The Slovenian Cave That Might Have Inspired Dante’s Hell

The Slovenian Cave That Might Have Inspired Dante’s Hell

Legend has it that the medieval Italian poet Dante Alighieri (1265 -1321) stayed in Tolmin for a short period of time. While exploring the surroundings, he visited the nearby Tolmin Gorge and its Zadlaška Cave, which supposedly inspired him to write the darkest verses of his Divine Comedy …

The Cave of Dante

The Divine Comedy, Dante’s most known work, is a vast and detailed description of the 9 Circles of Hell on Dante’s journey through the three levels of the afterlife: Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven.

The inspiration for The Inferno (Hell), part one of The Divine Comedy, Dante supposedly got after exploring Zadlaška jama cave – cc 1500 metres long cave system in today’s Slovenia, through which the waters of the Soča glacier once flowed.

The cave was later named after the poet.

Tolmin Gorge

Ye who enter, abandon all hope …


Whether Dante really found inspiration for the creation of Hell during his visit to Tolmin in 1319, you will have to judge for yourself. The historical facts do not support this legend.

Nevertheless, in 1929, when the Primorska Region of Slovenia (part of which is Tolmin) was part of Italy, a bust of Dante was erected in the middle of Tolmin. It was later moved to the Tolmin Museum, where it now forms part of the permanent museum exhibition.

Visiting Zadlaška jama

In 1922 Zadlaška jama cave was explored and mapped for the first time by the members of the Krpelj Tourist Association. It was later made suitable for visitors – stairs have been carved in and passages deepened.

However, it was fully explored and mapped by the Speleology section of the Tolmin Mountaineering Society in 1977.

It’s good to mention, that Zadlaška jama cave is among the most difficult caves for visiting. Which is why it is only possible to visit it in the company of a competent guide and with appropriate equipment. 

INTERESTING: The Tolmin Museum keeps some depictions of Dante in front of this cave in a collection of postcards.

This is a depiction of the Udine painter Giovanni A. Darif (1801-1870).

Photo credits: Tolmin Museum

“In the middle of the journey of our life I found myself within a dark woods where the straight way was lost.”
― Dante AlighieriThe Inferno



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