Aside from the three children of Fatima who in the second secret of Fatima were given by Our Lady a terrifying vision of hell, there were many holy saints and mystics in Church history who were blessed with incredible visions and direct personal experiences of hell. In this article, we will share some of these testimonies:
St. Theresa of Avila: “On fire, and torn to pieces”
St Teresa of Avila, who was given a vision of hell by our Lord, described it in very graphic terms:
One day, as I was in prayer, I was suddenly plunged into hell. The entrance, I thought, resembled a long narrow passage, like a furnace, very low and dark and closely confined. The ground seemed to be full of water which was filthy, evil-smelling mud, and in it were many wicked looking reptiles. At the end, there was a hollow space and I found myself in close confinement. But the sight of all these was pleasant in comparison to what I felt. This is no way an exaggeration.
I felt a fire within my soul, the nature of which I am incapable of describing. My bodily sufferings were so intolerable…to say nothing of the knowledge that they were endless and unremitting…I was powerless to hope for comfort…I felt completely stifled…There was no light and everything was in the blackest darkness…I have undergone most painful sufferings in this life… yet all these were as nothing in comparison with what I felt then, especially when I saw that there would be no intermission, nor any end to them. […]
I can’t understand how it can be for although there was no light, it was possible to see everything the sight of which can cause so much affliction . . .. . . There was nothing in comparison to the agony of my soul, an oppression, a suffocation and an affliction so deeply felt that I cannot forcibly describe it . . . my soul was tearing itself apart . . . I cannot describe that interior fire and despair which is greater than the most grievous tortures and pains.
St. John Bosco: “Indescribable terror”
In 1868, St. John Bosco had a dream about hell. His full narration is fairly long, so here is just a short excerpt:
As soon as I crossed its threshold, I felt an indescribable terror and dared not take another step. Ahead of me I could see something like an immense cave which gradually disappeared into recesses sunk far into the bowels of the mountains. They were all ablaze, but theirs was not an earthly fire with leaping tongues of flames. The entire cave – walls, ceiling, floor, iron, stones, wood, and coal – everything was a glowing white at temperatures of thousands of degrees. Yet the fire did not incinerate, did not consume. I simply can’t find words to describe the cavern’s horror. […]
[My guide] seized my hand, forced it open, and pressed it against the first of the thousand walls. The sensation was so utterly excruciating that I leaped back with a scream and found myself sitting up in bed.
My hand was stinging and I kept rubbing it to ease the pain. When I got up this morning I noticed that it was swollen. Having my hand pressed against the wall, though only in a dream, felt so real that, later, the skin of my palm peeled off.
Bear in mind that I have tried not to frighten you very much, and so I have not described these things in all their horror as I saw them and as they impressed me. We know that Our Lord always portrayed Hell in symbols because, had He described it as it really is, we would not have understood Him. No mortal can comprehend these things.
St. Maria Faustyna Kowalska: “A place of great torture”
St. Maria Faustyna Kowalska, often known simply as St. Faustina, was a Polish nun who had a large number of mystical experiences in the 1930s. Here’s an excerpt from her diary about one of her visions:
Today I was led by an Angel to the chasms of hell. It is a place of great torture; how awesomely large and extensive it is!
The kinds of tortures I saw: the first torture that constitutes hell is the loss of God; the second is perpetual remorse of conscience; the third is that one’s condition will never change; the fourth is the fire that will penetrate the soul without destroying it – a terrible suffering, since it is a purely spiritual fire, lit by God’s anger; the fifth torture is continual darkness and a terrible suffocating smell, and, despite the darkness, the devils and the souls of the damned see each other and all the evil, both of others and their own; the sixth torture is the constant company of Satan; the seventh torture is horrible despair, hatred of God, vile words, curses and blasphemies. […]
Each soul undergoes terrible and indescribable sufferings, related to the manner in which it has sinned. There are caverns and pits of torture where one form of agony differs from another. […]
But I noticed one thing: that most of the souls there are those who disbelieved that there is a hell. When I came to, I could hardly recover from the fright. How terribly souls suffer there! (Diary of St. Faustina, 741)