Angels: Paradiso 28 and 29



This chapter is given over to the discussion of the angelic orders (derived from pseudo-Dionysius) and to their creation, and including the fall of the rebel angels, the concerns of the book in asking what space Dante gives to the material world in Paradiso, and whether it is dismissed in favour of the immaterial and spiritual, represented by angels, find their most developed form. The chapter analyses what Dante understands by ‘prime matter’, seeing this as finally an unassimilable force within any account of creation, and indicating a problem which the text cannot quite resolve. Clashes of argument between Aristotle and Genesis and something in Genesis itself make prime matter, in brief, that which precedes creation, and imposes a dualism upon it, and confuses chronology and any system which would try to maintain a single purity.


  1. Aquinas, Thomas, 1968–1969, Summa Theologiae 1968, ed. Thomas Gilby, London: Blackfriars and Eyre & Spottiswoode. Vol. 9, Angels (Ia. 50–64) ed. Kenelm Foster; vol. 14, Divine Government (Ia2ae. 103–9) [i.e. Ia.] trans. T.C. O’Brien.Google Scholar
  2. Aristotle, 1986, De Anima trans. Hugh Lawson-Tancred, Harmondsworth: Penguin.Google Scholar
  3. ———, 1996, Physics, trans. Robin Waterfield, Oxford: O.U.P.Google Scholar
  4. ———, 2004, Metaphysics, trans. Hugh Lawson-Tancred, Harmondsworth: Penguin.Google Scholar
  5. Athanasius of Alexandria, 2003, The Life of Anthony trans. Tim Vivian and Apostolos N. Athanassakis with Rowan A. Grier, Kalamazoo, Michigan: Cistercian Publications.Google Scholar
  6. Augustine, 2002, On Genesis vol. 13 of Works, trans. Edmund Hille, trans. John E. Rotelle, New York: New City Press.Google Scholar
  7. Barsella, Susanna, 2010, In the Light of the Angels: Angelology and Cosmology in Dante’s Divina Commedia, Florence: Leo S. Olschki.Google Scholar
  8. ———, 2012, ‘Angels and Creation in Paradiso 29’, MLN 127: S.189–198.Google Scholar
  9. Bemrose, Stephen, 1985, Dante’s Angelic Intelligences: Their Importance in the Cosmos and in Pre-Christian Religion, Rome: Editizioni di Storia e Litterature.Google Scholar
  10. ———, 2005, ‘God so loves the Soul: Intellections of Immortality in Dante’, Medium Aevum 74: 86–108.Google Scholar
  11. Benjamin, Walter, 2003, Selected Writings 4 1938–1940, ed. Howard Eiland and Michael W. Jennings, Cambridge, MA: Harvard U.P.Google Scholar
  12. ———, 2019, Origin of the German Trauerspiel, trans. Howard Eiland, Cambridge, MA: Harvard U.P.Google Scholar
  13. Bostock, David, 2006, Space, Time, Matter, and Form: Essays on Aristotle’s Physics, Oxford: Clarendon.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Boyde, Patrick, 1981, Dante Philomythes and Philosopher, Cambridge: C.U.P.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Bruce-Jones, John, 1995, ‘L’importanza primaria della materia prima (Why does Prime Matter Matter): Aspetti della materia nella poesia e nel pensiero di Dante’, in Patrick Boyde and Vittorio Russo (eds.), Dante e la scienza, Ravenna: Longo Editore: 213–221.Google Scholar
  16. Butler, Christopher, 1970, ‘Numerological Thought’ in Alastair Fowler (ed.), Silent Poetry: Essays in Numerological Analysis, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul: 1–31.Google Scholar
  17. Cachey, Theodore J, 2016, ‘Cosmographic Cartography of the “Perfect” Twenty-Eights’ in Vertical Readings in Dante’s Comedy: 3 ed, George Corbett and Heather Webb, Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 111–138.Google Scholar
