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February 23 Anniversary of the Crowning of Simon de Brion as Pope Martin IV

Updated: Mar 1, 2021

Most of us have been told to go to Hell a few times. But it is unusual for someone to be told to go to Purgatory, a place that many Christians believe is suburb of Hell where some sinners go to be purified for their sins before they are allowed into Heaven. Dante Alighieri, the medieval Italian poet and author of the epic Divine Comedy,  imagined Purgatory as a mountain with seven terraces, corresponding to the seven deadly sins. Dante assigned Pope Martin IV to the terrace of Purgatory reserved for the sin of gluttony which contemporary psychiatrists would classify as another form of addiction.

There were, however, many who wanted Pope Martin IV to go directly to Hell because he was a political appointment by Charles of Anjou who wanted Simon to be his puppet pope and imprisoned two influential Italian cardinals who despised Simon as a political stooge prior to the papal election in 1281. This scared most of the other cardinals and Simon was elected to the papacy, taking the name Martin IV.

According to some authors, the  Pope died of indigestion after which his body was washed with spiced Vernaccia wine and buried. There were reports that Dante's comedic verse was etched in stone in his grave.

The eels are glad that he is dead And lies interred in this low bed Who,  as their doom for mortal sins, When living stripped them of their skins.

Jacopa della Lana, the leading commenter of Dante's Divine Comedy  and possibly one of the first PETA activists, wrote:

"He was most depraved by gluttony and other food-inspired greed to the point that he had eels brought from Lake Bolsena which he put to drown in Vernaccia wine, then had then roasted and ate.. So fond was he of this morsel that he kept wanting 

them brought up to drown in his room."

Whether the Pope is still in Purgatory or had Dr. Drew Pinsky, CNN's addiction specialist, pray for his salvation and now resides with the angels, let's celebrate this anniversary of his coronation with his favorite recipe while watching Dante: The Divine Comedy (2002), a great video that provides an entertaining introduction to this literary masterpiece by some British academics plus the Topiary Dance Group .More educators should use this video  as a model for video education.

Eels in Vernaccia Wine


1 lb eels* 1/2 cup butter 1 cup Vernaccia or other dry white wine 1 cup fish stock 3  peeled cloves of garlic 1 tsp salt I tsp oregano 1 tsp pepper 1 large Vidalia or other sweet onion, sliced 1 cup flour 1/2 cup oil


1. Skin and clean the eels, Cut them into one  inch chunks and marinate them them in the wine, garlic, onion and oregano for 24 hours. 2. Dredge the marinated eel in flour. 3. In a sauté pan over medium heat, sear the eel until golden brown, about 6 minutes, 4. Add the wine  and stock and cook until reduced by half. Add the butter and cook until it melts and browns slightly. Divide the eel among 4    serving plates and top with the sauce

* Although eels are a staple in Italy and in several Asian countries,  they are often difficult to find in the US. Some Asian markets in major   cities carry them. They are also available as pets at some pet stores for marine pet aficionados.

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