Maps: Dante’s Inferno (1314)

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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.

Upper Hell:
First Circle: Limbo
Second Circle: Lust
Third Circle: Gluttony
Fourth Circle: Greed
Fifth Circle: Wrath

Lower Hell:
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.

Antonio Manetti’s ‘Section, Plan and Dimensions of Dante’s Inferno’

Map of hell. Illustration by Michelangelo Caetani, 1804–1882.

Map of Dante’s Hell, courtesy of Columbia College

Map of Hell, illustration from Dante’s Inferno, 1587, Straet, Jan van der (Joannes Stradanus) (15231605) Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence, Italy Alinari The Bridgeman Art Library

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.

Botticelli’s Painting of Inferno – The 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!

Close up of Inferno by Botticelli

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.

Read More:

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

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