchiglione dove lascio li mal protesi nervi

. . . by the servant of servants he was transferred from Arno to Bacchiglione where he left his badly stretched nerves.

(15.112-14)

The word trasmutato combined with mal protesi nervi suggests that the pope seduced him; Boniface was often accused of the sin (cf. Jacopo, 1.286). The circle of simony, graft within the church, is, of course, dominated by popes, who commit adultery with the “bride of Christ,” who prostitute her for their own greed; Boniface is awaited in this section. The hypocrites are clothed in heavy lead cloaks in the style of the monks of Cluny, a faticoso manto meant to remind us of the papacy, since manto is associated with the papacy through the Comedy.[13] Finally, the fraudulent counsellor, Guido da Montefeltro, tells Dante that it was a pope who tricked him into committing his sin one last time and, worse yet, into thinking he had been absolved of the sin before he committed it, so that he died technically unrepentant. Thus the pope, Boniface again, not only leads him into sin, but directly into damnation. Boniface, and with him the papacy, emerges from the Inferno as a malevolent spirit, inducing others into all kinds of sins and creating disorder all around.

Even in Purgatory we are reminded of Boniface, though less critically: in connection with the indulgences offered to souls during the Jubilee he proclaimed (Pg. 2.98-99) and in the midst of a catalogue of the sins of the French king, who “captured Christ in his vicar” (20.86-90).[14] It is, of course, ironic that the only way Boniface imitated Christ was in suffering an attack he had brought on himself. It is also worth noting that the only one in the Comedy to call the pope the vicar of Christ is an ancestor of the French king, the other serious obstacle to the empire. But near the end of Paradise, Dante brings us back to the infernal view of Boniface and sets him forever in his place: Beatrice, pointing out the seat reserved for the emperor Henry in the heavenly rose, tells Dante that Henry will be opposed by a pope (Clement V) who will be thrust into the circle of simony, pushing “quel d’Alagna” (Boniface) further down into the hole (30.148); since this is the last line of the canto, it is particularly emphatic.[15]

Along with the condemnation of individuals, there are possible allegorical allusions to the church in Hell: one is the Veglio di Creta, the statue drawn from Daniel, which the Ottimo glosses as representing the ages of the world, with the leg of clay representing the current age of the church all intent on worldly delights, and the foot of clay the seventh age, those completely given over to greed; he also mentions the great worldly possessions of the church beginning with the gift of Constantine, which he considers the source of temporal cupidity in the church (1.275-76).[16] Pier della Vigna may also stand for the corrupt papacy, but this will be discussed later in this chapter; Ulysses as pilot taking his boat on a disastrous journey has been connected with the corrupt church.[17] Since the church in Purgatory is represented by angels, the devils in Hell may well represent corrupt churchmen; in canto 18 they direct the traffic of Hell, as the church did Rome’s during the Jubilee, and in canto 34, the last view of Lucifer’s legs, upside down, recalls the popes’ feet in the circle of simony. That the living body of a friar, Frate Alberigo, is inhabited by a demon because his soul is already in Hell, reinforces this interpretation. If these analogies are correct, the devils, the “black angels” (23.131), in the circle of barratry represent the clergy who manipulate politicians and throw them into the pitch; indeed, the scene between Dante and Virgil and the devil Malacoda reminds Benvenuto of his own experience at the papal court of Urban at Avignon (2.118).

In Purgatory, Dante allows the church a positive function through the recognition of the sacraments and religious ritual, but he carefully divests it of human features which might suggest actual churchmen. The whole rock of Purgatory may well represent the church, which Christ founded on “the rock,” Peter (Matt. 16:18).[18] Dante is baptized before he begins to climb it, and makes two confessions as he passes through it; the whole realm is filled with hymns, with biblical examples, didactic sculpture, even sermons, and it ends with the procession of the books of the Bible and the drama of church history. The permanent residents of Purgatory, however, are not churchmen but angels; they carry the symbols associated with the papacy, Peter’s keys and the swords, but they are pure spirit. There can be no question of their being lured into the temporal realm. Pietro Alighieri clearly identifies the angel at the gate of Purgatory as a “figure” of a priest (361), as does Benvenuto (3.263), and Statius, within the poem, calls him “il vicario di Pietro” (Pg. 21.5); Jacopo della Lana says the keys represent the power to loose and bind, which is held by ministers of the church in the world. Apart from the angels, there is only Cato at the bottom and Matelda at the top, a pagan hero (who committed suicide) and a woman, neither one a traditional churchman, though Matelda served the church’s cause. To some extent, the papacy is vindicated in Purgatory by Dante’s acknowledgment of its power to grant indulgences and to excommunicate, but the latter is qualified by the fact that the effect of excommunication can be modified by the prayers of individuals; that is, the love of laymen outweighs the anger of popes in God’s justice. It does not increase our sense of papal dignity to learn from one of the souls (Manfred) that a pope had his body disinterred and left to the mercy of the elements because he had died excommunicate; we are reminded of this gratuitous violence to a lifeless body when another soul (Bonconte da Montefeltro) tells how his unburied body was attacked by a frustrated devil who was denied possession of the soul. It would be hard to avoid the analogy between the frustrated churchman and the frustrated devil. If the angels represent what the church should be, devils in Hell represent what it has become; like Lucifer, they start higher and therefore fall lower than other creatures.

We are also told several times in Purgatory of popes interfering in political affairs: in canto 6, it is because of them that there is no emperor to enforce the laws; in 16, by taking on temporal authority, “confounding two governments in itself,” the church soils itself and its burden arid deprives the world of the two organs ordained by God to guide it, the empire, which cannot function, and the church, which malfunctions. “Now I understand,” Dante says, all innocence, “why the sons of Levi [the priesthood] were excluded from inheritance” (Pg. 16.131-32). The one pope Dante meets in Purgatory, Hadrian V, in canto 19, is an example of greed corrected, but only when he achieves the height of earthly wealth, the papacy, and learns how little it means.[19] Then he turns to spiritual matters, an ironic instance of the papacy teaching virtue to the pope. In any case, he was pope for only thirty-eight days, enough to save himself, but not to do much for others. Mention is made of one very early pope, Gregory 1, whose prayers helped to save the soul of the emperor Trajan, a rare example of the proper relation of church and state (cf. Sylvester, who cured and converted Constantine, and Agapetus, who saved Justinian from heresy), but the featured story of conversion in Purgatory is that of Statius, who was rescued from sin and pagan beliefs by the words of the pagan poet Virgil (see chapter four).

At the end of Purgatory, in the Earthly Paradise, Dante presents a brief reenactment of the major stages in the history of the church (represented by the chariot), particularly in its relations with secular government. Although the focus in the drama is on the church’s struggle to survive various attacks from religious and secular forces, the message is that the church is corrupted by secular power and wealth, and must be saved ultimately by the empire. The chariot which represents the church is described as more splendid than any which pleased Scipio or Augustus at Rome (29.115-16), or than the sun’s, which was destroyed to save the earth (29.117-18). This moves Benvenuto to remark that Dante exalts the chariot by naming two glorious leaders, one who wondrously rescued the public state from danger, the other who felicitously ordered it (4.197-98). The sun’s chariot refers to Phaethon’s disastrous journey, with the implicit suggestion that the church could be destroyed if its lack of control threatened the safety of the world. In Dante’s letter to the cardinals, he berates them, reminding them of God’s wrath:

Vos equidem, ecclesiae militantis veluti primi praepositi pili, per manifestam orbitam Crucifixi currum Sponsae regere negligentes, non aliter quam falsus auriga Phaeton exorbitastis . . .

But you, who are like the commanders of the first rank of the church militant, neglecting to guide the chariot of the Spouse of the Crucified along the open track, have gone astray no differently than the false charioteer Phaethon…

(Ep. 8.4)

When the chariot is fixed to the tree of divine justice, in which the eagle of empire lives, the tree is renewed, because the church gives new life to divine justice, whose living exponent is the Roman empire. However, when Christ first established the church, the empire was pagan, so the eagle attacks the chariot; later, when the empire becomes Christian, the eagle bestows its feathers on the chariot (the Donation of Constantine), and later still, the chariot is covered with more feathers (new gifts of temporal possession and power from major secular leaders) and becomes a monster with seven heads and ten horns, like the beast of the Apocalypse. The church that was meant to be the spiritual vessel for God’s grace is given life artificially and becomes a dangerous beast. The heads and horns represent the distortion of the Ten Commandments and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (or the seven virtues), the bases for moral life on earth.[20] Once the chariot has become a monster, a whore takes her place on it (the papal curia, which prostitutes the gifts of the church) and dallies with a giant (the king of France, Philip IV), who abuses her when she looks at Dante (the good Christian or the Italian people), and drags her off along with the monster (the removal of the papal court to Avignon). The church that first appeared drawn by Christ and bearing theology (the griffin and Beatrice) has become a monster carrying the corrupt curia and dominated by the king of France.

There is general agreement among the early commentators on most of the imagery in this drama, with minor exceptions: Jacopo identifies the whore with the pope and the giant with the kings of France who raped and adulterated the church and whored with popes (2.388); the Ottimo interprets the giant as Boniface, who was the illicit lover, not the legal husband, of the church (2.577);[21] to Jacopo, Dante represents the Christian people (loc. cit.), to Benvenuto, the Italian people (4.265). Pietro interprets the dragon that rends the chariot, usually identified as a schism, as Anti-Christ, who inflames the cupidity of the pastors of the church for temporal things (528); the Ottimo identifies it with the beast of the Apocalypse (2.574), while Jacopo and Benvenuto connect it with Mohammed. But the major lesson of the drama, the danger to the church when it takes on temporal power or possession or gives itself over to secular domination by the wrong leader, is the same for all of them: when the church works with the empire, it serves the divine purpose; when it invades the temporal sphere, it becomes its victim and loses the ability to perform its divine function.

The attacks on the church for failing to do what it should and for getting into areas it has no business in, continue through Paradise, for the most part put in the mouths of saints whose purity and, presumably, judgment are beyond question.[22] Bonaventure and Thomas Aquinas, Peter Damian and Benedict, all decry the corruption of the modern church in contrast to the poverty and self-sacrifice of the early saints, and all make it clear that the church should not be concerned with worldly goods. Though their attacks are most often directed at their own orders, they also implicate the papacy, either directly or indirectly, as the rotten head from which corruption flows through the body.[23] Bonaventure describes the papacy as the seat that once was kinder to the poor, but is now degenerate, not in itself but in those who hold the office; he tells us that Dominic sought not the church’s wealth, which belongs to the poor, or position, but permission to fight heresy, and that he himself also put temporal cares below spiritual, even when he held high office (Pr. 12.128-29). He and Thomas both lament the corruption of their respective orders, which had been instituted to reform the church, and Thomas indirectly identifies the church with Poverty, by speaking of Poverty as Christ’s widow (11.64 ff.) just after Dante has spoken of the church as Christ’s bride (10.140) and shortly before Bonaventure does (12.43). Benedict also speaks of the decline of his rule in his order and the misuse of church funds that properly belong to the poor; Peter Damian contrasts current luxury (modern pastors whose mantles are so large they cover themselves and their elegant horses, “two beasts under one hide”) with apostolic poverty (Peter and Paul, thin, barefoot, taking food where it was offered, 21.127-34).

But the most striking attack on the church is made by Peter, the first pope, who rages against those who have exploited his face on the “lying privileges” they sell (27.53), and “usurped” his place, now vacant in the eyes of God (27.23-24). According to the fiction of the poem, this vacancy must refer to Boniface, who either had no right to be pope, or who has lost that right by abusing the position, or both. However, to a contemporary audience, it would also suggest the more recent popes, Clement V and John XXII, who failed to support properly elected emperors and claimed authority over the “vacant” empire. Dante turns the tables on them by having Peter declare the papacy vacant.[24] It is left to Peter, the pope on whom so many of the later papal claims to temporal authority were based, to make the strongest anticlerical attack of all. He himself denounces the claims that were made in his name. His speech in Paradise 27 can be read as an answer to Boniface’s Unam Sanctam: both use the imagery of the Song of Songs to describe the church, Boniface calling it “my dove,” Peter, “the bride of Christ,” but Boniface emphasizes the mystical body whose head is Christ, Peter that it was born of the blood of the early martyrs. Boniface stresses the unity of the church, Peter points out that the papacy is dividing Christians. Boniface cites the two swords and “feed my sheep”; Peter rages because popes are making war on other Christians and the shepherds have become rapacious wolves. Boniface claims jurisdiction over the temporal sphere, Peter cries that Christ’s gifts were not made to acquire gold. Boniface cites Peter as the foundation of the church’s power, through the keys to loose and bind, Peter says the keys are being used against Christians. And finally, Boniface claims that there is no salvation without subjection to the Roman Pontiff; Peter, the first Pontiff, ends with a promise of divine aid, of Providence working through secular Rome:

Ma l’alta provedenza, che con Scipio difese a Roma la gloria del mondo, socorra tosto….

But the high Providence, which with Scipio defended the glory of the world at Rome, will soon give aid….

(Pr. 27.61-63)

The language of Boniface’s bull and of Peter’s speech is drawn from traditional papalist material; it has its sources in Bernard of Clairvaux’s De consideratione, his advice to Pope Eugene III, which emphasizes papal responsibility rather than rights, in Giles of Rome’s De ecclesiastica potestate, dedicated to Boniface and supporting his position, in John of Paris’s attack on the papal position, De potestate regia et papali, and echoes in Dante’s Monarchy and political letters. The same images and arguments recur through the Comedy as well.[25]

I would now like to look at some of the major arguments and images from this tradition and show how Dante uses them in the Comedy. Papal claims to power in the temporal sphere were based not only on the interpretation of biblical passages, but also on the supposedly historical document the Donation of Constantine, which purported to give the pope political authority over the city of Rome and the provinces and cities of Italy and the western regions. That it was an eighth- or ninth-century forgery was not known at the time, so the main arguments against it questioned its legal validity, denying that the emperor had a right to diminish the empire and bind later emperors (John 21, Monarchy, 3.10), or tried to limit its scope to Italy or to the city of Rome (“in urbe non tamen in orbe,” Quaestio, 106).[26] In the Comedy, there is a series of attacks on the Donation. In Hell, Dante seems to blame it for the corruption of the later church: “Ah, Constantine, how much evil was born not of your conversion but of that dowry which the first rich father took from you” (Hell 19.115-17); calling it a “dowry” suggests that the pope, unlike Christ, has to be paid to marry the church. The other reference to Constantine in Hell does not mention the Donation, but it would be difficult to miss the connection: when Guido da Montefeltro explains how the pope persuaded him to sin, he says that as Constantine asked Pope Sylvester to cure him of leprosy, so the pope asked Guido to cure him of his fever. The cure effected by Sylvester led to Constantine’s conversion and thus to the Donation. In Guido’s case, the roles are reversed: the pope, playing the emperor’s role, is the afflicted one, with a fever for power or revenge, and he goes to the former political figure, now a monk, for a cure, a plan to undo his enemy. The modern pope is in a sense carrying on the tradition Sylvester began, of operating in the temporal sphere.

In the Earthly Paradise, at the top of Purgatory, the Donation is symbolized by the feathers which the eagle (the Roman empire) drops on the chariot (the church), turning it into a monster while a voice laments from heaven. In Paradise, the emperor Justinian begins a history of the empire and its place in God’s plan with an allusion to Constantine’s mistake: “Poscia che Costantin l’aquila volse/contr’ al corso del ciel,” “after Constantine turned the eagle against the course of heaven.”[27] Justinian himself is an example of the proper relation between pope and emperor, in that a pope, Agapetus, led him back to the true faith and prepared him to undertake the task God intended for him–to reform the laws. Constantine himself appears in the eye of the eagle, aware now of the mistake he made and of the disaster it has brought on the world, although it is not held against him:

ora conosce come il mal dedutto dal suo bene operar non li e nocivo, avvegna che sia il mondo indi distrutto

(Pr. 20.58-60)

These words are spoken by the eagle, which is divine justice working through the empire. Thus heaven condemns the act because it runs counter to providential order.

The church also claimed supremacy in the temporal sphere on the basis of precedence in time: priests, they said, had preceded and even instituted kings, therefore kings were subject to them. The priesthood began with Abel and continued through the patriarchs to Samuel who “made” the first king of the Jews (Giles, De ecclesiastica potestate, 1.6, 3.1). John of Paris argues on the other side that there was no true priesthood before Christ, but there were true kings (De potestate regia et papali, 4), that it is kings who prefigure Christ in the Old Testament (18.26), and their power came directly from God (10); even prelates derive their powers not through the pope but from God, since Christ, not Peter, sent the apostles out (loc. cit.). In the Monarchy, Dante points out that seniority does not determine authority–there are, after all, young bishops with old archdeacons (3.5)–a point that should be considered in connection with the last passage in the Monarchy, where Dante grants that Caesar owes Peter the reverence of a firstborn son to his father (3.16). That does not mean he accepts papal supremacy, as is sometimes claimed, but simply the dignity accorded seniority. Dante calls Samuel, the supposed kingmaker, a messenger, not the vicar of God, one who has no discretion to act on his own, but is merely a tool, a “hammer” (3.6). In the Comedy, Dante emphasizes Jewish kings rather than priests or patriarchs:[28] Solomon, Joshua, David, and Hezekiah, are prominently placed, but the only priest who appears is Nathan, who rebuked David but could not be said to have “made” him and who supported Solomon’s accession; that is, a moral guide and support to kings, not an authority over them. Nathan appears in the same circle with Solomon, who is singled out among all the saints there for great praise, and David is seen in a higher sphere of heaven with Hezekiah. By placing the two Jewish kings, David and Hezekiah, in the eye of the eagle, “the sign that made the Romans revered through the world,” along with the pre-Roman pagan Ripheus, Dante makes it clear that the “Roman” empire in the providential plan is as old as divine justice on earth.

Precedence in time is related to the issue of hierarchy and the supremacy of the spiritual power. The biblical passage usually cited in support of the latter involves the “two swords” (Luke 22:38): when Christ tells the apostles to buy swords, Peter shows him the two he has and Christ says “It is enough.” This passage is open connected with John 18:11: after Peter has cut off Malchus’s ear with his sword, Christ tells him to put it back into its scabbard. Bernard, in De consideratione, tells Pope Eugene to attack with the word, not the sword, and not to usurp the sword he was commanded to sheathe; that is, not to use temporal means or interfere in temporal affairs. Although he says both swords belong to the pope (or else Christ would have said “That’s too much” instead of “That’s enough”), he cautions that only one is to be used by him, the other for him, at the request of the pope but at the command of the emperor (4.7), an important distinction.[29]

Bernard’s emphasis is on discouraging the use of the swords; papalists were later to seize and build on the statement that both swords belonged to the church. Boniface cites it in Unam Sanctam, but adds that since everything in the universe is ordered hierarchically, one sword must be higher than the other. Giles comments that as body is subject to spirit, so is temporal sword to spiritual (De ecclesiastice potestate, 1.7); if earthly powers are subject to ecclesiastical, the temporal things they govern must also be; and with the spiritual sword the pope can cut off the right ear of the sinner, with which he would hear the word of God; that is, excommunicate him (2.5). John of Paris points out that doctors of the church do not interpret the swords as temporal and spiritual power, but as the Old and New Testaments or the word and persecution (De potestate regia et papali, 18.30); even if they are taken to represent the two powers, Peter is told to sheathe the spiritual one so as not to abuse it, and he never touches the other. The Quaestio notes that God ordained two swords for two distinct and different jurisdictions; the material sword is for princes and this was used only once by Peter, when he cut off Malchus’s ear, but he was told to sheathe it (99). Dante, like John, denies the interpretation of the two regimes in the Monarchy; for him, the two swords signify words and deeds to carry out what Christ said he had come to do by the sword. When he told his disciples to buy swords, he intended one each, so when he said “that’s enough,” he meant if they could not have twelve, two would do (3.9). In the Comedy, the angels who perform church functions carry a sword, but only one, and it is the spiritual one; the angel who sits at the gate of Purgatory etches the seven P’s on Dante’s forehead with that sword. The two in the valley of negligent princes carry one sword each, which has been glossed as representing the two equal powers.[30] The temporal sword by itself is mentioned in a passage on the division of powers and the need for a strong secular leader: when the pastoral staff is joined with the sword, both go astray (Pg. 16.109-11).

Boniface applies the meaning of the two swords to another image, the two great lights (luminaria, the sun and the moon), in a discourse welcoming Albert of Austria, whom he was then supporting for emperor: as the moon has no light except from the sun, so earthly power has only what it gets from the spiritual.[31] This is a more powerful image, because the hierarchical relationship is built into it, and it aroused strong reactions: John of Paris again turns to a doctor of the church for a different interpretation, this time to IsiDoré, who equated the sun with the kingdom, the moon with the priesthood (the synagogue) in his gloss on Genesis (De potestate regia et papali, 14.4). Cino da Pistoia reverses the analogy in his Lectura in codicem, making the empire the sun and the papacy the moon.[32] But even if one accepted the papal analogy, John points out, the moon has a virtue of its own by which it can cause wet and cold, the opposite of the sun, so although a prince may take instruction from the pope and church on the faith, he has his own power direct from God (cf. Quaestio, 96). Dante, almost impatiently, notes the problems of interpreting Scripture, and warns that it is a crime to pervert the intentions of the Holy Spirit. The sun and the moon were created before man, he points out; if man had not fallen, he would not have needed the church and state, so God cannot have intended that meaning by them–he would be a stupid doctor indeed who prepared a plaster for an abscess on a person not yet born (Monarchy, 3.4). Nonetheless, like John, he assumes that some will refuse to reject the analogy; to them he says that the moon has its own powers and operation. In his political letters, Dante goes out of his way to address and describe the emperor as a sun of peace (“Titan pacificus”), as the bridegroom of Italy, a Moses who will deliver his people from Egypt, in other words, a Christ figure (Ep. 5.1-2).

At the center of Purgatory, Dante has one of the souls discourse on the “two suns” that were ordained by God to guide man along the two roads of life, but one, the church, has put out the other, the empire (16.106-09). The two suns is a startling image and states most forcefully, particularly in the mouth of a blessed soul from the perspective of the other world, that the two should be equal powers on earth. However, it violates the natural order, so when Dante rises through the planets in Paradise he is limited to one sun which is necessarily higher than the moon, but he does the unexpected with the souls he finds there. The Moon contains not secular rulers, but religious women (nuns) who failed in their vows; in the Sun Dante finds great teachers, mostly religious men, but among them one acknowledged to have achieved the height of wisdom for his calling, Solomon, a king. He had, we are told, the greatest wisdom of all (10.109-14) because, as it turns out, he asked only for sufficient wisdom to be king (13.95-96), as if to be a good king were the highest role a man could play. Thomas Aquinas, who makes the remark, eventually explains that he was speaking of Solomon as without equal among kings (13.106-08), but that explanation comes a full three cantos after the initial praise, allowing us, all through the sphere of the wise, to think of Solomon as the wisest among them. This is Dante’s way of emphasizing the importance of a king’s judgment, and the distinction between the king’s function to judge and rule, and the priest’s to guide and teach.[33] And beyond the Sun, higher still, are more kings: among the crusaders in Mars, and as the sole representatives of divine justice in Jupiter, where they appear in the sign of the Roman empire. Only the monastic figures who rejected the world and the early apostles who lived without wealth or power are higher.

One of the most contested areas of jurisdiction between church and state is the judicial; the king as guardian of the law has fundamental rights in temporal cases, but the church made claims on the basis of sin (ratione peccati), a fairly loose and comprehensive category, to judge a wide variety of cases. The claim was based on the passage in Matt. 16:18-19 where Christ says to Peter: “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church . . . And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind up on earth, it shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.” Giles takes this passage to mean that Christ gave Peter, hence the pope, jurisdiction over soul, body, and possessions (De ecclesiastica potestate, 2.4); since the rules of property are based on the communion of men in society, the church, through excommunication, has power over possessions as well as over souls. Because of original sin, none can be the just lord of possessions except through the church, which absolves from original sin and therefore has ivs utile over all temporal things; the church can deprive Caesar for culpa or causa, while earthly power can operate only over laymen (3.11).

Bernard had tried to keep property distinct from sin in his advice to the pope: your power is over sin not property, he said (De consideratione, 1.7), not because the pope did not have the right to judge in all matters, but because temporal matters were beneath his concern and involving himself in them might lead to corruption; the pope was entrusted with the stewardship not possession, of the world (3.1). John of Paris picks up that point (De potestate regia et papal, 6) and adds that even ecclesiastical property is given to the community, not to the pope, and that lay property is under the jurisdiction of lay princes. Christ, as man, did not possess the temporal kingdom, therefore he did not pass it on to Peter (8-10). The keys represent only the spiritual power to forgive sins, the authority to teach, not the power to command (13), and only in spiritual matters; it would be stupid to deduce from the biblical text any power to absolve from the bond of debts (14.2). A pope may judge an emperor guilty of heresy, and excommunicate his subjects until they depose him, but only they can depose him, while an emperor may force the deposition of a criminal pope (13), unless his offense is spiritual and then the cardinals must act.

In the Monarchy, Dante takes a moderate but firm position on the powers conferred by the keys: they are those which pertain to the pope’s office as custodian of the heavenly kingdom, nothing more; they do not empower him to dissolve marriages or absolve the impenitent, or to bind and loose decrees of the empire (3.8). In the Comedy, the popes’ misuse of their powers is severely criticized: excommunication as a political weapon is attacked by Saint Peter in heaven and undercut by Manfred in Purgatory. Manfred, an heir to Frederick’s empire, was the object of every kind of papal weapon: Alexander IV and Urban IV excommunicated him several times, Urban preached a crusade against him, and Clement IV had his body disinterred. Manfred was also a terrible sinner by his own admission (“orribil furon li peccati miei,” Pg. 3:121) and yet he is saved. Excommunication, he explains to Dante, can keep someone waiting longer to get into Purgatory, but it cannot keep him out of heaven as long as “his hope remains green” (3.135: “mentre che la speranza ha fior del verde”), a play on the river Verde, with which it rhymes, where the pope had his body thrown; his hope counteracts the pope’s vindictiveness. In other words, those keys cannot be used to close heaven against souls. Peter had told the angel in Purgatory, to whom he entrusted them, to err in opening rather than in shutting, if people were sincerely repentent (Pg. 9.127-29).[34] It is not that Dante does not respect the power of the keys when properly used, but that modern popes use them for their own sordid purposes; they put them on the banners they carry when they fight other Christians (Pr. 27.49-51), they sell the gifts of the sacraments for gold and silver, flouting Christ’s purpose, as Dante emphasizes with a sarcastic question to the simoniac Pope Nicholas III: how much did Christ want from Saint Peter when he gave him the keys? (Hell 19.90-92). At the end of a fierce sermon delivered to the feet of this upside-down pope,[35] Dante says that if it had not been for his own reverence for the keys, he would have used even stronger words, though it is hard to imagine what they might have been. There is some irony in Dante’s calling them the keys that y ou held “in the happy life;” what Nicholas held were the keys to the happy life, but since he failed to use them properly, for himself or for others, life on earth now seems “happy” in comparison to hell; there is further irony in that Christ told Peter when he gave him the keys that the gates of hell would not prevail against his church (Matt. 16:18).

The worst abuse of the keys in the Comedy is, of course, Boniface’s boast of their power in order to entice Guido da Montefeltro back into the sin he was atoning for; Boniface told him that he had the two keys so that he could shut or open heaven, and he would absolve Guido of the sin before he committed it. The claim is totally unjustified since the keys do not work unless a sinner is truly repentant, and he cannot repent an act before he commits it. Boniface, in this case, perverts both his priestly functions in one act, by leading a soul into sin and exploiting the sacraments for political ends. He also makes a cynical remark at the expense of his predecessor who “did not hold the keys dear,” that is, gave up his position; Boniface seems to imply that Celestine did not understand the real value of the keys–what could be gained from them. There is one other reference to the keys which Dante does not connect directly with the church, but which is filled with suggestive allusions: in Hell 13, among the suicides, he meets Pier della Vigna, whose name means “Peter of the Vineyard,” a perversion of Saint Peter who, as Dante says in heaven, died for the vineyard that contemporary popes are laying waste (Pr. 18.131-32). Dante may well have known that members of Frederick’s court called it the “ecclesia imperialis,” of which Pier della Vigna was the Saint Peter, the rock upon which the imperial church was founded, sometimes in contrast to the “false vicar of Christ,” the pope.[36] Pier della Vigna was the secretary of the emperor Frederick, whose name in Italian, Federico, can mean “rich in faith”; Dante has already seen Frederick in the circle of the heretics, so he too is a perversion of his name.[37] Pier boasts to Dante, not unlike the way Boniface boasts to Guido, that he held both keys to Frederick’s heart and turned them, locking and unlocking to keep everyone else from his secrets (Hell 13.58-60). He claims to have kept “faith” with his “glorious” (a loaded word) office, but he abused his powers since an emperor’s heart cannot belong to one individual. Allegorically, then, we may have a pope (Pier/ Peter) abusing the gifts of his office to serve a false faith (Federico/Frederick), and, on another level, the church using its powers (the keys) to interfere with the proper functioning of the empire; by so doing, by usurping control over the political sphere and interfering between the emperor and his people, the pope is committing spiritual suicide.[38]

Basic to all papal claims of universal jurisdiction is the notion of Christendom as one entity, a mystical body of which Christ, or his vicar on earth, is the head, a ship of which he is the pilot, a bride of whom he is the groom, a family of which he is the father, and a flock of which he is the shepherd. The imagery comes from the long tradition of biblical exegesis, but it runs through the papalist documents as well, and most of it is in Unam Sanctam. Dante uses all of it, twisting it to his own purposes in the Comedy, as in the political letters, which are undisguised political propaganda. Boniface describes the church as a single body with one head–Christ or his vicar, Peter and Peter’s successors–and warns that a body cannot have two heads or it becomes a monster. Even antipapalists accept the image of the body and the one head, but they insist on that head being Christ (John of Paris, De potestate regia et papal 29, Quaestio, 103).[39] Bernard had used the image of the monster in a very different way, which Bonifacee does not take up; Bernard had said that Christ organized the church the way God wanted it, and any attempt on the pope’s part to rearrange its members would be to create a monster (De consideratione, 3.17). Dante, however, presents the church not as a body, but as a chariot, an inanimate object which cannot move on its own; when the chariot takes on the eagle’s feathers (imperial possessions), it begins to act like a body, but a monstrous one, sprouting heads and horns. Dante turns the church into the monster it has created.

The chariot is in itself a complex symbol, involving other aspects of the same themes; it may have been suggested by the wagons, which represented individual Italian cities at parlays and in triumphal processions,[40] but it is also an arca, which suggests both the ark of Noah and the ark of the covenant, which King David steadied on its journey (Pg. 10.56). Arca can also mean “coffer” (used figuratively in Pr. 23.131 ff.), implying that the church is the repository of treasure that was meant to be spiritual but is material to the popes in Hell and to Hadrian before his conversion (Pg. 19).[41] As the ark of Noah, it is also a boat, a traditional figure for the church, which must be properly guided if it is to save those it carries. When Beatrice appears on the chariot, she is like an admiral on a boat (Pg. 30.58-60) and when the eagle attacks it, it reels like a ship; when the eagle covers it with its feathers, a voice calls out from heaven “O navicella mia, come mal sei carca,” “O my little boat, how badly loaded you are” (32.129).[42] Thomas calls the church the “barca di Pietro” (Pr. 11.119-20), which must be piloted by Francis and Dominic to save it from the corruption or neglect of the popes. It is possible that Ulysses’ ship is also to be connected with the church, being led beyond its proper limits; Ulysses, like Adam, errs in “trapassar del segno,” taking his followers beyond the bounds set by Hercules (Hell 26.107-09), leading them into damnation with false promises, as Boniface does. One of the promises made to Dante of divine intervention to set the church right is described in terms which recall Ulysses’ end: “le poppe volgera u’ son le prore” (Pr. 27.146: “he will turn the sterns to where the prows are,” recalling Hell 26.137-42, “un turbo . . . fe . . . levar la poppa in suso/ e la prora ire in giu,” “a storm … made . . . the stern rise up and the prow go down”).

