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Cosmological and Philosophical World of Dante Alighieri

«The Divine Comedy» as a Medieval Vision of the Universe


Jacek Grzybowski

The book analyses the medieval vision of the world as depicted in Dante Alighieri’s poetic works. In detail it discusses two works, The Banquet and The Divine Comedy, and offers a view on politics, faith and the universe of the medieval period. For modern people that period with its debates, polemics and visions represents something exceedingly remote, obscure and unknown. While admiring Dante’s poetic artistry, we often fail to recognize the inspirations that permeated the works of medieval scholars and poets. Although times are constantly changing, every generation has to face the same fundamental questions of meaning, purpose and value of human existence: Dante’s cosmological and poetical picture turns out to be surprisingly universal.
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Dante’s journey, according to his biographers, ended in Ravenna, on the night between 13th and 14th September, 1321. The poet’s soul departed to the worlds that he wanted to describe and portray in the poetic stanzas, to join the countless souls of people who had already left the temporal world. All the characters of his poem had experienced death – “this sweet pain that reconciles us with God” – and the only one living during this wonderful journey was the poet himself. The journey was a passage to the great community of the dead, a kind of pilgrimage resembling theodicy – learning and understanding who God is and the way He rules the world. Alighieri takes the immortality of human soul for granted. Immortality, and therefore, indestructibility – the soul remains alive eternally (in the endless continuity) and resides “somewhere”, meaning a state, not a physical place. This poem is also a sort of confession of human frailty, weakness, betrayal and all iniquity, with the everlasting hope for redemption, provided a sinner believes in the power of mercy.

The travel through the Three Kingdoms is a story of liberation from sin and perdition, a history of gradual fulfilment of Christian life, which should ultimately lead to the encounter with the mystery of God. Without any doubt, Dante is here not only a poet. He acts as an apostle, a prophet and a reformer. He explains the nature of misery of the world, and he is trying to show the way...

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