Vision of the afterlife by Alberice of Settefrati

The Vision by Alberico is the story of a vision by a 10-year-old child of visiting Hell and Paradise, that was then transcribed by Monk Guido di Montecassino, The original parchment is still preserved in the Abbey of Montecassino and is written in Gothic-Capuano.

The story was very famous in Dante’s time and it is said to have inspired him. It should be noted that Dante was an ambassador and, during his work, went twice from Florence to Naples making sure to stop at Montecassino. Here he may have heard the story of the Vision and have been inspired for his masterpiece The Divine Comedy.

Alberico was born around 1100 into a noble family of Settefrati, in the Comino Valley. At the age of 10 he had remained unconscious for nine days and nine nights because of an illness during which he had a vision of visiting Hell and Paradise.

For this particulari event he entered the Benedictine monastery of Montecassino, then governed by Abbate Gerardo (between 1111 and 1123) and led a life of an exemplary monk. In the monastery, he told his vision to the monk Guido who transcribed it, with some refinement and addition.

Alberico’s tale grew rich in details and stories, and the Abbot decided to rewrite history by another monk, but this other story has not been preserved. Alberico had meanwhile been sent to Athens where he died.

In the Vision, Alberico is lifted into the air by a white dove and accompanied by St. Peter and the angels Emanuele and Eligio to first visit the pit of Hell. Here he finds that the punishments of the damned vary in intensity with the age and severity of sin: adulterers, those who committed infanticide, masters who were unjust towards their servants, murderers, bishops who have tolerated perjury, and adulterous priests are immersed in a blazing inferno.

In the heart of Alberico’s Hell he finds a huge chained dragon swallowing with a mouth of fire many souls including Giuda Escariota, Anna, Caifa and Herod.

Thanks to St. Peter, Alberico then is taken to a field of scents of lilies and roses, where souls enjoy the coolness of the refreshment. In the middle of the field there is the true Paradise, where souls will enter after universal judgment. Here is San Benedetto da Norcia because angels and saints are already admitted to Paradise.

There is no Purgatory in the Vision, and there is a bridge over the “purgatory” river where souls can pass if they are read aloud, because they are filled with few sins.

The bridge has the peculiarity of decreasing width with the severity of sins so that the most guilty souls fail to cross it and fall.