The Limits of Influence: Pico, Louvain, and the Crisis of Renaissance Astrology

By Steven Vanden Broecke | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE
ASTROLOGY AND THE LOUVAIN
COSMOGRAPHICAL TRADITION

l. Introduction: cosmography and the 1524 debates

Louvain mathematicians shared an anecdote. It recounted how Margaret of Austria, regent of the Low Countries (1507–1530) for her nephew Charles v, had consulted an astrologer around the time of the 1524 debates.1 This man, known as Franciscus Monachus, provided her with successful predictions of the captivity of François 1 at Pavia (1525) and of the death of René de Châlon (1544):

Since Mars was in the fourth and lowest house in the geniture of
François, and the tail of the dragon in the mid-heaven, Franciscus
Monachus of a Franciscan convent near Mechlin not only predicted his
captivity to Margaret of Austria, the aunt of your father, but even the
year, month, day, and hour of that event. The same Franciscus predicted
that the 26th year would be fatal for René de Châlon, prince of Orange.
This in fact happened on St.-Desiderius’ day in the year 1544.2

Litde firm evidence exists about the elusive Franciscus Monachus (c. 1490–1565). He was a Franciscan from Mechlin who studied at Louvain, and designed the oldest known globe from the Low Countries.3 No extant copy of this terrestrial globe has been discovered, but some idea of its origins and content can be derived from the

1 So far, I have encountered this story in Joannes Stadius’ Ephemerides (first edition
in 1556). Sixtus ab Hemminga, another Louvain student of astrology, also mentioned
Franciscus Monachus as an important proponent of astrology. See Sixtus ab Hem-
minga, Astrolopae refutatae liber, p. 142.

2 Stadius, Ephemerides (1556), fol. A4r: “Tamen quia Mars in Francisci genesi esset
in quarto, in loco abiecto, quod cauda Draconis in M.C. non captivitatem tantum,
sed & annum, mensem, diem, horam. D. Margarete Sabaudae, D. Patris tui ami-
tae, Franciscus Franciscanae familiae apud Mechliniensis Monachus praedixit (…)
Predixerat idem Franciscus Renato Chalonio Orengie Principi annum 26. fatalem
futurum, quod nimis vere ad Fanum Desiderii anno 1544. accidit.”

3 The best general survey of the life and work of Franciscus Monachus is in Karrow,
Mapmakers, pp. 407–409.

-113-

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