Home > Inferno (Robert Langdon #4)(27)

Inferno (Robert Langdon #4)(27)
Author: Dan Brown

“As you may have guessed from the title,” Langdon continued, “The Divine Comedy was written in the vernacular—the language of the people. Even so, it brilliantly fused religion, history, politics, philosophy, and social commentary in a tapestry of fiction that, while erudite, remained wholly accessible to the masses. The work became such a pillar of Italian culture that Dante’s writing style has been credited with nothing less than the codification of the modern Italian language.”

Langdon paused a moment for effect and then whispered, “My friends, it is impossible to overstate the influence of Dante Alighieri’s work. Throughout all of history, with the sole exception perhaps of Holy Scripture, no single work of writing, art, music, or literature has inspired more tributes, imitations, variations, and annotations than The Divine Comedy.”

After listing the vast array of famous composers, artists, and authors who had created works based on Dante’s epic poem, Langdon scanned the crowd. “So tell me, do we have any authors here tonight?”

Nearly one-third of the hands went up. Langdon stared out in shock. Wow, either this is the most accomplished audience on earth, or this e-publishing thing is really taking off.

“Well, as all of you authors know, there is nothing a writer appreciates more than a blurb—one of those single-line endorsements from a powerful individual, designed to make others want to buy your work. And, in the Middle Ages, blurbs existed, too. And Dante got quite a few of them.”

Langdon changed slides. “How would you like to have this on your book jacket?”

Ne’er walked the earth a greater man than he.


A murmur of surprise rustled through the crowd.

“Yes,” Langdon said, “that’s the same Michelangelo you all know from the Sistine Chapel and the David. In addition to being a master painter and sculptor, Michelangelo was a superb poet, publishing nearly three hundred poems—including one titled ‘Dante,’ dedicated to the man whose stark visions of hell were those that inspired Michelangelo’s Last Judgment. And if you don’t believe me, read the third canto of Dante’s Inferno and then visit the Sistine Chapel; just above the altar, you’ll see this familiar image.”

Langdon advanced slides to a frightening detail of a muscle-bound beast swinging a giant paddle at cowering people. “This is Dante’s hellish ferryman, Charon, beating straggling passengers with an oar.”

Langdon moved now to a new slide—a second detail of Michelangelo’s Last Judgment—a man being crucified. “This is Haman the Agagite, who, according to Scripture, was hanged to death. However, in Dante’s poem, he was crucified instead. As you can see here in the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo chose Dante’s version over that of the Bible.” Langdon grinned and lowered his voice to a whisper. “Don’t tell the pope.”

The crowd laughed.

“Dante’s Inferno created a world of pain and suffering beyond all previous human imagination, and his writing quite literally defined our modern visions of hell.” Langdon paused. “And believe me, the Catholic Church has much to thank Dante for. His Inferno terrified the faithful for centuries, and no doubt tripled church attendance among the fearful.”

Langdon switched the slide. “And this leads us to the reason we are all here tonight.”

The screen now displayed the title of his lecture: DIVINE DANTE: SYMBOLS OF HELL.

“Dante’s Inferno is a landscape so rich in symbolism and iconography that I often dedicate an entire semester course to it. And tonight, I thought there would be no better way to unveil the symbols of Dante’s Inferno than to walk side by side with him … through the gates of hell.”

Langdon paced out to the edge of the stage and surveyed the crowd. “Now, if we’re planning on taking a stroll through hell, I strongly recommend we use a map. And there is no map of Dante’s hell more complete and accurate than the one painted by Sandro Botticelli.”

He touched his remote, and Botticelli’s forbidding Mappa dell’Inferno materialized before the crowd. He could hear several groans as people absorbed the various horrors taking place in the funnel-shaped subterranean cavern.

“Unlike some artists, Botticelli was extremely faithful in his interpretation of Dante’s text. In fact, he spent so much time reading Dante that the great art historian Giorgio Vasari said Botticelli’s obsession with Dante led to ‘serious disorders in his living.’ Botticelli created more than two dozen other works relating to Dante, but this map is his most famous.”

Langdon turned now, pointing to the upper left-hand corner of the painting. “Our journey will begin up there, aboveground, where you can see Dante in red, along with his guide, Virgil, standing outside the gates of hell. From there we will travel downward, through the nine rings of Dante’s inferno, and eventually come face-to-face with …”

Langdon quickly flashed to a new slide—a giant enlargement of Satan as depicted by Botticelli in this very painting—a horrific, three-headed Lucifer consuming three different people, one in each mouth.

The crowd gasped audibly.

“A glance at coming attractions,” Langdon announced. “This frightening character here is where tonight’s journey will end. This is the ninth ring of hell, where Satan himself resides. However …” Langdon paused. “Getting there is half the fun, so let’s rewind a bit … back up to the gates of hell, where our journey begins.”

Langdon moved to the next slide—a Gustave Doré lithograph that depicted a dark, tunneled entrance carved into the face of an austere cliff. The inscription above the door read: ABANDON ALL HOPE, YE WHO ENTER HERE.

Hot Series
» Unfinished Hero series
» Colorado Mountain series
» Chaos series
» The Sinclairs series
» The Young Elites series
» Billionaires and Bridesmaids series
» Just One Day series
» Sinners on Tour series
» Manwhore series
» This Man series
» One Night series
» Fixed series
Most Popular
» A Thousand Letters
» Wasted Words
» My Not So Perfect Life
» Caraval (Caraval #1)
» The Sun Is Also a Star
» Everything, Everything
» Devil in Spring (The Ravenels #3)
» Marrying Winterborne (The Ravenels #2)
» Cold-Hearted Rake (The Ravenels #1)
» Norse Mythology