Dante’s Journey

Luke 10:18: And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”

To describe the cosmological structure of Dante’s Dive Comedy we can start from here. Lucifer’s fall – after Archangel Michael defeated him – contributes to the structure of both Purgatory and Hell. Lucifer plummeted from Empyrean Heaven towards Earth which drew back in horror, thus creating the cavern of Hell right at the centre of the land surface, where he got stuck.

Dante’s cosmology draws on Aristotelian and Ptolemaic cosmological thought, which is geocentric, having Earth, still, at the centre of the universe. Man lives in the Northern Hemisphere – the land surface – which goes from river Gange to the Straits of Gibraltar. The Mountain of Purgatory is at the centre of the other hemisphere – the Southern Hemisphere, which is completely covered by water. No one lives there.

Earth is at the centre and celestial spheres are around it – the Sphere of Air first, then that of Fire – the other elements being water and earth. Above are the nine Heavens, which are transparent spheres where the celestial bodies – the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn the Fixed Stars, the Primum Mobile – rotate at an increasing pace moving away from Earth. The highest heaven is the Empyrean, the seat of the blessed and God. Dante’s universe system of musical tuning abides by the Pythagorean scale, which is based on fifth intervals. Nowadays the days of the week still progress by five according to Dante’s Cosmology: lunedì from the Moon – martedì from Mars (1st and 5th Sphere respectively), mercoledì from Mercury – giovedì from Jupiter (2nd and 6th Sphere), and so on.

Traduzione a cura della classe 5aC A.S.20/21 del Liceo Scientifico A. Oriani di Ravenna