Image of a fiery purgatory by Ludovico Carracci

Purgatory (Latin: purgatorium, via Anglo-Norman and Old French)[1] is an intermediate state after physical death for expiatory purification.[2] Roman Catholic doctrine holds that this state exists and that those being purified can be helped by the prayers of the living.[3] In the speculation of theologians and in popular imagination purgatory is a place where this purification is done by the agency of fire, a notion of purgatory that according to Jacques Le Goff came into existence in Western Europe towards the end of the twelfth century,[4] but which has not been declared official doctrine of the Catholic Church.

Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI denied certain aspects of this understanding of purgatory. Other Christian churches have denounced what they call "the Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory", but the Orthodox Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches and elements of the Anglican and Methodist traditions hold that for some there is cleansing after death and pray for the dead.[5][6][7][8][9] Judaism also believes in the possibility of after-death purification and may even use the word "purgatory" to present its understanding of the meaning of Gehenna.[10]

The word 'purgatory' has come to refer also to a wide range of historical and modern conceptions of postmortem suffering short of everlasting damnation[11] and is used, in a non-specific sense, to mean any place or condition of suffering or torment, especially one that is temporary.[12]

History of the belief

Image of a non-fiery purgatory (Gustave Doré: illustration for Dante's Purgatorio, Canto 24).

While use of the word "purgatory" (in Latin purgatorium) as a noun appeared perhaps only between 1160 and 1180, giving rise to the idea of purgatory as a place[13] (what Jacques Le Goff called the "birth" of purgatory),[14] the Roman Catholic tradition of purgatory as a transitional condition has a history that dates back, even before Jesus Christ, to the worldwide practice of caring for the dead and praying for them and to the belief, found also in Judaism,[15] which is considered the precursor of Christianity, that prayer for the dead contributed to their afterlife purification. The same practice appears in other traditions, such as the medieval Chinese Buddhist practice of making offerings on behalf of the dead, who are said to suffer numerous trials.[11] Roman Catholic belief in after-life purification is based on the practice of praying for the dead, which is mentioned in 2 Maccabees 12:42-44, which the Roman Catholic Church has declared to be part of Sacred Scripture,[16][17] and which, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, was adopted by Christians from the beginning,[18] a practice that presupposes that the dead are thereby assisted between death and their entry into their final abode.[11]

Over the centuries, theologians and others have developed theories, imagined descriptions and composed legends that have contrbuted to the formation of a popular idea of purgatory much more detailed and elaborate than the quite minimal elements that have been officially declared to be part of the authentic teaching of the Church.

Shortly before becoming a Roman Catholic,[19] the English scholar John Henry Newman argued that the essence of the doctrine is locatable in ancient tradition, and that the core consistency of such beliefs is evidence that Christianity was "originally given to us from heaven".[20] Roman Catholics consider the teaching on purgatory, defined in the Second Council of Lyon (1274), the Council of Florence (1438–1445), and the Council of Trent (1545–63),[11][21] and thus without the imaginative accretions of the popular idea of purgatory to be part of the faith derived from the revelation of Jesus Christ that was preached by the Apostles.

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Vaevuur
Alemannisch: Fegefeuer
العربية: المطهر
asturianu: Purgatoriu
azərbaycanca: Araf
български: Чистилище
català: Purgatori
čeština: Očistec
Cymraeg: Purdan
Deutsch: Fegefeuer
Ελληνικά: Καθαρτήριο
español: Purgatorio
Esperanto: Purgatorio
euskara: Purgatorio
français: Purgatoire
Gaeilge: Purgadóir
galego: Purgatorio
հայերեն: Քավարան
hrvatski: Čistilište
Bahasa Indonesia: Purgatorium
italiano: Purgatorio
עברית: כור המצרף
Kiswahili: Toharani
Latina: Purgatorium
latviešu: Šķīstītava
lietuvių: Skaistykla
Limburgs: Vagevuur
magyar: Purgatórium
македонски: Чистилиште
Nederlands: Vagevuur
日本語: 煉獄
Napulitano: Priatorio
norsk nynorsk: Skjærselden
occitan: Purgatòri
polski: Czyściec
português: Purgatório
română: Purgatoriu
русский: Чистилище
shqip: Purgatori
Simple English: Purgatory
slovenčina: Očistec
slovenščina: Vice
српски / srpski: Чистилиште
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Čistilište
suomi: Kiirastuli
svenska: Skärselden
Tagalog: Purgatoryo
Türkçe: Araf
українська: Чистилище
Winaray: Purgatoryo
中文: 炼狱