Dante, in his vision of Paradise, passes (Canto XXI) into the sphere of Saturn, over which the Thrones preside and where Love has an almost blinding splendour. The Thrones, in the Celestial Hierarchy described for the Middle Ages by the Pseudo-Dionysius, represented tranquillity, the peace which passes understanding, gained through contemplation of God and then interpreted to the world of men. There he sees the golden Jacob's Ladder of Contemplation, with many bright beings passing up and down, one of whom above the others reflected and revealed the brightness. The poet seeks to know why this special intensity and this nearness to humanity is given to one more than to others, and on asking finds that it is Peter Damiani, “Peter the Sinner” as he called himself in life and calls himself here. In his own age Peter was a striking and well-known character of many sides, but Dante's conception of him is strangely unlike that held by most of the modern writers. To some of them he seems the sternest of rigid reformers, to others the most eccentric of ascetics; to theologians he may be known as a learned and prolific writer who has found a secluded sanctuary in Migne's collection: to some historians he is a man who unaccountably influenced a curious age, to others he is the writer of an unblushing and unreadable account of clerical vice. But to Dante he stands for something very different; in the Seventh Sphere, the special home of contemplative saints, he is supreme. He is the type of the contemplative life which comes nearest to God and is therefore most useful to man. If we take this as the centre of Damiani's personality, all his activities and all his writings fall into their proper place. Instead of accidental denunciations of evils and corruptions, isolated comments on theological or clerical life, we have a coherent whole, a full expression of a well-ordered personality. If to most people he is merely an ascetic and a prophet of asceticism, he himself valued the ascetic life as a help to contemplation and as necessary to ensure its perfection.