Kircherianum Virtuale

Hello and welcome to the Kircherianum Virtuale web index. This is not only an update of the long outdated Athanasius Kircher on the Web index that I created more than ten years ago. It's a a totally new entry on this website. As it's powered by a database, it will be much more easy to update than the old web index. Enjoy! And please send comments, suggestions, links etc. It will be much appreciated!

Mats Rendel

NameAuthorDescription
Catalog of the Scientific Community in the 16th and 17th Centuries.Richard F. WestfallThis database was compiled by the late Richard F. Westfall as a part of The Galileo Project. It contains 631 entries, divided into 10 cathegories. You'll find a short but comprehensive biogrphy of Kircher among other interesting things in this impressive collection.
The Voynich ManuscriptEllie CrystalA description of the mysterious Voynich manuscript, that was sent to Kircher by Marcus Marci in Prague, obviously in the hope that Kircher would be able to deciphre it. He wasn't, and the manuscript fell into oblivion until 1912, when it was rediscovered.
The Athanasius Kircher Project at Stanford UniversityMichael John GormanThe website of The Athanasius Kircher Project at Stanford University. It's a very impressive and interesting site, where the visitor will find a huge collection of images from Kirchers works, facsimiles of letters, a facsimile of China Illustrata , a website about Kirchers magnetic clock ( from Magnes ) and lots of other goodies. Enjoy!
Athanasius KircherDr Stephan EtzelA biographic article in German about Athanasius Kircher.
Kircher Musurgia UniversalisLiam DevlinA virtual exhibition by the Special Collections Department of the Univerity of Glasgow. The subject of this exhibition is a hand coloured copy of Musurgia Universalis. I have seen some copies of the Musurgia ( there are at least four of them here in Sweden), but never anything like this one. It's really impressive!
The Water Organ of The QuirinaleThe Comenius ProjectA description of a hydraulic organ in the Quirinal Palace in Rome. This organ was constructed by Kircher and built by Matteo Marione in 1647-48.
Carlo Mario ChierottiCarlo Mario ChierottiThis site contains a biography, illustrations from the Musurgia , a complete bibliography of Kirchers books and Chierotti's own articles on the theoretical and historical backgrounds to the methods of compositions described by Kircher in book 8 of Musurgia Universalis . In Italian.
Organum MathematicumDr. Rita Haub, Prof. Dr. Hans-Joachim VollrathThe Organum Mathematicum was a computing device, constructed by Kircher as a didactic tool for the Archduke Karl Joseph of Habsburg. He made the construction on a request from his friend G A Kinner, who was the young prince's instructor in mathematics. Another of Kirchers friends, Caspar Schott, wrote a book about the construction and use of the device. The book contains a reprint of Kirchers letter to Kinner, where he explains the use of the machine. You will find a translation of the letter on this very interesting website. In German.
Museum KircherianumDr. Rita HaubAn article in German concerning the museum of the Collegium Romanum . Kircher was the first curator of the museum, hence it was called Kircherianum . It contained collections of Roman and Etruscan antiquities, among them a fine collection of Etruscan bronze sculptures and bronze mirrors (now in Villa Giulia), Egyptian antiquities including mummies and big collections of natural objects like minerals, skeletons of exotic animals, precious stones and minerals.
The museum did not only exhibit historical objects, but also contemporary technology and art: Some of the constructions that you meet in Kirchers books were shown in real life, e.g. an automatic organ that imitated birds calls (Musurgia Universalis), a clock powered by a sunflower (Magnes sive De Arte Magnetica) and, according to what Kircher writes in Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae, there was also a darkroom for demonstrations of optical devices, including the Laterna Magica . The art exhibitions featured works by Bernini, among others.
You can easily understand from Kirchers writings that Kircherianum was his "love child". He makes references to it in many of his books, often with obvious pride, and he writes, sometimes in a very vivid way, about things that had happened during public lectures and demonstrations that he held in the museum.
At least two books describe the museum, strangely enough none of them written by Kircher himself. A general description was written by Georgius De Sepibus in 1678 (two years before Kirchers death) and a book about famous Roman and Etruscan bronzes in the museum was published in 1763 by Alessandro Contucci (an author of whom I know nothing). Contuccis book includes many beautiful copperprints and also an "alternate" portrait of Kircher. This is the portrait that I use on my website. It is scanned from a near-mint copy of the book belonging to the library of Drottningholm Castle. A catalogue of Kircherianum was also published in 1709 by Giuseppe Buonanni. I haven't had the luck to see that book, though, so I don't know anything about it.
The Voynich ManuscriptRené ZandbergenA big site, dedicated to the decipherment and history of the Voynich manuscript.
Aestetica MagneticaMichele CaldarelliAbout an exhibition inspired by Kirchers Magnes sive De Arte Magnetica. Features some nice reproductions of illustrations from the book, including The Sunflower Clock. Kircher was convinced that the sun attracted the sunflower by the "magnetic principle" that he belived to be the master principle of the universe. This magnetism had nothing to do with ferro-magnetism, and the theory has fallen victim to serious misunderstandings through-out history. Anyhow, the attractive force that the sun was supposed to exercise on the sunflower, made the flower turn with the suns movement, and thus it could be used as a timeteller. It seems to have worked fine, at least according to Georgius De Sepibus. Personally, I could think of more practical ways to build a clock...
The World is Bound with Secret KnotsThe Museum of Jurassic TechnologyA virtual exhibition from the excellent Museum of Jurassic Technology. Contains illustrations from Kirchers books with short but wellwritten articles. (Also featuring The Sunflower Clock).
Ideas in Society, 1500-1700 Athanasius Kircher, SJ David HarleyA short but complete biography.
Das Museum des Athanasius KircherPeter HuberAn interesting website, that deals with the history the museum, from the Kunstkammer of the Renaissance era and onwards. It contains a magnificient reproduction of the frontespiece of De Sepibus book about Kircherianum.
The Hieroglyphics of Horapollo Nilous translated by Alexander Turner Cory [1840]John Bruno HareHorapollos Hieroglyphica is a work from late antiquity. It claims to explain the Hieroglyphs of Ancient Egypt, and was fundamental to Kirchers attempts to deciphre them. Here we have a complete English translation of this strange work.
Athanasius KircherRita HaubA short biography. Even more interesting is a very fine painted portrait of Kircher displayed on this site.
The TarantellaDr. William B. PeckAn article about tarantism, i.e. the disease that was belived to be caused by the bite of the Lycosa Tarantula , the big European wolf spider. This mysterious disease and its causes seems to have been one of Kirchers favourite subjects: There are quite extensive writings about it in both Magnes, Phonurgia Nova and Musurgia Universalis. Much of the information on the subject came from his friend Ciriaco Mattei, a learned Roman collectionist.

