According to the New Testament Matthew 27.52-53, at the moment of Jesus’s death, an earthquake occurs, “and many bodies of the saints which slept arose.” This source refers the “Harrowing of Hell.” In addition to that, in an Easter poem, the Pope Gregory the Great states, “Jesus has harrowed Hell: He has led captivity captive: Darkness and chaos and death flee from the face of the light.” Pope Gregory’s lines embody my common concept of Hell. In order to understand the Christian Hell, we need to retrace its origin that dates from the wealthiest period of the history of Hell, the Middle Ages.
John of Patmos, author of the Book of Revelations, provides us the Christian explanation of the fall of Lucifer (light bearer), the most beloved angel by God, after a war in Heaven, and the imminent creation of the modern concept of the Christian Hell. The importance of the Book of Revelations is that it demonizes Satan and creates the important notion that fearing God “turns [us] away from evil” (Job 1.9).
The fall of Lucifer is a key factor for the development of the Christian Hell during the Middle Ages. Once that God jails Lucifer and his rebellious angels, the Christianism starts to represent, in a religious point of view, the inevitable destination of wrong doers to Hell. Visio Pauli’s “XI Pains of Hell” and Dante’s “Inferno” from the Divine Comedy are among the most important accounts of Hell from the Middle Ages. Both poems have boiling rivers, disturbing punishments, adders sucking sinners’ brain, and many more torments, which Mark Musa concludes as “the torments suffered by the sinners represent, in one way or another, the sins themselves.” This is called contrapasso, and the Christian Church uses it as a tool to control or reduce bad actions, in order to ascend to realm of God. By honoring the holy Church, Pauli states, “[it] may Christ help us to forsake sin… so that we may be saved.” The influence of the Catholic Church is best manifested in Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus. Doctor Faustus