The Inferno Canto XIX
They cross to the third ring that holds the simonists, those guilty of the selling of spiritual things. "O Simon Magnus! O wretched followers of his and robbers ye, who prostitute the things of God, that should be wedded unto righteousness, for gold and silver." Canto XIX, pg. 102 Simonists take their name from Simon Magnus, a king of Samaria rebuked by St. Peter for declaring that the things of God can be bought for money. The walls and floor of this chasm are lined with round holes. The holes resemble niches in the Baptistery of Florence where priest stood when addressing a congregation. Dante mentions that he rescued a boy imprisoned in one such niche in Florence. However, priests have been deposited upside down in these holes with only their feet and calves visible. Flames ripple across the soles of their feet and burn with an intensity proportionate to the soul's sin. Dante points out one who writhes more than the rest and Virgil carries him down into the chasm to speak with this sinner. He is Pope Nicholas III. Dante addresses him and Nicolas mistakes him for Pope Boniface VIII, who he expects to join him in suffering and replace him in the highest position in the Circle. Nicholas predicts with precision the chronology and identities of the Popes who will follow him: Boniface VIII, for eleven years, and then Clement V. Dante rebukes him for his greed, saying that he was worse than idolaters because he crushed the good and lifted up the wicked, and that he made the church a whore to wealth. "Ah Constantine! To how much ill gave birth, not thy conversion, but that dower which the first rich Father took from thee" Canto XIX, pg. 105 Dante laments Constantine's mistake in paying the leaders of the early Church. Virgil approves of Dante's vociferous criticism and then carries him up to the bridge to the next chasm.