According to Kircher, the main symptoms were: motoric disorders, difficulties to speak, sudden and dramatic changes between deep melancholy and frenzy, cold sweat, sensations of approaching death and "an irresistable desire to jump into the sea". The disease could only be cured if the victim was held in constant movement for at least fortyeight hours. This was achieved by forcing him or her to dance to certain tunes, today known as Tarantellas. Before the healing session could begin, the performers had to find out what tunes to use, because different tunes had to be employed, depending on the mental state of the victim (if he suffered from melancholy, "soothening" tunes should be played, if he suffered from frenzy, loud, shrill and extatic music with lots of percussion, "musica turca" as Kircher calls it, should be performed ).

Another important factor that had to be taken into account was the type of tarantula that had caused the problem. To find out this, the performers had to go to the place were the victim had been stung, find some of the tarantulas that inhabitated the place, play different tunes on their instruments and watch the spiders reactions. When the spiders began to move or "dance" to a certain tune, this tune was decided to be the right one. This was important, because if you chose the wrong tune, the cure would have no effect.

Of course, the above contains quite a large amount of mumbo-jumbo. More recent researches have proved that the venom of the tarantula by no means can cause the symptoms described, and so the whole matter has been regarded as a case of superstition. But, as you will find if you read Dr. Pecks article, there is in fact one spider that can cause at least some of those symptoms...
Rethinking the Dancing ManiaRobert E. BartholomewA quite long article from The Skeptical Inquirer concerning the dance manias, including tarantism, that swept through Europe from the early middle ages and onwards.
Athanasius Kircher und Herzog August der Jüngere von Braunschweig-LüneburgProf. Dr. Gerhardt F. Strasser, Dr. Thomas StäckerAn exhibition to commemorate the 400-years jubilee of Kirchers birth, from the Zeughaushalle and the Bibiliotheca Augusta in Wolfenbüttel. A section of the exhibition took place on the web, and that is what you can see here.

It contains many fine reproductions of illustrations from Kirchers works, translations of letters, a virtual tour in the exhibition and much more.
Faksimile FinderTinúvielI don't know who Tinúviel is, but he (or she) has had the good taste to write a comprehensive index of links to on-line reproductions of most of Kirchers works. So if you want to read the originals, this is the site to visit. Provided, of course, that you have some knowledge of Latin. If not, you can always look at the illustrations in the books. I promise you that they are well worth seeing...
Athanasius Kircher - Naturforscher, Mathematiker, PhilosophOnmeda.deA short biographical article with focus on Kirchers medical work.
Erkenntnisse – Phantasien – Visionen. Athanasius Kirchers geologisches Weltbild im Lichte heutiger Anschauungen.Klaus-Peter Kelber et al.This website is a part of the exhibition "Magie des Wissens" of the Martin von Wagner Museum of the University of Würzburg. It contains articles discussing Kirchers views on geology as presented in his works, mainly in Mundus Subterraneus. The main goal of the articles is to compare Kirchers theories to more recent researches.
Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher SocietyThe Athanasius Kircher SocietyThe website of The Athanasius Kircher Society.
Athanasius Kircher and the Egyptian OedipusIngrid D. RowlandAn article about Kirchers egyptological works.
Collection of Historical Sources on Jesuit SciencesEuropean Cultural Heritage OnlineOnline facsimiles of works by Kircher and other Jesuit scientists from the 16th and 17th centuries. Here you'll find works like Giuseppe Bianchanis Sphaera Mundi , Caspar Schotts Magia Universalis and Physica Curiosa , various works by Clavius and Fabri and so on. The only thing to wish for is Cabeo's Philosophia Magnetica .
Ad Sidera, per Athanasius Kircher.Cybèle VarelaConceived and curated by the artist Cybèle Varela, the exhibition AD SIDERA, per Athanasius Kircher takes place in the space of monumental Crociera, headquarters of the Study of the Collegio Romano and Kircher’s museum, a place of passage of many researchers, from yesterday and today, and in the annex “Reading Room". Trailing her research between past and present, between places of art, historical and contemporary, the artist presents about twenty works, many of which created exclusively for the exhibition, including paintings, digital photographs, videos, books and sculptures, such as the reformulated copy of the obelisk designed by Kircher and dedicated to Christina of Sweden and then to Clement IX.  An installation will be shown in the Reading Room, with a musical background by the German composer Peter Pannke, entitled Kircher's Lauschangriff.