One of the most popular figures for the church is the bride of Christ, from the Song of Songs, which is put to various uses in the political debate. Giles claims marital rights: since a clergyman is the husband of his church, he has a right to her possessions; that is, although the church’s goods may belong to all the faithful, the priest, bishop, or pope, as her husband, has domination over them (2.1). Dante, as one would expect, emphasizes the marital abuses: the popes lead the church into adultery for gold and silver (Hell 19.3-4); they win it by deception and then outrage it (19.56-7); they pimp for it, turning it into a whore for kings (19.106-11, cf. Pg. 32.149 ff.). But, he reassures us, the whore will be killed by the eagle’s heir (Pg. 33.37-45) and Rome will soon be freed of this adultery (Pr. 9.142). The bride of Christ, who paid for her love with blood (the sacrifice of Christ and the early martyrs, Pr. 27.40 ff.), will be restored. When Dante speaks of the bride of Christ in the Comedy, he usually means the whole assembly of the faithful, laity and clergy; the church bureaucracy by itself is a whore.[43]

The epithets most frequently used of the pope in papalist writings are “father” and “shepherd.” When he speaks as a figure of authority to be revered, particularly addressing wayward princes, it is as a father: “Ausculta, fili carissimi, praecepta patris” (Boniface to Philip: “Listen, dear sons, to your father’s precepts”). Giles says that all should call him most holy father (“omnes debent eum appellare sanctissimum patrem” 1.2).[44] Dante, in the Monarchy, acknowledges the pope’s paternal position–the emperor owes him the reverence of a firstborn son to his father–but only after he has effectively denied him all authority outside the spiritual sphere. In the Comedy, however, the pope is called “father” only sarcastically, as when Dante calls the recipient of Constantine’s gift “the first rich father” (Hell 19.117), and when Guido accepts Boniface’s deceptive offer of absolution (Hell 27.108). Otherwise he reserves the title for those who actually guided him, the poets Virgil and Guido Guinizelli, and the saints Francis, Benedict, Peter, and Bernard.[45] God is the pio padre who should be the model for popes, but is not; they withhold the bread which the “pious father” denies no one (Pr. 18.128-29). Aeneas is a father to Rome (Hell 2.20-21), while the clergy is stepmother to the emperor (Pr. 16.58-59).

When he claims universal jurisdiction, the pope speaks as shepherd, based on John 2:16-17, “Feed my sheep.” Boniface points out that Christ does not say “these” or “those” sheep (“has vel illas”) but “mine,” meas, by which he means all sheep, universally (cf. Giles, De ecclesiastica potestate, 2.4). Bernard had noted the shepherd’s responsibility for his flock (De consideratione, 1.5); he should expel evil beasts so the flocks can pasture in safety (2.13); clergy of the past cared only for the sheep (4.3), now instead they adorn themselves in gold and colors; they pasture demons more than sheep (4.5) and dwell with wolves (4.6). Dante makes wide use of these images of wolves and sheep in the Comedy, and he uses the word “shepherd” again and again to underline all kinds of priestly abuses.[46] The wolf throughout the Comedy stands for greed, which will eventually be driven back to Hell by the veltro, a secular leader (Hell 1.101). The pope as “sommo pastore” should be protecting the sheep from that wolf, but instead he becomes a wolf, transformed by greed, and leads all the sheep and lambs astray (Pr.9.130-32). The church is filled with wolves in shepherd’s clothing (Pr. 27.55-56), Peter comments with disgust. Nicholas III openly admits that his only care was for his own family (Hell 19.70-71); in his desire to enrich “the little bears,” the orsati, he completely ignored the sheep. Peter Damian contrasts the poverty of the apostles with the moderni pastori, so heavy they have to be propped on their mounts; a mounted shepherd is in itself a strange picture and a fat one, ludicrous. Hadrian’s greed is stemmed only when he becomes the roman pastore and has as much wealth as he desires (Pg. 19.103 ff.), that is, “Roman shepherd” is the equivalent of enormous wealth.

The Comedy is filled with examples of popes who guide their flocks in the wrong directions; it may be true that we are “men, not mad sheep” (Pr. 5.80), and should not allow ourselves to be led astray, but the bad example that is set where a good is expected can be very powerful: “color che sono in terra/tutti sviati dietro al malo essemplo” (Pr. 18.125-26: “those on earth are all gone astray after the bad example”). After all, God gave us, along with the Old and New Testaments, “il pastor de la Chiesa” to guide us (Pr. 5.76-77), but instead of guiding, he prostitutes the church. It is you pastors the Evangelist was thinking of when he saw the whore fornicating with kings, Dante rages at the simoniac popes (Hell, 19.106-08). These “shepherds” feed their flocks either selectively (like the bishop in Pg. 24.30, “who fed many with his staff,” presumably his courtiers), or with the wrong food (wind, the nonsense preached by vain and ignorant preachers, Pr. 29.106-07); they indulge themselves, neglect their duty (Pr. 15.142-44, possibly Hell 20.67-69), or commit crimes, actively harming their flocks (like the empio pastor, the “impious shepherd,” who betrays the Ghibellines who had taken refuge with him, Pr. 9.53). There is only one instance in the Comedy of the pope as shepherd leading a soul back to the faith, and that is a very early one: Justinian tells how Agapetus, the sommo pastore, led him out of heresy to the faith by his words (Pr. 6.17-18). Dante describes himself as the victim of wolves who make war on the sheepfold where he slept as a lamb, Florence (Pr. 25.4-6), but he also sees himself as a goat, watched over by the good shepherds, Virgil and Statius (Pg. 27.76-87). In this rather tender simile, the shepherds are poets, not priests, who wake through the night to guard their charge. (In Purgatory,20.139-41, Dante compares himself and Virgil to the shepherds who first heard the angel sing Gloria to announce the birth of Christ.) Dante, of course, takes on the function popes have abandoned of guide to Christendom when he becomes God’s messenger in the poem.

The pope can no longer function as shepherd because he has joined the sword with the pastoral crook (Pg. 16.109-11). He attempts to rule the secular as well as the religious sphere without either the authority or the qualifications: “il pastor che procede/rugumar puo ma non ha l’unghie fesse” (Pg. 16.9899: “the shepherd who leads may chew the cud but does not have cleft hooves”), that is, he can mediate but not distinguish, so he leaves the world without its proper ruler, the king, who can discern at least the tower of the true city and can enforce the laws (16.94-96). The trouble began when Constantine moved the empire east to “yield to the shepherd” (Pr. 20.57), a particularly foolish move, since it was clear that God meant the empire to be Roman, and it is ludicrous to think of a shepherd replacing an emperor; the phrase may have been suggested by Clement’s bull, Pastoralis cura, in which the “shepherd’s care” is to oversee the vacant empire. Constantine’s gift imposed a secular function on the pope which God had not intended, thereby distorting the one he had, the spiritual guidance of the shepherd. The force of the word shepherd, constantly repeated by Dante to point up the failures and abuses of episcopal responsibility, lies in the image it evokes of a being endowed with greater sense to watch over the weak and helpless, to defend them from their enemies, to see that they are fed and do not get lost. The shepherd is a figure with enormous responsibility but no tangible power or wealth; he is a wanderer in this world.

It is no accident that the shepherd is the only active image Dante uses for the pope, whereas the emperor is the husband of Rome (Pg. 6.112-14, but Rome is a widow), the horseman who should be in the saddle to keep mankind on the right road. The empire is itself an eagle, a living force, while the church is a chariot which must be driven to function properly. The only church symbol equivalent to the eagle as a living force is the bride of Christ, and in Dante’s poem the bride usually represents the whole assembly of believers, while the curia by itself is a whore, prostituting God’s gift of love. By turning their backs on the lessons of the gospels and the example of the early popes, recent popes have turned God’s instrument for man’s salvation, the church, into a monster and surrendered it to powers like the French king who use it for their own selfish ends. The only hope is the promise of a savior, the eagle’s heir, who will kill the whore and the giant; that is, a new emperor who will destroy both the clerical and the secular enemies of mankind (Pg. 33.34-45), who will return the church to its proper function of spiritual guidance and remove it from the temptations of wealth and power which have corrupted it and endangered all mankind. We are assured that the church will not be allowed to continue on its corrupt course: in Purgatory, 33.34-36, Beatrice says that the vessel broken by the dragon (the chariot representing the church) “was and is not.” The church, in other words, has been fundamentally changed, but the guilty party will soon feel God’s revenge. In the heaven of Saturn, the souls of the contemplatives cry out a promise of God’s imminent vengeance for ecclesiastical corruption that will come before Dante dies (Pr. 21.140-22.18).

The two major prophecies in the Comedy, the veltro in the first canto of Hell and the DXV in the last of Purgatory, are both ambiguous, presumably because Dante has to allow for variations in detail. But it is clear from both that Dante believes there will be a change for the better, that a reformer will come to set Europe straight, although he cannot be sure exactly when it will occur. There is a third prophecy which Dante must have considered equally important, simpler than the other two because it offers no enigmatic hints, but perhaps more reassuring because of its source and certainty. This is Peter’s promise at the end of his condemnation of ecclesiastical corruption, that God, the High Providence that with Scipio defended the glory of the world at Rome, will soon send aid (Pr. 27.61-63).[47] What Virgil told Dante in Hell and Beatrice told him in Purgatory is repeated by the first pope in heaven, that God, working through the Roman empire, will put an end to the corruption which destroys the Christian world. Dante may not know who the veltro or the DXV is, but he must be a secular ruler, since Dante has proved in the Monarchy that only a universal monarch can bring peace and justice and in the Comedy that secular power in the church is by definition corrupt.

There has been a great deal of speculation about the nature and identity of the veltro and the eagle’s heir, but the identity can never be definitively established; we can only make intelligent guesses on the basis of the material Dante gives us.[48] We know the veltro is an enemy of the wolf, and the wolf throughout the Comedy is greed, frequently identified with the church, particularly in Paradise where the shepherds become wolves (9.132, 27.55). The wolf s’ammoglia, “marries” many animals (Hell 1.100), the promiscuity within marriage suggesting the sexual abuses of Christ’s bride by the popes, but the veltro will drive the wolf back to Hell.[49] The veltro might be a religious reformer (Dominic, for example, is associated with a dog, but he is long since gone and his effects no longer widely felt, Pr. 11.124 ff.), but he must also be the salvation of that Italy (“quella umile Italia”) for which Cammilla, Euryalus, Turnus, and Nisus died, heroes of the struggle to found Rome, ancestors of the great pagan Roman tradition, who must be associated in any medieval reader’s mind with the empire, if only from their presence in the Aeneid. The Ottimo makes that association clear, saying the veltro will be a universal lord, following Virgil in the sixth book of the Aeneid, where he tells us that Rome will rule without end (1.11). Davis (“Dante’s Vision,” 145), pursuing the same tack, suggests that Dante puts the prophecy in Virgil’s mouth because it was the Aeneid which convinced him that “God had willed Rome’s conquests and universal power . . . and had revealed this fact to Aeneas and to Virgil.” Pietro Alighieri describes the veltro as an emperor who will reign like Augustus, over the whole world. He also identifies him with the Last World Emperor, and with the ideal man of Alanus de Insulis (45-46), another ambiguous figure with overtones of Christ, but an ideal human figure rather than a second coming; in later recensions, however, Pietro identifies the veltro explicitly with the DXV, as an emperor and leader who will control avarice, bring peace, and despoil prelates of their wealth.[50] Benvenuto says the veltro can be both Christ and a future prince who will repair the Roman empire (1.55-60).

If we are meant to connect the veltro with the DXV prophesied at the end of Purgatory, as seems most likely, the Roman identity becomes even stronger.[51] The DXV will be God’s messenger, the heir of the eagle:

Non sara tutto tempo sanza reda l’aguglia che lascio le penne al carro

ch’io veggio certamente… …un cinquecento diece e cinque, messo di Dio….

The eagle which left its feathers in the cart will not always be without an heir

for I see with certainty… …a five hundred, ten, and five, messenger of God….

(Pg. 33.37-44)

Here the eagle is carefully identified with Constantine’s donation; elsewhere, most notably in the sphere of justice in Paradise, the eagle is “the sign that made the Romans revered through the world” (Pr. 19.101-02); the eagle is also the bird of God (“uccel di Giove,” Pg. 32.112, and “uccel di Dio,” Pr. 6.4), the instrument of God. The Ottimo takes God’s justice and the eagle’s heir to mean that the empire will be restored and the judgment of God will take revenge on those who deceived it (2.583-84). Benvenuto calls the eagle’s heir a “successor emperor” and points out that there was none at the time of Boniface (4.272). The Ottimo interprets the numbers of the eagle’s heir, 500, 10, and 5, in their Roman equivalents, D, X, v, as an anagram for DUX, a leader sent by God who will bring the world back to God (2.584-85); he may come at the end of the world, but he will be a “most just and holy prince,” who will reform the state of the church. One who will kill the whore and the giant (Pg. 33.44-45) is one who can not only thoroughly change the structure of the church, since the whore is the corrupt curia and is to be killed not cleansed, but one who can also destroy the powerful French king.[52] The only figure who would have the power and authority to destroy the bureaucracy of the church and the most powerful political figure in Europe would be a universal[ly accepted] emperor. It is tempting to connect the killing of the whore with Marsilius’s reduction of the church to an organ of the state; although Dante never says so directly, it is possible, given his negative views on the secular powers and structure of the church, that, like Marsilius, he may have foreseen a time when the empire would control the bureaucarcy of the church and restrict it to its spiritual function.

Although it is futile to try and determine a distinct historical identity for the veltro or the eagle’s heir, one can and perhaps should consider the hints Dante gives us. The veltro is a dog, an animal with little positive value in the Comedy, except in the name of Dante’s future patron, Can Grande, who is alluded to with considerable enthusiasm in Paradise because of his great deeds and his magnificence (17.76 ff.). Can Grande’s family, the Scaligeri, have as their emblem “in su la scala … il santo uccello” (17.72: “the holy bird on the ladder”), in other words, they are identified with the eagle. Can Grande will also be an imperial vicar under both Henry VII and eventually Ludwig of Bavaria and will win important victories in their service, though those for Ludwig come after Dante’s death. Dante alludes to Henry and Pope Clement’s betrayal of him in the midst of the passage about Can Grande (Pr. 17.82). Certainly Can Grande is a likely candidate for the veltro, at least as one who might rescue Italy from the wolf.[53] He does not, however, have the political scope within Europe to be the eagle’s heir who will kill the whore and the giant. If that figure is to be a contemporary, the only possible candidate is Ludwig, since Henry died before Dante had written a good part of the poem and he clearly had not solved Europe’s problems. Davidsohn identifies Ludwig with the DXV on the basis of the sum of the three numbers, 515, which he adds to 800, the year Charlemagne brought the empire back to the West, giving him 1315, a significant date for Ludwig.[54]

It is not necessary to be quite so specific, particularly since no great changes of the kind Dante envisioned were apparent after 1315, but there are other connections to be made with the numbers. The eagle, when it appears in canto 18 of Paradise, rises out of the letter M, the end of the message spelled by the soul of the just kings, “Diligite Justitiam qui judicatis terram” (18.91-93). Well before we are given the whole message, however, we are told only the first three letters, D, I, and L, five hundred, one, and fifty (18.78). Since Dante also makes much of the fact that the message contains five words and five times seven letters, one must assume that five is somehow significant here, as it was in the enigmatic prophecy of Purgatory 33. As it happens, the first three letters of Ludwig’s name in Latin, Ludovicus, are all fives, L, V, D (and the name also contains one, I, and one hundred, C). The coincidence of fives and ones may have suggested to Dante that Ludwig was to be the figure to oppose the beast of the Apocalypse, the 666.[55] Since Dante died long before Ludwig, it is at least possible that, as long as he was writing the Comedy, he cherished hopes of the great reformation to come from Ludwig, working with Can Grande.[56] Certainly Dante would have been taken with the fact that Ludwig’s mother was a Matelda (daughter of emperor Rudolph I and namesake of the great Tuscan countess),[57] and that his wife was a Beatrice, both names connected with women who figure in Dante’s personal salvation and who guide him to the Earthly Paradise, which the emperor is meant to restore for mankind. It is another interesting coincidence, though Dante would not have known it, that his Monarchy was burned as a result of Ludwig’s march on Rome.

In this chapter, I have concentrated primarily on the church’s abuse of its powers and functions, because that is what Dante emphasizes. What the church should be and do must be deduced mainly from what Dante tells us it should not be: it should not concern itself with wealth, except to distribute needed goods to the poor, and it should never interfere in political affairs–local or international.[58] It should spread God’s message among non-Christians and guide Christians away from heresy or error. Its prime function for Dante seems to be to teach, by example or word. Apart from the earliest popes, who lived in poverty and died martyrs, the only churchmen who are praised in the Comedy or who can be looked to as good examples are the monks and friars, Benedict, Peter Damian, Francis, and Dominic, who renounced worldly things, although they continued to work in the world, and the great teachers, the scholars and theologians who appear in the circles of the Sun. Among the latter there is one pope, John XXI, but he is cited as a writer, Pietro Ispano, who still shines on earth in his twelve books. Dante does not even mention that he was pope, and he only served for eight months in any case, so what effect he had was as a scholar.[59]

Dante has presumably been influenced by the scholars and saints he names, and some of them lecture to him in heaven, but he does not choose any of them to guide him on his journey to God; his guides are a pagan poet, Virgil, and a woman, Beatrice (just as the two permanent human inhabitants of Purgatory are a pagan and a woman). It is Virgil, the poet of Empire, who leads Dante to the earthly paradise and crowns him emperor and pope over himself, and Beatrice, the woman and Christ figure, who leads him to heaven. In fact, Virgil and, to a lesser extent, other poets in the Comedy fulfill the functions of teacher and guide, which the church and the empire leave vacant. Dante, of course, takes on that role through his poem for his audience. Only for the last moment of the journey, the vision of God, does he choose a saint, Bernard, to guide him. Bernard is a mystic, devoted to Mary, and thus a suitable choice for the vision that Dante receives through her, but he is also a reformer and a political moderate (and something of a poet). It is no accident that the other churchmen with important roles in heaven, Thomas Aquinas, Peter Damian, Bonaventure, are also political moderates, men who recognize the need for a secular state and the practical separation of spheres (see chapter five).

The separation is essential to Dante’s view of church-state relations; it is because the church interfered with the empire that Dante attacks it so fiercely, but that does not mean that he is blind to the faults of emperors. In fact, he condemns the man he considered the last functioning emperor in Italy, Frederick II, to Hell for heresy. This is a puzzling fact in some ways because Frederick was a significant force against the political ambitions of the papacy in Italy; he emphasized the Roman heritage of his title, he developed an efficient state, and he was a scholar and writer, all of which Dante admired.[60] That he was also accused of unorthodox beliefs is not enough to explain Dante’s condemnation of him–Dante was ready enough to put others accused of heresy in Paradise. Perhaps what troubled Dante is that Frederick treated heresy as a crime against the state, as treason, and assumed all responsibility for it. This view is supported by a comment Benvenuto makes about the emperor, that he tyrannically usurped all spiritual matters, “omnia spiritualia tyrannice usurpavit” (3.443).[61] Frederick did what Dante objected to most strenuously in the popes, he claimed jurisdiction in the other sphere. He also kept Saracens and Jews as alien groups under his special protection and discouraged efforts to convert them (Kantorowicz, Frederick the Second 130-31), instead of extending Christendom, as Dante’s ideal monarch would have done. One might expect Dante to condemn Constantine as well, since his ill-conceived gift to the church caused so much of the trouble, but he is in heaven, where he learns what a mistake he made. That act, he now knows, has just about destroyed the world, but his motives were pure (Pr. 20.58-60).

Apart from Frederick and Constantine, and the ineffective emperor Rudolph from Dante’s period who is saved, though he did not attempt to restore order to Italy (Pg. 6.103-05,7.94-96), the emperors Dante sees–and they are many–are presented as model figures, while he sees only one model pope, and he was the first.[62] The emperors David and Trajan provide, along with the Virgin, the examples of humility sculpted by God on the first ledge of Purgatory; Justinian is inspired by God to reform the laws of the Roman empire (Pr. 6.11); Solomon is presented as the supreme figure of wisdom (Pr. 10). Of the six souls who represent divine justice in the eye of the Roman eagle, all are secular leaders, two are emperors, three kings, and four lived their lives as non-Christians: David and Hezekiah were Jews, Ripheus and Trajan pagans; only Constantine and William of Sicily were Christians. Trajan, of course, was supposed to have been brought back to life through the prayers of Pope Gregory so he could be baptized and die the second time as a Christian, but he lived and ruled as a pagan. Ripheus was baptized, we are told, by the theological virtues, as if even baptism were available outside the church. In fact, Dante suggests that the church is not essential to salvation, in contradiction to Boniface’s claim; not only will those who believed in Christ-to-come be saved, an accepted view, but some who do not now know Christ directly will be closer to him than many who cry “Christ, Christ” (Pr. 19.106 ff.); the Ethiop will condemn such Christians at the Last Judgment.[63]

It is the empire, when the church does not intefere with it, that does God’s will on earth; the emperor is the guide who can discern “the tower of the true city” (Pg. 16.96), the horseman who can control human nature with the bridle of law.[64]

It is the empire that provided the peace into which Christ could be born, the legal setting in which he could be condemned, and the force to avenge that death (Hell 2, Pg. 21, Pr. 6). Henry Vll, the divinely ordained emperor who will attempt, but fail, to save Europe, has a place waiting for him in God’s rose, while the pope who opposed him, Clement, claiming power God did not grant him, is expected in Hell. Those who betrayed the empire, in the person of Julius Caesar, the first ernperor, are at the very bottom of Hell, literally in the mouths of Lucifer on either side of Judas, who betrayed Christ; their evil is on a level with the betrayer of Christ and the leader of the rebellion against God. With the three mouths occupied, there is no room for the betrayer of a pope, not because there were none, but because the pope is not on the same level of importance. Only the emperor is God’s vicar on earth; the pope is Christ’s as priest, but not as ruler.[65]

Such are the main views of church and state that can be extrapolated directly from the Comedy. They are quite consistent with Dante’s positions in the Monarchy, which was written as an overt polemic for the empire: the need for a single monarch to rule the world, the providential choice of the Roman empire as that Monarchy, and the separation of church and state, with the secular power dominant in the temporal sphere. Dante’s ideal is a world in which the emperor dispenses divine justice and the church dispenses knowledge and the sacraments. This is both a reactionary position, in that it is a return to the apostolic church and the ancient notion of empire, and a radical one, in that it proposes the reduction of power in national monarchies (the only ones with strong governments at the time), and a reduction if not abolition of the oldest functioning bureaucracy in the Christian world–the church. In order to convey this message, Dante turns away from the normal form of political debate, the ordered series of logical arguments, and takes up a potentially far more powerful weapon, the poetic vision. He casts the most important images and arguments from the controversy in poetic form where they take on new life: the chariot that becomes a monster before our eyes is far more effective than the statement that a figurative body with two heads would be a monster. And he places them in a setting that gives them the sanction of divine revelation: it is not just Dante who condemns the modern papacy, it is Saint Peter himself, on whom many of its claims were based; it is not Dante who defends the destiny of the Roman empire, it is God who sends the message of divine justice through the Roman eagle.

That Dante’s message was not well-received by the church is made clear by the various attacks on it; though they do not always spell out the objections, the attacks do bear witness to the power of the poetry. The Dominican, Guido Vernani, at the beginning of his refutation of the Monarchy, takes a lengthy shot at the author’s poetry, calling it a poisonous vessel of the father of lies, covered with false and fallacious beauty, by which the author, with poetic phantasms and figments, and the eloquence of his words, his siren songs, fraudulently leads not only the sick and ignorant, but even the learned (studious), to destroy the truth which might save them.[66] The reading or study of “poetic books composed in the vulgate by the one called Dante” was prohibited at the Dominican chapter at Santa Maria Novella in Florence in 1335, although it apparently continued to be popular among the frati; twenty years later, Jacopo Passavanti, in Specchio della vera penitenza, advises against reading worldly poets like Juvenal, Ovid, and Terence, for whom one scribe substituted Dante.[67] In the same period, Dante’s poem was used in a political cause: another emperor came from Germany to be crowned in Rome in 1355, Charles of Bohemia, and much was made of Dante’s prophecy of the veltro in connection with him, though he did not fulfill Ghibelline hopes.[68] A fourteenth-century inquisitor, Nicholas Eymerich, calls the doctrine of Christ’s poverty the root of the troubles of his time (Matteini, Guido Vernani, 79), a doctrine Dante certainly advocates and which was condemned as heresy by John XXII in 1323, only two years after Dante’s death. Cavallari cites a number of contemporary poems, by Dante’s son, Pietro, and others, attempting to defend the orthodoxy of his beliefs (44 ff.) and one legend that the Friars Minor, angered by his attack in Paradise 12, tried to have him condemned as a heretic, which he forestalled by setting in terzine the Credo, the Ave Maria, the Pater Noster, the Sacraments and the Commandments (46). Questions had certainly been raised about Dante’s orthodoxy. However, it is the political implications of his attacks on the church that seem to be the major irritant. Several passages from the Comedy were condemned by the Spanish Inquisition: Hell, 11.8-9, on the heresy of Pope Anastasius; Hell, 19.106-17, on the identification of the whore of the Apocalypse with the corrupt church and the Donation of Constantine; and Paradise, 9.136-42, another attack on the pope and the ecclesiastical hierarchy (Matteini, 48). Although the antipapal views expressed in the Comedy troubled many, they also gave the work a special appeal to conciliarists, who had the poem translated into Latin and commented by Giovanni da Serravalle at the Council of Constance (1414).[69]

It was, of course, the Monarchy (which was on the papal index from 1554 to 1881) that elicited the strongest and most direct attacks. This was due as much to the part it played in contemporary politics as to its arguments. It apparently influenced the supporters of Ludwig of Bavaria, after whose successful descent into Italy the attacks on the work began in earnest.[70] According to Boccaccio, the Monarchy was condemned by Cardinal Beltrando del Poggetto, papal legate of John XXII, because Ludwig had come to Rome against the pope’s will and had himself crowned by his own pope using Dante’s book in defense of his own authority; Beltrando then had the book condemned and burned for its heretical content (“si come cose eretiche contenente”) and would have done the same to Dante’s bones if he had not been stopped.[71] Little attention seems to have been paid the work before the break between Ludwig and Pope John XXII, but afterwards the attacks are frequent: two Franciscans, Guglielmo da Sarzano and Francesco di Meyronnes, writing between 1324 and 1328, do not name Dante but do attack the argument that imperial authority derives directly from God (Maccarrone, “Dante e i teologi,” 23). Several of the errors imputed to Ludwig and his followers by John XXII are Dante’s, and various people write about them without naming him but clearly having him in mind.[72] Probably the best known, certainly the most thorough, attack is the direct one by Guido Vernani, De reprobatione Monarchie composite a Dante, which rebuts Dante’s arguments with little sympathy for the author, usually called “ille homo” (Matteini, Guido Vernani, 42). Guido wrote in direct response to Ludwig’s conflict with the pope; indeed, it was Guido who announced the excommunication of Ludwig to the city of Rimini and explained the document to the clergy and the people (Matteini, 15). Many years later, in 1400, Guglielmo da Cremona wrote a Tractatus de iure Monarchie, turning Dante’s thesis upside down to support universal monarchy but under the pope. Discussing the statement that Pilate justly executed Christ, Guglielmo calls its author “that nefarious man,” “iste nefarius homo,” and suggests that the book, with its author, be publicly consigned to the flames: “unde opus quod super hoc iste edidit, dico libera voce, cum suo autore publice ignibus esse tradendum.”[73]

There is no question that Dante takes an extreme stand against secular power and wealth in the church, but Dante had seen what a worldly papacy could do in Italy, where it exercised some temporal power. He knew that by striving for more, well beyond its proper sphere, it had reduced itself to a virtual prisoner and tool of one ruler, thereby disrupting a delicate balance in the secular sphere and destroying its own ability to influence to good. The only way to return the church to the role God ordained for it was to remove it entirely from temporal affairs. To strip it of all temporal wealth and power was to restore its spiritual power. In the Comedy, even more forcefully than in the Monarchy, Dante argues for the empire as the ultimate world government, and for the church as the ultimate spiritual force, but to be such a force, the church must destroy the monster it has become and return to the purity of its origins.

Chapter 03, “The Corrupt Society” by Joan Ferrante

THE PROPER RELATION of individual states (cities or kingdoms) to the empire and the separate and distinct functions of ecclesiastical and secular authority discussed in chapters one and two provide the political framework for the Comedy. Within that framework, each cantica presents a different but related model for human society. Paradise is the ideal society in all its essential elements working harmoniously; Purgatory is a society in transition, moving from self-centeredness to concern for and commitment to others, but not yet organized within an effective structure. Hell reveals what society is when all its members act for themselves and against the common good. The souls here are condemned not just for their selfish motivations but also for the effects of their actions on others.[01] Dante’s point is that as civic beings, we are responsible not only for our actions, but also for their results. The people he presents were all men and women of prestige and/or power, people in a position to influence others either directly or by example, and in one way or another they all failed. The suffering, the violence, the anarchy of Hell are a result of their failure to act up to their responsibilities or their outright abuse of those responsibilities. Selfishness, greed for money, power, or pleasure, is the basis of the injustice that reigns in Hell, as charity is the basis of the justice that operates in heaven.

Bonaventure and Aquinas name four objects of love or sin: God, ourselves, our neighbors, and our bodies; Dante adds a fifth, our community. It is not that the theologians are not concerned with the effects of our actions on others, but that they are not primarily concerned with the public aspect of those actions, with their consequences for society as an entity.[02] Dante, in contrast, shows how all sins contribute to social disorder, not only the overtly disruptive sins of violence, fraud, and treachery but even those that seem most personal. Lust, gluttony, greed have sociopolitical overtones; even heresy and suicide are presented within a political context. Barratry (graft within the government) is placed in a lower section than simony (graft in the church) because corruption within the state has a greater effect on society; both are treated as aspects of fraud, that is, as social rather than religious sins. Flattery and hypocrisy are lower than robbery and murder (except for murder committed by treachery), not because in themselves Dante considers them more serious sins, but because their effects on society are more insidious and ultimately more damaging. Dante reverses Aquinas’s consideration of theft and robbery: for Aquinas, theft, which is secret, is not as bad as robbery, which is open and violent and does more physical harm to its victim (ST, 2.2ae, q.66). The secrecy is what makes theft worse for Dante, since it opens the way to various kinds of injustice, like the incrimination of the innocent, and threatens economic stability in a much graver way. For Aquinas, blasphemy is also worse than murder or theft because it is a direct attack on God (ST, 1.2ae, q.73, a.3), but Dante places blasphemy in the seventh circle, theft far below it in the seventh section of the eighth circle.[03]

The most serious sins for Dante are those that deny the trust on which social and political relations are based– fraud and treachery. Although treachery is the worst of all because of the special relation between “perpetrator” and victim, fraud is the one that occupies Dante’s attention. He devotes thirteen cantos (from 18 to 30) to it, more than a third of Hell, and he subdivides it into ten different sections. It is not unusual to subdivide sins; the capital vices are normally discussed in terms of the sins they spawn.[04] But Dante differs in two ways from others who make the distinctions: (1) he presents the first five sins without any real subdivisions, (2) he moves into three sins which would normally be offshoots of others, violence, fraud, and treachery, and subdivides them, violence into three sections (the second with two parts, the third with three), fraud into ten (the tenth with four parts), and treachery into four. By introducing all these complexities, he is clearly calling attention to these sins, forcing us to shift the emphasis from the traditional moral view of greed and pride as the worst of evils to the more sociopolitical distinctions of violence, fraud, and treachery. The cantica seems to draw more from legal codes than manuals on vice; several of the punishments, particularly in the eighth circle, are based on contemporary penal codes. The very concept of Dante’s Hell peopled with sinners well known to Dante’s audience may itself be a reflection of the contemporary practice of painting the portraits of certain criminals on the walls of public buildings. [05]

Dante emphasizes the political message of Hell in other ways as well. One is the identification of specific places with sins. I suggested above in chapter one that Florence is presented as the central sinner throughout the cantica, but that in the lower parts of Hell other cities or regions of Italy share the stage; two classical cities, Thebes and Troy, also echo through Hell as emblems of selfdestructiveness and pride. Rivers are often used to identify cities and regions, suggesting the spread of corruption from one place to another,[06] and Dante uses dialect words particularly in the Malebolge to suggest the atmosphere of different regions. A more subtle way, perhaps, of underlining the interdependence of men in society is Dante’s placing members of the same family in different parts of Hell (and in other cantiche for contrast). In a malfunctioning society, sinners seem to lead even their relatives into sin: the Navarrese barrator Dante sees in canto 22 is the son of a wastrel, the implication being that wasting oneself or one’s goods leads naturally to abusing the government, which is an extension of the self. Michel Zanche, another barrator, was killed by his son-inlaw, who appears among the traitors to guests in the ninth circle, as though the deception of one’s fellow citizens by the subversion of government led to the betrayal of still closer bonds. The bishop, Ruggieri, among the traitors, is a nephew of Cardinal Ottaviano, who is mentioned with the heretics, implying that the lack of faith in eternity facilitates the betrayal of faith to other men.[07]

In every way, Dante tries to show that we are responsible not only for our own actions, but for the effects they have on others; we are responsible not only for our own salvation, but for the good of our fellows. Dante moves in Hell from vices which seem to be personal and simple (although complications are revealed in them) to more and more overtly social faults. The victims become more numerous, from single individuals to large groups and even whole nations; the simple impulse to sin is replaced by the more complex manipulation of that impulse in others. We see the corrupt society built up from its basic element–the self-indulgent individual–and when we reach the center, we discover that the lowest sinner is not so different from the souls in the upper circles: Ugolino’s story echoes Francesca’s in many ways because the love that is dominated by lust can be as destructive to its object as hatred. For Dante, individual morality cannot be dissociated from social responsibility because the individual is a citizen, and to be a good individual, he must be a good citizen. Thus, to retrace the moral journey of the pilgrim through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, is to follow the journey of the citizen from a corrupt society, through the transition from selfishness to social responsibility, to his goal in the ideal society. The moral level of Dante’s allegory is also the political level because it is impossible to be a moral human being without being a good citizen, and it is difficult to be either a good citizen or a moral person in a bad society. In Hell, Dante leads his pilgrim-persona step by step through a knowledge of what constitutes a corrupt society and a corrupt person and shows how even a basically good individual can be affected by the evil around him. By analyzing the structure of Hell, investigating each region in the order in which the pilgrim goes through it, since each sin has political implications, we can see how Dante reveals the hidden corruption that undermines society and how he unmasks the respected public figures. By the end, Dante’s audience should understand what constitutes evil in a society as well as in an individual and be able to see the part we play in the evil around us.

