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The Inferno by Dante Alighieri - Barron's Booknotes
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Dante and Virgil continue on the path to bowge iii. Dante sees
the trench filled with burning feet extending from holes in the
ground. As Dante watches the kicking feet, he notices that one
sinner thrashes particularly hard. When he asks Virgil about it,
Virgil suggests that they go down into the bowge and let the
sinner identify himself.

Dante speaks to the shade, Pope Nicholas III, who mistakenly
thinks he is being addressed by Pope Boniface VIII. Dante
corrects the misconception and lectures the Pope on the abuses
of the Papacy, which makes the shade writhe and kick even
harder. Virgil rewards Dante for this attack with an embrace
and carries him out of the moat to the path. Apparently Dante
is making some headway on his allegorical journey (at least
until the next canto).

The inverted graves contain the Simoniacs, those who sold
religious offices and favors. There is, apparently, one hole for
all the Popes. As each who so abused the office dies, he forces
the Popes who sinned in this way before him deeper into the
hole and takes the place of his immediate predecessor.

NOTE: This is a strange punishment, but Dante gives us some
help in trying to understand it. The image of the punishment
is, again, the image of symbolic retribution. In a medieval
baptismal font, the priest stands in a hole to pour water over
the head of a person being welcomed to the Church. This is
the first sacrament, that which opens the way to Heaven. Here
is the inversion: the officer of the Church is embedded head
first with feet aflame, welcomed to Hell for pursuing earthly
power more than heavenly power.

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The Inferno by Dante Alighieri - Barron's Booknotes

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