The seven deadly sins, also known as the capital vices or cardinal sins, is a grouping and classification of Christian origin, of vices. Behaviours or habits are classified under this category if they directly give birth to other immoralities. According to the standard list, they are pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth, which are also contrary to the seven virtues. These sins are often thought to be abuses or excessive versions of one’s natural faculties or passions (for example, gluttony abuses one’s desire to eat).
This classification originated with the desert fathers, especially Evagrius Ponticus, who identified seven or eight evil thoughts or spirits that one needed to overcome. Evagrius’ pupil John Cassian, with his book The Institutes, brought the classification to Europe, where it became fundamental to Catholic confessional practices as evident in penitential manuals, sermons like “The Parson’s Tale” from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and artworks like Dante’s Purgatory (where the penitents of Mount Purgatory are depicted as being grouped and penanced according to the worst capital sin they committed). The Church used the doctrine of the deadly sins in order to help people stop their inclination towards evil before dire consequences and misdeeds occur; the leader-teachers especially focused on pride (which is thought to be the one that severs the soul from Grace, and one that is representative and the very essence of all evil) and greed, both of which are seen as inherently sinful and as underlying all other sins (although greed, when viewed just by itself and discounting all the sins it might lead to, is generally thought be less serious than sloth). To inspire people to focus on the seven deadly sins, the vices are discussed in treatises, and depicted in paintings and sculpture decorations on churches. Peter Brueghel the Elder’s prints of the Seven Deadly Sins and extremely numerous other works, both religious and non-religious, show the continuity of this practice in the culture and everyday life of the modern era.
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