The pagan judge in Saint Erkenwald explains that he remained in limbo after Christ’s harrowing of hell. Theologians, especially Aquinas, wrestled with the vexed question of the salvation of virtuous pagans, and Dante and Langland, as well as the author of Erkenwald, expressed their views on the subject, coming to differing conclusions. On learning of the judge’s history, Bishop Erkenwald assumes that such an exemplary figure must have a place in heaven and is distressed to learn that he, like Virgil in Dante’s Commedia, remains in limbo. The article explores the reasons why both poets should have adopted such an unorthodox position.

You do not currently have access to this content.