“Pushing back the portal’s holy door,
‘Enter,’ he said to us, ‘but first be warned:
to look back means to go back out again.”
--Purgatory, Canto IX, 13-132

Sicily - As Dr. Salina travels to Sicily to attend her brother and father’s funeral, Farag and Captain Glauser-Roist decipher the clues hidden in Dante’s Divine Comedy—the unraveling of which will reveal the entrance to the Staurofilakes Purgatory in Syracuse. After rushing to share their findings with Dr. Salina, the trio set off to explore the island of Ortigia and the church of Santa Lucia in pursuit of the gateway to the Staurofilakes’ first challenge.

The church of Santa Lucia in Syracuse
Syracuse was one of the most important cities in the Mediterranean, from Antiquity, through the Byzantine Empire and the city’s domination by the Muslims in Medieval times. The Church of Santa Lucia in Syracuse was built in the 12th century, and is triple-aisled columned basilica. It replaced an earlier church that is said to have been built in the 6th century on the exact spot where St Lucia was murdered.


PRIDE (Rome)

"Love of self perverted to hatred and contempt for one's neighbor"

Also known as vanity, Pride is the unwillingness to look at one's faults honestly, or of an excessive belief in one's own abilities or worth. It has been called the sin from which all others arise.

ROME (Italy) - After reading the Greek message left for them by the Staurofilakes in Syracuse, Dr. Salina, Captain Glauser-Roist and Farag Boswell set off for the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin in Rome, where they are to purge the first of the Seven Deadly Sins: Pride.

Santa Maria in Cosmedin
Like many other churches in Rome, Santa Maria in Cosmedin sits on the remains of a site originally dedicated to pagan worship: the high altar of Hercules. Originally built in the sixth century, the church was known as Santa Maria in Schola Graeca. Byzantine monks escaping the iconoclastic persecutions in Greece arrived here around 782 AD bringing with them their artisinal skills that transformed the church into a place of splendid decorations, earning it the name "kosmidion" (Greek, “beautifully adorned”). The church was damaged during the Sack of Rome by the Normans in 1084, but was rebuilt.

The interior of the church features a number of medieval interests including a lovely marble choir, an intricate Cosmatesque pavement, which Dr. Salina happily notices, a bishop's throne, and a gothic canopy over the main altar. The three naves of the church are separated by pilasters and ancient Roman columns.

At the left end of the portico that fronts the church is a strange and now famous artifact from a bygone era. Known today as the Bocca della Verità, this engraved slab of marble features a face with slits for eyes and a slot for its mouth. According to legend, if one should place his hand inside the mouth and proceed to tell a lie, the mouth would will clamp down unforgivingly upon the perjuror’s hand, relieving him of his fingers.

ENVY (Ravenna)

"Love of one's own good perverted to a desire to deprive other men of theirs" - Dante

Envy is the sin of jealousy or perverted love and desire to own what belongs to someone else. It is the discontentment over another's superiority in possessions or good fortune.

RAVENNA (Italy) - Having successfully passed the test of Pride, Farag, the Swiss Rock and Dr. Salina set off in the Pope’s helicopter to the monastery of Saint Constantine Acanzzo, where they are to purge the sin of Envy. Upon their arrival at Ravenna, they catch a glimpse of the thick forest that surrounds the monastery.


ANGER (Jerusalem)

"Love of justice perverted to revenge and spite"
- Dante

Also known as wrath, Anger is manifested in the individual who spurns love and opts instead for fury, holding inappropriate feelings of hatred, revenge or even denial.

Jerusalem - The next city in the perilous initiation of the three aspiring Staurofilakes is Jerusalem, where they are to conquer the test of Anger. It is Dr. Salina’s first trip to the Holy Land, and she is overjoyed to meet with her brother, the Church’s Guardian of the Holy Land, who takes her on a fascinating tour of the heart of the city.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, also called the Church of the Resurrection by Eastern Christians, is a Christian church now within the walled Old City of Jerusalem. The ground on which the church rests is venerated by most Christians as Golgotha, the Hill of Calvary, where the New Testament describes the crucifixtion of Jesus. It also is said to contain the place where Jesus was reportedly buried (the sepulchre). The church has been an important pilgrimage destination since the 4th century. Today it serves as the headquarters of the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem and the Catholic Arch-Priest of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre.

In his Life of Constantine, Eusebius describes how the site of the Holy Sepulchre, originally a site of veneration for the Christian community in Jerusalem, had been covered with earth and a temple of Venus had been built on top. Around 325-326 AD, following his conversion to Christianity, Emperor Constantine ordered that the site be uncovered, and instructed the Bishop of Jerusalem to build a monumental Christian church in reverance of the Resurrection.