The first point Dante makes in Hell is his own social responsibility. The pilgrim begins outside society in the woods,[08] alone, severed from all human connections, as Dante found himself in exile, banned under pain of death, cut off from his family, his city, and any public function. The inner man on his own is threatened by vice (the three animals), particularly greed (the wolf)[09] as the outer man is endangered by the enmity of Florence and the papacy (see chapter one). Aid comes in the form of a man who has all the public connections and purpose Dante lacks. Virgil is a poet, a Roman who served the highest form of political society, the empire, with his poetry. He must prepare Dante to become like him, a Roman and a poet of the empire. He is the first character in the Comedy to speak and he identifies himself by region, city, period, government, and role, bringing the poem abruptly from the moral allegorical into the real historical sphere. He was a Lombard, from Mantova, born under the emperor who formed and spread the empire, Julius Caesar;[10] he lived under Augustus, who established the peace in which Christ was to be born, and he sang of the “just” Aeneas, who brought the seeds of that empire to Italy. Virgil connects himself with the origin and high moments of the empire, and provides all the social identifications Dante so far lacks: nationality, citizenship, public function as poet. Virgil also prophesies the figure who will kill the wolf and send it back to Hell, the restoration of empire and reform of church (as Dante eventually learns, see chapter two), in which Dante’s poem is to play an important role. Virgil will show Dante the way through Hell and Purgatory, but not to Paradise, not to the ideal society, because he was a rebel to God’s law. The language of the outlawed rebel associates Virgil with Dante, who is historically in that position when he writes the poem, although he was not when the poem is supposed to take place. But Dante is in rebellion only against an unjust government of man, Virgil against the law of God: “quello imperador che la su regna/perch’io fui ribellante a la sua legge,/non vuol che in sua citta per me si vegna” (1.12426: “that emperor who reigns there will not allow any to enter his city through me, because I was a rebel to his law”). Virgil recognizes the authority of God and the rule of law with a metaphor drawn from the highest secular authority; this statement establishes from the very beginning of Hell that however attractive a soul in Hell may be, he or she is in rebellion against God’s law. Virgil began his speech with the Roman empire on earth; he ends it with the empire in heaven, making a connection between the two which Dante will carry through the poem, reinforced by the souls in Paradise. The last to make the poem, reinforced by the souls in Paradise. The last to make the connection is Bernard, who points out at the end of the journey the main figures of “this most just and pious empire” (Pr. 32.117: “questo imperio giustissimo e pio”), recalling in his adjectives the hero of Virgil’s poem.

It is because Virgil is a poet and Dante is a poet that heaven sent Virgil to guide Dante; his “parola ornata” will move Dante as Dante’s must move his audience. What Dante does not recognize when he hesitates (“I am not Aeneas, I am not Paul,” Hell 2.32), is that as the poet of the Christian empire, he has the same mission as Aeneas and Paul, as the state and the church. The allusions to their journeys establish certain important points. Aeneas is described in the first canto as the son of Anchises who came from Troy (1.74); in the second, he is the father of Silvio, Aeneas’s son by Lavinia, the first Trojan born in Italy of an Italian race. God, the “enemy of all evil” (2.16)–God is always the enemy in Hell, as the emperor is in corrupt societies on earth–grants Aeneas the journey to the otherworld because of the “high effect” that is to proceed from him. He was chosen by heaven to be the father of Rome and of its empire (2.20-21), which was established as the seat of the papacy, “the holy place where the successor of the greatest Peter sits” (2.22-24). The empire had to prepare the way for the church. Long after Aeneas, Paul, also chosen by heaven, the “vas d’elezione,” made his journey to the otherworld, but his mission was spiritual. What Aeneas learned in Hell was the cause of his victory and also of the papal mantle (2.2627); what Paul learned in heaven supported the faith that leads to salvation (2.29-30). The temporal institution of the church depends not on Paul but on Aeneas’s heirs, which is why Dante takes fifteen lines to describe the reasons for Aeneas’s journey and only three for Paul’s. It is perhaps a coincidence, but the sort that would have assured Dante of the correctness of his position, that there is an Aeneas in the same chapter of the Acts of the Apostles in which Paul’s conversion is described and in which Paul is called the “vas electionis” (Acts 9:15). This Aeneas is a man who has lain in bed with palsy for eight years, but Peter cures him saying, “Aeneas, the lord Jesus Christ healeth thee; arise, and make thy bed” (9:34). Can Dante have failed to understand this as meaning that the Christian faith restored the empire? Dante’s mission, like Paul’s, will be to spread the truth, to reform and restore both empire and church.

The first lesson Dante learns towards this mission after he enters Hell is the importance of making a commitment, the first step in social action; the neutrals, men and angels who never took sides, never made a public commitment.[11] Their failure is viltade (3.60), a baseness of spirit like Dante’s hesitation (2.45), which is not humility, but a denial of God’s gifts, a lack of courage to accept one’s responsibilities. The neutrals lived for themselves alone, refusing to choose either good or evil and are therefore scorned by both heaven and hell, by mercy and justice (3.50) because they have done nothing to merit either. Cut off from all recognized human and divine laws, they are men without a country; the world has forgotten them (3.49), heaven and hell will not receive them. It is worse in Dante’s view to take no part at all in civic life than to take the wrong part. Among them, Dante recognizes “the one who made the great refusal” (3.59-60: “colui/che fece per viltade il gran rifiuto”). Most early commentators take this to be Celestine V, whose abdication left the papacy to Boniface Vlll, one of the major villains of the Comedy.[12] It is quite possible that Dante does not name the figure because for him all those who refuse to act when called upon deny their own identities; the point is not just what you fail to do, but what you open the way to by your denial of responsibility.

There is one group of souls in Hell who chose good action, the inhabitants of Limbo, but they too failed in one crucial respect. They did not acknowledge the existence of God and therefore their action was not directed to his purpose. The moral life alone is not sufficient, it must serve the creation of the perfect society according to the divine plan. In every other respect, the three groups of virtuous pagans Dante sees together constitute an almost ideal society: the poets, who taught others the highest values and who accept Dante as one of them; the great spirits, who sacrificed themselves for country or principle; and the philosophers, who sought the truth. The last include moral and theological writers, scientists, and commentators; together they represent all aspects of human knowledge, but that is not sufficient to save them or to enable them to succeed. In the sun, Dante will see, side by side, philosophers who took opposing views now completing the figure of perfection, the circle, because they were all motivated by faith. The society of Limbo is peaceful, the only harmonious community in Hell, but it lacks joy because it lacks the deepest motivation for the good society, the salvation of its citizens. Of the four roles Dante recognizes in civil life (see Pr. 8.12426), craftsmen (and intellectuals), lawgivers (and statesmen), warriors, and priests, Limbo lacks the priests.

Beyond Limbo, Dante sees souls who felt no responsibility outside themselves; the next three sections of Hell are devoted to different kinds of selfish action: lust, gluttony, greed. But Dante makes it clear that the self is not the only victim. The circle of lust is filled with figures of great social responsibility, queens and princes, who chose indulgence of their passions over duty to their peoples. The queens are given a lot of attention by the early commentators, particularly Benvenuto da Imola, who details their great deeds as rulers as well as their vices (1.194 ff.). Semiramis twists the laws in order to cover her own guilt: “libito fe licito in sua legge” (5.56: “she made her libido licit in her law”), as if by changing a word she could obliterate morality, an attitude that is particularly disturbing in a guardian of the law. The next three queens were not only self-indulgent but also obstacles in one way or another to the Roman empire: Dido, who killed herself for love, leaving her land and people unprotected, also held Aeneas back temporarily from founding his dynasty in Italy; Cleopatra, also a suicide, had affairs with Caesar and Marc Antony which complicated the course of empire in her time; and Helen’s affair with Paris caused the destruction of Troy, the old Rome. The only men named are Achilles, Paris, and Tristan, all princes: Achilles died ignominiously fighting over love, Paris and Tristan both stole the wives of kings, one of his host, the other of his uncle, and their affairs led to serious trouble for their countries. The violence such love engenders, spreading the effects of self-indulgence well beyond the immediate actors, is part of the responsibility they must now bear for their sin, which in life interfered with their fulfilling their assigned obligations as leaders of their people.[13]

The next stage of self-indulgence is to satisfy the body without even the excuse of a nobler impulse, simply to feed it as an animal does. Gluttony is so completely centered on the physical senses that it becomes virtually impossible for the gluttonous individual to give of himself, even with words, to others. This self-indulgence leads to a self-absorption that necessarily interferes with social exchange. The gluttons lose the power to act or to communicate with others. Dante finds it very difficult to get anything out of them; he has to keep coaxing “tell me, tell me”: “Ma dimmi chi tu sei,” 6.46, “ma dimmi, se tu sai,” 6.60, “e dimmi la cagione,” 6.62, “dimmi ove sono,” 6.82, “ancor vo’ che mi’nsegni/e che di piu parlar mi facci dono” (6.7778: “I still want you to instruct me and make me a gift of more speech”). But always the soul stops before Dante is satisfied: “e piu non fe parola,” 6.57, “qui puose fine,” 6.76; and finally the soul declares “piu non ti dico e piu non ti rispondo” (6.90: “I tell you no more and I answer you no more”), and falls back with the others.

For a city as for a man, overfeeding is self-destructive; more wealth and power than it can handle will first disrupt its natural processes and then destroy it. Florence, which is the subject of Dante’s conversation with the glutton, and the way the soul first identifies himself, suffers from political gluttony, which is both greed and envy: “la tua citta, ch’e piena/d’invidia si che gia trabocca il sacco” (6.49-50: “your city, which is so full of envy that its sack overflows”), an image echoed in Purgatory, 20.7375, where Florence’s paunch, presumably overstuffed, is burst by the lance of Charles.[14] Even its best men are flawed: all the Florentines Dante asks about, “who were so worthy,” are lower down in Hell, and only two just men are left in the city, an allusion to Gen. 18:23 ff. where Abraham attempts to save Sodom on the basis of the just men in it and cannot find even ten.[15] As in Ezek. 14:14, the sins of the world are such that even the best men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, could only save themselves. The implication is that a modicum of virtue can stem the corruption of society, but the corruption of Florence is so great that its good men cannot save it.

Greed and gluttony are aspects of the same impulse, the amassing of more material than can be used. Like food, material wealth was intended by God to serve men’s needs, but misuse of wealth is potentially harmful to one’s fellows. What the miser hoards cannot serve others’ needs. Fortune, which Dante the pilgrim sees as a monster holding the goods of the world in its “claws” (7.69), is in fact a minister of God, ordained to supervise the transmission of worldly goods and power from one people to another as well as from one family to another (7.73 ff.). In other words, the distribution of worldly goods and power seems random to man because he cannot understand it and wrongly blames fortune (7.9193), but it follows a divine plan, whereas the action of misers and prodigals on earth and in Hell, in their continuous semicircles, seems ordered, but is really futile or worse, because it runs counter to providence.[16] Thus greed, on the personal or public level, is a serious social sin for Dante because it interferes with the proper functioning of government and of providence. It is not accidental that the group Dante concentrates on in this section is identified by their tonsures; they are all churchmen, whose function was to give, not to possess, and to teach others the vanity of earthly goods.[17] They substituted the things of this earth for heaven in their own desires, a particularly serious sin in a cleric, who is supposed to reject temporal goods, but a common one, as Benvenuto notes (1.255-56) and as Dante stresses throughout the Comedy.

Dante follows a logical progression in sinful impulses from the indulgence of natural physical desires for sex and food to the indulgence of desires for less natural, but still necessary, goods like wealth, which is essential to social existence. The more the sins are centered on the self, the more hostile they render the individual to others. The glutton is only noncommunicative, the miser is aggressive. The rage that begins to surface in the circle of greed in the accusing shouts of the souls, but without a specific object, erupts in the next three circles against very specific objects, other people, the self, and God. It bursts out like the stream that has boiled underground but pours forth into the Styx (7.100-08). As we learn later, all the rivers of Hell are connected, just as tendencies to sin are connected, so the Styx must flow underground from the Acheron; in other words, wrath is latent in all the sins of self-indulgence, but after greed it comes to the surface and finds its object in another being. In the upper circles, the sins and sinners are wrapped up in themselves; from wrath down, there is much more interaction between the souls and between them and Dante. Filippo Argenti, who was a political enemy of Dante’s, a Black and a member of the family which received Dante’s confiscated goods after his exile, attacks Dante as he approaches the city, eliciting a fierce reaction from the pilgrim with Virgil’s approval.[18] What Dante exhibits, in contrast to the soul’s unprovoked hostility, is righteous indignation, a mean between the extremes of wrath and sloth, both of which are socially harmful: wrath strikes out wildly in any direction, sloth rejects action and turns inward, while proper anger, when guided by reason (Virgil), upholds the cause of good against its enemies.[19] Filippo’s wrath is a threat to his society; Dante’s is essential to its proper functioning. Dante consciously aligns himself with divine justice and against the attacking soul, making it clear, as he has not before, that he is an alien in Hell.

This change in Dante’s attitude heralds a change in the entire presentation. The scene is dramatic, with a much larger cast of active characters than has been seen heretofore, and the atmosphere is much more overtly civic. Beginning with the exchange of signals between towers, which suggests a hostile setting, the approach of an alien, perhaps an enemy, as Benvenuto notes (1.275-76), we are aware of entering a more structured, more complicated organization than Dante has encountered before, indeed a city. In the earlier circles, there were guards who objected ineffectually to his presence. Now there is sophisticated communication among beings he cannot see. He is about to enter the inner city of Hell, the city of Dis, “wealth,” in which greed dominates, with its gravi cittadin– the serious citizens of Hell–its “army” of devils, and its mosques, a city of infidels whose citizens work to deceive and exploit each other. Dante and Virgil enter this city as hostile aliens, although Virgil is himself an inhabitant of Hell, a fellow countryman from a different region, so to speak; for Dante, the experience is one he lived in his own life, an alien everywhere but in Florence, where he was an unwanted outlaw. If the devils who guard the city gates represent corrupt churchmen, as suggested in chapter two, it is clear why Dante sees them as dangerous enemies; in any case, fallen angels are rebels who try to close the city to representatives of the true emperor, God, just as Florence, with the church’s support, closed its gates to Henry and to Dante. Dante perhaps will be the divine messenger who with a seemingly small weapon, his poem, like the angel’s wand, will open them again. The action of the fallen angels is, of course futile; they cannot shut this gate against the divine will. Their whole rebellion won them only the loss of heaven, not even the control of their own domain, which, like the Italian cities that defy the emperor, is filled with chaos and self-destructive violence. The angel who brings divine help asks the devils why they bother to resist a will that cannot be thwarted, an action which can only increase their pains, 9.94-96. That is an important question for Dante and the reader to ponder before entering the lower circles where the sins are a conscious and continuous affirmation of evil and rejection of God, but it is also a reminder to Florence that, however successful it may be at thwarting the emperor temporarily, the divine will must ultimately prevail on earth as in Hell.[20]

The city of Dis is the core of the corrupt society. Inside it, Dante concentrates on four large categories of sin, those which are the most socially destructive: (1) heresy, the limited or distorted truth, which prevents acceptance of the larger truth and kills the soul, is the equivalent of factionalism in politics, the narrow view that destroys the body politic; (2) violence, the flouting of the most basic natural laws which rule men in their relations with others, with themselves, and with God; (3) fraud, the willful deception of others in order to exploit them; and (4) betrayal, the willful and harmful deception of those to whom one owes a special kind of loyalty.

Heresy was intimately associated with politics for Dante’s audience: Frederick II had condemned and executed heretics as traitors to the state; an inquisitor in Florence condemned Farinata and his wife as heretics posthumously in 1283 because of the fierce hatred inspired by Farinata’s part in the defeat at Montaperti; and Pope John XXII instigated trials for heresy against his political enemies, like Matteo and Galeazzo Visconti, Can Grande, and Federico da Montefeltro.[21] In Hell, Dante uses the charge of heresy not as a political weapon, but as a symbol of political factionalism. The souls he concentrates on are Epicureans, a sect which indulges the body and denies the immortality of the soul;[22] politically, these souls deny the larger reality of empire or even city in order to indulge the smallest segment, their party. Each heretical sect has its own quarter in Dante’s Hell, emphasizing the narrowness and factionalism, the refusal to see beyond one’s own obsession, whether in religion or in politics, and the heretics are condemned not just in themselves, but in their followers, for whom they are responsible. They are buried along with those they misled, a point that is carefully made twice (9.128 and 10.14) and emphasized by the word which first identifies them, eresiarche (9.127), meaning leaders of sects or groups of heretics.

There is a suggestion that Dante is himself vulnerable to this kind of factionalism, both in the fear he feels when Farinata addresses him and in the accusation implicit in Farinata’s words, “La tua loquela … ,” (10.25), which echo the words spoken to Peter before he denies his connection with Christ (Matt. 26:73). Dante will, in fact, be led to deny his true loyalties to the imperial side in response to Farinata’s attack. Farinata feels a deep loyalty to Florence, “quella nobil patria,” so strong still that it elicits a rare (for Hell) statement of regret: “to which I was perhaps too hostile” (10.27: “a la qual forse ful troppo molesto”), a reference to his part in the battle at Montaperti, where the exiled Florentine Ghibellines fought with Siena against Florence. That love for Florence was strong enough while he was alive to make him oppose a-lone the destruction of Florence, (10.91-93: “fu’io solo . . . colui che la difesi a viso aperto”), but it is not strong enough to overcome his loyalty to party, and it leads him into an exchange with Dante, his countryman, that is painful to both of them. Benvenuto comments that the Florentines are worse partisans than any other people in Italy (1.346: “Florentini sunt magis partifices quam alius populus Italiae”). Ironically, Farinata’s attack on Dante’s family forces Dante to identify with the Guelphs as a party, which in Farinata’s time was the church party, although Dante is in fact a White Guelph and therefore, like Farinata, of the imperial party. As in most factional disputes, they hurt each other to no purpose: Dante tells Farinata that the Ghibellines never returned to Florence, and Farinata counters with a prophecy of Dante’s exile. And both of them, in their zeal to attack each other, ignore the feeling of their fellow Florentine. Farinata’s neighbor in the next tomb, Cavalcanti, is closely connected with him not only by the sin they share and their native city, but also by the marriage of their children, a union arranged to end enmity between the two factions; yet each is so wrapped up in his own obsession that he is completely impervious to the other’s. And Dante, the third Florentine, bound to both, to Farinata by love of Florence and the imperial cause, to Cavalcanti as the father of Dante’s close friend and fellow poet, Guido,[23] is so preoccupied with his own concerns that he manages to wound both of them, one with political taunts, the other with a comment about his son.[24] He strikes them in two loyalties, to party and to family, which can most obstruct the higher loyalty to country. Cavalcanti, a member of an important commercial family, may also represent the class that put its financial interest ahead of the needs of the city or the country, another aspect of factionalism quite prevalent in Dante’s world (see below, chapter six).

Dante suggests the responsibility of church and empire to save mankind from the effects of factionalism by mentioning only two others among the more than a thousand souls who lie with Farinata and Cavalcanti: the emperor Frederick 11, and “the Cardinal.” Both were eminent leaders, men with great social responsibility to others and spiritual responsibility to God, whose vicars they were, but both denied the existence of God or eternity and pursued their personal ambitions to the detriment of their larger obligations. The cardinal, Ottaviano, is reputed to have said, “My soul, if it exists, l have lost for the Ghilbellines”; the emperor is supposed to have made a similar remark: “If I had one foot in Paradise, l would withdraw it to take revenge on Viterbo.”[25] Frederick also engaged in discussions on points of faith and in experiments to test the life of the soul after death, and he persecuted heretics as threats to imperial power, so there is a certain poetic justice to his location in Hell. [26] The only other heretic Dante mentions is a pope whose tomb’ he sees in a different section of heresy. The pope is Anastasius, who was thought not to have believed in the divine nature of Christ; in fact, medieval tradition confused the pope with an emperor of the same name who was actually the heretic, but it is important for Dante’s view to balance the emperor Frederick with a pope.[27] It is bad enough for the emperor, God’s regent, to reject God, but it is shocking when the highest placed guardian of the faith falls into heresy instead of guarding others from it.

Dante focuses our attention on the special nature of the other sins inside Dis by breaking his narrative pattern before he leaves the circle of heresy and devoting the better part of a canto (11) to a discussion of the sins of the last three circles of Hell. Pietro comments that this canto is in some ways like a gloss of the whole cantica: “hoc capitulum . .. quodammodo est glosa totius hujus libri Inferni” (136). This is an unusual pause in the poem, the only purely didactic, nondramatic canto in Hell. It is made partly because the lower sins are complicated by subdivisions, and Dante the pilgrim, like the reader, must be prepared in order to understand them properly; but also because Dante the author is about to make a break with traditional presentations of sin, and he is calling attention to that. The sins he presented outside the walls of Dis are among the standard capital vices: lust, gluttony, greed, wrath, which in Dante’s Hell also have political overtones. Heresy, which is inside, is treated more as a political than as a theological problem. The remaining sins are presented, with some reference to Aristotelian categories, essentially as sins against society, sins against others within a social context: violence, fraud, treachery. Pietro remarks, apropos of violence, that if man were a solitary animal, the double order of reason and divine law would suffice, but since he is a political and social animal, as Aristotle says in the Politics, there must be a third order by which men are ordered to other men, hence violence is divided into three sections (140).

The Aristotelian distinction serves mainly to divide the lower sins of malice from those of incontinence, which are outside the city of Dis. Whether the third disposition, “mad bestiality,” is meant to be equated with a specific circle, violence or treachery, has been much argued. Aristotle opposed it to superhuman virtue, which is found only in heroic and divine natures, and says it is rarely found among men. Aquinas, in his commentary on the Ethics, makes the same point (7.1.1,2961,303); he notes that men can be bestial in three ways, like barbarians who operate without rational laws, like those who lack certain human faculties, or with great increase in malice, which is rare. Bestial malice, he says, is worse than human malice or incontinence if men become like animals; men can progress beyond the limits of human life in taking on the desires of beasts. Modern commentators take one of two positions on bestiality in the Comedy: they either equate it with one section or they see it as part of other sins.[28] Dante’s earliest commentators made no attempt to fix bestiality in one circle: Pietro points out how rare it is and specifically says that Dante does not distinguish a place for it, unless it is the Minotaur (138); he and Benvenuto both define it as something that goes beyond human limits (Pietro, 139, Benvenuto, 1.374). Benvenuto also notes how rare it is among men; he connects it with madmen who cut open the wombs of pregnant women to eat the embryos and barbarians who eat human flesh and live without rule in the open (cf. the Ottimo, 1.207). In short, they equate bestiality with the absence of civilization; since it is men’s nature to form a political society, if they do not do so, they are no more than animals. Inasmuch as they indulge their lower impulses without the control of reason, they are bestial and antisocial. But the only “pure” bestiality in Hell is to be seen in the superhuman inhabitants, Satan and the giants, who began as more than human and have been reduced to something far lower.

What is most significant in canto 11 is the discussion of the three lower sins and their various subdivisions, which emphasize the social nature of the sins, particularly in their focus on the victim. In violence and treachery, the divisions are made according to the nature of the victim or his relation to the sinner; in fraud, the sinner manipulates his victim to involve him in the sin which in turn has other, often numerous, victims. Malice, the willful harm to others either by force or fraud (11.22-24), is the essence of all these sins. But fraud, for Dante, is worse than force because it is an evil peculiar to man (11.25: “frode e de l’uom proprio male”); animals cannot conceive it, since they communicate by instinctive action; angels cannot practice it, since they communicate by direct intuition. Only men can deceive each other. Fraud is the quintessential social sin because it plays on the natural bond of love that should unite all men with their fellows. It can be practiced indiscriminately on any available victim or, and far worse, on those to whom one is bound by special trust, and then it is treachery, the worst sin of all. But in either case, the effects of the act have wide-reaching repercussions. The three sins discussed in this canto, which fill the lowest circles of Hell and command fully two thirds of the cantica, are the sins most harmful to society and, Dante declares by his placement of them, most displeasing to God, because they disrupt the order he instituted for man’s life on earth.

All three sins involve a perversion of the reasoning process, a conscious decision to harm others in order to satisfy personal desires. This is why in order to move through the lower circles Dante must give himself consciously into the power of the monster who symbolizes it: in violence, he rides through the river of blood on the Centaur’s back;[29] in fraud, he flies on Gerione’s back; in treachery, he is lifted and lowered by the giant Antaeus. Violence is a combination of “blind greed” and “mad wrath” (12.49), wrath towards people, greed towards their possessions. The circle of violence is divided into three sections according to the object of the violent act–others, the self, or God. It is further divided within those sections into the person of the victim or his goods, the objects respectively of wrath and greed. Possessions, as we know from Virgil’s lesson about Fortune, play their part in the divine order as well as in the political structure, where due sense of ownership is essential to social stability. Therefore, violence against others includes tyranny, which involves both persons and goods, murder and assault or robbery, extortion, and plunder; violence against the self is suicide or wasting of goods; violence against God is either direct in blasphemy, or indirect against his creation through sodomy or usury, one a perversion of the sexual act, which impedes the providential course of procreation, the other the abuse of the proper function of money, which interferes with the providential distribution of wealth.[30]

Those who commit violence against others are grouped according to the nature and scope of their actions and stand more or less submerged in blood. The most deeply submerged, the guiltiest, are the tyrants, whose violence was felt by whole peoples. They perverted the governor’s function as God’s vicar the one destined to maintain order in society, and created chaos instead. As the Ottimo comments, tyrants ruin the political regime by putting their own interests before the public good (1.213; cf. Jacopo, 1.234: “the tyrant’s intent is completely and solely on his own good, which by its perversity is bad for all others”). Among the tyrants are several who were known as the scourges of their people or their time, a reminder to Dante’s audience that their own sins bring on their suffering: Attila, “che fu flagello in terra” (12.134); Ezzelino da Romano, son-in-law of Frederick II and a cruel tyrant, according to Villani, who destroyed towns, blinded citizens, confiscated their possessions, killed and tortured, in short was “a great scourge of his time . . . to punish the sin of their ingratitude” (6.73: “fue uno grande flagello al suo tempo nella Marca Trivigiana e in Lombardia per punire il peccato della loro ingratitudine”).[31] Ezzelino’s own sister, Cunizza, calls him a “firebrand who made a great assault on the countryside” (Pr 9.29-30: “facella/che fece a la contrada un grande assalto”) The next group, in blood up to their throats, are the murderers, of whom only one is pointed out, whose deed, though committed for personal reasons, had international repercussions because it involved figures at the highest level of government: Guy of Montfort murdered his cousin, Prince Henry of Cornwall, in a church at Viterbo in 1271. The murder was committed to avenge his father, Simon, in the presence of his king, Charles of Sicily, whose vicar he was, thereby showing in the one act contempt for his earthly lord as well as for God. The result of this murder was that Henry’s brother, Edward, later king of England, was never a friend to King Charles or his people, according to Villani (Istorie Fiorentine, 7.39). The other souls in this section are despoilers and plunderers; one, Rinier da Corneto, was reputed to have held all the Maremma in fear, acting like a tyrant without a political office.[32] The implication, particularly since this is a circle and Dante has been moving round it back towards the tyrants, is that tyrants and plunderers are much the same. Frederick II, considered by many to be a tyrant, cannot appear in this circle since he was placed among the heretics, but he is very much present through the various people who are connected with him, Ezzelino, Rinier, and in the next section, Pier della Vigna.

The second section of violence contains suicides, a sin that would appear to be the most personal of all, and indeed Dante classes it under violence against the self, although Aristotle considered it a crime against the city. Nonetheless, by his choice of suicides, Pier della Vigna and the anonymous Florentine, Dante makes political statements about both the empire and Florence. Pier, the central figure in the section, is a public man in two ways, a high and influential official at the imperial court of Frederick II, whose functions were diplomatic and legal, and a poet and rhetorician, whose epistolary collections were used as models.[33] Although Pier presents himself as an innocent victim, he reveals that he in fact abused his office; so, whether or not he was guilty of the crime he was accused of, he is not undeserving of his fate.[34] Pier may blame others for turning the emperor against him, but he cannot altogether excuse his own actions, and he is completely responsible for his death by his own admission. He had, he boasts to Dante, held the keys of Frederick’s heart, from which he excluded almost everyone else, although an emperor should be open to all his people; naturally this aroused the envy of others and they turned against him, eventually turning the emperor against him as well.[35] Like Farinata, who clings to his loyalty to Florence remembering how he had saved it but forgetting his contribution to her troubles, Pier insists on his loyalty to the emperor (“gia mai non ruppi fede/al mio segnor,” 13.74-5), but fails to see how much harm he did the state by his distorted view of service. What Pier did was turn a public office into a private domain, and the result was that he became the private victim of the public reaction. But he also abused his office by fostering the emperor’s pride and arrogance through his extravagant eulogies, which drew on biblical as well as pagan imperial sources, whereas a courtier and advisor, not to say a poet, is supposed to curb the evil tendencies in the ruler and guide him away from them. He became the victim of the tendencies he had failed to correct.[36] At the same time, though heavy responsibility rests with Pier, the story also reflects badly on the emperor, who first gave excessive power to him and then exacted excessive punishment from him, both serious failings in a ruler. The possibility that the name “Peter of the Vineyard” and the imagery of the keys are meant to suggest that Peter is also an allegory for the pope, using the keys to impede the proper functioning of empire, was discussed in chapter two. What is here imputed to Pier as a public official can also be imputed to the church in its relations with the empire.

The other suicide Dante sees, identified only as a Florentine and seeming to stand for the city in its selfdestructiveness (see chapter one), also presents himself as a victim. When the hunted wastrel, fleeing from dogs (veltri, like the instrument of divine justice promised in canto 1), takes shelter beneath the suicide bush, the bush is caught in the dogs’ attack. “What did I ever do to you?” he asks (literally, “what responsibility do I have for your evil life?” 13.135), as if he could dissociate himself completely from the guilt and suffering of his fellows. That is, the city that destroys itself, its people and its goods, by its greed, ambition, and violence, attempts to stand aloof from the guilt and suffering of its people and its fellows who look to it for protection. Through both suicides, Pier della Vigna and the anonymous Florentine, Dante raises questions about man’s responsibility for his fellows: Pier, as a courtier or as a symbol of the church, takes on more imperial responsibility than he should and therefore fails to fulfill his proper function as a public servant and interferes with the emperor’s doing so; the Florentine refuses to take any responsibility for another, revealing a total rejection of social identity, as an individual with his city, as a city with its nation under the empire.

