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(VII.) HISTORY - Astrology in Medieval Europe

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Bianca
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« Reply #15 on: August 17, 2007, 08:58:11 am »






With the 13th century came the first really notable court astrologer since Roman times of whom we have a clear record - Michael Scot, who when he died in the 1230s was astrologer to the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II. There is a good anecdote about Frederick II, incidentally, who during his lifetime seems to have employed a number of astrologers. When one presented himself, he decided to set him a test, and asked, 'By what gate shall I leave the castle today?' The astrologer wrote his reply, sealed it, and told the Emperor not to open it until he was outside the castle. Frederick thereupon ordered a new exit to be made in the walls, and left through the roughly cut hole. Opening the sealed message, he read: 'The king will leave today by a new way.' The astrologer was engaged.

Scot was referred to by one contemporary as 'a scrutinizer of the stars, an augur, a soothsayer, a second Apollo'. Very little is known of the life of this Scottish scholar and astrologer, but there is extensive evidence of the way in which his mind worked - a mind crammed with curious knowledge and odd theories (that, for instance, since there are fourteen joints in the fingers of the hand - and the reasons for that conclusion are not given! - man's natural lifespan should be 140 years). He discusses in a voluminous Introduction to Astrology the theory and practice of making use of the planets to discover God's purpose for man, addressing himself to all the old quesions - how the stars are signs, not causes, and how they can be used to discover 'something of the truth concerning every body produced in this corruptible world'. He castigates 'superstitious astrologers' (those who used numerology or geomancy), though he rather enjoys describing such occult means of divination as the shapes of clouds or the appearance of the surface of liquids.

Much of Michael Scot's work is muddled and derivative, but he seems to have done some original research - on, for instance, menstruation and the phases of the Moon - and to have had a strongly felt belief that the moment of conception was, if anything, more important than the moment of birth.. A woman should always, he says, note the exact time of coitus, when she may conceive, and goes into some detail about how different positions in copulation can, with the aid of the positions of the planets, have certain results at conception.
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« Reply #16 on: August 17, 2007, 08:59:43 am »








Charming magical and superstitious omens are liberally introduced into more serious astrological theories. To discover the sex of an unborn child, ask the pregnarit woman to give you her hand. If she offers the right, the child will be a boy; if the left, a girl. If a man sneezes two or four times while engaged in business, and rises and walks about immediately, he will prosper in the undertaking; but sneeze twice in the night for three successive nights, and you forecast death or disaster.

Many stories of wizardry and magic grew up around the figure of Scot. A rhyme told of his peculiar powers:


When he stampeth his foot in Spain

The bells do ring in Notre Dame.


And people whispered of his going about by riding a demon in shape of a black horse. He is said to have foretold that he would die as the result of a blow on the head, and to avoid this always wore a steel helmet. One day, at church with the emperor, he was forced to remove it, whereupon a small stone fell on his head and killed him instantly.

Some more prominent 13th-century figures had a merely peripheral interest in astrology. But all had an interest. Albertus Magnus (1193-1280, for instance, one of the greatest scholastic philosophers of the Middle Ages, the teacher of St Thomas Aquinas, wrote little directly about astrology - yet his views on the subject come into most of his writings. Clearly, he shared the common belief that all earthly events were governed by the motions of the planets; it is asserted again and again, both obliquely and overtly. He defends free will, of course, but nevertheless asserts that a properly trained astrologer can, after studying the positions of the planets within the zodiac at the moment of birth, make predictions for the whole life of the infant - within the circumscription of what God allows. He asserts too that if an astrologer suggests a career for a boy, it will be as well to place him in it, for because of the planetary influence a special aptitude will be shown for it, as against another occupation which parents might prefer but the planets do not support. (This illustrates how astrological theory was coagulating: astrological advice about careers for children had been given before - by contemporaries of Aristotle, for instance - but was only now appearing in commentaries and textbooks.)
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« Reply #17 on: August 17, 2007, 09:01:11 am »








St Thomas Aquinas (c 1226-74), Albertus Magnus' pupil, was far less of a scientist and more of a theologian, held in high esteem by the Popes Urban IV and Clement III and canonized in 1323, less than half a century after his death, by John XXII. He took an attitude not unlike that of Albertus, denying that the stars were living beings, but claiming that no intelligent man could doubt that all natural motions of inferior bodies are caused by the movements of the planets and stars. He agreed too that many astrologers had made true predictions, if with the caveat that many others had made false ones!

