Go to main contentGo to footer

The avaricious and prodigal: Pope Adrian V

V Cornice. It is the only case in which sinners serve the same penalty albeit for opposite sins. Both the avaricious and the prodigal are bound with their faces to the ground and their backs to Heaven for they were stuck to material goods in their lives. They sing a verse of Psalm CXVIII, and during the day they recount examples of generosity and poverty, while at night stories of punished greed. Among them is Pope Adrian V, whom Dante almost certainly exchanged with the historical figure of Adrian IV, whose proverbial greed was indeed documented.

"Tardy, ah woe is me! was my conversion;
But when the Roman Shepherd I was made,
Then I discovered life to be a lie.
I saw that there the heart was not at rest,
Nor farther in that life could one ascend;
Whereby the love of this was kindled in me.
Until that time a wretched soul and parted
From God was I, and wholly avaricious;
Now, as thou seest, I here am punished for it.
What avarice does is here made manifest
In the purgation of these souls converted,
And no more bitter pain the Mountain has.
Even as our eye did not uplift itself
Aloft, being fastened upon earthly things,
So justice here has merged it in the earth.
As avarice had extinguished our affection
For every good, whereby was action lost,
So justice here doth hold us in restraint,
Bound and imprisoned by the feet and hands;
And so long as it pleases the just Lord
Shall we remain immovable and prostrate."

Purgatory, XIX, 97-126.

Video Stories

The Newsletter of the Uffizi Galleries

Subscribe to keep up to date!