The self-destructiveness of the city is reflected in the allusion Dante makes to Attila, the Scourge of God, burning it down centuries before (13.149). Benvenuto’s comment on this passage adds a significant detail about the event: that Attila was taken into Florence because he promised to destroy Florence’s enemy, Pistoia, but once inside destroyed Florence instead (1.463-64). Thus Florence was destroyed by her vindictive pride. Villani, in Istorie Fiorentine, takes a similar position, that the city continues to make the same mistakes and God continues to send warnings that go unheeded. He describes fires and other disasters in Florence which he attributes to divine judgment for the city’s sins: in 1177, a great fire was sent to punish the city’s pride over the recent defeats of its enemies (5.7); in 1260, the city was defeated and nearly destroyed despite its strength as divine punishment for its sins (6.80).

The remaining sinners in the seventh circle commit their violence against God, but they too are carefully set within a social context: blasphemers are represented by a king, sodomites by teachers and statesmen, usurers by members of important families and commercial operations. Blasphemers abuse the gift of speech, the expression of the highest human faculty, reason, and the basic instrument of social communication, by using it to attack or defy God. By challenging the highest authority directly, they become the ultimate human anarchists, the equivalent of the rebel angels. When a king, Capaneus, challenges the only authority above him, he undermines the basis of his own. Capaneus compares himself to the giants who rebelled against the gods (and were defeated), but the reader is reminded of the futile defiance of the fallen angels outside the walls of Dis; they all began as creatures of greater strength than Capaneus, but were defeated by the divine power they challenged. Dante condemns any disruption of the providentially ordered chain of authority, even from a king, but he also reminds us that arrogance in a ruler has repercussions on his subjects: the story of Capaneus recalls the devastating war against Thebes, and allusions to the armies that suffered in the burning deserts of India and Libya remind us of Alexander’s insatiable lust for conquest (14.31 If.). The figure who brings together everything Dante is saying about blasphemy and defiance of the providential order is the statue described at the end of the canto, the “Veglio di Creta,” which represents the moral history of mankind. The statue suggests classical and biblical traditions, the four ages of man (as in Ovid, Metamorphoses, 1.89 ff.) with the implication of continuing moral degeneration and corruption, and the four kingdoms of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Dan. 2:31-44), which represent the transfer of power from one nation to another through human history. The statue faces west, following the movement of empire, with its face mirrored in Rome (14.105), which in God’s plan is the climax of human destiny.[37] It stands on two feet, the empire and the church (cf. Benvenuto, 1.491), both intended by divine plan to have their seat in Rome (cf. Hell 2.20-24), but though one foot is iron, the other is only clay and the statue is now leaning too heavily on the more vulnerable one; the implication is that the church now has more power in the world than the empire, but cannot sustain it.[38] The statue is cracked in all its members, except the gold head, and tears flow from the cracks forming the rivers of Hell, the suffering of mankind; that is, man’s defects create his hell. Whether it is national or individual, moral corruption is harmful to all: the polis is contaminated by the acts of a single person, individuals are touched by the acts of the polis. All men suffer potentially for any man’s sins.[39]

The section on sodomy (by which Dante means homosexuality), which follows the description of the statue, offers a striking illustration of the contamination of public life by the private sins of public figures. That Dante is concerned primarily with civic life in this section is clear not only from the focus on Florence and its vices in his conversations with the souls, but even more from the fact that he groups the souls in this section by their public functions, their professions, and that every major sphere of civic life is represented: politics, law, the church, letters, and commerce. These are all men professionally committed to maintaining order in their own spheres. Richard Kay has amassed a stunning amount of evidence to show that all the men named in canto 15 were guilty of professional perversion.[40] It is Dante’s technique to begin with the sin named and move into larger implications, such as the “professional perversion” Kay so amply illustrates. The same perverted thinking that allows the indulgence of one’s sexual appetites permits the abuse of one’s professional position. Priscian wrote a textbook for his fellow grammarians in which he glorified his own craft, whereas Donatus, whom Dante puts in Paradise, wrote a simple textbook for the use of students.[41] Francesco d’Accorso, the son of the man who did the Glossa Ordinaria to the Corpus iuris civilis, used his father’s work and name, taking credit for the work as if it were his own, and also supported the king of England and the pope against the empire; since Roman law is the empire’s responsibility, he, by his allegiance to its enemies, abused and misrepresented the law he taught. Bishop Andrea dei Mozzi came from a great banking family that had gone from Ghibelline to Guelph and financed the papacy against the emperor Frederick. Andrea himself tried to tax the clergy to pay for his own promotion, used excommunication as a personal weapon, and preached poorly besides; he was transferred by Boniface to oblige Andrea’s family when the feud between him and his bishop got out of hand.[42] Brunetto taught civic humanism and public service through rhetoric, but upheld the independence of Florence from the empire; he was assumed to have drafted the letter Florence sent in 1281 to Rudolph of Hapsburg asserting her traditional independence; thus he must be associated with the Florence he condemns (15.73-78), because he too was disloyal to its “pure” Roman heritage. And finally, the three Guelph leaders in the next canto opposed the cause of empire, glorying in the power they had as partisans, which they would not have had as nobles within an imperial city.

Brunetto is the dominant figure in this section because he was a particularly respected personage and because, like Pier della Vigna (and Dante), he was not only a public official, but also a master of rhetoric, hence he had a two-fold responsibility to guide others. Brunetto indeed preached the highest principles of public life, that it was the responsibility of the virtuous orator to teach and civilize his fellows, that virtuous deeds, not noble birth, honor a man, that the more exalted the sinner, the more sordid his vice.[43] But as Pier della Vigna did with the emperor, Brunetto supported his city in its mistakes and aggressions instead of correcting it: despite his attachment to the Roman heritage, “the holy seed of those Romans” (15.76-77: “la sementa santa di quei Roman”), he furthered the cause of the Guelph anti-imperial Republic, he was the official notary for the government of Charles of Anjou, and the chosen public orator to urge war against Arezzo. Villani calls him a great philosopher and supreme teacher of rhetoric, praises his books, and notes that he began the refinement of Florence, guided it to speak well and to judge and rule the republic according to the science of politics, but he also calls him a “mondano uomo,” a worldly man, in contrast to his virtues (Istorie Fiorentine, 8.10). Even in Hell, Brunetto seems more concerned with the circulation of his book and with Dante’s literary career than with either’s salvation.[44] Benvenuto makes an interesting judgment on Brunetto’s vanity; he says that he was a man of great intelligence and eloquence, but that he had a high opinion of himself, and when he made a small error in his writing, instead of correcting it, as he might easily have done, he preferred to accuse and blame others lest he appear ignorant, for which Benvenuto claims he was exiled from Florence and condemned to burn. He avoided that fate in his life, the commentator notes, but not in his afterlife (1.502-03).

If there is something superficial about Dante’s conversations with Brunetto, it is even more evident in his exchange with the three Florentines. Naked themselves, they recognize Dante as a Florentine not by his words but by his dress,[45] and what concerns them in Florence is the state of cortesia and valor (16.67), good manners and worth or prestige. If valor is meant to have a moral overtone here, it is ironic that those who should have led by good example are concerned with such behavior now. They show good manners in their speech to Dante, wishing him long life and fame afterwards, like Brunetto, but their naked bodies, moving nervously like wrestlers in a circle, undercut the dignity their names would otherwise evoke, as did Brunetto’s sudden sprint like a winning racer at the end of the previous canto. Dante unmasked Brunetto slowly in his conversation before he destroyed Brunetto’s dignity with the image of the naked racer, but he makes us aware of the sordidness of the other three from the beginning by his description of their grotesque movements while they speak so graciously; the contortions of the bodies betray the lack of control which the voices conceal. In all, Dante presents in these two cantos a chilling picture of the hypocrisy and self-indulgence of Florentine public life. If men such as these are given to such behavior, it is no surprise that the city is troubled. The violent impulse that lies so close to the highly cultivated surface in these men is echoed in the natural allusion with which Dante ends the section, the river that roars down the Alps with strength for a thousand waterfalls, an image of nature uncontrolled, potentially dangerous, in sharp contrast to the dikes mentioned at the beginning (15.4 ff.), which represent man’s attempts to control the harmful forces of nature within civilized life.

All the souls Dante groups among the violent against God abuse divine gifts, which were ordained for the good of men in society. Blasphemers abuse the gift of language, using it to attack the creator rather than to praise him and communicate with men; sodomites abuse sex, using it to indulge sterile desires instead of continuing the human race; the last group, usurers, abuse the gift of art, which follows nature, as Virgil explained in canto 11 (lines 97 If.).. Because the usurer does not labor as Genesis bids, he scorns both nature and art, a greater crime against the providential order than the miser’s, who only attempts to interfere with Fortune (cf. canto 7). Thomas Aquinas points out that usury is especially contrary to nature because, according to nature, money should increase only from natural things, not from money; he describes the making of money from money as a kind of birth, “quidam partus,” to emphasize the distortion of the natural function.[46] Following Aristotle, Thomas also associates usurers with tyrants, among those who make sordid gain at public cost (commentary on Ethics, 4.1). Dante gives little space to the usurers themselves, but he does take time to describe the emblems on the pouches which hang from their necks, the signs of their families and the only distinguishing feature of these souls. The sin committed to aggrandize the family (the major banking and trading operations were family companies) against the laws of God and man is now the cause of public disgrace to the family.[47] The importance of usury in Dante’s world and the overlapping of usury and fraud, which Dante suggests by having the pilgrim see the usurers in the shadow of the monster of fraud, is discussed below in chapter six.

Gerione, the symbol of fraud, is the most striking of Dante’s monsters, as fraud is the most important of his sins. Gerione is a hybrid, but stranger than those in the seventh circle (the centaurs and harpies) because it combines several types of being, as fraud is made up of many kinds of action. Fraud depends on trust, hence it has the face of a just man; it abuses positions of power to prey on others (the hairy arms and paws suggest a lion); it offers attractive but deceptive schemes (the body of a varicolored serpent), and it destroys without warning (the poisonous tail of a scorpion).[48] One must not only consciously give oneself over to it (as Dante and Virgil ride on its back), but also actively seek it with the mind (they summon it with the corda); and its flight carries them deep into Hell because this sin is far more evil than the last. Fraud is the most social and the most socially destructive sin of all in that it involves deceiving others, manipulating them or exploiting their tendency to sin to one’s own advantage and profit and frequently to the harm of many innocent victims. Fraud expands the scope of evil by increasing the number of actors and victims; it is a sin committed more against society than against the individual. Dante sets it in a series of moats surrounding not a castle, the center of a society, but a lake of ice, the denial of life, because fraud destroys the trust on which human life–society–must be built. [49] The antisociety of the eighth circle, the Malebolge (“sacks of evil” or “evil sacks”), is based not on trust but on deception, not on the common good but on the exploitation of the many for the profit of the few, not on justice but on the abuse of the innocent, not on guidance to the good life but on encouragement to evil.

Dante emphasizes the importance of fraud by dividing the eighth circle into ten sections and devoting thirteen cantos to it, more than a third of the entire cantica of Hell.[50] He arranges the ten sections so that they seem to be distortions or intensi

fications of the larger categories of Hell’s nine circles or the manipulation of the impulse to those sins in others, the organizing of sin for profit:

FRAUD, EIGHTH CIRCLE CIRCLES OF HELL 01 panderers, seducers 02 lust 02 flatterers 03 gluttony 03 simoniacs 04 avarice 04 false prophets 04 prodigality 05 barrators 05 wrath 06 hypocrites 06 heresy 07 thieves 07 violence 08 counsellors of fraud 08 fraud 09 disseminators of scandal, schism 09 treachery, betrayal 10 falsifiers (of elements, persons, coins, words) 10 Satan Seducers and panderers turn the lust of others to their gain; flatterers indulge the gluttonous appetite of others for praise; simoniacs feed their own greed for money on others’ greed for position; false prophets squander their gifts of divining to feed others’ reckless desire to know the future. Barrators attack the structure of the state, ultimately a self-destructive act, since the state is an extension of the self, just as the wrathful vent their passions on themselves when there is no other object to hand. Hypocrites deceive others with a false appearance of piety, while heretics, who search for truth, accept false beliefs; thieves take by stealth, the violent by force, both interfering with the providential order; counsellors of fraud advise others to use fraud; disseminators of scandal and schism advise others to treachery, the one case in which the act itself is worse than the inducement to it. The last section has no counterpart among the sins: if the falsifiers, who abuse all the essentials of human existence, making both civilized life and salvation impossible, have any counterpart, it can only be Satan, the perverse reflection of the creator of those elements. The souls in the eighth circle prostitute every aspect of human life, the body (sec. 1), the mind (2), God’s gifts of the sacraments (3), of prophecy (4), of government (5); they practice willful deception in politics (secs. 6, 8, 9), commerce (7, 10), and religion (9).

Despite the attempts of the souls to order their “society” by the principles of greed and self-aggrandizement, a certain justice does prevail; the deceiver is deceived, the con man conned. The most striking example of this occurs outside of Hell, but is described by a soul, Guido da Montefeltro, who was seduced into devising yet another deception by Pope Boniface VIII. The great counsellor of fraud is tricked by the master deceiver. Like the clever inventor of the brass bull, mentioned in the same canto (27.7 ff.), who was his machine’s first victim, Guido becomes the victim of his own cleverness; as the inventor did not consider that the cruelty of the tyrant for whom he made the bull might be turned on him, so Guido does not think that a pope who can deceive others on his advice could as easily deceive him. It is fitting, since the fraudulent incite others to sin, that in Hell they should become the objects of evil action, the perpetrators, so to speak, becoming the victims: the panderers and seducers, who incited others to sexual acts, are goaded to movement by the whips of devils;[51] flatterers squat in the excrement that they metaphorically showered on others; simoniacs are buried in baptismal fonts, a symbol of the source of eternal life which they stifled; the false prophets who twisted divine truth are twisted in their bodies; devils abuse the barrators as they abused the government; hypocrites literally bear the weight of their own hypocrisy; thieves cannot control possession even of their own bodies; counsellors of fraud who inflamed others with their tongues become tongues of flame; disseminators of schism who severed the members of church and state are continually severed in their bodily members; and falsifiers who corrupted the elements of human life are corrupted, diseased, in their bodies and minds.

The punishments of the souls also recall actual contemporary punishments in several instances, which reminds us once again that Hell is really an earthly city or state. Certain types of criminals were walked around the city before they were executed and whipped as they went, as the panderers and seducers are (Davidsohn, Storia di Firenze 5.611); some lost limbs for encouraging seditions (Davidsohn, 5.612), like the mutilated sinners in the ninth section. The upside-down burial of the simoniac popes recollects the punishment of assassins, buried alive upside down, as Dante himself notes (19.49-51); the hoods the hypocrites wear are lead, like the coverings Frederick II had placed on traitors before they were burnt, again noted by Dante (23.65-66). Other details reinforce the sense of the contemporary city. The second section provides the sight and odor of excrement, the first is densely populated, with groups of sinners moving quickly in opposite directions, their movement carefully ordered, as the Romans ordered their traffic during the Jubilee (18.28 ff.).[52]

The crowds in the first section of the Malebolge also suggest the vast extent of the sin, both of those who commit it and those who suffer from it. The number of people involved in these sins as victims and as participants is a significant factor in the social impact of fraud. Jason seduced and abandoned a number of women, each of whom had already betrayed others, which suggests an endless cycle of deception and revenge and numerous, sometimes innocent, victims.[53] Victims are more and more obvious in the lower part of the circle: whole nations, like the Jews, because of Caiaphas’s hypocrisy (sec. 6), Troy, because of the deceptions of Ulysses (8) and Sinon (10), and Islam, because of the schism of Mohammed (9). Cities suffer from the activities of hypocrites (6) and counterfeiters (10), the inhabitants of a castle from political deception (8), and individuals from false accusations (7 and 10). Even Dante is briefly caught up in the atmosphere of this circle and becomes its victim: Virgil, thinking that Dante is trying to gauge the distance, or perhaps attempting to direct Dante’s attention to facts and away from temptation, gives him details and tries to hurry him away from the ninth section. Dante’s answer is unusually aggressive: “If you’d known why I was looking, you might have let me stay,” 29.13-15. Whether or not Virgil read Dante’s thoughts, as he usually can, he has seen the person Dante was looking for, a cousin whose violent death is still unavenged.[54] Virgil did not point him out, because, as reason, he must guard Dante from the consequences of personal feuds. Dante missed his cousin because he was so intent on another sinner, the political poet Bertran de Born; thus the bad example of one political poet, Bertran, and the wisdom of another, Virgil, prevent Dante from abusing his own gifts, from getting involved in a feud that would have had serious political consequences. His concern with the public, perhaps theoretical, aspect of the problem, represented by the two poets, protects him from the private aspect, which could have had public repercussions. Nonetheless, if only for a moment, the cousin has had the effect he had in life, of dividing those who should be united. Again in the tenth section, Dante is so fascinated by the exchange between two falsifiers, Virgil has to rouse him quite sharply. This time, Dante has no excuse, only shame, but that satisfies Virgil, so they leave the circle in harmony, reason in the good man having overcome the threat of fraud, which is to draw others into sin. “The same tongue first bit me,” Dante comments, “and then gave me medicine” (31.1 and 3). This is the proper function of language and of poetry, to show what is wrong and guide to what is right, and it contrasts sharply with the fraud of the whole eighth circle.

There are many innocent victims of fraud because it is practiced by people who have official positions or functions, which they abuse to the harm of those who must depend on them. Many of the categories of fraud involve advisors, a role Dante was particularly concerned with since he cast himself in it: the flatterers in section two are courtiers, companions, advisors, who should use their access to lords and leaders to persuade them to right action, to correct and stem their sinful desires, but who instead pander to their vanity.[55] The false prophets in section four, instead of using their knowledge of the future to correct and guide, as the prophets of the Old Testament attempted to do, sell it to those who would use it for political advantage. Counsellors of fraud (sec. 8) and disseminators of scandal (9) pervert their advisory functions altogether by guiding to sinful action, which is harmful not only to the souls of those who listen to them, but also to those against whom they act. Many of these advisors are themselves public officials, as are most of the souls Dante points out in the other sections: Venedico Caccianemico (sec. 1) was a podesta of various cities; as well as a pimp for his sister; church officials as high as popes practice simony (3); barratry (5) and hypocrisy (6) are the vices of political officers; religious and political leaders engage in fraudulent counsel and in scandal and schism (8, 9).

Because fraud is the core of the corrupt society in Dante’s scheme, it is appropriate to look at relevant details of various sections, following Dante’s order. He gives short shrift to the first two–pimps and flatterers–using them primarily to set the atmosphere for the circle, the prostitution of body and mind, the sordid traffic in what is essentially filth. The third section, however, is one of major importance, because it involves the church at the highest level, not only trafficking in the sacraments, but also interfering in secular affairs. Prostitution and adultery figure largely in the imagery of this section (canto 19), because the church used the language of marriage widely in its political propaganda as well as in religious texts (see chapter two). Dante speaks of simoniacs committing adultery for gold and silver (19.4), of Boniface taking the lady church by fraud and then raping her (19.56-57); the popes fulfill the prophecy of the whore who fornicates with kings in the Apocalypse (19:106-08). The whore in the Bible stood for secular Rome, but then the church became secular Rome with the Donation of Constantine, taking on its corruption with the possession (19.115 If.).. The church now trades in the “things of God” which were meant to be the “brides of goodness” (19.2-3); those “things” are the sacraments and spiritual gifts, which the church should administer freely to all.[56]

The simoniac popes are in their own holes, as the heretics are in their own tombs, a connection that Benvenuto points out (2.48); they too have rejected the faith, but with more farreaching effects. They are buried upside down as they subverted their sacramental functions, the only sinners Dante sees in this position; Jacopo notes that they are upside down because they were concerned with things of the earth rather than of heaven (1.312). The position is not only a striking indicment of their abuses, but also serves to connect them with Satan, whom Dante sees upside down as he leaves Hell, suggesting that in perverting the functions God gave them and in usurping others not meant for them, they do the devil’s work rather than God’s.[57] Not only have they taken to themselves what properly belongs to all men, and Nicholas admits to Dante that he used the church to benefit his family, they also claim and use powers that God gave to the empire. They usurp or interfere with secular authority: Dante alludes to Nicholas’s intrigues against Charles of Sicily (19.98-99), which, as early commentators make clear, were believed to have led to the carnage of the Sicilian Vespers;[58] he compares Clement’s relations with the French king to the story of Jason in 4 Maccabees (19.85-87); he may be reminding the Florentines, in his remarks about the broken font, of the oath they took to stand together for the city, which was undermined by the treachery of the Blacks with the collusion of Pope Boniface VIII, as Noakes suggests; and his use of the curious word zanca to describe the papal leg (19.45) is probably, as Kaulbach argues, a reference to the slippers worn by the prefect of the city of Rome in papal rituals, symbolizing a temporal power once vested in the Roman consul, but taken over by the papacy. All we see of the popes in this section are their legs, which have taken the place of the head by usurping imperial power.

False prophets also abuse a divine gift that was intended to help mankind, of foretelling the future, which they put to the selfish purposes of political leaders or to their own profit. All the commentators make a distinction between knowing the future through divine revelation, which may come either directly in a vision or dream or through natural science, both of which are proper, and knowing it through demons, who use it to destroy souls.[59] Prophets, like Dante and Virgil, chosen to transmit the divine message, serve God and man, but they were also believed by some to be sorcerers. At the heresy trial of Matteo Visconti, a witness reported that Dante had been summoned by Matteo to practice magic against the pope.[60] Therefore, Dante takes pains to establish exact details in this canto in order to dissociate himself from the souls he sees, and he has Virgil correct the story he told in the Aeneid about the founding of Mantova and reprimand Dante sharply for showing sympathy to the sinners. Prophets played an important role in political policy-making in Dante’s time. Rulers depended on their forecasts to make key decisions. Villani reports several of the scholar Michel Scot’s prophecies coming true much later, in 1328 when Can Grande took control of Padua (Istorie Fiorentine, 10.103), and in 1329, when he took Trevigi (10.139).[61] However, Villani also warns that not all astrologers or their prophecies can be trusted, although the point of his story seems to be rather that men may be misled by prophecies they do not fully understand. He reports a prophecy that Henry of Luxembourg would advance to the end of the world (“capo di mondo”), which was taken to mean that nothing could stop him; events seemed to belie the apparent meaning until a local abbot told them of a street named Capo di Mondo and they realized how badly they had misinterpreted the prophecy (9.46). The problem with prophecy may lie as much in the lords who rely on it as in the prophets; among those Dante mentions, Michel Scot served as court astrologer to Frederick II, and Guido Bonatti was astrologer to both Guido da Montefeltro and Ezzelino da Romano. Benvenuto notes that Guido consulted Bonatti in all his actions (2.89). It is surely no accident that Dante condemns these lords as well, Frederick for heresy, Guido for counseling fraud, Ezzelino for tyranny. By serving them, the prophets used their arts in the service of evil.

Barrators commit a much more direct political crime: they subvert government from within. According to Aquinas, the purpose of government is to imitate God in his goodness and in moving others to be good, but barrators not only fail to move others towards good, they actively subvert government for private profit. [62] They destroy the honor of their cities for money, Jacopo says (1.354). Dante gives much attention to this sin, two full cantos, a treatment he accords only two other sins in the Malebolge, because he is particularly concerned with the proper function of government, and because he himself was accused of the crime. The simile of shipbuilding and repairing in Venice, which begins canto 21, suggests what government is meant to be, everyone engaged in a different activity with a distinct purpose that serves the whole operation in order to keep the ship of state functioning.[63] What barratry makes of government, however, is a farce. The puns implicit in the word barrateria point up both the serious and the game aspect of the evil. Nine lines after the first mention of barratry in the poem, baratro occurs (11.69), meaning “the abyss,” as if the subversion of government were itself the equivalent of hell, which it helps to produce on earth; baratta occurs in the cantos of barratry (21.63) as “scuffle,” “contest”; in other words, a competitive game. In life, barratry is a game that you lose when you win, since to turn government, which is an extension of the self, to selfish purposes subverts its real purpose and therefore harms the self. In Hell, it is a game that has been lost before it is begun: the souls cannot get away from the devils and the devils cannot get away from them; they are unable to leave the section even to move into the next (see 23.55-57). Still they play: the souls trick the devils, the devils try to trick them, and everyone ends up in the pitch. If the devils miss a crack at the souls, they attack each other and have to be dragged out by their fellows’ hooks. There is little difference in this section between the sinners and the devils; both play the same game to the same futile ends. The devil caught on his own hook is simply an extension of the barrator’s plight and a direct result of their abuses; barratry sets up an endless cycle of corruption which extends upwards and downwards in the echelons of government. As Benvenuto points out, barratry is practiced at all levels of courts, from the greatest minister to the least mercenary (2.97); the greater barrators flay the lesser, the lesser sew strife among themselves (2.153); no lord can avoid their hidden plots, even good lords are vulnerable (2.136-37); and barratry is so contagious that if a saint entered a court and became involved in its functions, he would become a barrator.

Barratry afflicts religious as well as lay courts; indeed Benvenuto tells a story of his own experience at the papal court at Avignon, where the pope’s treasurers expected him to offer a bribe even though his cause was just (2.118). Benvenuto claims that the best examples of barratry are to be found in the pope’s court (2.97). He identifies Dante’s devils as important officials, great masters of barratry or their ministers, presumably either lay or clerical (2.101), and offers a lengthy analysis of their names, showing how they illustrate different aspects of barratry (2.120-21).[64] I suggested in chapter two that the devils might represent corrupt churchmen trying to manipulate the politics of secular as well as of religious government; in any case, whether priests or laymen, Dante’s message is that barrators will eventually be caught and hooked on their own intrigues. His devils are, incidentally, black (21.29 and 23.131), as the souls must also be since they are submerged in pitch, which may well suggest the Black Guelphs, the church party and Dante’s enemies. It was the Black Guelphs, supported by the church, who falsely accused and sentenced Dante, effectively exiling him from the city.[65]

Dante exonerates himself from the charges of false prophecy and barratry by his treatment of the sins; but this is not the case in hypocrisy. He seems to admit some slight guilt here by the precipitousness of his fall into the sixth ditch and the difficulty of his climb out of it. One can only assume that he adopted some self-righteous posture when he went into exile, perhaps during his brief and unhappy political association with other exiled Whites, to which Cacciaguida refers (Pr. 17.61-65). Hypocrisy is commonly associated with false piety, but it can also have far-reaching political effects, and that is the aspect Dante concentrates on. Among the souls he presents, Caiaphas is one whose hypocrisy brings suffering on an entire nation. Ironically, he advised the Pharisees to make one man suffer rather than the whole people (Hell 23.116-17), and that was the “seed of evil for the Jewish people” (23.123: “fu per li Giudei mala sementa”). He now lies crucified on the ground where all the hypocrites must pass over him, that is, he bears the full weight of the world’s hypocrisy, as Christ in his crucifixion bore the full weight of the world’s sin. The two Frati Gaudenti Dante speaks to in this canto were sent to Florence to keep the peace; of opposing parties, they were elected to serve together as one podesta for the city but actually worked as one for the pope, and instead of reconciling the two sides, they favored the Guelphs at great cost to the Ghibellines. The signs of the destruction wreaked on Ghibelline property could still be seen by Dante’s audience (23.108). Benvenuto notes in his commentary that Frati Gaudenti sinned in both hypocrisy and barratry, since they were corrupted by the Guelphs, and that Dante quite properly places these hypocrites next to the barrators (2.178). Villani says they worked together under cover of false hypocrisy (“sotto coverta di falsa ipocrisia”) more for their own gain than for the common good (Istorie Fiorentine, 7.13). Guido comments that they did the devil’s work in the guise of holiness, “sub specie sanctitatis opus diabolicum perpetrarunt” (445). Religious orders are particularly susceptible to this sin because of their ascetic dress and customs, which is why all the hypocrites except Caiaphas wear robes cut in the Cluny fashion, with an abundance of material. Since these robes, however, are gilded lead, they pay for that extravagance with added pain. Dante emphasizes the weight of the cloaks by comparison with the lead coverings in which Frederick II burned traitors, a reference that underscores the political aspect of the sin.

Theft is also a special category for the poet, who devotes two cantos to it, but not because he was directly connected with the sin. Theft shakes the stability of a society by defying and complicating recognized rights of possession;[66] Guido comments that thieves introduce moral poison into society, that stealing what belongs to another corrupts and dissolves human fellowship (451). Because thieves refuse to recognize ownership in others, they lose all claim to it themselves, even to the possession of their own identities. Their punishment is to lose their bodies at random; they never know when they will be attacked, and, worse still, they cannot tell whether the snakes that threaten them are really their friends suffering similar metamorphoses. They suffer the effects of a society in which trust among men has been destroyed. The metamorphoses here are not really changes so much as a revelation of the truth within, which is that the thief reduces himself to the lowest form of animal life.[67]

Through the first thief, Vanni Fucci, Dante reveals several facets of the sin: that it is sacrilege (he steals sacred objects and defies God in a gesture which Dante connects with Capaneo’s blasphemy, 25.14-15, as theft itself defies the divine order in the disposition of goods); that it harms the innocent victim (Vanni mentions that another was accused of the crime, and, according to Benvenuto, he was subsequently hanged for it, 2.217 ff.); that it can be committed by cities as well as by individuals. Like Farinata, a Ghibelline who prophesied trouble to the Guelph Dante, Vanni, the Black Guelph, prophesies trouble for the White Dante; but as he describes the events–the exile of Blacks from Pistoia and of Whites from Florence–the cities seem to undergo metamorphoses like the souls, so we come to see them as thieves: “Pistoia first strips herself of Blacks, then Florence renews her people” (24.143-44; cf. 25.10 ff.: “Ah, Pistoia, why do you not turn yourself to ashes?”). In Purgatory, 6.145-47, Dante comments on the frequency with which Florence changes and renews its laws, money, customs, and members, which Benvenuto echoes in his commentary on theft, saying the thief forecast the mutationem of his city (2.189). Since cities confiscated the personal property of their political exiles, it is not difficult to picture them as thieves.

One of the thieves named in this section, Agnolo, is identified as a Brunelleschi by the early commentators; his family had been Ghibelline, but turned Guelph, and Agnolo himself began as a White and became a Black, a stunning example of political metamorphosis for personal advantage.[68] Agnolo is also a member of a large commercial family, as are most of those mentioned in this section. This, together with the space Dante allots theft, suggests that the poet may also be concerned with a more subtle, more extensive kind of theft, the kind that is accomplished in commerce, particularly through fradulent contracts and sales (see below, chapter six).

Dante is emotionally detached from this sin to the extent that he can take pride in his virtuosity while describing it, comparing himself favorably with Lucan and Ovid. But the same is not true of the counseling of fraud.[69] To describe what he sees, Dante must “rein in his wit more than usual, so that it does not run where virtue does not guide it” (26.21-22). He is ostensibly speaking of his poetry, but he is also aware of his own temptation here–how could a political exile who had been so involved with the plight of his city not be tempted at some point to counsel deception in order to change the situation? Dante stretches so far to see into the ditch, he reports, that had he not seized a rock, he would have fallen into the flames (26.43-45). The danger is intellectual arrogance, pride and excessive confidence in one’s cleverness, as Ulysses and Guido da Montefeltro amply illustrate. Dante must have had the opportunity and, so he suggests, the inclination to counsel fraud, but he rejects the Ulysses model for Aeneas, choosing the dutiful wanderer who obeys the Gods and serves the providential destiny of empire over the clever wanderer who pursues his own interests outside the bounds of civilized life. [70]

Pride in his own powers and accomplishments is what dominates the figure of Ulysses in the tradition Dante drew on: his cry to the Cyclops is almost fatal to his ship (Ovid, Metamorphoses, 14); in his debate with Ajax he boasts of his deeds, all feats of persuasion or guile, and gloats that as Ajax is body, he is mind (Metamorphoses, 13). From the Trojan point of view, Ulysses is treacherous (cf. Aeneid 2, Sinon’s story, and 3, the Trojan curse on Ulysses’ land). There is a more sympathetic tradition of Ulysses, the wise man who triumphs over passion and adversity, in Apuleius, Cicero, and Horace, but that view is not reflected in the Comedy. The selfish desire to increase his own knowledge when it can serve no social purpose moves Ulysses to abandon all his social responsibilities, public and private, to abandon his father, his son, and his wife, to leave his land without its lord, all to experience “human vice and valor,” in a “land without people” (26.99,117) at an age when men are supposed to share the fruits of their experience with others, as Dante asserts in the Convivio. What is the point of more experience now except to indulge his curiosity? Dante believes in the tremendous desire to know, as he reveals in the Convivio, but knowledge must serve a purpose, religious or social or both. Ulysses pursues knowledge that serves neither, so instead of guiding his country to virtue, he leads his boatload of old and tired followers to destruction in sight of the mountain of Purgatory. It is the highest mountain ever seen (26.133-35), an achievement he still takes pride in, but it can only be reached in humility and awareness of sin. What is punished in his flame is pride of intellect that has been turned to antisocial purposes, first to the deception of others on a grand scale and then to rejection of duty to family and homeland.