Roger Bacon (1214-94), an Englishman born in in Somerset and educated at Oxford, had a troublesome relationship with the Church, being twice imprisoned for heresy. He mounted a violent attack on magic and on those who pretended to practise it; but he saw that some 'magicians' were in fact scientists seriously concerned to unravel the mysteries of existence; 'scientific magic' was permissible. But he entirely accepted astrology as explained by Albertus and Aquinas, and took much their view of it, going somewhat further than them in arguing that the planets can incline men to good or bad conduct, even if both might be modified by free will.

He spent quite a lot of time considering the planets and their connection with Christianity: the connection between Mercury and Christianity, for instance - the fact that that planet is dominant in Virgo, suggesting the Virgin, and the likeness between Mercury's eccentric orbit (then so difficult to trace) and the mysterious course of the Christian Creed. This theory was clearly expressed, and the Popes knew of it. Bacon was, in fact, a great believer in what we can only call astrological magic: he believed in the efficacy of verbal and real charms, for instance, if made under the proper planetary auspices, for they then stored up in them the strange energy of the stars and of the human spirit. He quotes a story of Moses escaping from a compromising amour with an Ethiopian princess by using a ring which caused her to forget him. And he claims that many of the miracles of the saints were performed by means of magic invocations spoken at the proper astrological moment.
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« Reply #18 on: August 17, 2007, 09:02:51 am »







The fact that astrology needed defending not against the Church but against some critics who put the word about that was anti-Christian, is underlined by the publication of a work attributed to Albertus, the Speculum astronomiae, a lengthy defence of astrology and astronony which seems to have been published round about 1277, at a time when Stephen, Bishop of Paris, and a number of clerical advisers published a condemnation of various opinions (219 of them, to be precise) attributed to 'Signor de Brabant, Boetius of Denmark, and others'. Many of these 'opinions' had to do with astrology - that (an old suggestion) the world would begin again when all the planets returned to their original positions at the time of the Creation; that 'the will and intellect are not moved in acts by themselves but by an eternal cause, namely, the heavenly bodies'; 'that by certain signs men's intentions and changes of mind are known, and whether their intentions will be achieved; and that by such figures are known the outcome of journeys, the captivity of men, their freedom from captivity, and whether they will become sages or scoundrels'; and 'that Christianity hinders science'. Whether by intention or coincidence, the Speculum astronomiae answers most of them.

There are other less important and far less talented astrological writers of the period whose names survive and whose books were read for centuries, despite often considerable inaccuracies and mistakes. John Holywood of Halifax is a case in point. He was born at Halifax, studied at Oxford, and settled in Paris in about 1230; his name was latinized as Johannes de Sacro Bosco. His fame rested on a short book, Tractatus de sphaera, which was copied and reprinted innumerable times, and printed and reprinted in several translations from the original Latin right up until 1647 - at least forty editions within a century - even after the many astronomical errors had been pointed out. It was used by Chaucer as source material for his Treatise on the astrolabe, and many distinguished scholars wrote commentaries on it. 
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« Reply #19 on: August 17, 2007, 09:05:10 am »

 







                                                     G U I D O   B O N A T T I




But the most important astrological book published in Latin in the 13th century was the Liber astronomicus of Guido Bonatti, the astrologer Dante described as one of the sufferers in the fourth division of the eighth circle of the Inferno, among those spirits who in life had spent too much time trying to predict the future, and were now condemed to pace about with their heads on backwards. 

