St. Augustine and Dante made a great contribution to the development of world cultures. The impact of these great leaders had a powerful force the next centuries.
Comparing the spiritual journeys of Dante and St. Augustine in the Confessions, it is possible to mention that the poem “The Divine Comedy” is a real masterpiece of a famous Italian poet. Dante saw the other world and talked about his journey through hell. This poem embodies an allegorical vision of the afterlife, moral and religious thoughts with instructive purposes. Numerous tales of ghostly wanderings, visions of heaven and hell found its highest artistic expression in the Divine Comedy. Dante has made a system in a discordant mix of images. This system is inspired by the teachings of the church and the teachings of Aristotle and Cicero. Dante’s guide through hell was a Roman poet Virgil, who being the voice of reason, instructed Dante’s spiritual life and helped him to form a moral conscience, necessary for life in harmony with God’s will. In comparison, the Confession is a central literary work of St. Augustine. The name of this work entirely corresponds to its real content: a sinner, opening his own soul to the readers, in the face of God and people repents of his sins and gives thanks to God for His mercy. During his life, Augustine traveled a lot, learning and perceiving the Orthodox faith. The contrast between the spiritual journeys of Dante and St. Augustine is that Augustine’s journey is more confessionary, but Dante’s one is more psychological.
St. Augustine and Dante as the lovers of beauty, both literary and physical, share the same need for its ransom. However, no one would state that beauty is harm or evil. The Divine Comedy and The Confessions disclosed that beauty is good and it is from God. One of the main concepts is that both poets stated that in order to feel the completeness of salvation, it is necessary to remember that beauty have to be loved as a means of God’s grace and recognized as coming from Him. Comparing Dante and St. Augustine, it is possible to add that, according to their points of views, the main key to feel this salvation is grace.
Dante perceived the ideas of St. Augustine through multiple layers and thus the link between Dante and St. Augustine is mediate. The main point of contact: an absolute supremacy of spiritual values over secular ones, a fierce denunciation of people’s insatiable desire to possess a sin of lust. The similarities between their autobiographical accounts are that Augustine and Dante cannot imagine any other way of existence, except within the framework of the Christian ideal. Augustine taught Dante how to succeed in the art of medieval confession a “son of the Century.” This confession of youthful sonnets and “The New Life” is the most powerful words in the lyrics of Dante, which makes it ageless. In addition, Dante borrowed Augustine’s psychological analysis oriented not only on the readers’ minds, but also on the readers’ souls. Dante was attracted by the ideas and artistic methods of Augustine. He often addressed to The Confessions, which indirectly indicated the ratio of influences on his art and theology.
This is a widespread fact that Virgil played a big role in Dante’s account. Virgil, as a representative of the most profound human wisdom, became Dante’s leader and guide through the circles of hell. For Dante, Virgil is the highest poet, “honor and torch of the singers all over the world”, “my teacher, my favorite example”, “and a forerunner of a new era in the history of mankind.” For Dante, the Aeneid was a constant source of inspiration, from which he derived the idea and style of Comedy, as well as his poetry: a combination of mysticism, fantasy, reality and prophecy. Although there are some differences between Dante’s Inferno and Virgil’s Inferno (Dante’s Inferno was inhabited by enemies and friends), he borrowed Virgil’s legends of the “Golden Age” and Cretan old man, hellish dog, images of Reef and Plantman, etc.
Some scholars emphasized a polyphonic character of St. Augustine’s Confessions, specifically his usage of various biblical quotations, allusions, and Virgil’s Aeneid. If we remember the main geographical movements of St. Augustine, we can see that these movements reflect Aeneas’ journeys. For instance, Augustine comes to Carthage, which is one of the most well-known and central cities of the Roman Empire, in order to continue and then finish his studying. St. Augustine’s usage of some Virgil’s text is a mix of an old tradition of taking up different narratives, topics from the previous works and after that re-writing them for your own purposes. Thus, Virgil played an important role in Augustine’s account.
Taking the above-stated information into consideration, it is possible to draw a conclusion that St. Augustine’s work is a powerful force that separates one historical era from another one – the end of ancient Christianity from the early medieval Christianity. In turn, Dante’s creativity had a tremendous impact on the development of Italian literature and European culture as a whole.