From the Earthly Paradise the narrator, together with Beatrice, flies to heaven, in the inaccessible height of mortal might. He did not notice how they flew up, and found themselves over the sun. The narrator is surprised that still alive he is capable of this; however, this did not surprise Beatrice: a spirit cleared spiritually, not burdened with sins is lighter than ether.
They are in the first Paradise - the Moon in the sky, which Beatrice called the first star, and they plunged into its depths. In its depths they have met the soul of nuns stolen from monasteries and forced to get marry. No fault of heir own, but still they did not keep the vow of virginity, and so they are not allowed to the higher heaven. The narrator is puzzled: what are they to blame for? It is not necessary to blame the victim but the perpetrator! But Beatrice explained that the victim bears a certain responsibility for done over her violence if resisting, did not show heroic endurance. The failure to fulfill a vow, Beatrice says, is almost irreparable by good deeds.
They flew on the second heaven of Paradise - Mercury. It is home to the souls of the righteous ambitious. These are not shadows, unlike the previous inhabitants of the underworld, but lights: shining and radiant. One of them broke out particularly brightly, glad to communicate with the narrator. It turned out to be the Roman Emperor Justinian, the legislator. He realizes that staying in Mercury (not above) is the limit for him, for the ambitious, doing good deeds for the sake of their own glory ( loving themselves first and foremost), have missed the true love for god.
Justinian’s light merged into the dance of lights with other righteous souls. The narrator start pondering over why God the Father had to sacrifice his son? Was it not possible just like that, with the supreme will, to forgive the sin of Adam! Beatrice explained: higher justice demanded that humankind atoned itself. But humanity failed to do it, and it was necessary to fertilize the earth woman with a son (Jesus), to combine the human with the divine, so he could do it.
They flew to the third heaven - to Venus, where the souls of loving are in bliss, shining in the fiery bowels of this star. One of these spirits lights is Hungarian king Charles Martel, who spoke to the narrator, suggesting that people can realize their potential, only acting in the field that meets the needs of their nature. It is not good if a born warrior becomes a priest. One of the lights also talked with the narrator, troubadour Folco. He condemned the ecclesiastical authorities, self-serving popes and cardinals. Florence is the city of the devil.
The fourth star is the Sun, the abode of the wise men. The spirit of the great theologian Thomas Aquinas is shining here. He greeted the narrator and showed him other wise men. Their singing reminds the church bells. Thomas told about Francis of Assisi - the second (after Christ) spouse of poverty. Upon his example monks, including his closest pupils, began to walk barefoot. He lived a holy life and died - a naked man on the bare ground - in the bosom of poverty. The other spirits of wise men listened to Thomas, stopping to sing and to dance. Then the floor was taken by the Franciscan Bonaventure. In response to the praise of his teacher he praised the teacher of Thomas - Dominic, the farmer and the servant of Christ. And again the word was taken by Thomas. He talks about the great merits of King Solomon: he asked God for wisdom not to solve the theological questions, but for royal wisdom, so he could intelligently govern the people. What will happen to the inhabitants of the sun in the day of judgment, when the spirits gain flesh? They are so bright and spiritually, it's hard to imagine them materialized.
Their stay here ended, so they came to the fifth heaven - to Mars, where sparkling spirits of the warriors for the faith are settled in the form of a cross and where sounds a sweet anthem. One of the lights moved closer to the narrator, this is the spirit of his great grandfather, warrior Caccuiguida. He welcomed the narrator and praised the glorious time in which he lived on earth, and which had passed away, being replaced by the worst of times. He is proud of his ancestor, his origin. Caccuiguida told about himself and about their ancestors who were born in Florence, and whose coat of arms - a white lily – is now painted with blood.
The narrator wanted to learn from him about his future fate. Cacciaguida replied that he would be expelled from Florence, and in the bleakest wanderings would perceive the bitterness of someone else's bread and toughness of foreign stairs. At the end his enemies would be ashamed, and he would triumph.
Caccuiguida and Beatrice encouraged the narrator. Their stay on Mars ended. Now they started from the fifth to the sixth of the sky, from red Mars to white Jupiter, where the souls of the just are gathered. Their lights are combined into the letters of the call to justice, and then in the shape of an eagle, the symbol of the imperial power. This majestic eagle came with the narrator in a conversation. The eagle represents the idea of justice, and not his claws and beak are important but all-seeing eye, made up of the most worthy of lights. The pupil is the soul of the king, and psalmist David, eyelashes are the souls of the righteous pre-Christians.
They ascended to the seventh heaven - to Saturn. It is the abode of spectators. Beatrice has become more beautiful and brighter. Blessed spirits of the spectators were silent, did not sing - otherwise they would have deafened the narrator.
The spirit of Benedict, after whom one of the monastic orders is named, angrily condemned the modern self-seeking monks. After listening to him, they rushed to the eighth sky, the constellation of Gemini, under which the narrator has been born. In the eighth sky thousands of lights were glowing - great triumphant spirits of the righteous. Intoxicated by them the narrator’s vision has increased. Beatrice smiled, and luminous spirits started singing the anthem of queen of heaven - Holy Virgin Mary.
Beatrice asked the apostles to speak with the narrator. The apostle Peter asked him about the nature of faith. His answer was following: the belief is an argument in favor of the unseen; mortals cannot see with their own eyes what is opened here in Paradise - but they may believe in miracles without visual evidence of its truth. Peter was pleased with such an answer. The Apostle James asked a question about the essence of hope. The narrator’s answer was: hope is a waiting for the future well-deserved and God-given glory. Delighted Jacob illumined. The next question was about love, the apostle John asked it. In response, the narrator did not forget to mention the fact that love draws us to God, to the word of truth. The exam was successfully completed.
Four lights are burning in front of the narrator: the three apostles and Adam. Suddenly, Peter became flushed and exclaimed: "My earthy throne is captured, my throne, my throne!" Peter hated his successor - the Pope. And it was high time for the travelers to leave the eighth heaven and ascend into the ninth, the supreme and crystal. With an unearthly joy, laughing, Beatrice threw the narrator in a rapidly rotating sphere.
The first thing he saw in the ninth heaven was a dazzling point, the symbol of the deity. Around it lights are revolving - angelic nine concentric circles. Those the nearest to the deity and therefore the smallest are seraphim and cherubim, the most remote and vast are archangels and simply angels. On the ground it is used to think that greater is bigger, but here, it is the other way around.
Beatrice told that the angels are the same age of the universe. Their rapid rotation is the source of all movements, which take place in the universe. Ascension in Emporium - into the highest part of the universe – is the last one. They are surrounded here by pure light. Sparks and colors are around them, these are the angels and the blessed souls. They merge into a shining river, and then take shape of an enormous heaven rose.
Contemplating rose and comprehending the general plan of Eden, the narrator wanted to ask Beatrice something, but he saw not her, but an old man in white. The narrator looked upward and saw there her, in the unattainable heights. She looked at him with a smile and turned to the eternal sanctuary.
The elder in white is Saint Bernard. From now on, he's the narrator’s mentor. they continue contemplating the rose. It shines with the souls of chaste babies. Bernard began to pray to the Virgin Mary, so she would help me. Then he gave a sign to look up. The narrator saw the supreme and clearest light - the deity in its radiant trinity.