Theses Doctoral

Dante, Historian of Religious Orders

Cuadrado, Alejandro

In this study of Dante and the religious orders and institutions of his time, I argue that the poet embeds histories of the religious orders into the Commedia. I demonstrate that Dante’s historical vision, as it pertains to the religious orders, is one of parallel decline, whereby the virtuous intentions of religious institutions are corrupted as time moves forward. By taking Dante’s own historical scheme, which is best articulated through the character of St. Benedict of Nursia in Paradiso 22, I propose a reading of the Commedia that excavates and traces the histories that Dante tells of the papacy, cardinals and bishops, monasticism, and the mendicant fraternal orders.

The first chapter identifies the scriptural foundations of apostolic succession as they are articulated in the Commedia, and how the historical tribulations of the early church, especially the Donation of Constantine, is depicted by Dante through his early papal history. The second chapter posits that Dante’s “modern popes” are a useful category for understanding how the papal history of the Commedia intersects with issues of conversion and political theory. My third chapter focuses on Dante’s history of cardinals and bishops and has two goals: to explore the ways in which the twinning of the figures of Peter and Paul create the backbone of the Commedia’s program for apostolic renewal and to examine and historicize Dante’s critiques of the Decretalists.

The next chapter, on the history of monasticism, focuses on Benedict of Nursia and the origins of Western monasticism as depicted in the Commedia, the history of monastic reform traced by Dante in his poem, and the ways in which he stages issues of compulsion on the backdrop of religious life. In my fifth and final chapter I turn to Dante’s histories of the mendicant fraternal orders (the Order of Friars Minor and the Order of Preachers) and the lives of their two founders (Francis and Dominic) as told in Paradiso. By tracing the histories of religious orders that are sutured into the fabric of his Commedia, this dissertation proposes a new way of examining Dante’s historical imagination and narrative craft.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Barolini, Teodolinda
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 19, 2023