This post is in response to the Six Word Story prompt provided by Ben Nicholson of A Hopelessly Wandering mind. This week’s theme is Purgatory and I ended up writing not one but three responses to it, plus some accompanying historical information. Hopefully each of the six words works as a story even for those who don’t wish to read the accompaniments! I hope you all enjoy them.
Washed clean – time to move on.
As soon as I saw this week’s prompt my mind was immediately taken back fifteen years to a university lecture hall and one of my professors explaining how the Black Death, the plague that swept across Asia and Europe in the fourteenth century, brought about many changes in Christian belief. If I remember correctly, he explained that until that time purgatory had largely been seen as a peaceful place where the dead were washed clean of sin in the light of God’s grace until they were pure enough to ascend to heaven.
Macabre darkness advances; fear shifts belief.
After the Black Death Purgatory became seen as more of an anti-chamber of Hell within which people’s sins were cleansed through pain, misery and fire. The idea of painful purification in Heaven’s fire had been raised by philosophers before this time (such as St. Augustine) but had not become a part of generally accepted belief. Dante’s ‘Purgatorio‘, written shortly before the plague, had presented the idea of steadily increasing levels of discomfort and suffering as the soul ascended through the seven levels. This idea was taken and expanded on by people in the years after the plague.
The modern definition of purgatory is of a place of punishment and suffering. Whilst it has it’s origins in the Christian belief, it is not only used nowadays to describe a place entered after death.
Repetitive monotony: peeling potatoes for cellmates.
I apologise for any inaccuracies in my history or theology. My lecture notes are long gone and my text books in storage – the internet isn’t an adequate replacement for such information and I am by no means an expert!
To read the other entries, click the little blue frog.