Bonatti, perhaps the most famous astrologer of the 13th century, made his living by advising princes, and was for some time employed by Guido de Montefeltro. When that prince was involved in a dispute that led to military action, Bonatti would climb to the top of the campanile of his castle, and at the auspicious moment strike the bell once for the count and his men to don their armour, again for them to mount their horses, and a third time for them to ride forth to battle. Filippo Villani, a contemporary historian, claims that Montefeltro won many a battle by following his astrologer's advice.

Bonatti was absolutely forthright in his claims for his art:


All things [he said] are known to the astrologer. All that has taken place in the past, all that will happen in the future - everything is revealed to him, since he knows the effects of the heavenly motions which have been, those which are, and those which will be, and since he knows at what time they will act, and what effects they ought to produce.


His Liber astronomicus expresses the same modesty. He begins by stating that his book will be 'long and prolix', and indeed it is. He produced it after a lifetime's practical work as an astrologer - as a professor at the University of Bologna. His defence was opinionated, firm and pert - particularly where the opposition of some churchmen was concerned. Astrologers, he claimed, knew a great deal more about the stars than theologians knew about God, who preached about Him every day. Abraham had taught astrology to the Egyptians, Christ had used (or at least approved of using) astrology to choose propitious moments for certain tasks ('Are there not twelve hours in a day?' he had asked the disciples [John XI.9], obviously meaning that one could choose a fortunate time within them); and churchmen who said that astrology was neither an art nor a science were 'silly fools'.
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« Reply #20 on: August 17, 2007, 09:09:20 am »






Despite this, his book had some useful tips for ambitious clergymen; he lists various questions astrology can answer, and among them is whether an enquirer will ever attain the rank of bishop, abbot, cardinal - or even pope. This may have been a joke, although he goes on, very straight-faced, to say that while it may not be proper for a clergyman to ask such a question, many did, and an astrologer should be prepared to give an honest answer. Astrology could and should be used, too, to choose the propitious moment for starting to build a church, just as it would be when building a house or castle or city.

There remain two important European astrologers to be mentioned before the end of the century. The first, PETER of ALBANO, who was born in 1250, had a quiet but distinguished career. He travelled somewhat in his youth (to Sardinia and Constantinople, and allegedly to Spain, England and Scotland), spent some time at the University of Paris, where he was admired by Savanarola, then returned to Italy; was among those who met and talked to the great adventurer Marco Polo on his return from the Orient, and returned to Padua to die there in 1316, a highly paid professor.

Apart from his astrological writings, he was between 1285 and 1287 physician to Pope Honorius IV (he charged a hundred florins a day for his services, a very considerable sum), although this did not prevent him from getting into trouble with the Inquisition, which punished him after his death by disinterring him and publicly burning his bones - not because of his practice of astrology, however, but because of some unwise speculations about the raising of Lazarus (after only three days, he concluded, rather than four) and for questioning whether certain people raised from the dead by Christ and the saints might not in fact merely have been in a state of trance.
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« Reply #21 on: August 17, 2007, 09:12:13 am »








His reputation as a physician was very great, and supported by such authorities as Regiomontanus as well as by the popularity of his books on medicine. In his best-known book, the Conciliator, he lists over 200 questions which he has investigated, and after recalling the opinions of others, gives his own conclusions on medical matters. But elsewhere in the book he states a number of objections to astrology, and answers them with similar forthrightness, taking the standard view of the subject, underlining the fact that it is a science. Certainly, some astrologers might come to mistaken conclusions, sometimes because they were incompetent; but a good astrologer would speak the truth in most cases, and very rarely fail to be accurate in his prognostications.

As to medicine, which was his chief preoccupation, those who pursued it 'as they should, and who industriously study the writings of their predecessors, these grant that this science of astronomy is not only useful but absolutely essential to medicine.' All potions should be administered after a study of the planets' positions, and Peter goes into great detail about the theory of 'critical days' and their relation, especially, to the phases of the Moon. He discusses at some length whether blood-letting should take place at the first or some other quarter of the Moon. He certainly goes some way towards ascribing intelligence to the planets, describing one of them, on one occasion, as 'leading through all eternity a life most sufficient unto itself, nor ever growing old', and repeating a theory that associated certain angels with certain planets - Michael with the Sun, Raphael with Mercury, Gabriel with the Moon, and so on. However, he did not go far enough down the road to heresy to forgo the approval of the Pope, or during his lifetime to have any real difficulty with the Inquisition.
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« Reply #22 on: August 17, 2007, 09:13:44 am »






CECCO D'ASCOLI IS MY HOMETOWN'S FAVOURITE AND MOST FAMOUS SON.  IT IS MY HONOUR AND PRIDE TO

PRESENT HIM TO THE READER.  I WAS BORN AND GREW UP ACROSS THE STREET FROM HIS BIRTHPLACE.

