Divine Comedy Historical Context

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Papacy and Empire: The Decline

Dante Alighieri was born into one of the most chaotic periods of Western European history. His birth in 1265 and death in 1321 meant that he witnessed the decline of the two most powerful social institutions of the Middle Ages, the Holy Roman Empire and the papacy. This degeneration—this loss of power, control and respect-affected Dante emotionally, psychologically and politically. The conflicts between Church and State constitute a major thread in Dante's Divine Comedy and are the subject of his Latin treatise De Monarchia (On Monarchy). This work is his plea for a universal monarchy, one that would co-exist peacefully with a pope who would hold spiritual sovereignty over the same subjects.

The process of decline began well before Dante's birth and continued long after his death. By the thirteenth century, the papacy's interests had grown ever more political and less and less...

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This section contains 1,414 words
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Epics for Students
Divine Comedy from Epics for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.