  18. Carmody, Francis J., 1952, (ed.) Al-Bitrûjî: De Motibus Celorum: A Critical Edition of the Latin Translation of Michael Scot, Berkeley: California U.P.Google Scholar
  19. Christian, William A, 1953, ‘Augustine on the Creation of the World’, Harvard Theological Review 46: 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Clark, Mark J., 2005, ‘Peter Comestor and Peter Lombard: Brothers in Deed’, Traditio 60: 85–142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Coolman, Boyd Taylor, 2009, ‘The Medieval Affective Dionysian Tradition’ in Sarah Coakley and Charles M. Stang, Rethinking Dionysius the Areopagite, Chichester: Wiley Blackwell: 88–102.Google Scholar
  22. Coris, Harm, 2012, ‘Angelic Knowledge in Aquinas and Bonaventure’, in Tobias Hoffmann (ed.), A Companion to Angels in Medieval Philosophy, Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
  23. Cornish, Alison, 2000, Reading Dante’s Stars, New Haven: Yale U.P.Google Scholar
  24. Corti, Maria, 1983, La felicità mentale: Nuove prospettive per Cavalcanti e Dante, Turin: Giulio Einaudi.Google Scholar
  25. Dales, Richard C. 1980, ‘The De-Animation of the Heavens in the Middle Ages’ Journal of the History of Ideas 41: 531–550.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Dante Studies, with the Annual Report of the Dante Society, No. 85 (1967), pp. 59–70.Google Scholar
  27. Davidson, Arnold I., 2009, ‘Miracles of Bodily Transformation, or How St Francis Received the Stigmata’, Critical Inquiry 35: 451–480.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Dempsey, Charles, 2001, Inventing the Renaissance Putto, Chapel Hill: North Carolina U.P.Google Scholar
  29. Derrida, Jacques, 1978, Writing and Difference, trans. Alan Bass, London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  30. Eliot, T.S. 2015. The Poems of T.S. Eliot ed. Christopher Ricks and Jim McCue, 2 vols. London: Faber.Google Scholar
  31. Genette, Gérard, 1980, Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method trans. Jane E. Lewin Ithaca: Cornell U.P.Google Scholar
  32. Ginsberg, Warren, 2007, Review of Christian Moevs, Speculum 82: 467–470.Google Scholar
  33. de Haas, Franz A.J., 1997, John Philoponus: New Definitions of Prime Matter: Aspects of the Background in Neoplatonism and the Ancient Commentary Tradition, Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
  34. Hasse, Dag Nikolaus, 2009, ‘The Early Albertus Magnus and his Arabic Sources on the Theory of the Soul’, in Dominik Perler (ed.), Transformations of the Soul: Aristotelian Psychology 1250–1650, Leiden: Brill: 10–30.Google Scholar
  35. Janowitz, Naomi, 1991, ‘Theories of Divine Names in Origen and Pseudo-Dionysius’, History of Religions, 30: 359–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Jones, Albert, 2010, Angels: A History, Oxford: O.U.P.Google Scholar
  37. Keck, David, 1998, Angels and Angelology in the Middle Ages, Oxford: O.U.P.Google Scholar
  38. Kierkegaard, Søren, 1980, The Concept of Anxiety, ed. and trans. Reidar Thomte and Albert B. Anderson. Princeton: Princeton U.P.Google Scholar
  39. Kirkpatrick, Robin, 2007, ‘Afterlives Now: A Study of Paradiso canto 28’ in Carolyn Muessig and Ad Putter (eds.), Envisaging Heaven in the Middle Ages, London: Routledge: 166–184.Google Scholar
  40. Kleiner, John, 1994, Mismapping the Underworld: Daring and Error in Dante’s Comedy, Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Kuhn, Harold B., 1948, ‘The Angelology of the Non-Canonical Jewish Apocalypses’, Journal of Biblical Literature, 67: 217–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Locke, Frederick W, 1967, ‘Dante’s Marvellous Enneads’, DS 8: 59–70.Google Scholar
