Numerous graphic illustrations of the torments and inhabitants of Hell have been painted in the margins of this copy of the Divine Comedy by the Italian poet Dante Alighieri (d. 1321), which was made in Naples in around 1370. Dante’s allegorical poem was one of the most popular texts written during the Middle Ages and survives in over 800 manuscripts.
One of these marginal illustrations is a representation of Satan in the very centre of Hell (f. 58r) as a giant with three faces, eating Judas with one of his mouths. Dante and his guide, the Roman poet Virgil (d. 19 BC), are shown climbing Satan’s leg, journeying out of Hell and into Purgatory.
During the 15th century, this copy of the text was owned by the Monforte family, who were Counts of Biseglia (near Naples). Entries of births and deaths in the family between 1449 and 1483 have been added to the final page of the book.
- Article by:
- Alixe Bovey
Men with dogs’ heads, creatures with giant feet, griffins, sirens and hellish demons can all be found in the illustrated pages of medieval manuscripts. Dr Alixe Bovey delves into the symbolic meaning of a variety of monsters to understand what they can teach us about life and belief in the Middle Ages.