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Catholic Purgatory: What Does It Mean?

It was, however, important for those remaining on earth to pray for those who were in Purgatory. Where was Purgatory?

There was little consensus about this. Some believed it was closer to Hell than it was to Heaven; some said the opposite; still others believed that purgation took place in the location where the sin being punished had actually happened; another widespread view in Italy was that Purgatory was Mount Etna, in Sicily. It was clear that there was some sort of punishment; and that the souls in Purgatory had been saved from eternal damnation; and after that punishment had been completed, they would be able to enter Paradise.

But few details were established in medieval culture about the type of punishment undergone; the psychological state of the souls in Purgatory was not in any way considered important; and the geographical location of Purgatory was a hotly debated issue.

On each terrace, there is a slightly different form of suffering: the envious, for instance, have their eyes sewn up; the proud are weighed down by stones. The range of forms of suffering is therefore considerably greater. They suffer, but not simply in order to repay a debt: they are suffering in order to become good. The consequence of this is that they willingly undergo the suffering, they understand the reasons for it, and they are acquiring the new habits of thought which will enable them to go to Heaven.

For Dante, Purgatory is not only a place where you pay the debts you incurred when you sinned: it is in fact the place where you reflect on those sins, and where you change the psychological tendencies which led you to sin. This leads to extraordinary richness in the depiction of character.

It is also a place of prayer.

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Throughout Purgatory, hymns and psalms are sung, and prayers are said. Its geographical location is also hugely inventive. For Dante, the Garden of Eden is placed at the top of Purgatory. Dante imagines that Eden is at the very antipodes of —the opposite side of the world from--Jerusalem.

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9 truths about purgatory - Our Sunday Visitor

This is not a casual choice: for in doing so, Dante imagines that the place where mankind incurred guilt from original sin lies on the same axis as the place where salvation from original sin was won by Christ in the Crucifixion. Original sin and salvation are therefore strongly linked.

This link between the Garden of Eden and Purgatory is, as far as scholars have been able to ascertain, without precedent in theology and literature. Earlier versions of Purgatory had imagined that devils inflicted torments on the souls suffering there.


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But Dante imagined Purgatory as a place of moral change, as well as uffering. Login or Register. Save Word. Log In. Definition of purgatory. Did You Know? Example Sentences Learn More about purgatory.

Purgatory: part of the Good News

Keep scrolling for more. First Known Use of purgatory 13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1. Learn More about purgatory. Resources for purgatory Time Traveler!

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Explore the year a word first appeared. Dictionary Entries near purgatory Purgatoire purgatorial purgatorian purgatory purgatory hammer purge purgeable. Time Traveler for purgatory The first known use of purgatory was in the 13th century See more words from the same century. More Definitions for purgatory. English Language Learners Definition of purgatory. Comments on purgatory What made you want to look up purgatory? Get Word of the Day daily email!

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