Paradiso Canto 21




Greg Peters is an Associate Professor in the Torrey Honors College at Biola University. He is an ordained priest in the Anglican Church of North America and teaches Medieval and spiritual theology.

Questions for Reflection

  • Why does Beatrice without her smile from Dante upon entering the heaven of Saturn? How is it related to the silence of this heaven? Why might Dante choose to depict the heaven of the contemplatives this way?
  • Why do the contemplative souls manifest themselves on a ladder? Why do you think Dante describes the movement of the souls up the ladder as a “natural” instinct, like birds (rooks) rising in the morning? How is contemplation part of the natural purpose of the human creature?
  • Who is Peter Damian and why is he the one who comes to speak to Dante? How does Dante’s first discussion with Peter indicate an unholy curiosity? And how does curiosity contrast with true contemplative knowledge?
  • What does it mean for Dante to call Peter Damian “love” (82)? What does this tell us about the nature of contemplation?
  • What is the relationship, as shown in the character of Peter Damian, between the contemplative and the  active lives (21.124ff)?


  • Dr. Greg Peters
  • Torrey Honors College
  • Run Time 7:15