Guido da Montefeltro also has enormous pride of intellect and accomplishment: ” I knew all the maneuvers and secret ways and practiced them so well that the report reached the ends of the earth” (27.76-78). But he also turns his gifts to the wrong purposes. After a successful military career, he retired late in life (at the age when “one should draw in the sails” (27.81), he says, showing that he meant to avoid Ulysses’ error) to repent his sins in a monastery, but he could not resist the temptation to do once more what he did so well. He is so sure of himself that he cannot imagine himself being fooled, and yet, because he is so eager to exercise his ability, he allows himself to be duped and destroyed. He blames the pope for luring him out of the cloister, saying his plan for salvation would otherwise have worked. But he knew all along what sort the pope was (27.85-99); he knew he was making war not on infidels but on Christians, and right at Rome, that he had no respect for his office or sacred orders or vows, that he suffered a “proud fever,” and his words were “drunken.” The rhyme words lebbre, febbre, ebbre (“leprosy,” “fever,” “drunken”) emphasize the corrupt, diseased nature of his thought. Guido had ample reason to distrust the pope, having engaged in battles against the church all his life (according to the Ottimo, 1.462). The early commentators on this passage mince no words about Boniface, Pietro calling him “the prince of hypocritical clerics” (240), Guido da Pisa, “depraved by a perverted conscience and exalted by arrogant pride” (559), and Benvenuto “a great tyrant among priests” (2.298). Boniface acts here as a tyrant, and men do not have to obey tyrants, particularly in sinful acts; Pietro says the pope ought not to have ordered Guido to sin nor he to do it, noting that even the pope is subject to divine law (241). Romagna has always been plagued with tyrants and their wars, Dante says, and the commentators support him (the Ottimo, 1.461, Benvenuto, 2.305), laying much of the blame on the greed and intrigues of the popes. The Ottimo comments that canto 26 deals with the deceptions of laymen, canto 27 is concerned with the deceptions of the clergy (1.457). It is, of course, precisely what Guido advises the pope to do to his enemy–make a promise he will not keep– that the pope does to him, and, like the inventor who was burned in his own machine, it is only just that Guido should be so deceived.[71]

The lesson here is for those who give aid and counsel to tyrants, that they cannot protect themselves. But this is not a simple case of the deceiver deceived; Guido’s advice enabled the pope to take the enemy stronghold, which he then destroyed. For that destruction Guido must bear some responsibility, just as Ulysses bears responsibility for the consequences of his cleverness. According to Dante’s Virgil, Ulysses suffers in the flame because of the wooden horse, the betrayal of Achilles, and the theft of the Palladium (26.58-63), deeds that deceived and finally destroyed a nation, betrayed a friend, and desecrated a temple. Ironically, the horse, as Virgil points out, was the gate from which the noble seed of the Romans issued (26.59-60), who were to eclipse the Greeks, making the victory Ulysses takes pride in a temporary one and making him an instrument of his enemies’ triumphant destiny. The social consequences of the kind of deception Guido and Ulysses advise cannot be calculated or controlled by the counsellor, however clever he is, but his guilt must be determined on the basis of those consequences. One modern scholar suggests a connection between the wooden horse at Troy and the secret reentry of Corso Donati’s forces into Florence with the collusion of Boniface and Charles of Valois; he also notes that it was the taking of the Colonna stronghold, which Guido advises, that removed the last serious enemy to Boniface’s legitimacy.[72]

That Dante intends Florence to see an immediate threat to itself from deceptive political practices is evident from the beginning of the section, when the poet connects the divided flames of the souls with the funeral pyre of Eteocles and Polynices, the brothers who caused the war at Thebes by greed, deception, and betrayal. The flame of their pyre divided because even after death their hatred was intense, a fit symbol of the struggles that now divide Italian cities. Dante forecasts similar trouble for Florence from Prato, assumed by early commentators to be a reference to the neighboring city, Florence’s daughter, which wants her to fall because of her iniquity or out of envy of her wealth and power (Guido, 517, the Ottimo, 1.442, Benvenuto, 2.261). Benvenuto also identifies Prato with the cardinal, Niccola da Prato, who was sent to Florence in 1303 to reconcile warring factions; he failed and laid the city under interdict, after which there were various disasters, including civil war and fire (2.262-63). Pietro mentions the destruction of cities by fire in connection with the flame of the souls, saying that a city can be destroyed by one word, or one counsel, as it can be by fire (231).

The effects of evil counsel in the ninth section of fraud are even more direct and widespread: divisions in church and state. The enormity and horror of the sin is suggested by Dante’s allusions at the beginning of the canto to the suffering in wars.[73] Those who cause them, like the souls in the previous canto, take pride in their accomplishments, but they acted not simply out of pride, but out of calculated malice. These souls are eager to identify themselves and their actions to Dante. The poet Bertran de Born, the supreme Provencal poet of war,[74] and Mohammed, the greatest schismatic in Christendom, according to popular belief,[75] define the sin and the simple, straightforward justice of its punishment: as they severed the body of human institutions, so their bodies are now hacked apart by a devil’s sword:

MOHAMMED:

seminator di scandalo e di scisma fuor vivi, e pero son fessi cosi

disseminators of scandal and schism they were in life, therefore they are so rent.

(28.35-36)

BERTRAN:

Perch’io parti’ cosi giunte persone partito porto il mio cerebro,lasso! dal suo principio ch’e in questo troncone. Cosi s’osserva in me lo contrapasso.

Because I separated persons so joined, I carry my brain separated, alas! from its source, which is in this trunk. So one can see in me the retribution.

(28.139-42)

The souls Dante meets in this section, which is concerned with serious divisions in the major institutions ordained for life on earth, represent all those most responsible for guiding men in that life, religious leaders, political figures, and poets. It includes Mohammed, who supposedly split the Moslems off from Christianity, and his son-in-law, who continues the work by creating sects within Islam; Curio, who encouraged Caesar to cross the Rubicon, splitting republican Rome and causing civil war, which Dante sees as a crime against the official government, even though it led to the empire; Mosca, who instigated the murder that began the Guelph-Ghibelline feud in Florence, about whom Dante had asked Ciacco in canto 6; and Pier da Medicina, who fomented discord among nobles from which he reaped the benefits, who now warns truthfully of betrayal and murder, too late to be of any use, but not too late to incite to revenge. The single poet is Bertran de Born, who not only encouraged nobles to fight wherever he could, for self-serving reasons, but also incited members of Henry II’s family against each other and their father. He is proud of what he did, comparing himself favorably with the biblical Achitophel and boasting of his wounds. Because he so severely failed in the poet’s responsibility to guide men and betrayed his gift of language, he now carries his head in his hand like a lantern, which lights the way for no one; in contrast, Statius will describe Virgil as holding a light behind to help others see (Pg. 22.68-69). Dante admired Bertran’s talent, praising his poetry in the Convivio and De vulgari eloquentia, but must condemn him here because of the political consequences of his words, and because he, who could use his poetic gift to the same ends, must dissociate himself from such examples.

Throughout the circle of fraud, Dante presents souls who undermined the institutions of church and state by destroying the trust and denying the love and justice on which they must be based. In the tenth and final section of fraud, he groups those who falsify the basic elements of social and political life: alchemists, who change the natural elements of the universe; impersonators, who take on the identity of others; counterfeiters and liars, who falsify the fundamental elements of exchange and communication–coins and words. Counterfeiting is even worse than tampering with the elements, because it threatens political stability directly.[76] The last scene in the circle of fraud is, fittingly, a violent exchange of fists and words between the liar, Sinon, whose false words helped to destroy Troy, the future Rome, and the counterfeiter, Adam, whose fake florins caused severe economic and political problems for Florence, the would-be Rome.

Fraud is the most complex circle of Hell in its structure and substance, the deception and manipulation of others in a variety of ways. But the last circle of Hell, treachery, is a far worse sin because of the objects of deception, those to whom one is bound by special ties, although it is much simpler in its conception. It is one sin, divided according to the relation between the sinner and his victim, a sin of conscious commitment in a much more intense way than any of the others because here one must not only conceive the betrayal, one must decide to deny the special loyalty that binds one to the object. There are four categories of traitors: betrayers of family, of nation, of guest, and of benefactor, all special bonds on which the stability of any society must depend. The Ottimo calls benefactors “those who give being as to worldly status” (1.530), a kind of surrogate parent. For contemporary readers, benefactor seems to mean “lord,” dominus, a political more than a personal connection (Guido, 676, Benvenuto, 2.489, and the Ottimo, 1.545, who says that both the last sections of Hell involve the breaking of the dominicale fidanza that a lord has in his subjects). One might expect either betrayal of family, because it is the archetypal sin against another, or betrayal of nation, because of the number of victims, to be the worst, but instead it is the betrayal of an obligation one has willingly assumed, a breaking of an implicit contract, on one side to protect, on the other to be grateful. These relations are the quintessential social relations and cannot be denied without destroying society itself.

There are political overtones in all the regions of the ninth circle: several of the souls in the first section, Caina, murdered their relatives to take over their lands and powers; the second section, Antenora, is made up entirely of political traitors;[77] Tolomea is named for and inhabited by souls who betrayed guests for political reasons; and of the three souls in the Giudecca, two assassinated the first Roman emperor. Antenora is named for the Trojan who, like Ulysses, was involved in the theft of the Palladium and the deception of the wooden horse, but against his own country; in it, Dante encounters a traitor to Florence, involved in the shameful defeat at Montaperti, and pulls his hair out, participating not only as an offended Florentine, but also as an instrument of divine vengeance.[78] Tolomea is so named either for the son of the high priest in 1 Maccabees 16, who killed his guest, a public official traveling to keep the country in order, or for the king of Egypt, brother of Cleopatra, who had Pompey killed, or for both; this name has meaning for the histories of both chosen nations, Rome and Israel. Perhaps implicit in the ambiguity of the name is the confusion between church and state, the interference of the church in secular affairs, which so troubles Dante in his own period, and which is reflected in the presence of the archbishop Ruggieri and of Fra Alberigo in this section. The souls here are those who have killed their guests (one cannot overstress the sanctity of hospitality in the Middle Ages), but the deed is particularly offensive to Dante when the motivation is political, as it is in every case he mentions. Indeed, Dante is moved by the souls he sees not to sympathy for them but to attacks on their cities, Pisa in 33.[79] and the Genovese in 33.151, as if the whole city were tainted by the sin.

The impulse to betray is so strong that it continues even in Hell; there is always one who will name his “brothers,” and Dante quickly learns to play them against each other in order to find out what he wants to know, to betray in his turn. This is, of course, the fruit of betrayal: it draws others into the sin so that, almost inevitably, the betrayer is betrayed. When the Florentine traitor refuses to give his name, another soul identifies him; the first, in fury, names not only the one who gave him away, but a host of others, as if their shame somehow lessened his. One soul gnaws on the skull of his enemy, the-hatred so strong that it impels him to devour even what has no substance. 79 Dante goes out of his way to shock the audience with the last souls he sees before he reaches Satan, because he wants to impress on us the lessons he draws from them: Ugolino gnaws on Ruggieri’s skull, Fra Alberigo is in Hell although his body is still alive on earth. Ugolino’s story, the last extended comment by a soul in Hell, is reminiscent in many ways of the first told by Francesca in canto 5.[80] By the echoes in these two stories from the beginning and end of Hell, Dante is saying that the selfish impulse which moves all sinners, the satisfaction of the sinner’s desires with no thought to the consequences for anyone else, is the same. It is destructive to the self and to others, whether it consumes them literally, as in Ugolino’s case, or figuratively, as in Francesca’s; it is passion which devours them and their partners, who are also their victims. Sin is finally, after all the intricate distinctions Dante has made through the cantica, selfishness, the indulgence of the self at the expense of all other obligations, and therefore, by definition, antisocial. That is why it is possible to consider, even for a moment, that Ugolino may have tried to feed on his sons. Dante’s view of treachery is that a man who can commit it is no longer human. Ugolino says he could not weep when he found himself locked in the tower because he had turned to stone inside (33.49), but he was stone long before, when he committed his own acts of betrayal, a point Dante makes most forcefully through Fra Alberigo. His soul is in Hell, but his body remains on earth, inhabited by a demon, a particular “vantaggio,” “privilege,” of this section: as soon as an act of treachery is committed against a guest, the soul goes to Hell. In other words, the soul that commits such an act is already damned, incapable of moral judgment as it is incapable of feeling. Dante is making a startling point about this kind of treachery;[81] but he is also calling attention to the main lesson of this cantica, that we create hell by allowing ourselves to be dominated by these impulses. Once we give in to them, our feelings are dead; the lake of the heart becomes the frozen lake of Cocytus, with pure evil–Satan–at its core.

Around the outer limits of the ninth circle stand four giants who, at a distance, appear to Dante to be towers. Dante’s first view of the city of Dis, as of any medieval city, was its towers; here at its center we see the corrupt city for what it really is, not a city at all, but an anarchic mass, devoid of all human feeling, frozen in a lake of ice, guarded by naked, mostly mindless force.[82] Perhaps because they are seen as towers, the giants are meant to suggest the pride of the magnates. Benvenuto says that a high tower figures pride, that the giants are proud rulers who presume against God and subject men to their own will, mentioning in this connection that the giant at the end of Purgatory represents the king of France (2.457-58). Pietro suggests that the giants signify earthly powers, bound and reduced to impotence by God (263). The first giant Dante sees here is Nembrot, who built the tower of Babel to reach heaven, leading to the confusion of tongues, the destruction of communication among different peoples; his pride harmed not only his own, but all peoples. The rest are classical figures who were involved in rebellion against the gods, and Antaeus, who fought the Christ figure, Hercules. With the giants around the edge and Satan at the center of the circle, it is rebellion against the highest ruler, God, and betrayal of the Creator that dominates the circle, the ultimate treachery and the supreme arrogance committed by the highest classes of creature, angels and giants, those just beneath the divine in the hierarchy.

At the center of the corrupt city, Dante sees its lord literally consuming his subjects, but otherwise impotent, imprisoned in the corruption he has helped create.[83] The Satan Dante sees is a perverted reflection of the God he aspired to be, three heads, with the three traitors in his mouths. All of them betrayed their greatest benefactor, and all of them betrayed God, either in himself, as Satan did, in his human form (Christ), as Judas did, or in his vicar (the emperor), as Brutus and Cassius did. Brutus and Cassius had both fought with Pompey on the side of the Roman republic; both had been pardoned by Caesar and given high office, which they accepted, and yet they plotted and carried out his murder. Dante makes an important distinction between Cato, whom he places in Purgatory because he fought Caesar as an enemy of the Roman state but remained true to his principles, and Brutus and Cassius, who changed sides and whose allegiance should have been to the empire once it was established as well as to the emperor who had befriended them. The objects of betrayal in the final section of Hell are universal benefactors: God, who bestowed creation on all creatures, Christ, who died to redeem mankind, and the founder of the empire, which exists to restore mankind to paradise. In sinning against any of them, the implication is, we commit the worst of all sins and ultimately betray ourselves.

Dante shows, through the cantica of Hell, that we choose in our acts to inhabit the city of Hell, to turn our own city into Hell. He reminds us that Hell is a city as he enters the last circle, when he asks the muses to aid him, as they aided Amphyon to enclose Thebes (32.11), an allusion to the creation of a city by eloquence.[84] Dante has also created such a city, modeled on his own city, Florence, which, like Thebes, is destroying itself by its selfishness and total lack of moral order. Benvenuto goes into lengthy detail towards the end of his commentary on Hell to show the reader how the city of Hell reflects the earthly city:

Considera ergo quod sicut imperator, rex vel dominus stat in medio civitatis, ita Lucifer stat in centro istius civitatis; et sicut apud regem stant nobiles et magnates, qui sunt sibi magis familiares et amici, ita de prope Luciferum stant isti proditores sub umbra alarum eius; et sicut circa palatium, ad portas et in platea stant custodes, ita hic in circuitu circa lacum stant gigantes magni et fortes, tamquam satellites et stipatores deputati ad custodiam tanti regis, per quorum manus omnes transeunt ad curiam eius. Et sicut postea in tota terra per diversos vicos et contratas stant cives, mercatores et artistae, ita in tota ista civitate sunt fraudulenti et violenti per diversas bulgias et circulos; quia in omni contrata inveniuntur diversae fraudes mercatorum et artistarum, et ita diversae violentiae divitum et nobilium, qui nituntur suppeditare alios quantum possunt; et sicut in suburbiis civitatis stant rustici, viles et incogniti, ita hic extra civitatem fortem et muratam stant incontinentes; et sicut communiter extra civitatem est flumen per quod transitur ad civitatem, ita hic est Acheron magnus fluvius per quem transitur ad istam civitatem maximam omnium, quae continet in se magnam partem civium omnium civitatum mundi. Et sicut longe a civitate stant strenui et bellatores in campis qui gerunt bella, et philosophi et heremitae qui speculantur in solitudine; ita hic in campo herboso et amoeno stant viri illustres, philosophi et poetae separati ab omni turba confusa aliorum gloriosi . . .

Consider that, just as an emperor, king, or lord is at the middle of his city, so Lucifer is at the center of this city; and just as there are nobles and magnates with the king, who are his servants and friends, so near Lucifer are the traitors, beneath the shadow of his wings; and as at the gates and in the courtyard of the palace there are guards, so here around the lake are great and strong giants, like attendants assigned to care for the king, through whose hands all must pass to enter his court. And just as in the whole land, in different villages and towns, there are citizens, merchants, artisans, so in this whole city, there are the fraudulent and violent in different sections and circles; for in every town different frauds of merchants and artisans are found, just so different kinds of violence by the rich and noble, who strive to be supplied by others as much as they can; and just as in the suburbs of cities there are peasants, common and unknown, so here outside the strong walled city are the incontinent; and as there is usually a river outside the city by which one crosses into the city, so here is the great river Acheron by which one crosses to this greatest city of all which contains in itself the great part of the citizens of all the cities of the world. And just as the strong warriors who wage war in the fields, and philosophers and hermits who speculate in solitude are far from the city, so here in the lovely green field are the illustrious men, glorious philosophers and poets…. (2.56162)

The political side of Dante’s message was clearly not foreign to contemporary readers. But the message of Hell is not unrelievedly negative. At the end, Dante tells us that Satan’s fall caused the mountain of Purgatory to rise on the other side of the earth; that is, he helped establish the place of man’s restoration even before he tempted man to fall. Just as his body provides Dante and Virgil the means of beginning their climb out of Hell, so his fall provides for mankind the place to climb from the sinful state to salvation.[85] The knowledge of evil in the self and the state, which Dante has described in such detail in Hell, should provide the means to begin the move towards a new self and a new society, which Dante begins in Purgatory and completes in Paradise. THE PROPER FUNCTlONING of the empire on earth depends not only on its relations with individual cities and kingdoms, but also on its relations with the papacy. The jurisdictional dispute between secular and ecclesiastical authority, the third and certainly the most controversial question Dante takes up in the Monarchy, also permeates the Comedy. He deals with it directly in Marco Lombardo’s discourse on the two suns (Pg. 16) and in the various attacks on the Donation of Constantine, and indirectly in his own frequent and clear denial of any but a spiritual and didactic function to the church and in his unrelenting criticism of the greed, corruption, and abuse of their position by individual popes and churchmen. In the Monarchy, Dante deals with the questions theoretically; in the Comedy, he confronts them more practically. The emperor is the only figure who can keep peace on earth because only he is not vulnerable to greed (Monarchy, 1.11); greed for money and power is the dominant characteristic of the churchmen in the Comedy. Christ told his disciples his kingdom was not of this world, that they were not to possess gold and silver (cited in Monarchy, 3.10.14), but churchmen in the Comedy pursue little else. The nature of the church is its form, and its form is the life of Christ, sacrifice, teaching, good example (Monarchy, 3.15), a life which in the Comedy is eschewed by all but the early popes and martyrs and a handful of later reforming saints, all men who avoided worldly power and possession. The Monarchy ends with the statement of man’s two goals, befitting his two natures: the earthly paradise, to which he is led by the emperor through reason, philosophy, and morality, and the heavenly paradise, to which he is guided by the church through faith and spiritual teaching. In the Comedy, Dante is led to the Earthly Paradise by Virgil, the poet of empire, who glorifies the empire’s meaning and history, and to heaven by Beatrice, the figure of theology, the faith on which the church is based. Both Dante’s guides are surrogates for the malfunctioning organs of empire and church which they represent, and which Dante comes to represent when he is crowned in the Earthly Paradise.

The major moral obstacle to achieving the perfect state is greed for wealth and power; the major political obstacle is the papacy. The church interfered in local and international politics and asserted its right to do so on the basis of Scripture and canon law. Papal jurisdiction in temporal affairs was opposed by both monarchists and imperialists, but the former dominated the debates in the thirteenth century. The most interesting material and the largest volume in the church-state controversy during this period was produced by the struggle between Pope Boniface VIII and the French king Philip IV. Giles of Rome wrote on both sides of the issue in different periods; John of Paris, James of Viterbo, a series of clever but anonymous pamphleteers, and a virtual army of skilled and learned canonists took part in it (see introduction). The basic arguments for and against papal supremacy are similar; monarchists differ from imperialists mainly in their assertion of the independence or autonomy of individual states. When Dante draws on the monarchist arguments, he turns them to the support of the empire; in the Comedy, he condemns the French royal house almost as severely as he does the papacy because it offers the most powerful secular opposition to the empire outside Italy.

Boniface, who brought the conflict to a head, is an important figure in Dante’s Hell, although he does not appear as a character in it. Dante had personal as well as philosophical reasons to condemn him, which he does by assigning him a place in Hell, although he is not yet dead in 1300 when the journey is supposed to be taking place. Boniface’s role in Italian, particularly Florentine, politics and in Dante’s own exile, along with his extreme position on papal supremacy, would be enough to explain Dante’s animosity towards him.[01] But Boniface inspired the same kind of fierce hostility in much larger circles during his lifetime and for many years after his death, well into the period when Dante was writing the Comedy and long after the French king had effectively gained control of the papacy by the election of French popes and the transfer of the curia to Avignon. It is not surprising that Boniface is a powerful presence in the poem and seems to personify the corruption of the papacy for Dante even though he died years before Dante wrote most of it.

A brief survey of Boniface’s actions and the stories that circulated about him should explain Dante’s presentation of him. The troubles between Philip and Boniface began with jurisdictional clashes of various kinds: Philip imposed taxes on the clergy without first getting papal permission, and the pope, in response, forbad payment (Clericos laicos, l296); the king then stopped all passage of money out of the country, a blow to papal finances. [02] Boniface created a new bishopric separating Palmiers from Toulouse, and the bishop he appointed to it proclaimed that he was subject only to the pope, in temporal as well as spiritual matters, not in any way to the king, whom he went out of his way to insult; eventually the king had him arrested (Dupuy, Histoire du Differend, 197-98, Digard, Philippe le Bel vol. 2, 51 ff.). Boniface produced a series of bulls, some asserting his claims, some retracting them, and the situation was complicated by false bulls and letters circulated in his name, which made more extreme claims and elicited strong responses from the king’s party.[03] It did not help that the king’s party included disaffected Italian cardinals of the Colonna family, old enemies of Boniface whom he had removed from their posts. Perhaps the best known of Boniface’s authentic statements is the bull Unam Sanctam, 1302, claiming a divine hierarchy in which spiritual power excels any earthly power in dignity and nobility and establishing the earthly power; the spiritual power can judge the earthly, whereas only God can judge the spiritual. Anyone who does not accept the pope’s position is a heretic, and it is essential to the salvation of any human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.[04]

Boniface tried to excommunicate Philip at different times. On one occasion, 1301, when no one would publish the decree, the pope complained to a French official: “Nos habemus utramque potestatem” (“We have both powers,” spiritual and temporal); the Frenchman replied “Utique Domine, sed vestra est verbalis, nostra autem realis” (“That may well be, my Lord, but yours is verbal, ours is real,” Dupuy, Histoire du Differend 193, Riviere, Le. Probleme, 121). Boniface tried again, in 1303, to excommunicate Philip and place his subjects under anathema unless they renounced their oaths to the king; but before he could publish the bull, Philip had him captured in a rather blatant display of real power. Boniface’s position as pope was complicated by the fact that questions had been raised about his legitimacy because he had ascended while the previous pope, Celestine V, was alive. If the pope was the bridegroom of the church, there could be no other husband while he lived, divorce being frowned upon even in regard to an institution. The objection, as stated in the records of the hearings held on Boniface after his death, was:

… sicut vir non debet adulterare uxorem suam, ita nec Episcopus Ecclesiam suam, id est. ut illam dimittat ad quam consecratus est; et sicut uxori non licet dimittere virum suum, ita ut alteri se vivente eo, matrimonio societ, aut eum adulteret, licet fornicator sit vir eius; … absit enim quod Romano Pontifice vivente alter possit eligi: iam enim Ecclesia non esset una unius, sed una plurium; … non esset formosa et electa, sed deformis et monstruosa, dum in uno corpore Ecclesiae duo capita forent, quod esset omnino monstruosum, ridiculosum et absurdum.

. . . just as a man should not defile his wife, so the bishop should not defile his church, that is, put away her to whom he was consecrated; and as it is not permitted to a wife to put away her husband, so that she might join in matrimony with another while he is still living, even if her husband is a fornicator, . . . it is not fitting that while the Roman pontiff is alive, another be chosen: for then the church would not be one of one but one of many; . .. it would not be beautiful and elect, but deformed and monstrous, while there were two heads in the one body of the church, which would be in every way monstrous, ridiculous and absurd. (Dupuy, Histoire du Differend, 449)

There are a number of interesting points in this passage besides the marriage imagery: (1) the husband as fornicator, compare the Ottimo’s commentary on Purgatory 32, calling Boniface the lover (drudo) of the curia, not her legitimate spouse 2.576-77;[05] (2) the two-headed monster, an image the church often used to support its own claims to supreme power in Christendom, which Dante turns around in the Comedy (see below); and (3) the separation of a bishop from his diocese, a touchy point, since Boniface was himself criticized for abusing the practice.[06] It did not help matters that Boniface was popularly believed to have tricked Celestine into renouncing the papacy and retiring to a monastery. A contemporary Italian chronicle claims that Boniface had a tube inserted in the wall of the former pope’s bedroom, which he spoke through for three nights, pretending to be the angel of God and telling Celestine to renounce his position.[07] When he did, Boniface had him imprisoned in a monastery in case he should change his mind–or get a different message–until he died. Thus, Boniface’s papacy was tainted from the beginning. When Boniface died, chronicles report, he fulfilled the prophecy that he came to power like a fox, he would rule like a lion, but die like a dog.[08]

While he reigned, Boniface was accused of almost every imaginable vice; the attacks range from plays on his name to criminal allegations. Guillaume de Nogaret, one of Philip’s advisers who was to play an important role throughout the conflict, publicly called Boniface a master of lies even in his name: “faciens se, cum sit omnifarie maleficus, Bonifacium nominari et sic nomen falsum sibi assumpsit,” “though a malefactor in every way, he took on a false name and had himself called Boniface.”[09] An official act, made in the presence of king and court by several nobles, accused Boniface of various heresies and blasphemies, of fornication, simony, idolatry, demon-worship, war-mongering, sodomy, assassination, violation of the confessional, political intrigue, embezzlement of crusade funds, and of saying he would rather be a dog or an ass than a Frenchman. The point of the last accusation was to show that he did not believe the French had souls, though it sounds more like the outburst of a strong temper. The same accusations were made for years after his death. Philip threatened to have him tried for heresy as a means both of controlling subsequent popes and of blackmailing them to dissolve the Templars, and Philip compelled the church to hear witnesses and take depositions against Boniface for eight years after his death. It is a curious irony, and one that must have appealed to Dante, that Boniface is a presence throughout the Comedy, although he cannot actually appear in it because, according to the fiction, he is still alive, just as he was a constant presence in the hearings against him, though he could not appear at them because he was already dead.

Boniface was posthumously accused of the same variety of sins: of fornication and sodomy with specific partners (Dupuy, Histoire du Differend, 527, 539-41), of political intrigues, particularly against the Ghibellines. When told that the church in which a group of Ghibellines was taking refuge had not been destroyed because it contained the bones of saints who would be angry when the resurrection came, the pope said: “You’re trying to do penance before you sin–destroy the church and don’t worry about them, they’ll no more rise from the dead than my horse that died yesterday” (Dupuy, 543). This story must remind readers of the Comedy of Hell 27: after Boniface tricks Guido into sinning by promising absolution, a devil comes for Guido’s soul and points out that one cannot be absolved who does not repent, and one cannot repent and will at the same time (27.118-19). The situation is reversed here, but the words are similar and both incidents reveal the abuse of religious belief to lead others into sin for political advantage. The most persistent accusations against Boniface are those of blasphemy and heretical beliefs: that he denied the resurrection; that he disparaged the Eucharist as “no more Christ’s body than I am,” “it’s only dough” (“immo pasta est”), and Christ’s mother, “no more a virgin than my mother was” (Dupuy, 538).

Whether there is any truth to these charges, they indicate the scope and persistence of the tradition of Boniface as an archvillain. The same view is to be found in early commentaries on the Comedy: Pietro, Dante’s son, calls Boniface “princeps clericorum hypocritarum,” “the prince of hypocritical clerics” (240); Guido describes him as “perversa conscientia depravatus et arroganti superbia elevatus,” “depraved by a perverted conscience and exalted by arrogant pride” (559). The Ottimo misses no opportunity to pass on rumors about him: on Hell 3, he remarks that Boniface deceived Celestine with tricks; on canto 19, that he got his position by simony, that he sold church positions or bestowed them on unworthy relatives, and that he corrupted cardinals with money, gifts, or promises; on 27, speaking of the war between Boniface and the Colonnesi, the Ottimo tells a gratuitous story about Boniface’s nephew, sick for love of a woman. Boniface invited the woman to a banquet, had her seated before a door so that during the dinner she could be pulled into another room, where his nephew was waiting to rape her (1.468). On Purgatory 16, discussing the separation of powers, the Ottimo says that Boniface crowned himself and girded on the sword, and made himself emperor, “e fecesi egli stesso imperador” (2.291); on canto 20, he mentions that Boniface excommunicated Philip over the see of Palmiers; on 32, in connection with the corrupt curia, he notes that Dante had had experience of it in the time of Boniface when he went there as ambassador for his commune, and that he calls Boniface the lover, not the legitimate husband, of the church (2.577). On Paradise 9, he explains that the prophecy that Rome will soon “be freed of the adultery” refers to Boniface, who came to the pontificate by simony and deception; on 17, he describes Boniface’s intrigues with Corso Donati, and finally, on canto 27, we are told that Peter’s indignation at his place being usurped refers again to Boniface, elected by simony and deception. It is clear from the Ottimo’s frequent remarks, as well as from the French records, that Dante’s view of Boniface as the corrupt pope is a popular contemporary view.

The papacy, even after Boniface, was at a low point while Dante was writing the Comedy. Popes had allowed themselves to be removed, with the curia, from the traditional seat of the church at Rome to Avignon, where the French Monarchy could exert a powerful influence. Clement V undermined the empire by withdrawing his support from Henry Vll and refusing to crown him at St. Peter’s, at Philip’s insistence; he further undermined it after Henry’s death by claiming that the emperor swore fealty to the papacy (Romani Principes) and that the pope could assume power in the empire when it was vacant (Pastoralis cura). But he also contributed to the decline of the papacy by giving in on the Templars and exempting the French Monarchy from Unam Sanctam (in Meruit).[10] Popes had made extravagant claims and practiced continual intrigues. They were perceived by their enemies as greedy, petty men, leading the church in the wrong direction and giving a bad example to the Christians they were supposed to guide, and that is how Dante portrays them in the Comedy, where their corruption is condemned from the beginning of Hell to the summit of Paradise. A pope is included among the first souls Dante sees in Hell, because he rejected the task God set for him, but probably also because his abdication left the way open for Boniface.[11] In the circle of gluttony, a reference is made to the political intrigues of the pope (Boniface) in Florence, when he pretended to favor peace but really encouraged one party against the other. In greed, all the condemned souls Dante notices are clerics, among them popes and cardinals, their greed set in direct opposition to God’s will as manifest by Fortune, who disposes wealth and power according to a divine plan. The canto begins with the guardian monster shouting “Pape Satan, pape Satan,” probably suggesting “Pope Satan.”[12] Among the heretics, there is a cardinal and a pope, Anastasius, who either was led into heresy by his deacon, or led him; the Italian is purposely ambiguous: “lo qual trasse Fotin de la via dritta”) Hell 11.9: “whom Photinus drew away from the right road” or “who drew Photinus from the right way”) and either meaning is shocking, since it is the pope’s responsibility to protect the faithful from heresy. In any case, the pope presents a striking contrast to Virgil, who delivers a lecture on the categories of sin to Dante later in the same canto. The poet, as so often in the Comedy, provides the guidance the church fails to give.

