Dante’s Inferno is a symbol of Dante’s relationship with the Church during his life, and though it was written after the Black Plague, it has many examples of the issues humanity had during the plague. Pope Boniface VIII was Dante Alighieri’s worst enemy. First, the Pope betrayed Dante’s beloved White Guelphs party. The party was originally the Guelphs who split into two parties, The White Guelphs and the Black Guelphs, after defeating the Ghibellines in the Guelph-Ghibelline conflict.
The split originally occurred along familial lines, but later the split was prominent in the ideological differences based on opposite views on the papal rule in Florence- which was were the two parties resided. The Blacks supported the Pope and the Whites wanted more freedom from Rome. Initially the Whites were in power, so they expelled the Blacks. In response, Pope Boniface VIII planned a military occupation of Florence. In 1303, Charles of Valois, who was the brother of King Philip IV of France, was to visit Florence because he was appointed peacemaker by the Pope.
It was believed that Charles of Valois had received other unofficial instructions, so the council sent a delegation to Rome to ascertain the Pope’s intentions. Dante was one of the delegates. Pope Boniface quickly dismissed the other delegates and asked Dante alone to remain in Rome. At the same time, Charles of Valois entered Florence with the Black Guelphs, who in the next six days destroyed much of the city and killed many of their enemies. A new Black Guelph government was installed and Cante de’ Gabrielli da Gubbio was appointed podesta of the city.
Secondly, Dante was condemned to exile for two years and ordered to pay a large fine. He did not pay the fine in part because he believed he was not guilty and in part because all his assets in Florence had been seized by the Black Guelphs. He was condemned to perpetual exile, and if he returned to Florence without paying the fine, he could be burned at the stake. Pope Boniface was also a symbol for everything corrupt within Catholicism: simony, indulgences, and barratry. All things that Dante condemns in his Divine Comedy.
Within the Divine Comedy, the Pope is never mentioned. But the clear hatred is evident through Dante’s refusal to look at the status of a person who is cast within hell. Whether it was The Pope, or a mighty King, Dante still exposes their sins, and gave them “proper” punishment for what they had done. This shows his anger with the Church, because Popes were considered the ones who could redeem you from your sins, by listening to your confessions. And Dante throws them into hell?
The stanzas in his poem have examples of people losing themselves to their appetite for trivial pleasures. This is evident, especially, in the Carnal which holds all the souls who let themselves be swept away by their lustful passions, such as Cleopatra and Achilles. During the time of the Black Death, there was an increase of prostitution and other sexual activity that was frowned upon by the Church. But this was due to the fact, that everyone knowing they wouldn’t survive for very long.
Yet, it is also seen, that during the beginning of the Black Death, people would spend their money on extravagant things- Rather than their sick neighbors. There was a loss of good will among common people who held prejudice against Jews, friars, foreigners, beggars, and pilgrims whom they believed were the cause of the tragic deaths. These prejudices were the reason for many attacks on villages and communities. These kinds of attacks reflect the sinners that are in hell.