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Church and Empire: Separate Roles for Separate Institutions

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SUNY Geneseo

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  1. Introduction
  2. This power over all
  3. Examples of how the power of the papacy is destroying buon comune in Florence
  4. The way recent popes had misused their papal power
  5. Dante's objection to France's actions
  6. The Florence throughout the Commedia
  7. Conclusion
  8. Works cited

Dante's Divine Comedy is a political work as much as it is a religious one. Amongst the imprecations against Florence, the Papacy, and the French monarchy, there is a dominant political philosophy that shapes how Dante characterizes the political bodies that threaten his vision of universal imperial power. He believes that the goal of humanity is to attain its full intellectual potential. This is only possible if mankind lives in a state of order and peace, or buon comune. In the Commedia as well as his other works he argues that the only way to establish this buon comune, which is the will of God, is through the intervention of the Holy Roman Emperor. Neither the pope nor other strong secular rulers such as the French kings could fulfill the precise role ascribed to the emperor ? to Dante, only empire was the way to peace.

[...] Rather than risk the papacy turning to others, such as the Ghibellines or the Emperor, the giant beats the harlot (echoing the beating and death of Boniface) and drags it off into the woods (the transfer of the papal seat to Avignon and further under the French monarch's control).[28] Dante believes it is the responsibility of the Empire to control the power of France and free the Church from the overwhelming influence of the French monarchs. Dante denounces Florence throughout the Commedia as the ultimate corrupt city, symbolized by the sinfulness of the Inferno.[29] The factionalism and party politics that plagued Florence, causing it to violently turn against itself, destroyed any potential for buon comune.[30] These self-destructive actions, Dante decried in an open letter to his native city, were against both God and nature.[31] Tyrants had taken away the rights of the citizens. [...]

[...] Dante and the Empire, Peter Lang, New York Davis, Charles Till, Dante and the Idea of Rome, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, London Alghieri, Dante. Monarchy, xi Ferrante Alghieri, Dante. Monarchy, II, x Alghieri, Dante. Three Political Letters Ferrante Mancusi-Ungaro Ibid Ferrante Alghieri, Dante. Monarchy, III, iii Alghieri, Dante. Three Political Letters Davis, Charles Till, Dante and the Idea of Rome, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, London Ibid. Pope Boniface VIII, Unam Sanctam Alghieri, Dante. Monarchy, III, iii Benfell, V. [...]

[...] Dante loathed the political position of the papacy, believing that the Empire's power came directly from God and was independent of the will of the Church.[20] In his mind, Dante was attacking the actions of the Church not to tear it down, but to point out its shortcomings in an effort to save it from the corruption of the papacy.[21] from the See which once was so benign to its deserving poor (but now corrupt, not in itself but in its occupant),? (Paradiso XII, 88-90). [...]

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