Constantine's church was built around the excavated hill of the Crucifixion, and consisted of three connected churches built over the three different holy sites, including a great basilica, an enclosed colonnaded atrium built around the traditional Rock of Calvary, and a rotunda, which contained the remains of the cave that Helena and Macarius had identified with the burial site of Jesus. The surrounding rock was cut away, and the Tomb was encased in a structure called the Edicule (Latin aediculum, small building) or the Kouvoulkion (Greek, shrine) in the center of the rotunda. The dome of the rotunda was completed by the end of the 4th century.

Today, as noted by Dr. Salina, several jurisdictions cooperate, sometimes acrimoniously, in the administration and maintenance of the church and its grounds, under a fiat of status quo issued in 1852, to end the violent local bickering. The three, first appointed when Crusaders held Jerusalem, are the Greek Orthodox, the Armenian Apostolic and Roman Catholic churches. These remain the primary custodians of the church. In the 19th century, the Coptic Orthodox, the Ethiopian Orthodox and the Syriac Orthodox acquired lesser responsibilities, which include shrines and other structures within and around the building. An agreement regulates times and places of worship for each Church.

SLOTH (Athens)

"Failure to love God with all one's heart, all one's mind, and all one's soul" - Dante

Sloth is the avoidance of physical or spiritual work. Laziness; idleness and wastefulness of time allotted.

ATHENS - In Athens, Gaspar, Farag and Dr. Salina must prevail over the sin of Sloth, and for that, they must run the original marathon completed first by Pheidippides in 490 BC, when he sprinted from the town of Marathon to Athens in order to announce the Greek victory over the Persians.

Kapnikarea Church in Athens
To successfully complete the challenge, the three aspiring Staurofilakes must reach the Church of Kapnikarea in Athens before sunrise. Dwarfed by the surrounding modern shops, offices, and apartment buildings, the Kapnikarea Church appears suddenly in the middle of a small square at the intersection of the Ermou and Kapnikarea streets in Monastiraki. The church was saved from destruction by Otto I, the first king of modern Greece, when his program of making the capital a modern city endangered the structure. Since a legend claimed that Kapnikarea was founded by the Empress Irene between 797 and 802, the church used to be called the Church of the Princess.

However, in reality the name probably derives from the occupation of its real founder, a hearth-tax gatherer (kapnikareas), who donated the money for the church in the 11th century. The building was restored in the 1950s and features some original Byzantine frescoes as well as excellent modern frescoes by Fotis Kontoglou (1895-1965), an icon and fresco painter who devoted his life to reviving the traditions of "classical" Byzantine iconography, before it was affected by Western "naturalistic" innovations.

GREED (Constantinople)

 “Excessive love of money and power"
- Dante

Also referred to as avarice, Greed is the desire to possess more than one has need or use for, ignoring the realm of the spiritual.

CONSTANTINOPLE - The fifth city Dr. Salina, Farag and Captain Glauser-Roist visit is Constantinople (Istanbul) where they are to surmount the sin of Greed. With the help of the local Catholic authorities, they are able to enter the splendid Mosque of the Conqueror (Fatih Camii) where the ensuing Staurofilakes trial awaits them.

The Mosque of the Conqueror: Fatih Camii
The current Fatih Camii (The Mosque of the Conqueror) was constructed in 1771 over the rubble of the original that collapsed in the earthquake of 1766. The original Fatih Mosque and complex were built on the orders of Sultan Fatih Mehmet, who conquered Constantinople in 1453.

After demanding a monument more spectacular than that of Hagia Sophia (The Church of the Holy Wisdom) the Fatih Mosque failed to surpass the height of the church, despite its position atop the fourth of the seven hills of Istanbul. For this unforgiveable infraction, the sultan cut off the hands of the architect.

The complex included a caravansary, a hospital, several hamams, the kitchens, and a market, which combined to form a university that instructed up to 1,000 students at any given time.

The Fatih Mosque that stands today has similarities to the classical mosques of the 16th century, with its tall central dome held by semi-domes on all four sides. The decorative painting of the interior reflects the baroque influence on 18th century Ottoman architecture. It was built over the site of the Church of the Holy Apostles, originally built by Emperor Constantine, and considered to have been one of the most important churches in Christendom.


GLUTTONY (Alexandria)

"Excessive love of pleasure"
- Dante

Gluttony is an inordinate desire to consume more than that what one requires.

ALEXANDRIA - Once the issue of the theft of the manuscript at Saint Catherine of Sinai is resolved, Farag is able to go back home, and together with Dr. Salina and Gaspar, faces the penultimate challenge in the Staurofilakes’ initiation ritual.

LUST (Antioch)

"Excessive love of others"
- Dante

Lust is the sin of an inordinate craving for the pleasures of the body.

Upon their completion of the sixth test of the Staurofilakes, Gaspar, Dr. Salina and Farag are knocked unconscious and transported by boat to Atabara and then Antioch. Once there, they will have to defeat the final sin: the purging of lust from their hearts.