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Astrology in the Early Dominican School and Gerard of Feltre

  • Paola Zambelli
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 135)

Abstract

Astrology was a subject of interest quite early on in the Dominican school, as can be seen from the Quaestiones in Sphaeram (1263–1266) by Bernard de la Trille. The Quaestiones, still unpublished, were studied by Thorndike, who pointed out the astrological digressions, constructed along lines similar to those reappearing later in Robertus Anglicus.1 Amongst the pupils of Albert, the case represented by Thomas Aquinas is famous; and Theodoric of Frieberg wrote a De animatione coelorum. But they are both too well known to merit further discussion here.2 We should, however, mention Giles of Lessines, an author who, like Theodoric, was tormented by the typically Albertinian problem of differentiating between the “intelligentiae” (similar to demons) and the celestial motors. Sometime after 1264 Giles wrote his Tractatus de essentia motu et significatione cometarum. The astrological works by thirteenth-century Dominicans3 have been studied far less than their theological production. Yet, it will be useful to follow what Thorndike and Grabmann have highlighted in these works. Thorndike has published the complete edition of Giles’s treatise on comets, a work generated by the observation of the comet of 1264. Giles had studied the astronomical event when in Paris, as opposed to his fellow Dominican Gerard of Feltre, who “with many others” had examined the comet from the Lombard province of the order. Thorndike also published Gerard’s writings on the comet, correctly pointing out that the work of both friars was indebted to the Albertinian comment on the Meteora4. Indeed, they completed some of the quotations to which Albert had only alluded in his text, thus showing that they had probably been listeners, rather than readers, of the commentary by their master. Gerard also added some historical examples of comets that Giles had taken from Seneca’s Quaestiones naturales into his text, thereby showing his debt to his Dominican brother.5 He also mentioned Albert, calling him a fellow-Dominican, and comparing him to Ptolemy. Gerard wrote about 1264, during the generalship of John of Vercelli (1264-1283), who six years later would have promoted the investigation on the XLIII Problemata designed to answer the doubts and the discussions which had troubled the Lombard Dominicans. Gerard’s Summa de astris, still unpublished, is preserved in three manuscript copies. Thorndike published the pages relating to comets, and Grabmann inde-pendently provided a short and general, but penetrating, survey of this text, and an edition of other sections of the work.

Keywords

Master General Heavenly Body Secondary Star Astronomical Event Rational Soul 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Reference

