This is an outline for a presentation to be given by Marie at the CCLE Conference XXIV, in Seward, Nebraska on July 24. Abstract: When an excerpt of Dante’s Divine Comedy is presented to students, it is often from Inferno. This presentation will detail why Lutheran teachers might prefer Purgatorio instead. In light of scholarship positing that Dante’s purgatory is a metaphor for a Christian’s life on earth and specifically The Divine Service, there is a redeeming quality to an otherwise heretical teaching. Purgatorio delves into some beautiful Biblical teachings, including repentance, inspiration, angels, the two kingdoms, and more, that propel thoughtful class discussion. In comparison to Inferno’s grueling biographies, base humor, and vengeful punishments, if nothing else, the songs of the liturgy featured throughout Purgatorio make this classic worthwhile.

I. Introduction

A. Lutherans Reading about Purgatory?!

B. Definitions: Purgatory vs. Purgatorio

C. Humility

D. Augustine: Truth belongs to its Master

II. In Defense of Purgatorio

A. Purgatorio’s Narrative Allegory: The Divine Service?! The Christian Life?!

B. A Historical Introduction to Purgatory

C. Evidence from Dante’s Correspondence

D. Evidence from the Text of Purgatorio

1. The Second Kingdom

2. Cleansing

3. Songs of the Liturgy

4. The Location of Purgatory? Earth!

III. Background Information

A. Dante’s Life

B. Language and Translations

C. The Comedy’s Literary Form

1. A “Cathedral”

2. Three Canticae; 100 Cantos

3. Terza Rima

D. Inferno and Purgatorio Compared

1. Music

2. Autobiographies

3. Art

4. What about Paradiso?

IV. A Climb Up Mt. Purgatory

A. Its Context after Inferno

B. Discussion Points (Canto.Lines)

1. Bodily Resurrection (I.72) and Repentence (III.121ff)

2. Can Pagans be Saved? (VII.7-8ff)

3. Humility and Prayers to the Saints (Cantos XI-XIII)

4. Mercy and Free Will (Cantos XV-XVI)

5. The Two Kingdoms, and Dante as Proto-Reformer? (XVI.127ff)

a. Professor Scott Warns Against This!

b. Magdeburg Confession

c. Augsburg Confession

6. Love (Canto XVII, and the Middle of the Poem)

7. Temptation and Christ: Avarice’s Opposite (Canto XIX)

8. How is One Saved? Through The Aeneid, or The Holy Ghost? (Canto XXI)

9. The Terrace of Lust, And a Really Bizarre Aristotelian Tangent (Canto XXV)

10. Through Fire to Earthly Paradise (Canto XXIXff)

a. The Procession of the Church Triumphant

b. Beatrice’s Holy Eyes: Something More? (Canto XXXI)

V. Conclusion

VI. Questions and Comments?


Note: Please use wisdom and discretion when accessing these resources. Not all websites have been perused thoroughly.

Works Cited:

  • The Augsburg Confession.” Book of Concord. Accessed 05 October 2023.
  • A Beginner’s Guide to Dante’s Divine Comedy. Jason Baxter. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2018.
  • Dante's Purgatorio. Translated by Robert and Jean Hollander. New York: Anchor Books, 2003.
  • “The Magdeburg Interpretation of Romans 13: A Lutheran Justification for Political Resistance.” The Hausvater Project. Accessed 01 Oct. 2023.
  • Understanding Dante. John A. Scott. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2004.

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Marie K. MacPherson is a wife, mother, and baptized child of God. She is a CCLE certified educator, curriculum developer, and author. Marie has published Meditations on the Vocation of Motherhood, Volumes 1 (2018) and 2 (2023), Mothering Many (2016), and Lutherans for Life/Concordia Publishing House booklets The Story of Baby Shalom and Teaching Children Chastity for Life. Her Bachelor’s Degree is in Elementary Education, with a specialty in Communication Arts and Literature and Synod Certification, from Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, MN. A life-long learner, Marie enjoys graduate courses from Memoria College’s Great Books program. Her husband Ryan is Academic Dean at Luther Classical College and also is the president of The Hausvater Project. Together, they home school their seven children in collaboration with Mount Hope Lutheran School. Visit their website at

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