Dante's Medieval Cosmology

Written between 1308 and 1320, Dante's Divina Commedia (Divine Comedy) represents the peak in medieval cosmology, blending the Ptolemaic geographical and astronomical systems with Christian theology and philosophy. A motionless spherical Earth at the center of the universe is surrounded by the spheres of the seven classical planets, the stars, and the Primum Mobile. The afterworld is divided into three sections: Inferno (Hell), Purgatorio (Purgatory), and Paradiso (Heaven). Hell is found inside the Earth, divided into nine circles for increasing levels of sin. Purgatory, divided into two ante-purgatory ledges, seven terraces, and the Earthly Paradise, lies opposite Jerusalem, between the Earth's surface and the sphere of the Moon. Above are the nine spheres of Heaven, surmounted by the nonphysical Empyrean containing the Rose of the Blessed, the Angelic Choirs, and God. This Demonstration offers a schematic, three-dimensional, interactive view of Dante's cosmology.


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The original title of Dante's poem was Comedy; the adjective Divine was added later in the fourteenth century. The present-day standard reference edition is [1]. English translations of the Comedy continue to be published regularly. See, for example, [2].
[1] D. Alighieri, Commedia (G. Petrocchi, ed.), 3 vols., Milano: Mondadori, 1966–67.
[2] D. Alighieri, The Divine Comedy (H. F. Cary, trans.), New York: Grolier, 1973.
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