Bianca2001








                                         





                        C E C C O   D' A S C O L I   -   F R A N C E S C O   D E G L I   S T A B I L I




We would probably never have heard of Cecco d'Ascoli if he had not been burned; or, perhaps, he would have survived as a mere footnote in astrological history. Ironically, he does not really seem to have perished as a result of his astrological teaching or opinions, which were in no way outrageous - nor did he make such outrageous claims as that the earth was not the centre of the universe, which would have upset the Church. Perhaps most people at the time suspected that personal enemies were responsible for his fate; it was fairly obvious that it had nothing to do with Astrology. After all, his astrology was that of Aquinas and Albertus Magnus, and the first had been canonized four years before d'Ascoli's pyre was lit, while the second was shortly to be beatified.

Moreover, during the 14th century astrology was all too often commemorated by ecclesiastical and lay authorities in permanent and respectable form to be anything but a recognizable part of the fabric of intellectual life. Look, for instance, at the capital of the eighteenth of the thirty-six great pillars supporting the lower storey of the Doge's palace in Venice, built in 1301. Ruskin described it as 'the most interesting and beautiful' capital he knew, 'on the whole, the finest in Europe'. The capitals are octagonal, and decorated by sixteen leaves; on the eighteenth capital are represented the planets in their houses, probably at the time when the cornerstone of the palace was laid.

Mars in Aries and Scorpio is particularly effective, showing a very ugly knight in chain mail with a scorpion in his hand, seated on a ram. Venus sits on a bull, with a mirror in her right hand and scales in her left (she rules Taurus and Libra); the Moon appears as a woman in a boat on the ocean, a crescent in her right hand, and drawing a crab (Cancer) out of the waves with her left. On the eighth side, God is represented creating man, his hand on the head of a naked youth.

I imagine the whole of this capital, the principal one of the old palace [Ruskin writes in The stones of Venice], to have been intended to signify first, the formation of the planets for the service of man upon earth; secondly, the entire subjugation of the fates and fortunes of man to the will of God, as determined from the time when the earth and stars were made, and, in fact, written in the volume of the stars themselves.

He summarized the 14th-century attitude to Astrology, which was to remain constant for the next three hundred years.


http://www.meta-religion.com/Esoterism/Astrology/astrology_in_medieval_europe.htm
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« Reply #23 on: August 17, 2007, 10:08:30 am »






Cecco d'Ascoli (1257 - September 26, 1327) is the popular name of Francesco degli Stabili (sometimes given as Francesco degli Stabili Cichus), a famous Italian encyclopaedist, physician and poet. Cecco (in Latin, Cichus) is the diminutive of Francesco.

 

Life


Born in Ascoli Piceno, in the modern Marche region, he devoted himself to the study of mathematics and Astrology.

Italian Astrologer, mathematician, poet, and physician, whose real name was Francesco degli Stabili, b. Ascoli. A teacher of Astrology at several institutions in Italy.

In 1322 he was made professor of Astrology at the University of Bologna. It is alleged that he entered the service of Pope John XXII at Avignon, and that he cultivated the acquaintance of Dante only to quarrel with the great poet afterwards; but of this there is no evidence.

Having published a commentary on the sphere of John de Sacrobosco, in which he propounded audacious theories concerning the employment and agency of demons, he got into difficulties with the clerical party, and was condemned in 1324 to certain fasts and prayers, and to the payment of a fine of seventy crowns.                                                                                                             

To elude this sentence he went to Florence, where he was attached to the household of Carlo di Calabria. His freethinking and plain speaking had made him many enemies; he had attacked the Commedia of Dante, and the Canzone d'amore of Guido Cavalcanti; and his fate was sealed.   

