Lawrence Principe on Medieval Alchemy (Van Pelt, Class of 55, 2nd floor)

The talk, co-sponsored by the Global Medieval and Renaissance Program, is entitled 
"Mira Ingenia: Chymical Processes, Religious Metaphor, and the Alchemical Restoration of Christendom?"


European alchemy underwent several significant changes in the fourteenth century. The rigorous Scholastic style of thirteenth-century treatises began to be replaced with more cryptic styles, most notably by the use of vivid metaphorical language, often of a theological nature, that gradually transformed a practical art into a seemingly sanctified form of knowledge. One figure in this transformation is the radical Franciscan from the Auvergne John of Rupescissa--part-time alchemist and full-time prophet. He saw alchemy as a means to restore the Church following the imminent arrival and subsequent defeat of the Antichrist. This talk examines John's alchemical and religious ideas, reveals his surprising level of practical expertise and observational prowess (despite being imprisoned most of his life), explains his metaphors with the help of modern laboratory replications, and, using newly-discovered manuscript materials, explores how he thought the Church should deploy powerful scientific knowledge.

13 February 2020
5:15 pm - 7:00 pm