The Gates of Hell, or, Rodin Planning Ahead

We enter this world through the gate of our mother’s womb. But we exit it in a wide variety of ways, some quiet and tender, some painful, some pure violence. This is something our species has been wrestling with since, well since forever – as much of forever as we’ve been a contemplative bunch, at least. We had no real say in where we would arrive, or when, or under what circumstances – it was all, “Whoa, I gotta go through there?” And the same thing is even truer for how we leave. With the exception of suicide, everything else is a crap-shoot.


So we, our species, has wrestled with this awful arrangement via many avenues of inquiry, expression, and pure guess-work. Religions evolved almost solely for this purpose. If only we can blame it all on some big hairy thunderer, then we can seek ways to appease and fool ourselves right up to the last moment. And maybe we can use this conundrum to better control the worse devils of our nature, to stand another phrase on its head. We came up with damnation, or paradise. Do you want what’s behind door number one, number two, or number three? Yes, there is a door number three – more on that anon.


Now, the interesting thing is how once we got to monotheism, we already had gates assigned to the various destinations. Gates of Heaven, Pearly Gates, The Gates of Hell. As might be expected, we (again, the species, though usually credit or blame can be narrowed down considerably,) we came up with appropriate iconography to depict these gates. Gate to Heaven – gold, silver, pearls, of course, fluffy clouds, big fellow with a book, “reservations? For how many this evening, sir, madam?” Well, it’s always one, but apparently there is just one table, and everything is served family style. Quite efficient – I like it!!


As for The Gates of Hell, well, what do you think? Bleak, threatening, they only serve junk food, and nobody asks for your reservation – hell apparently has an open-door policy. Yet one of us, namely, Auguste Rodin, decided to try and really make this nasty little place visible, so he gave us, yes, The Gates of Hell. “The Gates of Hell (French: La Porte de l’Enfer) is a monumental sculptural group work by French artist Auguste Rodin that depicts a scene from “The Inferno”, the first section of Dante Alighieri‘s Divine Comedy. It stands at 6 m high, 4 m wide and 1 m deep (19.69’H × 13.12’W × 3.29’D) and contains 180 figures. The figures range from 15 cm high up to more than one metre. Several of the figures were also cast independently by Rodin. ” (this last from



One must admit, this is substantially more interesting visually than most of the depictions of the “other gate.”

As for that third gate, or doorway, mentioned provocatively above: there are those who do not share in the religious interpretations of life and death, and are wrestling instead with the option of merely returning to the elemental state we apparently began in, stardust, one presumes. For them, Issac Asimov was kind enough to lend us his Star Gate. We must remember to thank him for that, once we catch up to him. He’s gotten a fine head start.


Unfortunately, there is a big line at the boarding gate.

The Gate is Open

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