Measuring Hell. A Florentine Debate
Pasquale Terracciano (PhD 2011) has been a postdoctoral fellow for the last three years at the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa. His research interests include Renaissance philosophy and history, as well as the visual arts and history of cartography. His publications include Omnia in figura (Roma: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 2012), on the Renaissance legacy of Origen of Alexandria, and numerous articles on Ficino, Erasmus and Bruno. He has held fellowships and grants at various institutions, including the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies of UCLA, the Istituto Italiano per gli Studi Storici di Napoli, the Warburg Institute.
Hell occupies a prominent place in the mental maps of Renaissance men, alternatively depicted as a frightening city, a cave for sinners, or an instrument of political power. Nevertheless, the history and ‘cartography’ of Renaissance Hell have not been widely studied. My project intends to offer a deeper understanding of Renaissance Hell by exploring the infernal cartography developed in Florence from the mid-fifteenth century to the Council of Trent. This particular observation point allows me to approach the topic of Hell from various different perspectives, given its multifaceted nature as privileged location of iconographical and poetical fictio, and seismograph of current philosophical issues (particularly metaphysical, psychological, and ethical). At the same time, the chronology that I have adopted permits me to enquire how the new geographical discoveries, the diffusion of a new cosmography, and the break in Christian unity impact the development of the idea of Hell as a tangible space. Florence represents a quasi-epicenter for the evolution of Renaissance attitudes towards Hell in this period, in part because of the relationship between Florentine culture and Dante, and, through him, with the tradition of the voyages in the afterlife. Relying on the continuous stream of texts and images of exceptional relevance on infernal journeys and topographies produced in Florence will be the foundation on which I construct the first systematic book on this topic.