Harrowing Of Hell
Harrowing Of Hell: Circle 1, Inferno 4
This event is the supposed descent of Christ--following his crucifixion-- into Limbo, when he rescued and brought to heaven ("harrowing" implies a sort of violent abduction) his "ancestors" from the Hebrew Bible. Virgil supplies an eye-witness account, from his partially informed perspective, in Inferno 4.52-63. Since, according to Dante's reckoning, Christ's earthly life spanned thirty-four years, the harrowing can be dated to 34 C.E. Only suggested in the Bible, the story of Christ's post-mortem journey to hell appears in apocrypha--books related to but not included in the Bible--such as the Gospel of Nicodemus. So prominent was this story in the popular and theological imaginations that it was proclaimed as church dogma in 1215 and 1274. Dante's version of the harrowing, as we see from repeated allusions to the event during the protagonist's journey, emphasizes the power--in both physical and psychological terms--of Christ's raid on hell.