What’s the Catholic Church’s view on this one? it has a purgotary. but how did Dante get the idea that traitors are frozen in hell instead of being burnt?
it is poetry, not meant to be taken as a literally true description, he got his ideas through a deep spirituality grounded in the Church of his day, and his reflections have as much merit as the reflections of any mystic whose spirituality is entirely ecclesial (with the mind of the Church) but is not divine revelation.
Dante restricted the flames of hell to particular sins, rather than imposing them homogeneously to all faults. The worst sins of pride and betrayal are punished by encasement in eternal ice. Those who once acted with hot fury against love are now permanently immobile in their sin.
There is also the symbolism that, in Dante’s medieval cosmological view, the earth was the farthest point from the Empyrean, the dwelling of God. The center of the earth would be the utmost point from Heaven’s eternal flames of love, and thus it is the coldest place in the cosmos.
I am reading Dante now, The thing I found interesting was that in the lowest circle of hell the inhabitants are encased in ice. I found it interesting that a possible source of the ice is the tears from the devil’s three heads being cooled by the beating of his wings.
It sounds as if he could only stop beating his wings he would be able to free himself. But of course he cannot. One could compare this to any kind of addiction. Of course, all the drug addict has to do is stop, and freedom results.
Just my two cents
There has been a great deal written on the connections between the theology of St. Thomas and the poetry of Dante. In fact, I just finished teaching the comedy to high school seniors and it’s actually doing what Dante intended; calling the children back from their immorality. I would suggest reading the introduction to the new Esolen translation published by the modern library.