The Magic Circle Of Rudolf Ii Alchemy And Astrology In Renaissance Prague

The Magic Circle Of Rudolf Ii Alchemy And Astrology In Renaissance Prague Cover

Book: The Magic Circle Of Rudolf Ii Alchemy And Astrology In Renaissance Prague by Peter Marshall

When Rudolf II was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 1576, he quickly filled his castle with artistic and scientific treasures. Marshall returns repeatedly to Rudolf's attempt to create a "theatre of the world" in Prague Castle and how it transformed the city into the last great cultural center of the Renaissance. Rudolf himself is relegated to the sidelines for much of the book's middle section, as the focus turns to the brilliant minds attracted to Prague's climate of Intellectual openness. The emperor, says Marshall, had a sincere but undiscriminating thirst for knowledge, open to both "fact and fantasy"; thus the community deftly sketched includes alchemists and prophets like John Dee as well as scientists like Kepler and Brahe and artists like Arcimboldo. Marshall, a cultural historian (The Philosopher's Stone), also explores Rudolf's apparent madness, concluding the emperor suffered from manic-depression, and while "eccentric and insecure," he was not insane. The final chapters depict the dwindling of Rudolf's kingdom, as he sank further into melancholy; prolonged conflict with the Vatican over his tolerance of "heretics" (such as Protestants and Jews) led to political intrigues against him. Yet, Marshall argues convincingly, his intellectual legacy bridged the gap between the medieval and modern worlds. I first heard about Rudolf II while reading To Have And To Hold: An Intimate History Of Collectors and Collecting. Even though Rudolf II was Holy Roman Emperor, king of the largest empire in Europe, that part of his life is the least interesting and thankfully The Magic Circle of Rudolf II does not spend too much time on politics. Rudolf, too, would have been pleased. Rudolf II was one of the world's greatest collectors, he spared no expense in finding rare and exotic objects from around the world to fill his castle in Prague. He never married, had a stable of 'imperial women', rarely left his castle or appeared in public, had little interest in the affairs of state - all of his energies were in his collections and in the Occult Sciences of astrology and alchemy. He was so wealthy and patronized so many artists and intellectuals that Prague became Europe's late Renaissance cultural capital for about 30 years around the turn of the 17thC. Peter Marshall does a wonderful job of revealing this eccentric and fascinating monarch, and the amazing artists and thinkers that were a part of his world. It was because of Rudolf's patronage that foundational scientific works were created, such as Kepler's "New Astronomy". Although Rudolf's ultimate quest was to find the Philosopher's Stone, a legendary alchemy rock that made one immortal, he inadvertently helped lay the foundational stone of the scientific revolution by allowing many great minds to flourish in an atmosphere of freedom and creativity. It is called the "Rudolfian age", comparable to the "Elizabethan age" (Elizabeth I of England). History has not been kind to Rudolf, only in the past 50 years or so has his life been been re-examined beyond the lens of his political failures, and his contributions to the arts and sciences been given their due credit. His life story will be appealing to anyone with an interest in collecting, astrology/alchemy, science history, European history, and eccentric monarchs. Marshall writes in a very readable style and brings life and color to the period, people and events.

Buy Peter Marshall's book: The Magic Circle Of Rudolf Ii Alchemy And Astrology In Renaissance Prague

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