  1. 1.
    Aside from Quétif and Echard, on Bernard de la Trille Nemausensis see Glorieux, Répertoire cit., I, p. 155; T. Kappeli, Scriptores Ordinis Praedicatorum, I, Roma 1970, p. 234–237; P. Künzle, s. v., Enciclopedia filosofica, I, Firenze 1967, 2nd ed., cols. 873¬874; Id., `Notes sur les questions disputées `De spiritualibus creaturis’ et `De potentia Dei de Bernard de Trilia,O.P.’, Bulletin de philosophie médiévale, VI, 1964, pp. 87–90; W. W. Wallace, s. v., Dictionary of Scienti,fic Biography, II, New York 1970, p. 20, pointed out that in his commentary on Sacrobosco’s Sphere Bernard was more favorable to Ptolemy than to Aristotle-Alpetragius, and that he offered a combination of the theory of the pre¬cession of the equinoxes put forward by Hipparchus and the one of trepidation by Thebit, following “lines suggested by Albertus Magnus, whom Bernard appears to have studied closely”. The latter conclusion had already been advanced by P. Duhem, Le système du monde, Paris 1958, III, p. 326 ff., Ch. VI, “L’astronomie des Dominicains”: Duhem re¬constructed Bernard’s descriptive astronomy and summarized parts of the commentary (cf. especially pp. 363–383). This chapter is also of interest for information on pupils of Albert such as Thomas and Ulrich von Strassburg, and critics of Albert within the Or¬der, that is, according to Duhem, Dietrich von Freiberg. Pursuing his customary attitude, Duhem did not examine the astrological features of these Dominican texts; Thorndike did instead offer some data on them in his The Sphere of Sacrobosco and his Commenta¬tors, Chicago 1949, pp. 25–26, and in particular on Bernard (b. ca. 1240; d. 1292), who belonged to the Dominican Province of Provence and wrote in Nîmes and Avignon his commentary on Sacrobosco, still unpublished today. F.J. Roensch, Early Thomistic School, Dubuque, Iowa 1964, pp. 84–88, 289–296, gives a short (theological and biograph¬ical) notice of Bernard of Trilia, as well as of Giles of Lessines, pp. 89–92. Bernard stud¬ied in Paris (but between 1260 and 1265, therefore without being able to listen to Albert); he was in any case familiar with Albert’s De caelo, and probably met Albert himself in the chapters of the Order. In the Tabula Stams (ed. Denifle, Quellen zur Gelehrtengeschichte cit., p. 239) are recorded his “questiones super totam astrologiam” that can perhaps be identified with such commentary on Sacrobosco, together with numerous and better known theological works. In any case, we should consider Bernard as an author who autonomously developed his views, rather than as a witness of the activity that led Albert to write his Speculum astronomiae.Google Scholar
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    In his History (II, 540 n.), Thorndike noted that Albert and his pupils were looked on by contemporaries as a team. Cf. Y. Congar, “`In dulcedine”’cit. above, and L. J. Bataillon, `Status quaestionis’ cit., pp. 650–653 who has recently expanded upon the cooperation between Thomas Aquinas and Albert, and has studied the text of the Commentum et quaestiones super Ethica he was going to make use of in further studies, together with other “paraphrases d’Albert écrites par des scribes qui ont été au service de Thomas”. In his `Further consideration’ cit., p. 422, Thorndike discussed this problem when comment¬ing on the pseudographical Experimenta, and pointed out that the allusions to “the broth¬ers who have performed experiments” are a topos meant to imitate Albert. It is, however, difficult to suppose that writers of the caliber of Giles of Lessines or Theodoric chose the pseudoepigraphic form for their works. On the other hand, the Speculum astronomiae was an introductory work too perfect to be the product of a compiler of occult pseudoepi¬graphic works of the kind Thorndike studied: indeed, Thomdike knew them so well that he never equated the Speculum with their works.Google Scholar
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    Thorndike, ed., Latin Treatises on Comets between 1238 and 1368 A. D., Chicago 1945, pp. 62 ff., 91, 185–187; Thorndike pointed out that Gerard’s interpretation of the comet of 1264 was “largely indebted to Albertus Magnus, from whom passages… of consider¬able length are embodied”, and that Albert’s commentary on the Meteorologica written before 1264 (between 1254–1257 according to Weisheipl, `The Life and the Works’ cit. p. 35) made reference to a comet that appeared in 1240; see also pp. 192, 194. Cf P. Hossfeld, `Die Lehre des Albertus Magnus von den Kometen’, Angelicum, 57, 1980, pp. 533–541; Id., `Der Gebrauch der aristotelischen Übersetzung in den Meteora des Albertus Magnus’, Medieval Studies, 42, 1980, pp. 395–406.Google Scholar
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    Unfortunately, the biography of the Dominican from Feltre is largely unknown: his name has been given as Gerardus de Silcro or Silteo, as in Luiz de Valladolid, Scriptores O. P., Roma, Archivio Generalizio dei Domenicani, ms. XIV lib. 99. p. 388; at my request, the latter text has been kindly examined by the archivist Father Emilio Panella, who has con¬firmed my hypothesis that in this fifteenth-century manuscript “the ductus of s and of f are identical, with the exception that the f bears a horizontal sign”, and that “under the pen of a scribe, the transition to `Siltro’ would have been extremely easy”. It is therefore clear that the better-knonw toponym “Feltre” found in many fourteenth-century codices of Gerard’s works is largely to be preferred. Cf. Käppeli, Scriptores O.P. cit., II, Roma 1975, pp. 34–35, only added the indication of two mss. (London, Wellcome Medical Li¬brary, 308; XV sec.: Summa de astris (Parts I-II only); Bamberg, Staatliche Bibliothek, ms. astron.