Among the sodomites (homosexuals) in Hell, there are several clerics and a bishop who was “transferred” by the pope (Boniface ):

. . . dal servo dei servi fu trasmutato d’Arno in Bacchiglione dove lascio li mal protesi nervi

. . . by the servant of servants he was transferred from Arno to Bacchiglione where he left his badly stretched nerves.

(15.112-14)

The word trasmutato combined with mal protesi nervi suggests that the pope seduced him; Boniface was often accused of the sin (cf. Jacopo, 1.286). The circle of simony, graft within the church, is, of course, dominated by popes, who commit adultery with the “bride of Christ,” who prostitute her for their own greed; Boniface is awaited in this section. The hypocrites are clothed in heavy lead cloaks in the style of the monks of Cluny, a faticoso manto meant to remind us of the papacy, since manto is associated with the papacy through the Comedy.[13] Finally, the fraudulent counsellor, Guido da Montefeltro, tells Dante that it was a pope who tricked him into committing his sin one last time and, worse yet, into thinking he had been absolved of the sin before he committed it, so that he died technically unrepentant. Thus the pope, Boniface again, not only leads him into sin, but directly into damnation. Boniface, and with him the papacy, emerges from the Inferno as a malevolent spirit, inducing others into all kinds of sins and creating disorder all around.

Even in Purgatory we are reminded of Boniface, though less critically: in connection with the indulgences offered to souls during the Jubilee he proclaimed (Pg. 2.98-99) and in the midst of a catalogue of the sins of the French king, who “captured Christ in his vicar” (20.86-90).[14] It is, of course, ironic that the only way Boniface imitated Christ was in suffering an attack he had brought on himself. It is also worth noting that the only one in the Comedy to call the pope the vicar of Christ is an ancestor of the French king, the other serious obstacle to the empire. But near the end of Paradise, Dante brings us back to the infernal view of Boniface and sets him forever in his place: Beatrice, pointing out the seat reserved for the emperor Henry in the heavenly rose, tells Dante that Henry will be opposed by a pope (Clement V) who will be thrust into the circle of simony, pushing “quel d’Alagna” (Boniface) further down into the hole (30.148); since this is the last line of the canto, it is particularly emphatic.[15]

Along with the condemnation of individuals, there are possible allegorical allusions to the church in Hell: one is the Veglio di Creta, the statue drawn from Daniel, which the Ottimo glosses as representing the ages of the world, with the leg of clay representing the current age of the church all intent on worldly delights, and the foot of clay the seventh age, those completely given over to greed; he also mentions the great worldly possessions of the church beginning with the gift of Constantine, which he considers the source of temporal cupidity in the church (1.275-76).[16] Pier della Vigna may also stand for the corrupt papacy, but this will be discussed later in this chapter; Ulysses as pilot taking his boat on a disastrous journey has been connected with the corrupt church.[17] Since the church in Purgatory is represented by angels, the devils in Hell may well represent corrupt churchmen; in canto 18 they direct the traffic of Hell, as the church did Rome’s during the Jubilee, and in canto 34, the last view of Lucifer’s legs, upside down, recalls the popes’ feet in the circle of simony. That the living body of a friar, Frate Alberigo, is inhabited by a demon because his soul is already in Hell, reinforces this interpretation. If these analogies are correct, the devils, the “black angels” (23.131), in the circle of barratry represent the clergy who manipulate politicians and throw them into the pitch; indeed, the scene between Dante and Virgil and the devil Malacoda reminds Benvenuto of his own experience at the papal court of Urban at Avignon (2.118).

In Purgatory, Dante allows the church a positive function through the recognition of the sacraments and religious ritual, but he carefully divests it of human features which might suggest actual churchmen. The whole rock of Purgatory may well represent the church, which Christ founded on “the rock,” Peter (Matt. 16:18).[18] Dante is baptized before he begins to climb it, and makes two confessions as he passes through it; the whole realm is filled with hymns, with biblical examples, didactic sculpture, even sermons, and it ends with the procession of the books of the Bible and the drama of church history. The permanent residents of Purgatory, however, are not churchmen but angels; they carry the symbols associated with the papacy, Peter’s keys and the swords, but they are pure spirit. There can be no question of their being lured into the temporal realm. Pietro Alighieri clearly identifies the angel at the gate of Purgatory as a “figure” of a priest (361), as does Benvenuto (3.263), and Statius, within the poem, calls him “il vicario di Pietro” (Pg. 21.5); Jacopo della Lana says the keys represent the power to loose and bind, which is held by ministers of the church in the world. Apart from the angels, there is only Cato at the bottom and Matelda at the top, a pagan hero (who committed suicide) and a woman, neither one a traditional churchman, though Matelda served the church’s cause. To some extent, the papacy is vindicated in Purgatory by Dante’s acknowledgment of its power to grant indulgences and to excommunicate, but the latter is qualified by the fact that the effect of excommunication can be modified by the prayers of individuals; that is, the love of laymen outweighs the anger of popes in God’s justice. It does not increase our sense of papal dignity to learn from one of the souls (Manfred) that a pope had his body disinterred and left to the mercy of the elements because he had died excommunicate; we are reminded of this gratuitous violence to a lifeless body when another soul (Bonconte da Montefeltro) tells how his unburied body was attacked by a frustrated devil who was denied possession of the soul. It would be hard to avoid the analogy between the frustrated churchman and the frustrated devil. If the angels represent what the church should be, devils in Hell represent what it has become; like Lucifer, they start higher and therefore fall lower than other creatures.

We are also told several times in Purgatory of popes interfering in political affairs: in canto 6, it is because of them that there is no emperor to enforce the laws; in 16, by taking on temporal authority, “confounding two governments in itself,” the church soils itself and its burden arid deprives the world of the two organs ordained by God to guide it, the empire, which cannot function, and the church, which malfunctions. “Now I understand,” Dante says, all innocence, “why the sons of Levi [the priesthood] were excluded from inheritance” (Pg. 16.131-32). The one pope Dante meets in Purgatory, Hadrian V, in canto 19, is an example of greed corrected, but only when he achieves the height of earthly wealth, the papacy, and learns how little it means.[19] Then he turns to spiritual matters, an ironic instance of the papacy teaching virtue to the pope. In any case, he was pope for only thirty-eight days, enough to save himself, but not to do much for others. Mention is made of one very early pope, Gregory 1, whose prayers helped to save the soul of the emperor Trajan, a rare example of the proper relation of church and state (cf. Sylvester, who cured and converted Constantine, and Agapetus, who saved Justinian from heresy), but the featured story of conversion in Purgatory is that of Statius, who was rescued from sin and pagan beliefs by the words of the pagan poet Virgil (see chapter four).

At the end of Purgatory, in the Earthly Paradise, Dante presents a brief reenactment of the major stages in the history of the church (represented by the chariot), particularly in its relations with secular government. Although the focus in the drama is on the church’s struggle to survive various attacks from religious and secular forces, the message is that the church is corrupted by secular power and wealth, and must be saved ultimately by the empire. The chariot which represents the church is described as more splendid than any which pleased Scipio or Augustus at Rome (29.115-16), or than the sun’s, which was destroyed to save the earth (29.117-18). This moves Benvenuto to remark that Dante exalts the chariot by naming two glorious leaders, one who wondrously rescued the public state from danger, the other who felicitously ordered it (4.197-98). The sun’s chariot refers to Phaethon’s disastrous journey, with the implicit suggestion that the church could be destroyed if its lack of control threatened the safety of the world. In Dante’s letter to the cardinals, he berates them, reminding them of God’s wrath:

Vos equidem, ecclesiae militantis veluti primi praepositi pili, per manifestam orbitam Crucifixi currum Sponsae regere negligentes, non aliter quam falsus auriga Phaeton exorbitastis . . .

But you, who are like the commanders of the first rank of the church militant, neglecting to guide the chariot of the Spouse of the Crucified along the open track, have gone astray no differently than the false charioteer Phaethon…

(Ep. 8.4)

When the chariot is fixed to the tree of divine justice, in which the eagle of empire lives, the tree is renewed, because the church gives new life to divine justice, whose living exponent is the Roman empire. However, when Christ first established the church, the empire was pagan, so the eagle attacks the chariot; later, when the empire becomes Christian, the eagle bestows its feathers on the chariot (the Donation of Constantine), and later still, the chariot is covered with more feathers (new gifts of temporal possession and power from major secular leaders) and becomes a monster with seven heads and ten horns, like the beast of the Apocalypse. The church that was meant to be the spiritual vessel for God’s grace is given life artificially and becomes a dangerous beast. The heads and horns represent the distortion of the Ten Commandments and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (or the seven virtues), the bases for moral life on earth.[20] Once the chariot has become a monster, a whore takes her place on it (the papal curia, which prostitutes the gifts of the church) and dallies with a giant (the king of France, Philip IV), who abuses her when she looks at Dante (the good Christian or the Italian people), and drags her off along with the monster (the removal of the papal court to Avignon). The church that first appeared drawn by Christ and bearing theology (the griffin and Beatrice) has become a monster carrying the corrupt curia and dominated by the king of France.

There is general agreement among the early commentators on most of the imagery in this drama, with minor exceptions: Jacopo identifies the whore with the pope and the giant with the kings of France who raped and adulterated the church and whored with popes (2.388); the Ottimo interprets the giant as Boniface, who was the illicit lover, not the legal husband, of the church (2.577);[21] to Jacopo, Dante represents the Christian people (loc. cit.), to Benvenuto, the Italian people (4.265). Pietro interprets the dragon that rends the chariot, usually identified as a schism, as Anti-Christ, who inflames the cupidity of the pastors of the church for temporal things (528); the Ottimo identifies it with the beast of the Apocalypse (2.574), while Jacopo and Benvenuto connect it with Mohammed. But the major lesson of the drama, the danger to the church when it takes on temporal power or possession or gives itself over to secular domination by the wrong leader, is the same for all of them: when the church works with the empire, it serves the divine purpose; when it invades the temporal sphere, it becomes its victim and loses the ability to perform its divine function.

The attacks on the church for failing to do what it should and for getting into areas it has no business in, continue through Paradise, for the most part put in the mouths of saints whose purity and, presumably, judgment are beyond question.[22] Bonaventure and Thomas Aquinas, Peter Damian and Benedict, all decry the corruption of the modern church in contrast to the poverty and self-sacrifice of the early saints, and all make it clear that the church should not be concerned with worldly goods. Though their attacks are most often directed at their own orders, they also implicate the papacy, either directly or indirectly, as the rotten head from which corruption flows through the body.[23] Bonaventure describes the papacy as the seat that once was kinder to the poor, but is now degenerate, not in itself but in those who hold the office; he tells us that Dominic sought not the church’s wealth, which belongs to the poor, or position, but permission to fight heresy, and that he himself also put temporal cares below spiritual, even when he held high office (Pr. 12.128-29). He and Thomas both lament the corruption of their respective orders, which had been instituted to reform the church, and Thomas indirectly identifies the church with Poverty, by speaking of Poverty as Christ’s widow (11.64 ff.) just after Dante has spoken of the church as Christ’s bride (10.140) and shortly before Bonaventure does (12.43). Benedict also speaks of the decline of his rule in his order and the misuse of church funds that properly belong to the poor; Peter Damian contrasts current luxury (modern pastors whose mantles are so large they cover themselves and their elegant horses, “two beasts under one hide”) with apostolic poverty (Peter and Paul, thin, barefoot, taking food where it was offered, 21.127-34).

But the most striking attack on the church is made by Peter, the first pope, who rages against those who have exploited his face on the “lying privileges” they sell (27.53), and “usurped” his place, now vacant in the eyes of God (27.23-24). According to the fiction of the poem, this vacancy must refer to Boniface, who either had no right to be pope, or who has lost that right by abusing the position, or both. However, to a contemporary audience, it would also suggest the more recent popes, Clement V and John XXII, who failed to support properly elected emperors and claimed authority over the “vacant” empire. Dante turns the tables on them by having Peter declare the papacy vacant.[24] It is left to Peter, the pope on whom so many of the later papal claims to temporal authority were based, to make the strongest anticlerical attack of all. He himself denounces the claims that were made in his name. His speech in Paradise 27 can be read as an answer to Boniface’s Unam Sanctam: both use the imagery of the Song of Songs to describe the church, Boniface calling it “my dove,” Peter, “the bride of Christ,” but Boniface emphasizes the mystical body whose head is Christ, Peter that it was born of the blood of the early martyrs. Boniface stresses the unity of the church, Peter points out that the papacy is dividing Christians. Boniface cites the two swords and “feed my sheep”; Peter rages because popes are making war on other Christians and the shepherds have become rapacious wolves. Boniface claims jurisdiction over the temporal sphere, Peter cries that Christ’s gifts were not made to acquire gold. Boniface cites Peter as the foundation of the church’s power, through the keys to loose and bind, Peter says the keys are being used against Christians. And finally, Boniface claims that there is no salvation without subjection to the Roman Pontiff; Peter, the first Pontiff, ends with a promise of divine aid, of Providence working through secular Rome:

Ma l’alta provedenza, che con Scipio difese a Roma la gloria del mondo, socorra tosto….

But the high Providence, which with Scipio defended the glory of the world at Rome, will soon give aid….

(Pr. 27.61-63)

The language of Boniface’s bull and of Peter’s speech is drawn from traditional papalist material; it has its sources in Bernard of Clairvaux’s De consideratione, his advice to Pope Eugene III, which emphasizes papal responsibility rather than rights, in Giles of Rome’s De ecclesiastica potestate, dedicated to Boniface and supporting his position, in John of Paris’s attack on the papal position, De potestate regia et papali, and echoes in Dante’s Monarchy and political letters. The same images and arguments recur through the Comedy as well.[25]

I would now like to look at some of the major arguments and images from this tradition and show how Dante uses them in the Comedy. Papal claims to power in the temporal sphere were based not only on the interpretation of biblical passages, but also on the supposedly historical document the Donation of Constantine, which purported to give the pope political authority over the city of Rome and the provinces and cities of Italy and the western regions. That it was an eighth- or ninth-century forgery was not known at the time, so the main arguments against it questioned its legal validity, denying that the emperor had a right to diminish the empire and bind later emperors (John 21, Monarchy, 3.10), or tried to limit its scope to Italy or to the city of Rome (“in urbe non tamen in orbe,” Quaestio, 106).[26] In the Comedy, there is a series of attacks on the Donation. In Hell, Dante seems to blame it for the corruption of the later church: “Ah, Constantine, how much evil was born not of your conversion but of that dowry which the first rich father took from you” (Hell 19.115-17); calling it a “dowry” suggests that the pope, unlike Christ, has to be paid to marry the church. The other reference to Constantine in Hell does not mention the Donation, but it would be difficult to miss the connection: when Guido da Montefeltro explains how the pope persuaded him to sin, he says that as Constantine asked Pope Sylvester to cure him of leprosy, so the pope asked Guido to cure him of his fever. The cure effected by Sylvester led to Constantine’s conversion and thus to the Donation. In Guido’s case, the roles are reversed: the pope, playing the emperor’s role, is the afflicted one, with a fever for power or revenge, and he goes to the former political figure, now a monk, for a cure, a plan to undo his enemy. The modern pope is in a sense carrying on the tradition Sylvester began, of operating in the temporal sphere.

In the Earthly Paradise, at the top of Purgatory, the Donation is symbolized by the feathers which the eagle (the Roman empire) drops on the chariot (the church), turning it into a monster while a voice laments from heaven. In Paradise, the emperor Justinian begins a history of the empire and its place in God’s plan with an allusion to Constantine’s mistake: “Poscia che Costantin l’aquila volse/contr’ al corso del ciel,” “after Constantine turned the eagle against the course of heaven.”[27] Justinian himself is an example of the proper relation between pope and emperor, in that a pope, Agapetus, led him back to the true faith and prepared him to undertake the task God intended for him–to reform the laws. Constantine himself appears in the eye of the eagle, aware now of the mistake he made and of the disaster it has brought on the world, although it is not held against him:

ora conosce come il mal dedutto dal suo bene operar non li e nocivo, avvegna che sia il mondo indi distrutto

(Pr. 20.58-60)

These words are spoken by the eagle, which is divine justice working through the empire. Thus heaven condemns the act because it runs counter to providential order.

The church also claimed supremacy in the temporal sphere on the basis of precedence in time: priests, they said, had preceded and even instituted kings, therefore kings were subject to them. The priesthood began with Abel and continued through the patriarchs to Samuel who “made” the first king of the Jews (Giles, De ecclesiastica potestate, 1.6, 3.1). John of Paris argues on the other side that there was no true priesthood before Christ, but there were true kings (De potestate regia et papali, 4), that it is kings who prefigure Christ in the Old Testament (18.26), and their power came directly from God (10); even prelates derive their powers not through the pope but from God, since Christ, not Peter, sent the apostles out (loc. cit.). In the Monarchy, Dante points out that seniority does not determine authority–there are, after all, young bishops with old archdeacons (3.5)–a point that should be considered in connection with the last passage in the Monarchy, where Dante grants that Caesar owes Peter the reverence of a firstborn son to his father (3.16). That does not mean he accepts papal supremacy, as is sometimes claimed, but simply the dignity accorded seniority. Dante calls Samuel, the supposed kingmaker, a messenger, not the vicar of God, one who has no discretion to act on his own, but is merely a tool, a “hammer” (3.6). In the Comedy, Dante emphasizes Jewish kings rather than priests or patriarchs:[28] Solomon, Joshua, David, and Hezekiah, are prominently placed, but the only priest who appears is Nathan, who rebuked David but could not be said to have “made” him and who supported Solomon’s accession; that is, a moral guide and support to kings, not an authority over them. Nathan appears in the same circle with Solomon, who is singled out among all the saints there for great praise, and David is seen in a higher sphere of heaven with Hezekiah. By placing the two Jewish kings, David and Hezekiah, in the eye of the eagle, “the sign that made the Romans revered through the world,” along with the pre-Roman pagan Ripheus, Dante makes it clear that the “Roman” empire in the providential plan is as old as divine justice on earth.

Precedence in time is related to the issue of hierarchy and the supremacy of the spiritual power. The biblical passage usually cited in support of the latter involves the “two swords” (Luke 22:38): when Christ tells the apostles to buy swords, Peter shows him the two he has and Christ says “It is enough.” This passage is open connected with John 18:11: after Peter has cut off Malchus’s ear with his sword, Christ tells him to put it back into its scabbard. Bernard, in De consideratione, tells Pope Eugene to attack with the word, not the sword, and not to usurp the sword he was commanded to sheathe; that is, not to use temporal means or interfere in temporal affairs. Although he says both swords belong to the pope (or else Christ would have said “That’s too much” instead of “That’s enough”), he cautions that only one is to be used by him, the other for him, at the request of the pope but at the command of the emperor (4.7), an important distinction.[29]

Bernard’s emphasis is on discouraging the use of the swords; papalists were later to seize and build on the statement that both swords belonged to the church. Boniface cites it in Unam Sanctam, but adds that since everything in the universe is ordered hierarchically, one sword must be higher than the other. Giles comments that as body is subject to spirit, so is temporal sword to spiritual (De ecclesiastice potestate, 1.7); if earthly powers are subject to ecclesiastical, the temporal things they govern must also be; and with the spiritual sword the pope can cut off the right ear of the sinner, with which he would hear the word of God; that is, excommunicate him (2.5). John of Paris points out that doctors of the church do not interpret the swords as temporal and spiritual power, but as the Old and New Testaments or the word and persecution (De potestate regia et papali, 18.30); even if they are taken to represent the two powers, Peter is told to sheathe the spiritual one so as not to abuse it, and he never touches the other. The Quaestio notes that God ordained two swords for two distinct and different jurisdictions; the material sword is for princes and this was used only once by Peter, when he cut off Malchus’s ear, but he was told to sheathe it (99). Dante, like John, denies the interpretation of the two regimes in the Monarchy; for him, the two swords signify words and deeds to carry out what Christ said he had come to do by the sword. When he told his disciples to buy swords, he intended one each, so when he said “that’s enough,” he meant if they could not have twelve, two would do (3.9). In the Comedy, the angels who perform church functions carry a sword, but only one, and it is the spiritual one; the angel who sits at the gate of Purgatory etches the seven P’s on Dante’s forehead with that sword. The two in the valley of negligent princes carry one sword each, which has been glossed as representing the two equal powers.[30] The temporal sword by itself is mentioned in a passage on the division of powers and the need for a strong secular leader: when the pastoral staff is joined with the sword, both go astray (Pg. 16.109-11).

Boniface applies the meaning of the two swords to another image, the two great lights (luminaria, the sun and the moon), in a discourse welcoming Albert of Austria, whom he was then supporting for emperor: as the moon has no light except from the sun, so earthly power has only what it gets from the spiritual.[31] This is a more powerful image, because the hierarchical relationship is built into it, and it aroused strong reactions: John of Paris again turns to a doctor of the church for a different interpretation, this time to IsiDoré, who equated the sun with the kingdom, the moon with the priesthood (the synagogue) in his gloss on Genesis (De potestate regia et papali, 14.4). Cino da Pistoia reverses the analogy in his Lectura in codicem, making the empire the sun and the papacy the moon.[32] But even if one accepted the papal analogy, John points out, the moon has a virtue of its own by which it can cause wet and cold, the opposite of the sun, so although a prince may take instruction from the pope and church on the faith, he has his own power direct from God (cf. Quaestio, 96). Dante, almost impatiently, notes the problems of interpreting Scripture, and warns that it is a crime to pervert the intentions of the Holy Spirit. The sun and the moon were created before man, he points out; if man had not fallen, he would not have needed the church and state, so God cannot have intended that meaning by them–he would be a stupid doctor indeed who prepared a plaster for an abscess on a person not yet born (Monarchy, 3.4). Nonetheless, like John, he assumes that some will refuse to reject the analogy; to them he says that the moon has its own powers and operation. In his political letters, Dante goes out of his way to address and describe the emperor as a sun of peace (“Titan pacificus”), as the bridegroom of Italy, a Moses who will deliver his people from Egypt, in other words, a Christ figure (Ep. 5.1-2).

At the center of Purgatory, Dante has one of the souls discourse on the “two suns” that were ordained by God to guide man along the two roads of life, but one, the church, has put out the other, the empire (16.106-09). The two suns is a startling image and states most forcefully, particularly in the mouth of a blessed soul from the perspective of the other world, that the two should be equal powers on earth. However, it violates the natural order, so when Dante rises through the planets in Paradise he is limited to one sun which is necessarily higher than the moon, but he does the unexpected with the souls he finds there. The Moon contains not secular rulers, but religious women (nuns) who failed in their vows; in the Sun Dante finds great teachers, mostly religious men, but among them one acknowledged to have achieved the height of wisdom for his calling, Solomon, a king. He had, we are told, the greatest wisdom of all (10.109-14) because, as it turns out, he asked only for sufficient wisdom to be king (13.95-96), as if to be a good king were the highest role a man could play. Thomas Aquinas, who makes the remark, eventually explains that he was speaking of Solomon as without equal among kings (13.106-08), but that explanation comes a full three cantos after the initial praise, allowing us, all through the sphere of the wise, to think of Solomon as the wisest among them. This is Dante’s way of emphasizing the importance of a king’s judgment, and the distinction between the king’s function to judge and rule, and the priest’s to guide and teach.[33] And beyond the Sun, higher still, are more kings: among the crusaders in Mars, and as the sole representatives of divine justice in Jupiter, where they appear in the sign of the Roman empire. Only the monastic figures who rejected the world and the early apostles who lived without wealth or power are higher.

One of the most contested areas of jurisdiction between church and state is the judicial; the king as guardian of the law has fundamental rights in temporal cases, but the church made claims on the basis of sin (ratione peccati), a fairly loose and comprehensive category, to judge a wide variety of cases. The claim was based on the passage in Matt. 16:18-19 where Christ says to Peter: “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church . . . And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind up on earth, it shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.” Giles takes this passage to mean that Christ gave Peter, hence the pope, jurisdiction over soul, body, and possessions (De ecclesiastica potestate, 2.4); since the rules of property are based on the communion of men in society, the church, through excommunication, has power over possessions as well as over souls. Because of original sin, none can be the just lord of possessions except through the church, which absolves from original sin and therefore has ivs utile over all temporal things; the church can deprive Caesar for culpa or causa, while earthly power can operate only over laymen (3.11).

Bernard had tried to keep property distinct from sin in his advice to the pope: your power is over sin not property, he said (De consideratione, 1.7), not because the pope did not have the right to judge in all matters, but because temporal matters were beneath his concern and involving himself in them might lead to corruption; the pope was entrusted with the stewardship not possession, of the world (3.1). John of Paris picks up that point (De potestate regia et papal, 6) and adds that even ecclesiastical property is given to the community, not to the pope, and that lay property is under the jurisdiction of lay princes. Christ, as man, did not possess the temporal kingdom, therefore he did not pass it on to Peter (8-10). The keys represent only the spiritual power to forgive sins, the authority to teach, not the power to command (13), and only in spiritual matters; it would be stupid to deduce from the biblical text any power to absolve from the bond of debts (14.2). A pope may judge an emperor guilty of heresy, and excommunicate his subjects until they depose him, but only they can depose him, while an emperor may force the deposition of a criminal pope (13), unless his offense is spiritual and then the cardinals must act.

In the Monarchy, Dante takes a moderate but firm position on the powers conferred by the keys: they are those which pertain to the pope’s office as custodian of the heavenly kingdom, nothing more; they do not empower him to dissolve marriages or absolve the impenitent, or to bind and loose decrees of the empire (3.8). In the Comedy, the popes’ misuse of their powers is severely criticized: excommunication as a political weapon is attacked by Saint Peter in heaven and undercut by Manfred in Purgatory. Manfred, an heir to Frederick’s empire, was the object of every kind of papal weapon: Alexander IV and Urban IV excommunicated him several times, Urban preached a crusade against him, and Clement IV had his body disinterred. Manfred was also a terrible sinner by his own admission (“orribil furon li peccati miei,” Pg. 3:121) and yet he is saved. Excommunication, he explains to Dante, can keep someone waiting longer to get into Purgatory, but it cannot keep him out of heaven as long as “his hope remains green” (3.135: “mentre che la speranza ha fior del verde”), a play on the river Verde, with which it rhymes, where the pope had his body thrown; his hope counteracts the pope’s vindictiveness. In other words, those keys cannot be used to close heaven against souls. Peter had told the angel in Purgatory, to whom he entrusted them, to err in opening rather than in shutting, if people were sincerely repentent (Pg. 9.127-29).[34] It is not that Dante does not respect the power of the keys when properly used, but that modern popes use them for their own sordid purposes; they put them on the banners they carry when they fight other Christians (Pr. 27.49-51), they sell the gifts of the sacraments for gold and silver, flouting Christ’s purpose, as Dante emphasizes with a sarcastic question to the simoniac Pope Nicholas III: how much did Christ want from Saint Peter when he gave him the keys? (Hell 19.90-92). At the end of a fierce sermon delivered to the feet of this upside-down pope,[35] Dante says that if it had not been for his own reverence for the keys, he would have used even stronger words, though it is hard to imagine what they might have been. There is some irony in Dante’s calling them the keys that y ou held “in the happy life;” what Nicholas held were the keys to the happy life, but since he failed to use them properly, for himself or for others, life on earth now seems “happy” in comparison to hell; there is further irony in that Christ told Peter when he gave him the keys that the gates of hell would not prevail against his church (Matt. 16:18).

The worst abuse of the keys in the Comedy is, of course, Boniface’s boast of their power in order to entice Guido da Montefeltro back into the sin he was atoning for; Boniface told him that he had the two keys so that he could shut or open heaven, and he would absolve Guido of the sin before he committed it. The claim is totally unjustified since the keys do not work unless a sinner is truly repentant, and he cannot repent an act before he commits it. Boniface, in this case, perverts both his priestly functions in one act, by leading a soul into sin and exploiting the sacraments for political ends. He also makes a cynical remark at the expense of his predecessor who “did not hold the keys dear,” that is, gave up his position; Boniface seems to imply that Celestine did not understand the real value of the keys–what could be gained from them. There is one other reference to the keys which Dante does not connect directly with the church, but which is filled with suggestive allusions: in Hell 13, among the suicides, he meets Pier della Vigna, whose name means “Peter of the Vineyard,” a perversion of Saint Peter who, as Dante says in heaven, died for the vineyard that contemporary popes are laying waste (Pr. 18.131-32). Dante may well have known that members of Frederick’s court called it the “ecclesia imperialis,” of which Pier della Vigna was the Saint Peter, the rock upon which the imperial church was founded, sometimes in contrast to the “false vicar of Christ,” the pope.[36] Pier della Vigna was the secretary of the emperor Frederick, whose name in Italian, Federico, can mean “rich in faith”; Dante has already seen Frederick in the circle of the heretics, so he too is a perversion of his name.[37] Pier boasts to Dante, not unlike the way Boniface boasts to Guido, that he held both keys to Frederick’s heart and turned them, locking and unlocking to keep everyone else from his secrets (Hell 13.58-60). He claims to have kept “faith” with his “glorious” (a loaded word) office, but he abused his powers since an emperor’s heart cannot belong to one individual. Allegorically, then, we may have a pope (Pier/ Peter) abusing the gifts of his office to serve a false faith (Federico/Frederick), and, on another level, the church using its powers (the keys) to interfere with the proper functioning of the empire; by so doing, by usurping control over the political sphere and interfering between the emperor and his people, the pope is committing spiritual suicide.[38]

Basic to all papal claims of universal jurisdiction is the notion of Christendom as one entity, a mystical body of which Christ, or his vicar on earth, is the head, a ship of which he is the pilot, a bride of whom he is the groom, a family of which he is the father, and a flock of which he is the shepherd. The imagery comes from the long tradition of biblical exegesis, but it runs through the papalist documents as well, and most of it is in Unam Sanctam. Dante uses all of it, twisting it to his own purposes in the Comedy, as in the political letters, which are undisguised political propaganda. Boniface describes the church as a single body with one head–Christ or his vicar, Peter and Peter’s successors–and warns that a body cannot have two heads or it becomes a monster. Even antipapalists accept the image of the body and the one head, but they insist on that head being Christ (John of Paris, De potestate regia et papal 29, Quaestio, 103).[39] Bernard had used the image of the monster in a very different way, which Bonifacee does not take up; Bernard had said that Christ organized the church the way God wanted it, and any attempt on the pope’s part to rearrange its members would be to create a monster (De consideratione, 3.17). Dante, however, presents the church not as a body, but as a chariot, an inanimate object which cannot move on its own; when the chariot takes on the eagle’s feathers (imperial possessions), it begins to act like a body, but a monstrous one, sprouting heads and horns. Dante turns the church into the monster it has created.

The chariot is in itself a complex symbol, involving other aspects of the same themes; it may have been suggested by the wagons, which represented individual Italian cities at parlays and in triumphal processions,[40] but it is also an arca, which suggests both the ark of Noah and the ark of the covenant, which King David steadied on its journey (Pg. 10.56). Arca can also mean “coffer” (used figuratively in Pr. 23.131 ff.), implying that the church is the repository of treasure that was meant to be spiritual but is material to the popes in Hell and to Hadrian before his conversion (Pg. 19).[41] As the ark of Noah, it is also a boat, a traditional figure for the church, which must be properly guided if it is to save those it carries. When Beatrice appears on the chariot, she is like an admiral on a boat (Pg. 30.58-60) and when the eagle attacks it, it reels like a ship; when the eagle covers it with its feathers, a voice calls out from heaven “O navicella mia, come mal sei carca,” “O my little boat, how badly loaded you are” (32.129).[42] Thomas calls the church the “barca di Pietro” (Pr. 11.119-20), which must be piloted by Francis and Dominic to save it from the corruption or neglect of the popes. It is possible that Ulysses’ ship is also to be connected with the church, being led beyond its proper limits; Ulysses, like Adam, errs in “trapassar del segno,” taking his followers beyond the bounds set by Hercules (Hell 26.107-09), leading them into damnation with false promises, as Boniface does. One of the promises made to Dante of divine intervention to set the church right is described in terms which recall Ulysses’ end: “le poppe volgera u’ son le prore” (Pr. 27.146: “he will turn the sterns to where the prows are,” recalling Hell 26.137-42, “un turbo . . . fe . . . levar la poppa in suso/ e la prora ire in giu,” “a storm … made . . . the stern rise up and the prow go down”).

