Sodomites in Dante’s 7th Circle of Hell

The drawing is based on Dante Alighieri’s depiction of Hell in The Divine Comedy, which he wrote 1308–1321.

Sodomites in Dante’s 7th Circle of Hell, 2023, ink on paper, 70 x 80 cm.

The church’s attitude towards sexual deviation became stricter in the 12th century. The theologians of that time defined the Christian life leading to salvation more precisely than before. In defining orthodox Christianity, undesirable elements were excluded from the community; Jews began to be persecuted, lepers were sent to hospitals, and homosexuality was stigmatised.

After its publication, Dante’s Divine Comedy became a kind of manual about the worlds after death: hell, purgatory and heaven, which many later writers referred to or based their own views on.

Dante placed sodomites in the seventh circle of hell, where souls are punished for their sins against nature. This has often been interpreted to mean that same-sex sexual acts are mortal sins and cannot be cleansed even in purgatory. However, Dante’s view is more multifaceted. The sodomites he placed in hell are child molesters and rapists, i.e. perpetrators of sexual violence, or his own hetero enemies, whom he sent to hell while laughing.