Deiana, Denise (2019) Dall'Ade all'Inferno. Genesi e sviluppo della geografia infernale in Occidente tra tarda antichit√† e alto medioevo. [Ph.D. thesis]
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Abstract (italian or english)
The research analyzes the representations of hell through the study of the evolution of its geography and its structure between late antiquity and the early middle ages in the literary sources.
It is highlighted how in an era between the second and fifth centuries A. D. the hell was used as a synonym for inferi with the meaning of a place of waiting before the final judgment. The idea of the punishment of fire after death was already known from the early centuries of Christianity with the parable of Lazarus the poor and the rich man, narrated in the Gospel of Luke: this parable was used by the Church Fathers to demonstrate the separation between wicked souls in hell and right souls placed in the bosom of Abraham. The geography of the underworld, however, was not fully described until at least the fifth century, because the authors preferred a metaphorical use, which represented hell as synonymous of evil and sin. Starting from the fifth century with greater attention to the destiny of the soul in the moment following death, the descriptions of hell became clearer and characterized by a more defined geography, as evidenced by the text of Visio Pauli, Augustine and Faustus's preaching. From the sixth century, and in particular with pope Gregory the Great, hell was definitively represented as the seat of eternal damnation, also thanks to the help of models belonging to the ancient tradition and the association with some places on earth, such as the volcanoes of Sicily, all being used as an important political tool which the papacy appropriated to explain the activity of the soul in the otherworld, against an environment who denied it. With the visions of the seventh and eighth centuries, finally, the structure and geography of hell became more complicated and defined in three spaces, because the authors added the purgatory space. To describe the otherworld the visions of the seventh and eight centuries used the pictures and themes already employed in the previous centuries.
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