One of the most popular figures for the church is the bride of Christ, from the Song of Songs, which is put to various uses in the political debate. Giles claims marital rights: since a clergyman is the husband of his church, he has a right to her possessions; that is, although the church’s goods may belong to all the faithful, the priest, bishop, or pope, as her husband, has domination over them (2.1). Dante, as one would expect, emphasizes the marital abuses: the popes lead the church into adultery for gold and silver (Hell 19.3-4); they win it by deception and then outrage it (19.56-7); they pimp for it, turning it into a whore for kings (19.106-11, cf. Pg. 32.149 ff.). But, he reassures us, the whore will be killed by the eagle’s heir (Pg. 33.37-45) and Rome will soon be freed of this adultery (Pr. 9.142). The bride of Christ, who paid for her love with blood (the sacrifice of Christ and the early martyrs, Pr. 27.40 ff.), will be restored. When Dante speaks of the bride of Christ in the Comedy, he usually means the whole assembly of the faithful, laity and clergy; the church bureaucracy by itself is a whore.[43]

The epithets most frequently used of the pope in papalist writings are “father” and “shepherd.” When he speaks as a figure of authority to be revered, particularly addressing wayward princes, it is as a father: “Ausculta, fili carissimi, praecepta patris” (Boniface to Philip: “Listen, dear sons, to your father’s precepts”). Giles says that all should call him most holy father (“omnes debent eum appellare sanctissimum patrem” 1.2).[44] Dante, in the Monarchy, acknowledges the pope’s paternal position–the emperor owes him the reverence of a firstborn son to his father–but only after he has effectively denied him all authority outside the spiritual sphere. In the Comedy, however, the pope is called “father” only sarcastically, as when Dante calls the recipient of Constantine’s gift “the first rich father” (Hell 19.117), and when Guido accepts Boniface’s deceptive offer of absolution (Hell 27.108). Otherwise he reserves the title for those who actually guided him, the poets Virgil and Guido Guinizelli, and the saints Francis, Benedict, Peter, and Bernard.[45] God is the pio padre who should be the model for popes, but is not; they withhold the bread which the “pious father” denies no one (Pr. 18.128-29). Aeneas is a father to Rome (Hell 2.20-21), while the clergy is stepmother to the emperor (Pr. 16.58-59).

When he claims universal jurisdiction, the pope speaks as shepherd, based on John 2:16-17, “Feed my sheep.” Boniface points out that Christ does not say “these” or “those” sheep (“has vel illas”) but “mine,” meas, by which he means all sheep, universally (cf. Giles, De ecclesiastica potestate, 2.4). Bernard had noted the shepherd’s responsibility for his flock (De consideratione, 1.5); he should expel evil beasts so the flocks can pasture in safety (2.13); clergy of the past cared only for the sheep (4.3), now instead they adorn themselves in gold and colors; they pasture demons more than sheep (4.5) and dwell with wolves (4.6). Dante makes wide use of these images of wolves and sheep in the Comedy, and he uses the word “shepherd” again and again to underline all kinds of priestly abuses.[46] The wolf throughout the Comedy stands for greed, which will eventually be driven back to Hell by the veltro, a secular leader (Hell 1.101). The pope as “sommo pastore” should be protecting the sheep from that wolf, but instead he becomes a wolf, transformed by greed, and leads all the sheep and lambs astray (Pr.9.130-32). The church is filled with wolves in shepherd’s clothing (Pr. 27.55-56), Peter comments with disgust. Nicholas III openly admits that his only care was for his own family (Hell 19.70-71); in his desire to enrich “the little bears,” the orsati, he completely ignored the sheep. Peter Damian contrasts the poverty of the apostles with the moderni pastori, so heavy they have to be propped on their mounts; a mounted shepherd is in itself a strange picture and a fat one, ludicrous. Hadrian’s greed is stemmed only when he becomes the roman pastore and has as much wealth as he desires (Pg. 19.103 ff.), that is, “Roman shepherd” is the equivalent of enormous wealth.

The Comedy is filled with examples of popes who guide their flocks in the wrong directions; it may be true that we are “men, not mad sheep” (Pr. 5.80), and should not allow ourselves to be led astray, but the bad example that is set where a good is expected can be very powerful: “color che sono in terra/tutti sviati dietro al malo essemplo” (Pr. 18.125-26: “those on earth are all gone astray after the bad example”). After all, God gave us, along with the Old and New Testaments, “il pastor de la Chiesa” to guide us (Pr. 5.76-77), but instead of guiding, he prostitutes the church. It is you pastors the Evangelist was thinking of when he saw the whore fornicating with kings, Dante rages at the simoniac popes (Hell, 19.106-08). These “shepherds” feed their flocks either selectively (like the bishop in Pg. 24.30, “who fed many with his staff,” presumably his courtiers), or with the wrong food (wind, the nonsense preached by vain and ignorant preachers, Pr. 29.106-07); they indulge themselves, neglect their duty (Pr. 15.142-44, possibly Hell 20.67-69), or commit crimes, actively harming their flocks (like the empio pastor, the “impious shepherd,” who betrays the Ghibellines who had taken refuge with him, Pr. 9.53). There is only one instance in the Comedy of the pope as shepherd leading a soul back to the faith, and that is a very early one: Justinian tells how Agapetus, the sommo pastore, led him out of heresy to the faith by his words (Pr. 6.17-18). Dante describes himself as the victim of wolves who make war on the sheepfold where he slept as a lamb, Florence (Pr. 25.4-6), but he also sees himself as a goat, watched over by the good shepherds, Virgil and Statius (Pg. 27.76-87). In this rather tender simile, the shepherds are poets, not priests, who wake through the night to guard their charge. (In Purgatory,20.139-41, Dante compares himself and Virgil to the shepherds who first heard the angel sing Gloria to announce the birth of Christ.) Dante, of course, takes on the function popes have abandoned of guide to Christendom when he becomes God’s messenger in the poem.

The pope can no longer function as shepherd because he has joined the sword with the pastoral crook (Pg. 16.109-11). He attempts to rule the secular as well as the religious sphere without either the authority or the qualifications: “il pastor che procede/rugumar puo ma non ha l’unghie fesse” (Pg. 16.9899: “the shepherd who leads may chew the cud but does not have cleft hooves”), that is, he can mediate but not distinguish, so he leaves the world without its proper ruler, the king, who can discern at least the tower of the true city and can enforce the laws (16.94-96). The trouble began when Constantine moved the empire east to “yield to the shepherd” (Pr. 20.57), a particularly foolish move, since it was clear that God meant the empire to be Roman, and it is ludicrous to think of a shepherd replacing an emperor; the phrase may have been suggested by Clement’s bull, Pastoralis cura, in which the “shepherd’s care” is to oversee the vacant empire. Constantine’s gift imposed a secular function on the pope which God had not intended, thereby distorting the one he had, the spiritual guidance of the shepherd. The force of the word shepherd, constantly repeated by Dante to point up the failures and abuses of episcopal responsibility, lies in the image it evokes of a being endowed with greater sense to watch over the weak and helpless, to defend them from their enemies, to see that they are fed and do not get lost. The shepherd is a figure with enormous responsibility but no tangible power or wealth; he is a wanderer in this world.

It is no accident that the shepherd is the only active image Dante uses for the pope, whereas the emperor is the husband of Rome (Pg. 6.112-14, but Rome is a widow), the horseman who should be in the saddle to keep mankind on the right road. The empire is itself an eagle, a living force, while the church is a chariot which must be driven to function properly. The only church symbol equivalent to the eagle as a living force is the bride of Christ, and in Dante’s poem the bride usually represents the whole assembly of believers, while the curia by itself is a whore, prostituting God’s gift of love. By turning their backs on the lessons of the gospels and the example of the early popes, recent popes have turned God’s instrument for man’s salvation, the church, into a monster and surrendered it to powers like the French king who use it for their own selfish ends. The only hope is the promise of a savior, the eagle’s heir, who will kill the whore and the giant; that is, a new emperor who will destroy both the clerical and the secular enemies of mankind (Pg. 33.34-45), who will return the church to its proper function of spiritual guidance and remove it from the temptations of wealth and power which have corrupted it and endangered all mankind. We are assured that the church will not be allowed to continue on its corrupt course: in Purgatory, 33.34-36, Beatrice says that the vessel broken by the dragon (the chariot representing the church) “was and is not.” The church, in other words, has been fundamentally changed, but the guilty party will soon feel God’s revenge. In the heaven of Saturn, the souls of the contemplatives cry out a promise of God’s imminent vengeance for ecclesiastical corruption that will come before Dante dies (Pr. 21.140-22.18).

The two major prophecies in the Comedy, the veltro in the first canto of Hell and the DXV in the last of Purgatory, are both ambiguous, presumably because Dante has to allow for variations in detail. But it is clear from both that Dante believes there will be a change for the better, that a reformer will come to set Europe straight, although he cannot be sure exactly when it will occur. There is a third prophecy which Dante must have considered equally important, simpler than the other two because it offers no enigmatic hints, but perhaps more reassuring because of its source and certainty. This is Peter’s promise at the end of his condemnation of ecclesiastical corruption, that God, the High Providence that with Scipio defended the glory of the world at Rome, will soon send aid (Pr. 27.61-63).[47] What Virgil told Dante in Hell and Beatrice told him in Purgatory is repeated by the first pope in heaven, that God, working through the Roman empire, will put an end to the corruption which destroys the Christian world. Dante may not know who the veltro or the DXV is, but he must be a secular ruler, since Dante has proved in the Monarchy that only a universal monarch can bring peace and justice and in the Comedy that secular power in the church is by definition corrupt.

There has been a great deal of speculation about the nature and identity of the veltro and the eagle’s heir, but the identity can never be definitively established; we can only make intelligent guesses on the basis of the material Dante gives us.[48] We know the veltro is an enemy of the wolf, and the wolf throughout the Comedy is greed, frequently identified with the church, particularly in Paradise where the shepherds become wolves (9.132, 27.55). The wolf s’ammoglia, “marries” many animals (Hell 1.100), the promiscuity within marriage suggesting the sexual abuses of Christ’s bride by the popes, but the veltro will drive the wolf back to Hell.[49] The veltro might be a religious reformer (Dominic, for example, is associated with a dog, but he is long since gone and his effects no longer widely felt, Pr. 11.124 ff.), but he must also be the salvation of that Italy (“quella umile Italia”) for which Cammilla, Euryalus, Turnus, and Nisus died, heroes of the struggle to found Rome, ancestors of the great pagan Roman tradition, who must be associated in any medieval reader’s mind with the empire, if only from their presence in the Aeneid. The Ottimo makes that association clear, saying the veltro will be a universal lord, following Virgil in the sixth book of the Aeneid, where he tells us that Rome will rule without end (1.11). Davis (“Dante’s Vision,” 145), pursuing the same tack, suggests that Dante puts the prophecy in Virgil’s mouth because it was the Aeneid which convinced him that “God had willed Rome’s conquests and universal power . . . and had revealed this fact to Aeneas and to Virgil.” Pietro Alighieri describes the veltro as an emperor who will reign like Augustus, over the whole world. He also identifies him with the Last World Emperor, and with the ideal man of Alanus de Insulis (45-46), another ambiguous figure with overtones of Christ, but an ideal human figure rather than a second coming; in later recensions, however, Pietro identifies the veltro explicitly with the DXV, as an emperor and leader who will control avarice, bring peace, and despoil prelates of their wealth.[50] Benvenuto says the veltro can be both Christ and a future prince who will repair the Roman empire (1.55-60).

If we are meant to connect the veltro with the DXV prophesied at the end of Purgatory, as seems most likely, the Roman identity becomes even stronger.[51] The DXV will be God’s messenger, the heir of the eagle:

Non sara tutto tempo sanza reda l’aguglia che lascio le penne al carro

ch’io veggio certamente… …un cinquecento diece e cinque, messo di Dio….

The eagle which left its feathers in the cart will not always be without an heir

for I see with certainty… …a five hundred, ten, and five, messenger of God….

(Pg. 33.37-44)

Here the eagle is carefully identified with Constantine’s donation; elsewhere, most notably in the sphere of justice in Paradise, the eagle is “the sign that made the Romans revered through the world” (Pr. 19.101-02); the eagle is also the bird of God (“uccel di Giove,” Pg. 32.112, and “uccel di Dio,” Pr. 6.4), the instrument of God. The Ottimo takes God’s justice and the eagle’s heir to mean that the empire will be restored and the judgment of God will take revenge on those who deceived it (2.583-84). Benvenuto calls the eagle’s heir a “successor emperor” and points out that there was none at the time of Boniface (4.272). The Ottimo interprets the numbers of the eagle’s heir, 500, 10, and 5, in their Roman equivalents, D, X, v, as an anagram for DUX, a leader sent by God who will bring the world back to God (2.584-85); he may come at the end of the world, but he will be a “most just and holy prince,” who will reform the state of the church. One who will kill the whore and the giant (Pg. 33.44-45) is one who can not only thoroughly change the structure of the church, since the whore is the corrupt curia and is to be killed not cleansed, but one who can also destroy the powerful French king.[52] The only figure who would have the power and authority to destroy the bureaucracy of the church and the most powerful political figure in Europe would be a universal[ly accepted] emperor. It is tempting to connect the killing of the whore with Marsilius’s reduction of the church to an organ of the state; although Dante never says so directly, it is possible, given his negative views on the secular powers and structure of the church, that, like Marsilius, he may have foreseen a time when the empire would control the bureaucarcy of the church and restrict it to its spiritual function.

Although it is futile to try and determine a distinct historical identity for the veltro or the eagle’s heir, one can and perhaps should consider the hints Dante gives us. The veltro is a dog, an animal with little positive value in the Comedy, except in the name of Dante’s future patron, Can Grande, who is alluded to with considerable enthusiasm in Paradise because of his great deeds and his magnificence (17.76 ff.). Can Grande’s family, the Scaligeri, have as their emblem “in su la scala … il santo uccello” (17.72: “the holy bird on the ladder”), in other words, they are identified with the eagle. Can Grande will also be an imperial vicar under both Henry VII and eventually Ludwig of Bavaria and will win important victories in their service, though those for Ludwig come after Dante’s death. Dante alludes to Henry and Pope Clement’s betrayal of him in the midst of the passage about Can Grande (Pr. 17.82). Certainly Can Grande is a likely candidate for the veltro, at least as one who might rescue Italy from the wolf.[53] He does not, however, have the political scope within Europe to be the eagle’s heir who will kill the whore and the giant. If that figure is to be a contemporary, the only possible candidate is Ludwig, since Henry died before Dante had written a good part of the poem and he clearly had not solved Europe’s problems. Davidsohn identifies Ludwig with the DXV on the basis of the sum of the three numbers, 515, which he adds to 800, the year Charlemagne brought the empire back to the West, giving him 1315, a significant date for Ludwig.[54]

It is not necessary to be quite so specific, particularly since no great changes of the kind Dante envisioned were apparent after 1315, but there are other connections to be made with the numbers. The eagle, when it appears in canto 18 of Paradise, rises out of the letter M, the end of the message spelled by the soul of the just kings, “Diligite Justitiam qui judicatis terram” (18.91-93). Well before we are given the whole message, however, we are told only the first three letters, D, I, and L, five hundred, one, and fifty (18.78). Since Dante also makes much of the fact that the message contains five words and five times seven letters, one must assume that five is somehow significant here, as it was in the enigmatic prophecy of Purgatory 33. As it happens, the first three letters of Ludwig’s name in Latin, Ludovicus, are all fives, L, V, D (and the name also contains one, I, and one hundred, C). The coincidence of fives and ones may have suggested to Dante that Ludwig was to be the figure to oppose the beast of the Apocalypse, the 666.[55] Since Dante died long before Ludwig, it is at least possible that, as long as he was writing the Comedy, he cherished hopes of the great reformation to come from Ludwig, working with Can Grande.[56] Certainly Dante would have been taken with the fact that Ludwig’s mother was a Matelda (daughter of emperor Rudolph I and namesake of the great Tuscan countess),[57] and that his wife was a Beatrice, both names connected with women who figure in Dante’s personal salvation and who guide him to the Earthly Paradise, which the emperor is meant to restore for mankind. It is another interesting coincidence, though Dante would not have known it, that his Monarchy was burned as a result of Ludwig’s march on Rome.

In this chapter, I have concentrated primarily on the church’s abuse of its powers and functions, because that is what Dante emphasizes. What the church should be and do must be deduced mainly from what Dante tells us it should not be: it should not concern itself with wealth, except to distribute needed goods to the poor, and it should never interfere in political affairs–local or international.[58] It should spread God’s message among non-Christians and guide Christians away from heresy or error. Its prime function for Dante seems to be to teach, by example or word. Apart from the earliest popes, who lived in poverty and died martyrs, the only churchmen who are praised in the Comedy or who can be looked to as good examples are the monks and friars, Benedict, Peter Damian, Francis, and Dominic, who renounced worldly things, although they continued to work in the world, and the great teachers, the scholars and theologians who appear in the circles of the Sun. Among the latter there is one pope, John XXI, but he is cited as a writer, Pietro Ispano, who still shines on earth in his twelve books. Dante does not even mention that he was pope, and he only served for eight months in any case, so what effect he had was as a scholar.[59]

Dante has presumably been influenced by the scholars and saints he names, and some of them lecture to him in heaven, but he does not choose any of them to guide him on his journey to God; his guides are a pagan poet, Virgil, and a woman, Beatrice (just as the two permanent human inhabitants of Purgatory are a pagan and a woman). It is Virgil, the poet of Empire, who leads Dante to the earthly paradise and crowns him emperor and pope over himself, and Beatrice, the woman and Christ figure, who leads him to heaven. In fact, Virgil and, to a lesser extent, other poets in the Comedy fulfill the functions of teacher and guide, which the church and the empire leave vacant. Dante, of course, takes on that role through his poem for his audience. Only for the last moment of the journey, the vision of God, does he choose a saint, Bernard, to guide him. Bernard is a mystic, devoted to Mary, and thus a suitable choice for the vision that Dante receives through her, but he is also a reformer and a political moderate (and something of a poet). It is no accident that the other churchmen with important roles in heaven, Thomas Aquinas, Peter Damian, Bonaventure, are also political moderates, men who recognize the need for a secular state and the practical separation of spheres (see chapter five).

The separation is essential to Dante’s view of church-state relations; it is because the church interfered with the empire that Dante attacks it so fiercely, but that does not mean that he is blind to the faults of emperors. In fact, he condemns the man he considered the last functioning emperor in Italy, Frederick II, to Hell for heresy. This is a puzzling fact in some ways because Frederick was a significant force against the political ambitions of the papacy in Italy; he emphasized the Roman heritage of his title, he developed an efficient state, and he was a scholar and writer, all of which Dante admired.[60] That he was also accused of unorthodox beliefs is not enough to explain Dante’s condemnation of him–Dante was ready enough to put others accused of heresy in Paradise. Perhaps what troubled Dante is that Frederick treated heresy as a crime against the state, as treason, and assumed all responsibility for it. This view is supported by a comment Benvenuto makes about the emperor, that he tyrannically usurped all spiritual matters, “omnia spiritualia tyrannice usurpavit” (3.443).[61] Frederick did what Dante objected to most strenuously in the popes, he claimed jurisdiction in the other sphere. He also kept Saracens and Jews as alien groups under his special protection and discouraged efforts to convert them (Kantorowicz, Frederick the Second 130-31), instead of extending Christendom, as Dante’s ideal monarch would have done. One might expect Dante to condemn Constantine as well, since his ill-conceived gift to the church caused so much of the trouble, but he is in heaven, where he learns what a mistake he made. That act, he now knows, has just about destroyed the world, but his motives were pure (Pr. 20.58-60).

Apart from Frederick and Constantine, and the ineffective emperor Rudolph from Dante’s period who is saved, though he did not attempt to restore order to Italy (Pg. 6.103-05,7.94-96), the emperors Dante sees–and they are many–are presented as model figures, while he sees only one model pope, and he was the first.[62] The emperors David and Trajan provide, along with the Virgin, the examples of humility sculpted by God on the first ledge of Purgatory; Justinian is inspired by God to reform the laws of the Roman empire (Pr. 6.11); Solomon is presented as the supreme figure of wisdom (Pr. 10). Of the six souls who represent divine justice in the eye of the Roman eagle, all are secular leaders, two are emperors, three kings, and four lived their lives as non-Christians: David and Hezekiah were Jews, Ripheus and Trajan pagans; only Constantine and William of Sicily were Christians. Trajan, of course, was supposed to have been brought back to life through the prayers of Pope Gregory so he could be baptized and die the second time as a Christian, but he lived and ruled as a pagan. Ripheus was baptized, we are told, by the theological virtues, as if even baptism were available outside the church. In fact, Dante suggests that the church is not essential to salvation, in contradiction to Boniface’s claim; not only will those who believed in Christ-to-come be saved, an accepted view, but some who do not now know Christ directly will be closer to him than many who cry “Christ, Christ” (Pr. 19.106 ff.); the Ethiop will condemn such Christians at the Last Judgment.[63]

It is the empire, when the church does not intefere with it, that does God’s will on earth; the emperor is the guide who can discern “the tower of the true city” (Pg. 16.96), the horseman who can control human nature with the bridle of law.[64]

It is the empire that provided the peace into which Christ could be born, the legal setting in which he could be condemned, and the force to avenge that death (Hell 2, Pg. 21, Pr. 6). Henry Vll, the divinely ordained emperor who will attempt, but fail, to save Europe, has a place waiting for him in God’s rose, while the pope who opposed him, Clement, claiming power God did not grant him, is expected in Hell. Those who betrayed the empire, in the person of Julius Caesar, the first ernperor, are at the very bottom of Hell, literally in the mouths of Lucifer on either side of Judas, who betrayed Christ; their evil is on a level with the betrayer of Christ and the leader of the rebellion against God. With the three mouths occupied, there is no room for the betrayer of a pope, not because there were none, but because the pope is not on the same level of importance. Only the emperor is God’s vicar on earth; the pope is Christ’s as priest, but not as ruler.[65]

Such are the main views of church and state that can be extrapolated directly from the Comedy. They are quite consistent with Dante’s positions in the Monarchy, which was written as an overt polemic for the empire: the need for a single monarch to rule the world, the providential choice of the Roman empire as that Monarchy, and the separation of church and state, with the secular power dominant in the temporal sphere. Dante’s ideal is a world in which the emperor dispenses divine justice and the church dispenses knowledge and the sacraments. This is both a reactionary position, in that it is a return to the apostolic church and the ancient notion of empire, and a radical one, in that it proposes the reduction of power in national monarchies (the only ones with strong governments at the time), and a reduction if not abolition of the oldest functioning bureaucracy in the Christian world–the church. In order to convey this message, Dante turns away from the normal form of political debate, the ordered series of logical arguments, and takes up a potentially far more powerful weapon, the poetic vision. He casts the most important images and arguments from the controversy in poetic form where they take on new life: the chariot that becomes a monster before our eyes is far more effective than the statement that a figurative body with two heads would be a monster. And he places them in a setting that gives them the sanction of divine revelation: it is not just Dante who condemns the modern papacy, it is Saint Peter himself, on whom many of its claims were based; it is not Dante who defends the destiny of the Roman empire, it is God who sends the message of divine justice through the Roman eagle.

That Dante’s message was not well-received by the church is made clear by the various attacks on it; though they do not always spell out the objections, the attacks do bear witness to the power of the poetry. The Dominican, Guido Vernani, at the beginning of his refutation of the Monarchy, takes a lengthy shot at the author’s poetry, calling it a poisonous vessel of the father of lies, covered with false and fallacious beauty, by which the author, with poetic phantasms and figments, and the eloquence of his words, his siren songs, fraudulently leads not only the sick and ignorant, but even the learned (studious), to destroy the truth which might save them.[66] The reading or study of “poetic books composed in the vulgate by the one called Dante” was prohibited at the Dominican chapter at Santa Maria Novella in Florence in 1335, although it apparently continued to be popular among the frati; twenty years later, Jacopo Passavanti, in Specchio della vera penitenza, advises against reading worldly poets like Juvenal, Ovid, and Terence, for whom one scribe substituted Dante.[67] In the same period, Dante’s poem was used in a political cause: another emperor came from Germany to be crowned in Rome in 1355, Charles of Bohemia, and much was made of Dante’s prophecy of the veltro in connection with him, though he did not fulfill Ghibelline hopes.[68] A fourteenth-century inquisitor, Nicholas Eymerich, calls the doctrine of Christ’s poverty the root of the troubles of his time (Matteini, Guido Vernani, 79), a doctrine Dante certainly advocates and which was condemned as heresy by John XXII in 1323, only two years after Dante’s death. Cavallari cites a number of contemporary poems, by Dante’s son, Pietro, and others, attempting to defend the orthodoxy of his beliefs (44 ff.) and one legend that the Friars Minor, angered by his attack in Paradise 12, tried to have him condemned as a heretic, which he forestalled by setting in terzine the Credo, the Ave Maria, the Pater Noster, the Sacraments and the Commandments (46). Questions had certainly been raised about Dante’s orthodoxy. However, it is the political implications of his attacks on the church that seem to be the major irritant. Several passages from the Comedy were condemned by the Spanish Inquisition: Hell, 11.8-9, on the heresy of Pope Anastasius; Hell, 19.106-17, on the identification of the whore of the Apocalypse with the corrupt church and the Donation of Constantine; and Paradise, 9.136-42, another attack on the pope and the ecclesiastical hierarchy (Matteini, 48). Although the antipapal views expressed in the Comedy troubled many, they also gave the work a special appeal to conciliarists, who had the poem translated into Latin and commented by Giovanni da Serravalle at the Council of Constance (1414).[69]

It was, of course, the Monarchy (which was on the papal index from 1554 to 1881) that elicited the strongest and most direct attacks. This was due as much to the part it played in contemporary politics as to its arguments. It apparently influenced the supporters of Ludwig of Bavaria, after whose successful descent into Italy the attacks on the work began in earnest.[70] According to Boccaccio, the Monarchy was condemned by Cardinal Beltrando del Poggetto, papal legate of John XXII, because Ludwig had come to Rome against the pope’s will and had himself crowned by his own pope using Dante’s book in defense of his own authority; Beltrando then had the book condemned and burned for its heretical content (“si come cose eretiche contenente”) and would have done the same to Dante’s bones if he had not been stopped.[71] Little attention seems to have been paid the work before the break between Ludwig and Pope John XXII, but afterwards the attacks are frequent: two Franciscans, Guglielmo da Sarzano and Francesco di Meyronnes, writing between 1324 and 1328, do not name Dante but do attack the argument that imperial authority derives directly from God (Maccarrone, “Dante e i teologi,” 23). Several of the errors imputed to Ludwig and his followers by John XXII are Dante’s, and various people write about them without naming him but clearly having him in mind.[72] Probably the best known, certainly the most thorough, attack is the direct one by Guido Vernani, De reprobatione Monarchie composite a Dante, which rebuts Dante’s arguments with little sympathy for the author, usually called “ille homo” (Matteini, Guido Vernani, 42). Guido wrote in direct response to Ludwig’s conflict with the pope; indeed, it was Guido who announced the excommunication of Ludwig to the city of Rimini and explained the document to the clergy and the people (Matteini, 15). Many years later, in 1400, Guglielmo da Cremona wrote a Tractatus de iure Monarchie, turning Dante’s thesis upside down to support universal monarchy but under the pope. Discussing the statement that Pilate justly executed Christ, Guglielmo calls its author “that nefarious man,” “iste nefarius homo,” and suggests that the book, with its author, be publicly consigned to the flames: “unde opus quod super hoc iste edidit, dico libera voce, cum suo autore publice ignibus esse tradendum.”[73]

There is no question that Dante takes an extreme stand against secular power and wealth in the church, but Dante had seen what a worldly papacy could do in Italy, where it exercised some temporal power. He knew that by striving for more, well beyond its proper sphere, it had reduced itself to a virtual prisoner and tool of one ruler, thereby disrupting a delicate balance in the secular sphere and destroying its own ability to influence to good. The only way to return the church to the role God ordained for it was to remove it entirely from temporal affairs. To strip it of all temporal wealth and power was to restore its spiritual power. In the Comedy, even more forcefully than in the Monarchy, Dante argues for the empire as the ultimate world government, and for the church as the ultimate spiritual force, but to be such a force, the church must destroy the monster it has become and return to the purity of its origins.


Footnotes

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 01
On Boniface and Florence see Guido Levi “Bonifazio VIII e le sue relazioni col Comune di Firenze,” Archivio della Societa Romana,l di Storia Patria 5 (1882), 365-474; George Holmes, “Dante and the Popes,” in The World of Dante, ed. Cecil Grayson (Oxford: Clarendon, 1980), 18-43, and T. S. R. Boase Boniface VIII (London: Constable, 1933). Levi points out that Boniface worked for the triumph of the Guelph party in Italy and that his actions were not always taken to advance pontifical politics but often out of personal antipathy and preference.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 02
For detailed accounts of the conflict see Pierre Dupuy, Histoire du Differend d ‘entre le pape Boniface VIII et Philippes le bel Roy de France (Paris: Cramoisy, 1655; reprint, Tucson: Audax, 1963); also Jean Riviere, Le probleme de l’Eglise et de l’Etat au temps de Philippe le Bel (Louvain: Spicilegium Sacrum Lovaniense, 1926) and Georges Digard, Philippe le. Bel et le Saint-Siege de 1285 d 1304 (Paris: Sirey, 1936), 2 vols.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 03
Perhaps the most striking forgery is the brief letter cited by Dupuy, Histoire du Differend, 44: “Bonifacius Episcopus servus servorum Dei, Philippo Francorum Regi. Deum time, et mandata eius observa. Scire te volumus, quod in spiritualibus et temporalibus nobis subes. Beneficiorum et praebendarum ad te collatio nulla spectat: et si aliquorum vacantium custodiam habeas, fructus eorum successoribus reserves: et si quae contulisti, collationem huiusmodi irritam decernimus; et quantum de facto processerit, revocamus. Aliud autem credentes haereticos reputamus.” Dat. Laterani Non. Decembr. Pontificatus nostri anno 7. “Boniface, Bishop, servant of the servants of God, to Philip, King of the French. Fear God. and observe his commands. We want you to know that in spiritual and temporal matters you are subject to us. The collection of benefices and prebends is not your affair and if you have the care of other vacancies. you must reserve their fruits for their successors: and if you have collected any, we declare that collection invalid. and whatever proceded from that, we resolve. Those who believe anything else, we consider heretics.” The Lateran, the ninth of December, in the seventh year of our Pontificate. The answer was even stronger: “Philippus Dei gratia Francorum Rex, Bonifacio se gerenti pro sulilmo Pontifice, salutem modicam, seu nullam. Sciat tua maxima faruitas ill temporalibus nos alicui non subesse. Ecclesiarum ac praebendarum vacantium collationem ad nos iure regio pertinere, fructus earum nostros facere: collationes a nobis factas, et faciendas fore validas in praeteritum et futurum, et ea rum possessores contra omnes viril iter nos tueri: secus autem credentes, fatuos et dementes reputamus.” Datum Parisius, etc. “Philip, by the grace of God, King of the French, sending Boniface, for his high Pontificate, little or no greeting [as though God had designated Philip, but not Boniface]. May your great foolishness know that in temporal affairs we are subject to no one, that the collection of vacant churches and prebends is ours by royal right, to make their fruits ours; the collections made by us and to be made are valid in the past and future, and we will protect their possessors firmly against all: those believing otherwise, we consider foolish and demented.” Paris, etc.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 04
The text can be found in Corpus iuris canonici (Extravagantes Communes, 1.8) ed. E. Friedberg, vol. 2, 1,245; the translation in S. Z. Ehler and J. B. Morrall, Church and State through the Centuries (New York: Biblo and Tannen, 1967), 90-92. For a study of the background of the bull, see James Muldoon, “Boniface VIII’s Forty Years of Experience in the Law,” The Jurist 31 (1971), 449-77.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 05
L’Ottimo Commento delta Divina Commedia, testo inedito d’un contemporaneo di Dante, ed. Alessandro Torri, 3 vols. (Pisa: Capurro, 1827).