-mathem. 4; XIV-XV sec., if 65`-68° “Domenicani anonymi cuiusdam magi¬stro Johanni [de Vercellis] O. P. dicatum… ad indagandam altitudinem cuiuslibet stellae novae… specialiter… de altitudine… stellae quae anno praeterito… 1264 apparuit”) to those already known to Thorndike, Latin Treatises cit., pp. 185–195, and Grabmann, Mittelalterliches Geistesleben cit., II, p. 397; III, pp. 255–279. It is my intention to publish elsewhere the Summa de astris, the best manuscripts of which have already been noted by Grabmann (Bologna, Bibl. Archiginnasio, ms. A 539, and Milano, Bibl. Ambrosiana, ms. C 245 inf.) I will quote in the following pages which follow from ms. Bologna, Arch. A 539, giving the partition of the Summa there used, and compare with the Milanese ms., which I have not had the time necessary to study thoroughly. Its partitions do not cor¬respond to the Bolognese ms. If that eventually would import that the Milanese ms. con¬tains a different and earlier version, written before 1264, we should — assuming the Summa de astris as a terminus post quem — consider also the Speculum astronomaiae as possibly earlier, and perhaps date it but not the second residence of Albert at the papal court, to the first or immediately later, 1256–1258. The Summa — which cites from Thomas’s Quaestiones de veritate dated 1256–1259— cannot be earlier than that.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Grabmann, `Aegidius von Lessines’, in his Mittelalterisches Geistesleben cit., II, pp. 512¬530; see especially p. 520 n.25 on Giles’ method; p. 525 on the De crepuscolis (studies by P. Mandonnet, `Giles de Lessines et son Tractatus de crepusculis’, Revue néoscolastique de philosophie, 22, 1920, pp. 190–194); Grabmann quotes ibid., p. 514, Giles’s words “Al¬bertus quondam Ratisponensis episcopus, ob cuius reverentiam rationes predictam posi¬tionem confirmantes addidimus”. The Tabula Scriptorum O.P. called Tabula Stams, cited by Grabmann, ibid., p. 524, writes on Giles: “plura scripsit de astrologia”. See also Dic¬tionary of Scientific Biography, V, New York 1972, pp. 401–402 C. Vansteenkiste, s. v. `Giles of Lessines’, New Catholic Encyclopaedia, VI, New York 1967, p. 484: “His relations with Albert the Great suggests that he studied under this master probably in Cologne”. Giles’s first work, De cometis, shows “an interest for natural sciences not uncommon in the school of Albert”. Cf. also Käppeli, Scriptores O.P. cit., I, Roma 1975, pp.13–15. See also Giles’s Summa de temporibus, Bk. III, i.e, the Computus, formerly attributed to Roger Bacon in his Opera hactenus inedita, ed. R. Steele, VI, Oxford 1926, p. 1, “Qualiter diversimode consideretur tempus ab astrologo, physico et medico”. Cf the very interest¬ing observation on Giles’s “use of past authors” and especially “of Arabic authors for the astrological significance of comets” in Thorndike, Latin Treatises on Comets cit., p. 95 ff.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    J.-P. Mothon, Vita del b. Giovanni da Vercelli, sesto Maestro Generale dell’O.P., Vercelli 1903, p. 255 n.: “Il 5 Giugno 1267 in occasione della collocazione del corpo di S. Domenico nella tomba monumentale costruita a Bologna, secondo la Chronica Ordinis del fr. Sebastianus de Olmedo O.P. e secondo la Chronica Ordinis edita nel 1690 alla fine dei Libri Contitutionum `quae translatio cum ageretur, apparuit cometa super templum nostrum Bononiensem, ibidem permansit donec cerimonia finita esset”’. But as Gerardus de Feltre shows, by addressing his Summa and already in 1265 the Bamberg fragment on the comet of 1264 (cf. above n.6) to John of Vercelli, interest in comets among the Do¬minicans had begun some years previously; cf. Thorndike, Latin Treatises on Comets cit., p. 193, where he cites from the Summa de astris: “Ego autem cum multis aliis anno ab incarnatione Domini 1264 in Lombardia vidi cometam”. Earlier were the observations made by Giles of Lessines, starting with an eclipse observed in Paris on August 5, 1263. Cf. Thorndike, ibid., and also `Aegidius of Lessines on Comets’, in Studies and Essays in the History of Science and Learning offered to G. Sarton, New York 1946, p. 413, where he mentions Giles’s “own observations of the comets of 1264 […] adduced only incidentally and briefly” in his De essentia, motu et significatione cometarum.Google Scholar
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    Cf. R. Creytens, `Hugues de Castello astronome dominicain du XIVe siècle’, Archivum fratrum praedicatorum, XI, 1941, pp. 95–96: “On a exagéré ou mal compris certaines ordonnances des chapitres généraux concernant l’étude des sciences naturelles. En dehors de l’alchimie, qui a toujours été prohibée sous peine graves, on ne retrouve pas d’ordon¬nances, sauf une seule au chapitre provincial de Viterbe 1258 (MOPH, XX, 22),contre les études astronomiques”. Hugo’s text studied by Creytens was strictly astronomical, but the dominican scholar took the opportunity to list several dominican astrologers and to agree with Thomdike’s statement that “hardly any class or group of men in the later Middle Ages were more given to astrology and occult arts and sciences than the friars” (p.91).Google Scholar
  10. 10.
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  11. 11.
