1. What are the Seven Deadly Sins?
Pope Gregory the Great (d. 604) described Seven Deadly Sins in his Moralia in Job.
(Moralia in Job, XXXI cap. xlv).
The sin ‘Tristia’ was later replaced by ‘Accidia’, or Sloth (Wenzel (1967), 38). This sin was taken from earlier catalogues of vice, in particular, the eight evil thoughts listed by Evaagrius (346-99), and the eight principal vices proposed by the mid fourth-century writer Cassian (Wenzel (1967), 14-21). Some of the iconography of the Sins was derived from the descriptions of the Battles between the Virtues and Vices in the Psychomachia by the fourth-century poet Prudentius.
2. Why were they called ‘Deadly’?
The church made a division between sins which were venial and could be forgiven without the need for the sacrament of Confession and those which were capital and merited damnation. Capital or Deadly Sins were so called because they could have a fatal effect on an individual’s spiritual health. British wall paintings stressed the connection between committing the Deadly Sins and ending up in Hell.
A fourteenth-century text, known as Dan Jon Gaytrygge’s Sermon, associated with the Constitutions issued by Archbishop Thoresby for the Diocese of York in 1357, stated:
‘For als the venym of the neddire (adder) slaas manes body, swa the venym of syn slaas manes saule’.
(Perry (1867), 12)