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 06
Innocent 111 had made the action legal, but it was not altogether accepted. Richard Kay, Dante’s Swift and Strong, (Lawrence: Regents Press of Kansas, 1978) 114-17, says that Boniface transferred more bishops than any pope before him.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 07
Cronica Fiorentina for the year 1294, cited by Singleton in his commentary on Hell, 50.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 08
Ascendisti ut vulpes, regnabis ut leo, morieris ut canis,” according to Thomas of Walsingham’s History, cited by Dupuy, Histoire du Differend, 196; the same thought is expressed in the past tense as a comment in French chronicles also cited by Dupuy, ibid., 199-201, the latter in French. Dino Compagni, Cronica, ed. Gino Luzzato (Turin: Einaudi, 1968), 2.35, reports Boniface’s death more soberly, but nonetheless damningly: “Many rejoiced over his death, because he ruled cruelly, and fomented wars, undoing many people and amassing a good deal of treasure: and the Whites and Ghibellines were particularly happy because he was their heartfelt enemy; but the Blacks were very sad.”

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 09
Dupuy, Histoire du Differend, 56. Cf. Dante’s play on Boniface’s name in Hell 19, rhyming Bonifazio with sazio both sounds echoing the hissing of flames, as though the name suited the chosen destiny in Hell, and emphasizing the fact that Boniface never was “sated.” Guillaume de Nogaret also called Boniface a thief, “fur et latro,” which may be a play on papalist comments on kings of the Gentiles who possessed by invasion and usurpation, that they were “fures et latrones” (cf. Giles of Rome, De ecclesiastica potestate, ed. Richard Scholz [Weimar: Bohlaus, 1929; reprint, Scientia Aalen, 1961],1.5)

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 10
Henry had also turned Unam Sanctam to his own purposes, changing the end to claim that “every human spirit must be subject to the Roman prince.” See William M. Bowsky, Henry VII in Italy (Lincon: University of Nebraska, 1960), 181.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 11
Four of the five early commentators identify the “one who out of cowardice made the great refusal,” “colui che fece per viltade il gran rifiuto,” Hell 3.60, as Pope Celestine V. Properly so, Pietro Alighieri says, because Celestine forgot Gregory and Sylvester, who had been able to be holy and spiritual even in the papacy (69). Guido da Pisa says Celestine renounced the papacy because he did not know how to pilot the ship of the church (59). Jacopo della Lana reports the story of the deception to explain how Celestine could be persuaded to leave thinking it was God’s will, when he was having such difficulty dealing with the corruption he found (Comedia di Dante degli Allagherii cow commento di]acopo della Lana, ed. Luciano Scarabelli, 3 vols. [Bologna: Tipografia Rebia, 1866], 131-32. The Ottimo implies that Celestine’s renunciation left the way open for Boniface, noting the report that his successor, Boniface, tricked him with the consent of the cardinals, because he was more fit for the solitary life than the papacy, from which the church and the world are in great danger (30). Only Benvenuto da Imola rejects the identification, although he admits that most people accept it and think of the reunuciation as cowardice, but he considers it an act of magnanimity; like the Ottimo, he lays great stress on the corruption of the churchmen around Celestine (117-18).

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 12
Guido da Pisa suggests that since Pluto “in suo episcupatu” cannot stop Dante, he turns to a higher authority, as our bishops turn to the pope, 137. Marsilius, in a different context, identifies his pope with Satan, Defensor Pacis (2.26.19). On a possible connection of “Pape” with Boniface’s coins, see below, chapter six, fn. 37.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 13
See Hell 2.27; papale ammanto is a figurative reference to Peter’s position; he did not want to assume a royal mantle as later popes would. In Hell, 19.69, the simoniac, Nicholas, tells Dante he was “clothed in the great mantle”; in Purgatory, 19.104-05, Hadrian learns how the mantle weighs on one who would keep it out of the mud (perhaps an echo of Marco Lombardo’s remark about the church of Rome falling in the mud and soiling itself and its burden because it combines the two governments in itself, Pg. 16.129); in Paradise, 21, 133-34, modern pastors, who cover their palfreys with their cloaks are contrasted to Peter and Paul. Historically, when the elected pope accepted the office a scarlet cloak was thrown over him by the archdeacon of the Roman church (Walter Ullman, A Short History of the Papacy in the Middle Ages [London: Methuen, 1972], 230). The symbolism of the mantle no doubt underlies a remark reported to the French assembly by Guillaume de Plaisians after a public attack on Boniface, purportedly by King Philip, that he would have preferred to cover his “father” (Boniface) with his own cloak to save the honor of the church (Dupuy, Histoire du DifferendX 107, Riviere, Le Probleme, 113).

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 14
When Boniface was captured by Philip’s men and there seemed no way to escape, the pope, feeling himself betrayed like Christ, according to Giovanni Villani Istorie Fiorentine [Milan: Societa Tipografica, 1802], 8.63, determined at least to die like a pope: wrapping himself in the mantle of Saint Peter, with the crown of Constantine on his head, and the keys and cross in his hand, he sat on the papal throne. It is perhaps not surprising that the Italian Villani grants him some dignity at the end, while the French reports emphasize his rage, claiming that he died of a “flux de ventre,” “une frenesie” (Dupuy, Histoire du Differend, 191, 199).

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 15
Though Boniface is the focus of attention, there are various other churchmen in Hell who took part in political intrigues: Nicholas against Charles of Anjou, which culminated in the Sicilian Vespers, alluded to in 19.98-99; Frate Gomita, a Sardinian friar who sold public offices and took bribes, 22.81 ff.; two Frati Gaudenti among the hypocrites, who served together as podest3 in Florence ostensibly to keep the peace, but in fact to allow the pope to maneuver in favor of the Guelphs and expel the Ghibellines, 23.103 If.. Like Guido da Montefeltro, these friars allow themselves to be used by a pope, and Dante holds them responsible for their actions. In the lowest circle of Hell, Dante sees Tesauro dei Beccheria (32.119-23), an abbot and papal legate, executed by Florence in 1258 on a charge of conspiring with the Ghibellines, and Archbishop Ruggieri, canto 33, leader of the Pisan Ghibellines, who intrigued with secular leaders encouraging them against each other then turning the people against all of them in order to gain full control, even betraying the members of his own party. Ruggieri is the nephew of Cardinal Ottaviano, the heretic who boasted of losing his soul for his party, canto 10; Ruggieri’s father, on the other hand, the layman Ubaldino della Pila, is in Purgatory, canto 24. Also in the bottom of Hell is Frate Alberigo, another of the Frati Gaudenti, who had two of his relatives killed in revenge for an unsuccessful attempt to wrest political power from him (33.118 If.).. Even in Paradise, there is a striking allusion to a Guelph bishop of Feltro who betrayed, out of parq loyalty, the Ghibellines who had taken refuge with him, and thus caused their deaths (Pr. 9.52-60). In each case, the churchman’s involvement in secular politics is so strong that he chooses to damn himself for political necessity

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 16
Cf. Jacopo, 1.272-73. Marsilius interprets the statue in Daniel’s dream as the pope and the papal curia (Defensor Pacis, 2.24.17).

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 17
See J. A. Scott, “Imagery in Paradiso XXVII,” Italian Studies 25 (1970), 2728. Ulysses will also be discussed in chapters three and six.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 18
ln Hell, the rock of the Malebolge is partially inhabited by popes who perverted the church on earth by abusing its functions and are now upside down in baptismal fonts, representing the sacraments they misused. See J. A. Scott, “The Rock of Peter and Inferno XIX,” Romance Philology 23 (1970), 464.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 19
Martin IV is pointed out among the gluttons, but does not come forward or speak.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 20
In Paradise 12.106-08, the two wheels of the church’s chariot are identified with Francis and Dominic, suggesting that the contemporary church must be based on the reform orders rather than on the ecclesiastical hierarchy.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 21
Richard Kay, “Dante’s Razor and Gratian’s D.XV,” Dante Studies 99 (1979), 6596, also suggests that the giant is the pope, but that the whore is the heresy of plenitudo potestatis.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 22
Dante and Beatrice lack the historical authority of the saints, but they are presented in the Comedy as the chosen messengers of God and Mary, so their attacks on corrupt churchmen also have divine sanction. Beatrice, in the highest realms of heaven, complains about the abuse of Scripture by those who preach to show off and to enrich themselves (Pr. 29) and about the pope’s betrayal of an emperor (Pr 30). Dante’s blast, evoked by the sight of the eagle, symbol of divine justice, attacks the buying and selling in the temple (Pr. 18.121 ff.) and the selfserving use of excommunications; he ends with the fiercely sarcastic reply of the pope, who makes flippant references to John the Baptist, Peter, and Paul, affirming his devotion to John (whose image is on the florin).

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 23
There is a good reason for Dante’s connecting the pope and the mendicant friars, who depended directly on the pope and therefore usually defended his supreme authority, as Brian Tierney points out (Origins of Papal infallibility, 1150-1350 [Leiden: Brill, 1972] 58-59, 83. Bonaventure supports the idea of Christ’s authority residing entirely in the pope rather than in the successors of the other apostles, the bishops, which makes his attack on the papacy in Dante’s poem particularly effective.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 24
The papacy was actually vacant from 1314-1316, which may be a subtext to this passage. Peter, drawing on his knowledge of the future, makes reference to both Clement V and John XXII, and decries the corruption of current popes who use the church to amass wealth and fight other Christians.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 25
See the introduction for a general discussion of the controversy. l will also cite the Quaestio de utraque potestate, ed. Melchior Goldast, in Monarchiae Sancti Romani Imperii (Frankfurt: Biermann, 1614), 2.96-107. Riviere Le Probleme, and Ugo Mariani Chiesa e stato nei teologi Agostiniani del secolo 14 (Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1957) discuss the major works in the controversy. Some of the imagery used in the debates and by Dante in the Comedy, e.g., wolves in shepherd’s clothing, is also found in anticlerical satire from which resonances it derives even greater force.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 26
Charles T. Davis, Dante and the Idea of Rome (Oxford: Clarendon, 1957), points out the similariq between Dante’s views on the Donation and those of Remigio dei Girolami in Contra falsos ecclesiae professores, 84-85. Remigio reported that at the time of the Donation, a voice from heaven was heard saying: “today poison was poured into the church of God;” cf. the voice heard in Pg. 32.129.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 27
Constantine moved the empire from Rome to Constantinople. It was moved back to the West, that is, a western claim to the empire was made under Charlemagne; the papacy claimed that it had “translated” the empire as a proof of its authority over it. John of Paris, De potestate regia et papali, 15.9, and Dante, Monarchy, 3.11, point out that the church called on Charlemagne to defend it, and in so doing recognized the transfer of the empire, which had been accomplished by the emperor. Dante also points out that one might as well say that the authority of the church depended on the emperor from the day Otto deposed Benedict and put Leo back on the throne.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 28
We are told that Christ led Abel, Noah, Moses, and Abraham out of Hell (Hell, 4.56-58), but Melchisedech is only mentioned as a name synonymous with the priesthood (Pr. 8.125). Neither John of Paris, nor Dante (in the Monarchy) mentions Melchisedech, probably for the same reasons that Giles makes much of him, because he was both king and priest, that is, he wielded both swords, as Giles points out (De ecclesiastica potestate, 1.5,6,7 and 3.1).

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 29
Bernard also uses the word “forsitan,” “perhaps,” which Boniface and Giles drop when they cite the passage (Mariani, Chiesa e stato, 150). For a thorough study of the early history of the two swords, see Gerard E. Caspary, Politzs and Exegesis: Origen and the Two Swords (Berkeley: University of California, 1979). For further references, see Muldoon, “Boniface VIII’s Ford Years,” 451 and fn. 10.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 30
Antonio de Angelis, 11 concetto d 7mpenum e la comunitd soprannazionale in Dante (Milan: Giuffre, 1965), 187. The sword carried by the Apostle Paul in the procession of the books of the Bible signifies the word of God, a spiritual sword, like Beatrice’s words, which strike Dante like a sword (Pg. 31. 2-3 and 30.57).

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 31
Boniface’s Allegacio was delivered before imperial legates and a multitude of curiali, according to Michele Maccarrone, “11 terzo libro della Monarchia,” Studi danteschi 33 (1955), 33, and was a well-known document in Dante’s time. Innocent 111 (and others before him, see Muldoon, “Boniface VIII’s Forty Years,” 475) had used the image of the two luminaries: as God made the sun to dominate the day, and the moon the night, so he made the greater rule, the church, to preside over the days of souls, and the lesser, the monarchy, to preside over the nights of bodies, Szut universitatis coeditor, 1198.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 32
Codex 1.3, cited by Gennaro Maria Monti, Cino da Pistoia Giurista (Citta di Castello: 11 Solco, 1924), 200.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 33
Cf. Monarchy 1.13. The universal monarch is in the best possible condition for governing because he surpasses all others in the power of his judgment and ustice.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 34
The keys can also be used to modify vows (Pr. 5.55-57), depending on the sincerity of the vower’s intention, which means they should always aid the soul who wants to be saved. When the angel in Purgatory opens the gate for Dante, the sound reminds him of the forced opening of the temple of Saturn, which contained the Roman treasury, a suggestion both that he fears he may be unworthy and that the real treasure of the church is to be found with these keys. It also suggests yet another connection between the empire and God’s realm.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 35
The position of the simoniac popes is significant not just because it turns them upside down, as they perverted their roles in dispensing the sacraments, but also because it exposes only their feet. Dante may well be playing on the custom of kissing the pope’s feet as a symbol of his supremacy; the pope as universal bishop alone could demand that princes kiss his feet as part of the coronation ritual (Ullmann, Short History, 152). A famous Lateran mosaic depicted Emperor Lothar kneeling at the pope’s feet (Tierney, Crisis, 99). Cardinals also kissed the feet of the elected pope. Giles, in the dedication of De ecclesiastica potestate to Boniface, offers himself as a humble creature in all submission to kiss the blessed feet, “cum omni subieccione seipsum ad pedum oscula beatorum,” and later says that all should do so, 1.2. Dante also plays on the imperial footwear, the zanca, worn by popes. See Ernest N. Kaulbach, “Inferno XIX, 45: The ‘Zanca’ of Temporal Power,” Dante Studies 86 (1968), 127-36, and Scott, “Inferno XIX,” who notes that zanca is also used of Lucifer in 34.79, another pope-devil connection, 463-64, fn. 5.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 36
Pier also punned on the other part of his name, Vigna. For a discussion of the language of the imperial court, see William A. Stephany, “Pier della Vigna’s Self-Fulfilling Prophecies: the “Eulogy” of Frederick 11 and Inferno 13,” Traditio 38 (1982), 193-212. From Dante’s references to Caesar and Augustus, Hell 13.65 and 68, we know he was aware of Frederick’s affectations of ancient Roman usage.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 37
It is Saint Peter who questions Dante on his faith in Paradise. And it is certainly not coincidental that Frederick’s mother, Constance, whom Dante sees in Paradise, lacked “constancy” in her vows; she is called the mother of the third “wind of Swabia,” suggesting a parody of the Holy Spirit and the Triniq, which makes little sense in the context of Paradise 3, but much more in the light of Hell 10 and 13.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 38
The Ottimo mentions that Pier wrote a letter at the pope’s instance revealing the emperor’s secrets to the Church of Rome; in other words, that he conspired with the pope against the empire, a notion not found in the Comedy, so it is either based on a contemporary rumor or perhaps on the power of suggestion in the name. It is interesting that Jacopo connects Cecina and Corneto, mentioned at the beginning of the canto (Hell, 13.9), with the patrimony of Saint Peter, 1.2S2. For further discussion of the political implications of Pier’s service to Frederick 11, see chapter three.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 39
See Ernst H. Kantorowicz, The King’s TVJO Bodies (Princeton: Princeton University, 1957), 196, on the use of the mystical body in a sociological sense, which he says is relatively new with Boniface. For Thomas Aquinas, the head of the corpus Ecclesiae mysticum was Christ (ST, 3, q.8, and Kantorowicz, op. cit., 203). John of Salisbury, in his comparison of the state to a body, makes the prince the head, churchmen the soul, Poliraticus, S.2.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 40
See Daniel Waley, The Italian City-Republics (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1969),139 ff. The wagons are mentioned frequently by Villani Istorie Fiorentine, see particularly 6.20, 43, 76. They were usually drawn by oxen. Cf. Dante’s letter to the cardinals in which he says he is concerned with the oxen who draw the ark, not the ark itself, Ep. 8.5.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 41
The play on arca as “ark” and “coffer” echoes a medieval Latin poem that makes a series of similar puns, all suggesting the corruption of the church: “Nummus est pro numine/et pro Marco marca,/et est minus celebris/ara quam sit arca.” (“Money stands for the divinity/and the mark for Mark,/and less celebrated/is the altar than the ark.”) (Utar contra vitia).

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 42
The voice may be either God’s or Peter’s: the Ottimo gives God, saying that the church is the boat of God under Peter’s guidance, 2.573-74; but since the boat which represents the church is also called Peter’s boat, “barca di Pietro” (Pr. 11.119-20), the voice might be Peter’s.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 43
The rose, the assembly of all the faithful in heaven, is described as the “holy army which Christ married with his blood” (Pr. 31.1-3). Rahab, the good whore, is also a figure for the church, because she helped Joshua, a Christ figure, to take the Holy Land, in contrast to modern popes who forget the crusades and the mission to spread the faith (see Pr. 9.124-26, 15.142-44). Bernard, De considerations, had also reminded the pope of his responsibiliq to convert unbelievers, 3.3.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 44
See Maccarrone, “11 terzo libro,” 130 ff., on father-son imagery.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 45
I am not including biological ancestors, like Adam and Cacciaguida, who are naturally spoken of as “father.”

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 46
To distinguish the good shepherd, Francis, Dante uses the Greek word “archimandrita,” “abbot,” which probably involves a pun on “mandra,” “flock” (Pr. 11.99, cf. Pg. 3.86). Uguccione, Magnae Derivationes, defines it as “head of the fold,” cited by Singleton, Commentary on Paradise, 203. One wonders if the importance of the wool trade to Tuscany, and the fact that monasteries in England raised sheep and sold the wool to Italian merchants, did not add some piquancy to all the talk of shepherds’ corruption for Dante and his audience.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 47
Scipio’s name also appeared in connection with the chariot of the church, Pg. 29.116, which had once been more splendid than the Roman leader’s, but had turned into a monster since it was covered with secular power and wealth.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 48
For a comprehensive survey, see the Enciclopedia Dantesca (Rome: Istituto, 1970-78) entries under veltro and cinquecento dieci e cinque; recent discussions that offer much information and very sensible readings are Charles T. Davis, “Dante’s Vision of History,” Dante Studies 93 (1975), and Robert Hollander, Allegory in Dante’s “Commedia” (Princeton: Princeton University, 1969), particularly 181-91. Both Davis and Hollander associate the veltro with the DXV and suggest that Dante is prophesying a temporal leader, another Augustus, who may be sent to prepare the way for the second coming, but will not himself be a religious leader. Davis, 152: “It is natural to suppose that the heir of the Eagle and of Scipio will be Roman”: in “Poverty and Eschatology in the Commedia,” Yearbook of Italian Studies 4 (1980), 59-86, Davis points out that the Hohenstaufen themselves used the imagery of the eagle’s heir, that Frederick’s son, Conrad, was called “son of the Eagle, heir of the Emperor,” 71. Cf. Floro di Zenzo, 11 Sistema morale e politico nella Divina Commedia (Florence: Kursaal, 1965), 7: the veltro is a Roman emperor, corresponding exactly to the sovereign described in the Monarchy. The veltro prophecy was still alive and being applied by Italians to the emperor in 1355, see later in this chapter and fn. 68. For striking examples of the importance of prophecy in the political life of this period, see Villani, Istorie Fiorentine, particularly 6.81, 7.31,9.3,9.46.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 49
Cf. Benvenuto, 4.273: “that wise, just greyhound . . . will kill the whore, that is, the great whore, that is, the prelacy of the pastors of the church, whose wife is the wolf, for avarice flourishes in them.” Davis, “Dante’s Vision,” 149, cites Dante’s letter to the Italian cardinals, in which he says each of the clergy “has taken avarice to wife,” Ep. 8.7.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 50
For Pietro’s later views, see Charles T. Davis’ article on the veltro, Enciclopedia Dantesca, 5.909. On Dante and the Last World Emperor, see Marjorie Reeves, “Dante and the Prophetic View of History,” The World of Dante, ed. Cecil Grayson (Oxford: Clarendon, 1980), S7, and Davis, “Dante’s Vision,” ISS.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 51
Benvenuto on the DXV, “messenger of God,” says “hic est ille veltrus,” “this is the greyhound,” 4.273. Hollander, Allegory in Dante’s “Commedia,” 184, notes the numerical symmetry of the two prophecies, Virgil’s coming 101 lines after the beginning of Hell, Beatrice’s 102 lines before the end of Purgatory.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 52
It seems unlikely that Dante means Boniface in the figure of the giant, as the Ottimo suggests in his comments on Purgatory 32 (2.576-77), since Boniface was already dead when Dante wrote the poem and he had certainly not been killed by a great reformer, nor had the curia been cleansed. The Ottimo, incidentally, does not repeat that identification when he discusses this passage.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 53
J. B. Fletcher, “The Crux of Dante’s Comedy,” in Essays in Memory of Barrett Wendell (Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University, 1965), identifies Can Grande with the veltro, 74-84; Hollander, Allegory in Dante’s “Commedia,” 18788, suggests both Can Grande and Christ; Erich Auerbach, Dante, Poet of the Secular World trans. Ralph Manheim (1929; reprint, Chicago: University of Chicago, 1961), 129, Can Grande and the Great Kahn, or the Phoenix. For others who posit Can Grande, see Davis, veltro, Enciclopedia Dantesca, 5. 908-912.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 54
Ludwig had his German coronation and his victory at Morgarten in 1315, R. Davidsohn, “11 cinquecento dieci e cinque del Purgatorio,” Bullettino della Societd Dantesca Italiana 9 (1902), 129-31. Hollander makes a rather attractive point about the numbers: in IsiDor&eacute’s Etymologiae, Julius Caesar, the first emperor, is said to have been five years old in the 515Sth year from the creation, in other words, he was born in the year 5150. Thus 515 would be the number of the first emperor, and fittingly of his (final?) successor. Kay, “Dante’s Razor,” suggests that DXV refers to Distinction 15 in Gratian and makes an interesting case based on Dante’s frequent opposition to the authority of the decretals. There may well be some truth to this argument, but it cannot be the sole explanation, since the DXV must also be a human leader, if he is heir to the eagle. Robert Kaske, “Dante’s DXV and Veltro,” Traditio 17 (1961), 185-254, makes a strong case for Christ on the basis of the manuscript monogram of Vere dignum: more recently, in “Dante’s Purgatorio XXXII and XXXIII: A Survey of Christian History,” University of Toronto Quarterly 43 (1974), 193214, he adds to his arguments for the second coming as the solution of Dante’s prophecy.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 55
C. H. Grandgent, ed., La Divina Commedia di Dante Alighieri (Boston: Heath, 1933), 635-37, refers to commentators on Revelation who spelled out the number of the beast, 666, in Roman numberals, DCLXVI, an anagram for DIC LUX, Lucifer, who claims to be the light. Those six letters also suggest an anagram for Ludwig’s name, Ludovicus, which often appears as LVDOVIC. Cacciaguida dates his own birth, the beginning of Dante’s family, from the Annunciation by the numbers S00, S0, 30 (D, L, XXX), combining the imperial number 5, with the divine number 3, and implicitly connecting Dante with the leader to come, of whom he is the herald (as John the Baptist was to Christ). Five is associated with good rulers in Paradise: Solomon is the fifth light of his circle (Pr. 10.109 and 13.48) and there are five lights in the eagle’s brow (20.69).

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 56
Francesco Mazzoni’s view, that the last chapter of the Monarchy reflects the recent problems over the election of Ludwig of Bavaria, with the injunction that imperial electors should think of themselves as instruments of divine providence (“Teoresi e prassi in Dante politico,” in Dante Alighieri, Monarchia, Epistole politiche [Turin: ERI, 1966], Ixiv), lends some weight to this hypothesis, since it means that even in the Monarchy, Dante is looking to someone beyond Henry, and Ludwig is the most likely candidate on the scene.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 57
A description of Ludwig’s mother as regent, ruling wisely and governing virilely after the death of her husband, echoes what was said of the earlier Countess Matelda (see below, chapter four: “Domina Mechthildis … post mortem mariti sui�Dominium terrae sapienter regnans et viriliter gubernans,” Monumenta Dissensia, cited by Joseph Schlett, Biographie von Kaiser Ludwig dem Baier (Sulzbach: Seidel, 1822), 12.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 58
On Dante and evangelical poverty, see Antoon Ariaens, “Dante e la Chiesa,” in Miscellanea Dantesca (Utrecht: Spectrum 1965), 89-102- Raoul Manselli, “Dante e l’Ecclesia Spiritualis,” Dante e Roma, Atti del Convegno di Studi (Florence: Le Monnier, 1965), 115-35; Holmes, “Dante and the Popes”; Scott, “Inferno XIX” Davis, “Poverty and Eschatology,” and Dante and the Idea of Rome (214-27) for connections with Ubertino da Casale. In “Imagery in Paradiso XXVII,” Scott calls the canto “an absolute condemnation of papal policy, which is based on greed and opposition to the emperor, Christ’s temporal vicar on earth,” 29.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 59
We know that Gregory the Great is also in Paradise, not because Dante sees him, but because he tells us that Gregory was wrong about the order of angels and smiled at his mistake when he opened his eyes in the Primo Mobile (Pr. 28.133-35). Even on angelic hierarchy, Dante will not allow a pope to be right.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 60
See Ernst Kantorowicz, Frederick the Second trans. E. O. Lorimer (1931; reprint, New York: Ungar, 1957) for a comprehensive study of the emperor. In the Convivio, Dante calls Frederick the last emperor of the Romans (“ultimo imperaDor&eacute de li Romani”), 4.3.6.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 61
The passage is worth citing since it deals with the problem of the two powers: “‘one has put the other out,’ that is, the pope the emperor, and the emperor the pope, as was evident in Frederick 11 who tyrannically usurped all spiritual things, and Gregory IX, who occupied Frederick’s kingdom when he was absent…. It can also be understood especially of Boniface, who girded on his own sword, as was shown above in chapter 6. Therefore he says: ‘and he joined the sword,’ that is, temporal power, ‘with the staff,’ that is, with spiritual power, which is represented by the pastoral staff. The poet sees this same thing a little later in Clement V against Henry VI [sic], when the authority of the Gospel testifies that two swords are employed by the Christian empire.” Walter Ullmann, Medieval Papalism (London: Methuen, 1949), 185, notes that Frederick went further than Innocent in condemning even the suspicion of heresy and in punishing the failure of secular authorities to execute ecclesiastical sentences on heretics. Dante may also have been influenced in his judgment of Frederick by the fact that Frederick allowed his court to be described as an imperial church, “ecclesia imperialis,” and himself as a kind of messiah (see Stephany, “Pier della Vigna’s Prophecies”). Jacopo (1.219 ff.) tells some interesting anecdotes about Frederick’s relations with the church: trying to curb the “mal reggimento” of the “mali pastori,” the emperor asked the church to grant him more than one wife and when the cardinals answered with scriptural arguments against it, he pointed out how many wives (churches) they had; on another occasion, the pope, plotting against Frederick, wrote to the Sultan to take advantage of the rebellion of Sicily and Puglia which the pope had fomented, but the Sultan instead told the emperor.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 62
Hadrian, is presented as a figure of greed corrected, Martin as gluttony being purged, Peter of Spain as a scholar, none as a model pope. Gregory is mentioned in both Purgatory and Paradise, but not seen, whereas Trajan, in connection with whom Gregory is mentioned in Pg. 10.75-76, is seen both as a sculpted figure and as a soul in the eye of the eagle (Pr. 20).

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 63
This passage may owe something to Christ’s words in Matt. 7:21-23: “Non omni qui dicit mihi: Domine, Domine, inhabit in regnum caelorum….” “Not everyone that sayeth to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven….” On Ripheus’s status in the Comedy, see above, chapter one, fn. 16.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 64
pg. 16.94-97; cf. Convivio, 4.9.10: “One can almost say of the emperor, wishing to describe his office with an image, that he is the rider of the human will. It is quite clear that that horse goes through the fields without its rider, and especially in poor Italy, which remains without any means for its governing”; in the Monarchy, Dante says that human cupidity must be controlled, that men would wander like horses if they were not held back “in camo et freno,” “by bit and bridle,” 3.16. One wonders if Dante has other passages from the controversy in mind, e.g. Giles, De ecclesiastica potestate, 2.6: there are four kinds of power, the lower always serving the higher; the art of making a bridle is not so high as that of using it; the horse is matter on which the knight acts, matter disposed for his action by a bridle; earthly power is to prepare matter so that the ecclesiastical is not impeded in dealing with spiritual things. John of Paris (De potestate regia et papali, 19.32), in a discussion of control over the end and the means by which the end is attained, points out that to say man is master of all horses, and therefore of all bridles, does not follow.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 65
See Riviere, Le Probleme, appendix 6, “Vicarius Dei,” 435 ff., and Kantorowicz, The King’s Two Bodies.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 66
See Nevio Matteini, 11 piu antico oppositore politico di Dante: Guido Vernani da Rimini, Testo critico del “De reprobatione Monarchiae” (Padua CEDAM, 1958), 93: Habet enim mendax et perniciosi pater mendacii sua vasa que, in exterioribus honestatis et veritatis figuris fallacibus et fucatis coloribus adornata, venenum continent … Inter alia vero talia sua vasa quidam fuit multa fantastice poetizans et sophista verbosus, verbis exterioribus in eloquentia multis gratus, qui suis poeticis fantasmatibus et figmentis … non solum egros animos, sed etiam studiosos dulcibus sirenarum cantibus conducit fraudulenter ad interitum salutifere veritatis.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 67
See Michele Maccarrone, “Dante e i teologi del XIV-XV secolo,” Studi romani S (1957), 20-28, on Guido; on Jacopo, Elisabetta Cavallari, La fortuna di Dante nel trecento (Florence: Perrella, 1921), 44.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 68
See Cavallari, La fortuna di Dante, 48, who cites the sonnet by Menghino Mezzani attacking the emperor they all thought would be “quel veltro a dar salute a Italia umile/che terra o poltro non dovea cibarlo,” “that greyhound to bring salvation to humble Italy, whom earth or dust would not feed,” words drawn from the Comedy, Hell 1.101-06.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 69
Carlo Dionisotti, “Dante nel Quattrocento,” Atti del Congresso Internazionale di Studi Danteschi (Florence: Sansoni, 1965), 1.335..

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 70
For Dante’s influence on imperial propaganda, see Richard Scholz, Unbekannte Kirchenpolitische Streitschriften aus der Zeit Ludwigs des Bayern (Rome: Loescher, 1911), 254-56. Antonino, bishop of Florence, said Dante’s error was spread by William of Ockham, see Cavallari, La fortuna di Dante, 4243.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 71
In the Vita di Dante, chapter 26, ed. Bruno Cagli (Rome: Avanzini e Torraca, 1965), 103-04. The same story is told by the jurist Bartolo del Sassoferrato, see Maccarrone, “Dante e i teologi,” 20, Matteini, Guido Verrani, 32, and Bruno Nardi “La fortuna della Monarchia,” Nel mondo di Dante (Rome: Istituto grafico Tiberino,1944), 164, where Nardi notes that Bartolo cites arguments from the Monarchy against the bull Pastoralis cura. The use of the Monarchy by jurists commenting on the Justinian Code is also attested by Cavallari, La fortuna di Dante, 67.

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 72
See Aldo Vallone “11 pensiero politico di Dante dinanzi ad A. Trionfi e a G. Vernani da Rimini,” Atti del Convegno Internazionale di Studi Danteschi (Ravenna: Longo, 1971),173-201, particularly 191 and 194. Vallone, 187, cites one of the texts given by R. Scholz (Unbekannte Streitschriften, 2.113-14), which attacks the idea of God’s two vicars, pope and emperor, as heretical, saying “this heretical error seduced many.”

The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. 02: 73
Nardi, “La Fortuna,” 174-91, particularly 182.