Greg Peters at The Scriptorium provides a fascinating analysis of Dante's Ante-Purgatory found in the Divine Comedy. Here's how it begins . . .
For many Protestant Christians today the doctrine of Purgatory (especially in its medieval articulation) is blatantly wrong. The need for such a place is mainly the result of the medieval concepts of debt, penalty and merit (of Christ and the saints). To a medieval theologian Purgatory was necessary, even desirable. Thus, when Dante Alighieri went about writing his Divine Comedy, it was only natural that it would be set in three geographical locations: Hell, Purgatory and Heaven. Yet, when one sits down to read Dante’s Purgatorio attentively, the reader notices that it is not until Canto 9 of the book that Dante (and Virgil) actually reaches the gates of Purgatory: “Thou art come to Purgatory now.” Where is he in Books 1-8? Is he still in Hell? No. He’s in a place between Hell and Purgatory that is seaside, flat and covered in reeds. This area is often labeled as Ante-Purgatory. Ante-Purgatory? As a person fairly well versed in medievalia, I do not recall the theological concept of Ante-Purgatory. What is Dante up to?
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