According to the image that Dante gave us, Hell and Purgatory are part of the terrestrial sphere, whereas Paradise is out of the Earth.
Dante obviously follows the Christian doctrine that places God in the Heaven.
We must remember that Dante also follows the Ptolemaic theory that says that the Earth is immobile in the center of the universe and nine concentric heavens revolve around it.
There is then a tenth heaven, which overlooks the whole and is made of pure intellectual light.
In this tenth heaven is Heaven itself, the seat of God, angels, and the blessed.
Paradise has the shape of an amphitheater, with an endless series of stairs that shrink into infinity.
On these steps sit the blessed, absorbed in the contemplation of God.
Dante, who is author and main character of the poem. however, describes this place only at the end of the The Divine Comedy; in the previous nine songs he tells of his journey with Beatrice through the nine heavens.
In each of the first seven heavens is a different planet on which Dante and Beatrice stay; in the eighth heaven they find the Gemini constellation, under whose sign Dante was born.
During the trip, Dante and Beatrice see many blessed people who come to meet them; this is a real privilege due to the important mission that God has entrusted to Dante: relate to the living persons what he saw in the Afterworld.
The purpose of Dante’s journey is nothing less than the salvation of mankind.
Like many intellectuals in his time, Dante believed that the stars could influence men’s life.
In particular, he gave the feature of inconsistency to the Moon and therefore puts in Moon’s heaven those who, with good Heart, without fault of their own, did not lead to complete their vows.
Mercury depends on the love of earthly glory, so here Dante meets the souls who did good works but with a negative purpose: to have fame in life.
Venus was borne from the tendency to love, so in the third heaven are the spirits who were dragged from it, even if they repented when they were still alive.
The Sun inspired wisdom, Mars conflicts, and Jupiter justice.
Thus the fourth, fifth and sixth heavens house the souls of those who were wise, those who fought for faith and those who were good, righteous men.
The last planet is Saturn which inspires meditation and hosts contemplative spirits in the seventh heaven.
The blessed are then grouped into categories as the damned in Hell: their level of happiness increases according to the height of the sky they belong to.
While the physical description of the damned by Dante is very earthly and raw, the blessed spirits are imagined as impalpable; Dante can barely see them.
But these blessed have very common human souls. Dante often makes references to their lives on Earth, citing real events and characters.
Therefore, there is no shortage in Dante’s Paradise of political and historical references—especially of his beloved Florence—but the main topic here is the Christian doctrine.
Dante describes bliss as full knowledge of the truth.
This idea was deeply rooted in his thinking and is also found in other works: happiness of the human soul can be realized only with the pursuit of perfection, which is done through science and knowledge.
Obstacles in the pursuit of happiness are human faults and sin.
Dante’s Paradise also described his personal intellectual journey from doubt to faith; his guide in this case is Beatrice, a woman who became an angel.
with commentary by American professor Allen Mandelbaum, a popular modern rendition which includes forty-two Botticelli‘s illustrations
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