“Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate“
“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”
How do maps allow us to access, interpret and understand Hell? Or, as one sixteenth-century author (Hieronymus Bosch) put it, to “see Hell before our eyes?”
Taking place between Good Friday and Easter in the year 1300, Dante’s Inferno is the first part of Dante Alighieri’s 14th century epic poem Divine Comedy. It is followed by Purgatorio and Paradisio. Inferno describes Dante’s journey through Hell, guided by the ancient Roman poet Virgil.
Hell is depicted as nine concentric circles of torment.
First Circle: Limbo
Second Circle: Lust
Third Circle: Gluttony
Fourth Circle: Greed
Fifth Circle: Wrath
Sixth Circle: Heresy
Seventh Circle: Violence
Eighth Circle: Fraud
Ninth Circle: Treachery
Ever since that time of publication, people have been attempting to map his vision of hell. One of the first maps of Dante’s Inferno was created by Antonio Manetti. You can view an interactive version of his ‘Section, Plan and Dimensions of Dante’s Inferno’ at Cornell University Library – Digital Collections.
A new interactive map Topography of Dante Alighieri’s Inferno provides a more pictorial sectional view of Dante’s vision of Hell. If you zoom in on this map of the Inferno you can learn more about the sinners in each circle of hell and the eternal punishments which they must endure.
Sandro Botticelli’s Inferno Painting – Circles of Hell.
Author Dave Lafferty has a great page on his website with close up imagery of Botticelli’s renderings. Definitely take a look!
Did you know?
There are 33 cantos in each of the three sections, which (plus an introductory canto in Inferno) make a total of 100. Interestingly, scholars have found that you can read the same numbered canto from each of the three sections of the poem and find certain correlations. This is known as vertical readings.
Artists Illustrate Dante’s Divine Comedy Through the Ages: Doré, Blake, Botticelli, Mœbius & More
Mapping Hell: Cartography and the Comedy
Featured image: Inferno by Dante Alighieri, via Wikimedia Commons