    Gerardus a Feltre, Summa de astris, Prologus II (ms. Bologna, f. 2): “summa haec de astris compilata et conscripta est ex dictis Ptolemaei, Albumasar, Alfargani, Alchabitii, Omar, Çahelis, Messeala, qui fuerunt auctores magisterii astrorum”.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., P. I d. vii, c.1 (ms. Bologna, f.13va): “frater Albertus ordinis nostri… magnus philosophus”.Google Scholar
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    Summa cit., P. III, d. iv, c. 1 (ms. Bologna, f.68v): “Dicunt enim astrologi blasphemando quod omnes actus humani et mores, omnia quorum bona et mala, imo ipsa electio animae rationaliter eveniunt de necessitate, secundum dispositionem superiorum corporum, ad quod probandum introducam famosiores auctores ipsorum. Albumasar […] Ptolemeus”.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., P. III, d. viii, c. 1 (ms. Bologna, f.74rb): “Patet hoc est contra Sacram Paginam”.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Ibid., P. III, d. xi (ms. Bologna, f. 33rb): “igitur adversarii christianae fidei obmutescant”.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Ibid., P. III, d. xii, c.1 (ms. Bologna, f.79vb): “reprobatis astrorum iudiciis tanquam infidelibus et blasphemis”.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., P. III, d. iv, c. 2 (ms. Bologna, f.68vb): “auditis blasphemiis”.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
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  23. 23.
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  30. 30.
    Ibid., P. III, d. ii, c. 1 (ms. Bologna, f.64rb): `bel iussu Dei aut nutu Dei”; cf P. III, d. vi, c. 1: “si Deus voluerit immutare, sub quibus verbis… latet venenum ad interficiendos simplices”.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Speculum, XVI/9 and passim.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Summa., P. III, d. iii, c. 1 (ms. Bologna, f.66rb): “blasphemat deum, quia corpora superiora cogunt hominem peccare et beneficere”.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
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  36. 36.
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  37. 37.
    Ibid., P. III, d. v, c. 1 (ms. Bologna, f.7 Iva): “Avicenna ponit quod sicut corpora nostra mutantur a corporibus caelestibus, ita voluntates nostrae immutantur a voluntate anima-rum caelestium, quod tarnen est omnino hereticum”.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., P. III, d. v, c. 1 (ms. Bologna, f.71va): “Dignum etenim est, ut qui in sordibus est sordescat adhuc, et caeca mente de uno errore in alio labatur. Et in hoc errore fuit Albumasar, quem iudices astrorum multum venerantur”.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., P. III, d. iii, c. 3 (ms. Bologna, f.68ra): “ cum Albumasar dicat quod planetae sunt animalia rationalia, […] tarnen non habent electionem”.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Speculum, XII/38–39.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Speculum, XII/38–39: “cum dicat Aristotelem hoc dixisse, licet non inveniatur in universis libris Aristotelis quos habemus”.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Summa, P. III, d. iv, c. 3 (ms. Bologna, f.70rb): “de virtute magnetis vel aliorum lapidum, de iudiciis medicorum et de medicinis, de diversitate aeris et complexionum et de alüs effectibus naturalibus”.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., P. III, d. vii (ms. Bologna, f.73va.b): “in causis suis, sicut cognoscitur frigus futurum in signis et dispositionibus stellarum”.Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Ibid., P. III, d. ii, c. 2 (ms. Bologna, f.65rb): “Simili quoque modo complexio alicuius hominis non solum est ex positione siderum, immo contrahitur a parentum natura, ab alimentis, ab exercitationibus, ab aeris qualitatibus et huiusmodi”.Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Ibid., P. III, d. ii, c. 2 (ms. Bologna, f.65ra): “Sed si sidera essent causae sanitatis et aegritudinis, essent quidem causae remotae”.Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Ibid., P. III, d. VII, c. unicum (ms.Bologna, f.73ra-b).Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Ibid., P. III, d. ii, c. 3 (ms. Bologna, f.65va): “scientiae coniecturae, ut communiter in iudicia medicorum et astrologorum apparet”.Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    Ibid., P. III, d. ii, c. 2 (ms. Bologna, f.65ra): “Eorum causae magis se habent ad unam partem quam ad alteram, et ista sunt contingentia quae ut in pluribus habent causam determinatam, ut accidentia corporum naturalium inferiorum, quare causae naturales quamvis sint determinatae ad unum tarnen recipiunt impedimenta: et huiusmodi effectus in causis suis non possunt cognosci infallibiliter, sed cum quadam certitudine coniecturae, ut naturales eventus in inferioribus, sicut pluviarum et huiusmodi […]. Unde si homines cognoscerent omnes causas naturales, quod in vita praesenti contingere non potest, quaedam quae contingentia videntur, ut de pluvia et aliis accidentibus aeris, aliquibus causis pensatis cognoscerent ut necessaria. Dum omnes causas cognoscerunt, nam prae-ter motum superiorum corporum concurrit dispositio materiae inferiori, quae contingen¬tiae subiacet, et ideo contingens est effectus”.Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    Cf. P. III, distinctio IV: “Utrum omnia de necessitate contingant” (ms. Bologna, f.68rb- 71rb); Speculum, XIV/48–74.Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Speculum, XII/2–3.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paola Zambelli
    • 1
  1. 1.Dipartimento di FilosofiaUniversitá di FirenzeItaly

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