Dante and Virgil enter a rocky area filled with holes. Sticking out of these holes are twitching legs and feet with flames coming off them. This is the circle of the Simonists, those who sold church offices. Dante has a bizarre conversation with one of it’s inhabitants (who is stuffed into a hole).
The soul happens to be the corrupt Pope Nicholas III, who mistakes Dante for the next sinner to arrive, Pope Boniface VIII, Dante’s political enemy. As each new sinner arrives, they are stuffed into the hole on top of the previous sinner, pushing them farther down.
Dante reserves some of his harshest criticisms for these sinners who have led their flock astray. Just as in life, these souls have turned the church upside down, so they are punished in the same way. Instead of the Holy Spirit descending on the heads of the Apostles, the flames of punishment forever burn the sinners feet. As Dante and Virgil move on , things just keep getting stranger.