In the medieval world, from about to , astronomy was a required field of study. Indeed, peoples of many religions believed that the radiant sun, full moon, twinkling stars, and distant planets held great power over their lives, the seasons, and daily activities. The illuminated manuscripts show how astronomy and astrology infused everyday life in the Middle Ages, from medicine to religion and beyond.
Faith and science—or the humanities and the sciences—were closely aligned in the Middle Ages. Universities across Europe organized their courses and bookshelves around the seven liberal arts: grammar, rhetoric, logic, music, geometry, arithmetic, and astronomy.
As the study of the physics of cosmic orbs and other astral phenomena, astronomy was the foundation for astrology, which seeks to correlate these celestial events with happenings on Earth and individual human affairs. By looking at a range of manuscripts containing texts from astronomy and astrology, the exhibition shows the close relationship between the two.
A cutting from the manuscript The Consolation of Philosophy , written by the fifth- to sixth-century writer Boethius, depicts the author speaking to Philosophy, who leads personifications of each of the aforementioned subjects. The last personification is Astronomy, who gazes up at the sun and moon while holding an armillary sphere, a model of the celestial universe.
Astrology in Medieval Medicine
Another example from Boethius proposes a relationship between music and astronomy. An illumination in an early-fifteenth-century copy of the text shows Boethius explaining his method to a group: a hovering golden orb indicates a musical tone, the diatessaron a fourth above the tone , and diapente a fifth above.
Ludwig XII 8 All year round, from sunrise to sunset, people in medieval Europe regulated their lives based on the position and movement of heavenly luminaries the sun and moon , the planets, and the stars that constitute the signs of the zodiac. Even the language for the days of the week shows this influence, with Latin-based names derived from planets:.
It features a series of watercolors personifying planets or celestial bodies, including the Sun as an emperor, the Moon as a woman, Mars as an armored knight, Mercury as a doctor, Jupiter as a bishop, Venus as a lady holding an arrow of love, and Saturn as an elderly man. Each figure is associated with a color and adorned accordingly: golden yellow the Sun , green the Moon , red Mars , silver Mercury , blue Jupiter , white Venus , and black Saturn.
Written in the Stars: Astronomy and Astrology in Medieval Manuscripts | The Getty Iris
Several pages later, circular diagrams declare the relationship between the luminaries or planets and the days of the week. The 24 hours of the day—indicated by Roman numerals I through XII repeated twice—are color-coded to the heavenly body that governs quotidian activities. Representations of the zodiac signs Pisces, Libra, and Taurus are also found on these pages, each accompanied by planets or a luminary Pisces features Jupiter and Mars, Libra the moon, Saturn, and Jupiter, and Taurus Mercury, the Moon, and Saturn.
Ludwig IX 6 Devotional or liturgical manuscripts often feature calendars that provide a wealth of information about faith and the cosmos. One such codex type, the book of hours, contains prayers and readings for daily to annual use. A calendar for the month of May in a midth-century book of hours from Paris, for example, begins with an inscription stating that May has 31 days and 30 appearances of the moon.
The first column includes Roman numerals to help readers determine the phases of the moon.
They used this information to make decisions, such as when to fast or seek medicinal remedies. The second column indicates the days of the week, lettered A through G. At the bottom of the page, the artist included the so-called Labor of the Month, a seasonally appropriate activity such as picking flowers in April or sowing a field in October.
The modern timeframes in the year for the zodiac signs have shifted from those in the Middle Ages, when they also dictated daily activity. A diagram from a calendar manuscript indicates 54 major veins that may be drained according to the phases of the moon or the season of the year. This practice of bloodletting, an ancient medical process of withdrawing blood, seeks to balance bodily fluids known as humors such as black and yellow bile and phlegm.
Ludwig XIV 9 A selection of manuscripts in Wondrous Cosmos provides insights into Christian theology and celestial themes in sacred scripture and art. The images and accompanying texts demonstrate the central role of heavenly lights, angels, and demons in church services and private devotional practices. Ludwig III 1 A centerpiece of the exhibition is the Getty Apocalypse, a midth-century English manuscript containing the biblical book of Revelation also called Apocalypse , which describes enigmatic visions of the end of time.
One of the most stunning page spreads features the so-called Woman Clothed in the Sun, with the moon at her feet, stars in her hair, and sunlight wreathing her body. The man's pointing finger serves as a warning against the powerful forces of the stars. Ancient studies of astrology were translated from Arabic to Latin in the 12 th and 13 th centuries and soon became a part of everyday medical practice in Europe.
Doctors combined Galenic medicine inherited from the Greek physiologist Galen - AD with careful studies of the stars. By the end of the s, physicians across Europe were required by law to calculate the position of the moon before carrying out complicated medical procedures, such as surgery or bleeding.
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