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

By Steven Vanden Broecke | Go to book overview

INTERMEZZO
A FEW COMMENTS ON THE USE
AND NATURE OF ASTROLOGICAL REFORM

Although the universal Flood failed to materialize, contemporaries remained alert about the effects of the February 1524 conjunctions. The Bolognese notary Andrea Pietramellara recorded that the weather in February 1524 was surprisingly fair. From March through July, however, heavy showers and storms frequently induced the local clergy to make supplications through prayer and the ringing of church bells. By the beginning of the fall, Pietramellara witnessed an increasing number of outbreaks of the plague.1 In 1556, the Louvain alumnus Joannes Stadius reminded his readers how 1524 had indeed been a particularly wet year.2 Germans linked the conjunctions with the rise of Lutheranism.3 In 1583, Sixtus ab Hemminga mentioned how the conjunctions were often said to have caused the German Peasants’ War and the captivity of François 1 at Pavia (1525).4

If anything, this suggests that the courtly calls for astrological reform were highly problematic. Many contemporaries must have felt that the dire prospects of the 1524 conjunctions had been confirmed to an important extent. Presumably, this was even more the case before February 1524. Hence, we must carefully question why court practitioners like Pigghe and Scepper felt the need to advocate astrological reform.


1. Business as usual: Albert Pigghe vs. Gaspar Laet

In his reply to Pigghe’s attack, Gaspar Laet leaked insider information about the Louvain origins of Pigghe’s astronomical corrections.

1 Thorndike, History, vol. 5, pp. 231–232.

2 Stadius, Ephemerides (1556), fol. A3v: “Sic Planetarum in humidis signis congres-
sus humiditates anno 1524.”

3 Thorndike, History, vol. 5, p. 233.

4Ibid., vol. 5, pp. 310 and 396; Ibid., vol. 6, p. 116.

-137-

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