Dante begins by an outburst against Simon Magus and those who imitate him, buying or selling holy things. Their place is in the Third Bolgia, where they are planted upside down in fiery holes, with only their lower legs and feet, whose soles are licked by flame, sticking out. Dante delights in the perfection of this punishment. He speaks to one of the souls, and it answers, “Boniface, are you already here?” Dante quickly denies that he is Boniface, and the shade tells its story. In life, he was a pope who cared only to make money out of his office, and Boniface is going to be thrust into this hole on top of him, driving him deeper down, and then not long after another pope will arrive who has been even worse. Dante speaks with bitter sarcasm-how much money did Christ ask from St. Peter before he gave him the keys? And he tells the pope he would speak even more harshly if he did not reverence the office of pope, since the avarice of the popes and other churchmen who worship gold and silver rather than God has filled the whole world with evil. Virgil looks pleased with Dante for speaking the truth.
This sin, called simony from Simon Magus, the magician who tried to buy spiritual power from Peter, according to the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament, demands Dantes full attention, his full indignation. These men, who should be leading others to Heaven, have put earth above Heaven; no wonder they are upside down.
This is the only time Boniface VIIIs name is actually mentioned in Hell; its a perfect touch that it is spoken by one of the damned, with a clear prophecy that Boniface will soon be arriving.