Dante Alighieri’s Commedia and music in the Purgatory – And of that second region will I sing

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Dante Alighieri’s great poem Commedia is about the hereafter: the damned souls are in Hell– a place where perpetual darkness and noise reign; souls who are still in need of purification are in Purgatory, a place with days and nights and where singing can be heard; those who have attained eternal life are in Paradise with everlasting light, singing and music. The entire Commedia takes place in one week, during Easter of 1300, and the pilgrim started his journey on the Thursday evening before Good Friday. When Dante arrived at the beach of the Purgatory Mountain it was early morning of Easter Sunday. Hence the question whether an art work such as the Commedia, and more specifically the Purgatory, could deepen a reader’s understanding of the far-reaching event of Easter.

In the Purgatory the singing of songs is mentioned; to ascertain whether this singing of the pilgrims was part of the pilgrims’ purification of their sins, a few songs such as Psalm 114, Psalm 51, “Te Deum Laudamus” en “Agnus Dei” were studied. Who is singing, which song is being sung, where in the Purgatory did the singing take place and what was the manner of singing were part of the research.

To answer these questions the Commedia, and specifically the Purgatory, was studied, authoritative works on the Commedia were consulted and church singing and church music from Dante’s time researched. The conclusion reached is that the songs in the Purgatory were intrinsically part of the souls’ purification; that Dante in his poem took Gregorian chant and the development thereof into account.

Due to the wide scope of Dante’s Commedia and multifaceted meaning of the text it requires of the reader dedication and time to understand the essence of this art work. The answer to the question whether the reading of the Purgatory could deepen the reader’s conception and experience of the far-reaching events of Easter is not a simple “yes”.

Keywords: Agnus Dei; Dante Alighieri; Gregorian chant; Comedy; Easter Sunday; Psalm 51; Psalm 114; Purgatory; Te Deum Laudamus

Lees die volledige artikel in Afrikaans: Die Commedia (Komedie) van Dante Alighieri en musiek in die Purgatorium – Om te sing van daardie tweede ryk

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