The physician Dino del Garbo was indefatigable in pursuit of him; and the old accusation of impiety        being renewed, Cecco was again tried and sentenced, this time to the stake. He was burned at Florence the day after sentence, in his seventieth year.
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« Reply #24 on: August 17, 2007, 10:14:18 am »






Works

Cecco d'Ascoli left many works in manuscript, most of which have never been given to the world. The book by which he achieved his renown and which led to his death was the Acerba (from acervus), an encyclopaedic poem, of which in 1546, the date of the last reprint, more than twenty editions had been issued.

 It is unfinished, and consists of four books in sesta rima. The first book treats of Astronomy and meteorology; the second of stellar influences, of physiognomy, and of the vices and virtues; the third of minerals and of the love of animals; while the fourth propounds and solves a number of moral and physical problems. Of a fifth book, on theology, the initial chapter alone was completed.

A man of immense erudition and of great and varied abilities, Cecco, whose knowledge was based on experiment and observation (a fact that of itself is enough to distinguish him from the crowd of savants of that age) had outstripped his contemporaries in many things.                                       

He knew of metallic aerolites and shooting stars; the mystery of the dew was plain to him; fossil plants were accounted for by him through terrain revolutions which had resulted in the formation of mountains; he is even said to have divined the circulation of the blood.                                         

He may be described as one of the Cassandras of the Middle Ages: a prophet who spoke of coming light, but was accused of impiety.

The least faulty of the many editions of the Acerba is that of Venice, dated 1510. The earliest known, which has become excessively rare, is that of Brescia, which has no date, but is ascribed to ca. 1473.
Acerba is the only one of his works to survive.

All of his works were burned with him and all his goods were confiscated, leaving his family destitute.


NO ASTROLOGY BOOKS OR NOTES OF HIS SURVIVED.



The lunar crater Cichus is named after him.
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« Reply #25 on: August 17, 2007, 10:36:51 am »







Cecco d'Ascoli




Qui non si canta al modo delle rane,
qui non se canta al modo del poeta
che finge immaginando cose vane;
ma qui risplende luce come natura
che a chi intende fa la mente lieta.
Qui non se gira per la selva oscura.
(...)
Lasso le ciancie e torno su nel vero:
le fabule me fur sempre nemiche.


 (Cecco d'Ascoli, L'Acerba)
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« Reply #26 on: August 17, 2007, 11:32:47 am »








A PAGE FROM 'ACERBA'
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« Reply #27 on: August 17, 2007, 11:36:23 am »



Vicino a Porta Maggiore, sul fiume Castellano, ha due arcate, di cui una maggiore centrale ed una minore laterale. Per lungo tempo stato ritenuto un'opera medievale. Una leggenda popolare lo voleva costruito, in una sola notte, dall'astrologo poeta ascolano Cecco d'Ascoli, donde il nome. Un'altra tradizione riferiva che il ponte fosse opera di un certo Cecco Aprutino, maestro medievale. Studi scientifici accurati hanno, invece, riconosciuto il ponte di sicura costruzione romana, dei tempi della Repubblica. La consolare Salaria usciva, probabilmente, dalla citt per questo ponte.

La struttura, in conci di pietra, ha doppia arcata, la maggiore con una luce di m. 14,50, la minore di m. 7,50. L'altezza dal pelo d'acqua di m. 25. Durante l'ultima guerra, stato fatto saltare in aria dai Tedeschi in ritirata, ma stato ricostruito integralmente nella sua forma originaria. Il ponte conserva intatta tutta l'elegante armonia di proporzioni e di linee dei monumenti romani.
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« Reply #28 on: August 31, 2007, 07:47:43 pm »




Early science, particularly geometry and astronomy/astrology, was connected to the divine for most medieval scholars. The compass in this 13th century manuscript is a symbol of God's act of Creation, as many believed that there was something intrinsically divine or perfect that could be found in circles
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