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ANCIENT AND MODERN IDEAS OF HELL.

artless question: "If the dead be not raised with flesh and bones, how can the damned, after the judgment, gnash their teeth in hell?" "Origen, who was a Platonist, and a heretic on many points," says Alger,[1] "was severely condemned for saying that the fire of hell was inward and of the conscience rather than outward and of the body." Tertullian says, "The damned burn eternally without consuming, as the volcanoes, which are vents from the stored subterranean fire of hell, burn forever without wasting."[2] These words point also to the belief, noted above, that hell was located under the earth.

In the middle ages the Christian conception of hell became more detailed and more terrible. The details can be found not only in the books of the period, but they were favorite subjects for miracle-plays and for works of art, especially for the pictures, carvings, and painted windows with which cathedrals were adorned. The monks of the period produced an extensive literature of visions describing the torments of hell. In these visions, according to Lecky—

The devil was represented bound by red-hot chains on a burning gridiron in the center of hell. The screams of his never-ending agony made its rafters to resound; but his hands were free, and with these he seized the lost souls, crushed them like grapes against his teeth, and then drew them by his breath down the fiery cavern of his throat. Demons with hooks of red-hot iron plunged souls alternately into fire and ice. Some of the lost were hung up by their tongues, others were sawn asunder, others gnawed by serpents, others beaten together on an anvil and welded into a single mass, others boiled and then strained through a cloth, others twined in the embraces of demons whose limbs were of flame. The fire of earth, it was said, was but a picture of that of hell. The latter was so immeasurably more intense that it alone could be called real.

[3] By far the most elaborate description of the punishments of sinners which the middle ages produced is that of Dante, whose Inferno combines the torments of the classical Tartarus and the horrors of the Christian hell. In this poem, which was written about 1300, the author represents himself as being conducted through the infernal regions by Virgil. Within the gates of hell, but before crossing the river Acheron, the visitors found those who had lived "withouten infamy or praise," and angels who had been neither faithful nor rebellious, but only selfish. They "were naked and were stung exceedingly by gad-flies and by hornets that were there."[4] Beyond Acheron were found the great ones of old, whose sin was lack of baptism. These were "only so far punished that without hope we live on in desire" (iv, 41, 42). In the third circle, rain, snow, and hail constantly poured down


  1. Future Life, p. 516.
  2. Apologia, cap. 47, 48.
  3. History of European Morals, vol. ii, pp. 235, 236.
  4. Divine Comedy: Inferno, Canto III, lines 65, 66, Longfellow's translation.