  43. Mazzotta, Giuseppe, 2005, ‘Cosmology and the Kiss of Creation (Paradiso 27–29)’, DS 123, 1–21.Google Scholar
  44. McCluskey Stephen C., 1998, Astronomies and Cultures in Early Medieval Europe Cambridge: C.U.P.Google Scholar
  45. Milbank, Alison, 2006, Review of Christian Moevs, Religion and Literature 38: 117–119.Google Scholar
  46. Milton, John, 1998, The Complete Poems ed. John Leonard, Harmondsworth: Penguin.Google Scholar
  47. Moevs, Christian, 2005, The Metaphysics of Dante’s Comedy, Oxford: O.U.P.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Nardi, Bruno, 1949, Dante e la cultura medievale, Bari: Laterza.Google Scholar
  49. Patrides, C.A. 1959, ‘Renaissance Thought on the Celestial Hierarchy: The Decline of a Tradition’, Journal of the History of Ideas, 20: 155–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Pedersen, Olaf, 1974, A Study of the Almagest, Odense: Odense U.P.Google Scholar
  51. Petersen, Joan M, 1987, The Dialogues of Gregory the Great in their Late Antique Cultural Background (Studies and Texts, number 69) Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies.Google Scholar
  52. Plato, 2008, Timaeus and Critias, trans. Robin Waterfield, notes by Andrew Gregory, Oxford: O.U.P.Google Scholar
  53. Powell, J.G.F., 1990, Cicero, On Friendship and the Dream of Scipio, Warminster: Aris and Phillips.Google Scholar
  54. Raymond, Joad, 2010, Milton’s Angels: The Early-Modern Imagination, Oxford: O.U.P.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Rorem, Paul, 1993, Pseudo-Dionysius: A Commentary on the Texts and an Introduction to their Influence, Oxford: O.U.P.Google Scholar
  56. Rumrich, John, 1995, ‘Milton’s God and the Matter of Chaos’, PMLA 220: 1035–1146.Google Scholar
  57. Sbacchi, Diego, 2006, La Presenza de Dionigi Areopagita nel Paradiso di Dante Florence: Olschki.Google Scholar
  58. Shapiro—De Vulgari Eloquentia: Dante’s Book of Exile trans. Marianne Shapiro (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990).Google Scholar
  59. Siorvanes, Lucas, 1996, Proclus: Neo-Platonic Philosophy and Science, Edinburgh; Edinburgh U.P.Google Scholar
  60. Slaveva-Griffin, Svetla, 2009, Plotinus on Number, Oxford: O.U.P.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Snyder, James G., 2008, ‘The Theory of Materia Prima in Marsilio Ficino’s Platonic Theology’, Vivarium 46: 192–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Spera, Francesco, 1990, ‘La poesia degli angeli: lettura del canto XXVIII del Paradiso’, Letture Italiane 42: 537–552.Google Scholar
  63. Stahl, William Harris (ed.), 1952, Macrobius: Commentary on the Dream of Scipio, New York: Columbia U.P.Google Scholar
  64. Sweeney, Leo, 1992, Divine Infinity in Greek and Medieval Thought, New York: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  65. Took, John, 2007, Review of Christian Moevs, Journal of Theological Studies 58: 747–749.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Toomer, G J. 1984, Ptolemy’s Almagest (ed. and trans.), London: Duckworth.Google Scholar
  67. Trigg, Joseph W., 1991, ‘The Angel of Great Counsel: Christ and the Angelic Hierarchy in Origen’s Theology’, The Journal of Theological Studies 42: 35–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Wicksteed, P.H., 1899, (trans.) Paradiso, London: J.M. DentGoogle Scholar
  69. ———, 1913, Dante and Aquinas. London: J.M. Dent.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.LondonUK

Personalised recommendations