Dante's Divine comedy is divided up in Inferno (Hell), Purgatorio (Purgatory), and Paradiso (Paradise) – each of these consists of 33 cantos. Now I'm wondering if there is any indication about how long one canto would be, or if time exists in none, one off, or all of the cantiche?

I know he started the night before Good Friday and got back Wednesday after Easter (6 days). But did time pass the same way as it would on "Earth" and would therefore constitute 2 days per cantica?

In one case Dante dedicates 13 cantos to the eighth circle of Hell, which if time exists there is substantially long (as noted in this question).

How much time did one canto in Dante's Divine Comedy represent (if any)?

1 Answer 1


The cantos do not have a regular duration, but some elements in the story allow us to create a chronology.

There are several sources in Italian, I tried to translate the one provided by the Dante Alighieri Society:

Dante's journey into the three otherworldly realms covers a span of seven days, with a clear reference to the biblical seven days of the world's creation. Dante gets lost in the "dark forest" at nightfall and manages to emerge from it at the first light of dawn.

1st day:

"From the beginning of the morning" (Inf. I, 37), at about 6, Dante meets the loin, the first of the three fairs, and at the "fall of the night" (Inf. II, 1) the journey begins with Virgil, to arrive at midnight in circle IV (VII, 98).

2nd day:

At 7 am the poet talks to the devil Malacoda (circle VIII, bedlam 5). He affirms that their conversation takes place "one thousand two hundred with sixty-six / years" and exactly five hours after Christ's death, which based on the Gospel of Luke, Dante knew had taken place at the sixth hour, that is at noon. At about one o'clock he finds himself in bedlam 9 and at sunset, he reaches the center of the earth.

3rd day:

In the very first hours of the third day, Dante and Virgil pass the center of the earth, and, having traveled the "passage", they find themselves on the beach of Purgatory to see the Angel who ferries appear against the suffused sky of dawn. The souls of purgatives. At the end of the day Dante is in the Antipurgatory and for the whole night, he stops in the Valley of the Princes (Valletta Dei Principi).

4th day:

At dawn on the fourth day, the ascent of Mount Purgatory begins, which stops with the fall of light before the ascent to the fourth frame.

5th day:

From sunrise to sunset on the fifth day, the poet climbs from the fourth to the seventh frame of Purgatory and in the evening he stops with Virgil and Statius to rest before going up to the Earthly Paradise.

6th day:

From dawn to midday Dante stops in the Earthly Paradise, where he performs the rites that make him "pure and willing to climb to the stars" (Pg. XXXIII, 145).

7th day:

From noon of the sixth day to noon of the seventh Dante's ascent from the First Heaven to the vision of God with which the journey ends.

  • 2
    Excellent answer! I was getting worried I would never find out. The linked society page is also greatly appreciated! Your chronology makes a lot of sense and is clearly written, my thanks!
    – Tom Sol
    Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 10:25
  • 2
    Luke says that Christ died at the ninth hour (not the sixth). The idea that Dante thought that Christ died at the sixth hour comes from Convivio 4.23.100 ff. where Dante says, "wherefore Luke tells us that it was about the sixth hour when he died, which is to say the apex of the day". (There are some chronological difficulties either way: see Sayers's discussion of them.) Commented Jun 6, 2022 at 14:19

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