Friday, September 19, 2008

Ecstatic Vision of a Medieval Saint

The following excerpt from the Life of St. Ansgar is a fairly typical example of Medieval visionary literature: the protagonist of the narrative, while hovering between life and death for a period of days, undergoes an ecstatic journey to the Afterworld while guided by a saint or angel, visiting first the torments of Purgatory and Hell, before being allowed a glimpse of the delights of Paradise; subsequent to their return to ordinary consciousness, they are entirely reformed and thus dedicate their lives to God's service. In this case the ecstatic traveler is a real historical personage, Saint Ansgar, the Archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen (801 C.E. - 865 C.E.). Ansgar is primarily known for evangelizing the Danes; he is the patron saint of Denmark to this day. Rimbert, the author of the work, was Ansgar's disciple and constant companion; although an account of his life exists, its lack of factuality has left us with very little substantial knowledge of Rimbert's life and character.

“The Vision of Ansgar”
(excerpted from Rimbert's Vita Anskarii, ca. 826 C.E.)

Subsequent to the events which occurred in your account, while Ansgar was still fairly young, he was tonsured and placed in monastic orders. There, where all human frailty is sublimated, he soon began to grow cold from the chill of the open priory. At the same time he received the news of the death of his most excellent lord, the Emperor Charlemagne. Ansgar had previously seen him at the height of his great and glorious power and had become acquainted with the knowledge of how he had most laudibly used his power to govern with great prudence. The announcement of the death of so great a ruler caused Ansgar to be overcome by great fear and horror; but presently he regained consciousness and recalled the admonitory words of the Mother of God.
Thus, with all celebration postponed, Ansgar began to grow weak from divine prodding. Turning himself entirely to the service of God, he undertook the labors of prayers, fasts, and abstinence. And so this true champion of God, living as he did in these exercises of the spirit, insofar as the world and its abiding heaviness was now dead to him, was now in turn dead to it. The holy day of the Pentecost arrived: by the grace of the Holy Spirit, which was poured out on the apostles on the first celebration of that day, the evening brought the pleasing revelation to Anskar that he would now die straightaway. At this very juncture of death, he invoked Saint Peter the Apostle and Saint John the Baptist. And just as his soul seemed to be departing from his body, it appeared immediately in yet another body – a body of exceeding beauty, devoid of all mortality or discomfort. At this same marvelous moment of death appeared also those very saints whom Ansgar had invoked. One of them was the elder, having hair that was grey, straight, and thick, a ruddy countenance with a sorrowful expression, dressed in a garment of white and other colors, and short of stature: him Ansgar recognized at once, without having to be told, as Saint Peter. Next to Saint Peter was a youth, taller in stature, showing his first beard, having dark and rather curly hair, a narrow countenance, and dressed in a beige tunic: whom Ansgar immediately knew to be Saint John the Baptist. These two saints stood on either side of him.
Then his soul went out into the immense brightness with which the entire Universe was filled, and seemed once again to be alone. The two saints reappeared and led Ansgar in a marvelous and ineffable way through that brilliance, without any effort whatsoever. They then arrived at that place which Ansgar knew, without having to be told, to be the Purgatorial fire. The two saints set him down there. Although he suffered greatly by remaining there, he seemed nevertheless to tolerate the thickest and most overwhelming darkness, and the most terrifying suffocations. His memory was obliterated: thus he was able to think of one thing only, and that with great effort – namely, how punishments so dire could possibly exist. And while he was being tormented there over the course of three days (or so he believed the span of time to be), which itself seemed to last for longer than three thousand years on account of the horrible pain, Saint John and Saint Paul returned to him. They stood on either side of him and rejoiced for a longer time than before. Then, walking with their feet immobile and without bodily means, they guided him with even greater ease through a brilliance which exceeded even that of the first brilliance – if such a thing were possible.
Here we can use Saint Ansgar’s own words: “From afar I beheld various columns of saints, some closer, some further, all facing the east and gazing in that direction. They were praising Him Who appeared in the East. Some bowed their heads, while others worshipped with their faces lifted and their hands extended. And when we had arrived at that place in the East, what should we see but the twenty-four elders, of whom it is written in the Apocalypse, sitting upon their thrones as if guarding the exceedingly vast entrance to this place. They also gazed reverently toward the East, emitting ineffable praises to God. These praises, which were shared by all who sang, instilled the sweetest refreshment in me; however, I was unable to remember any of them after I had returned to my body. There was a marvelous splendor in this place in the East, and an ineffable light of astounding brilliance in which gorgeous hues and all pleasantness were inherent. All the columns of saints, who stood everywhere rejoicing, were in truth drinking joy from this splendor. The splendor was of such magnitude that I was unable to discern either a beginning or an end. Wherever I looked, whether far or near, I could not see what that immense luminosity contained: I could only perceive its surface. Nevertheless, I believed Him to be present there, of Whom Peter spoke: ‘Upon whom the angels desire to gaze.’ For indeed the immense light proceeded forth from Him, by which the entire length and width of the multitude of saints was illuminated. He also was in all of them in a certain way, and all in Him: He surrounded all things on the exterior, and ruled over all thing from the interior by saturating them; He protected from above, and He sustained from below. The Sun and the Moon would have shed their light in vain in that place, nor did there seem to be any sky or land. But that brilliance nevertheless was not such as would hinder the vision of the eyes of those looking upon it; rather, it was exceedingly pleasing to the eyes, and filled the minds of all in a most gratifying manner. And when I mentioned that I saw the elders sitting there, I mean that only in a manner of speaking were they sitting: for nothing bodily was present there, and all things were incorporeal instead, although ineffable and having the appearance of bodies. A splendor then came forth from Him around those seated, and it was curved in a manner similar to a rainbow. When thusly Saint Peter and Saint Paul had presented me to this great light, where the majesty of the Almighty God seemed to me to be, without anyone having to point it out to me, I worshipped right alongside the multitude of saints. And then the most sonorous voice, more resounding than the most piercing clarion call, so much so that it seemed to fill the entire world, proceeded forth from the majesty and manifested itself to me. It said: ‘Go forth, and you shall return to me wearing the crown of martyrdom.’
“When this voice was heard, the entire harmonious choir of saints who had been praising God fell silent and worshipped with their faces bowed. I did not in any way perceive the form which had emitted the voice. Having heard this voice, however, I became sad, knowing that I would be compelled to return to the world – but of course I had also received the promise of returning back to this place. I then went back with my two guides. They said nothing to me either in the coming or the going, but looked upon me with the kind of pious emotion with which a mother looks upon her only son. And thus I returned to my body. In the going and the coming there was neither effort nor delay, because, whithersoever we turned our steps, we were always immediately there. Although I might seem, moreover, to have told of a sweetness which cannot be surpassed, nevertheless I am forced to admit that my pen can in no way describe how much my mind perceived. And yet, neither did my mind perceive it as it was; because, as it seemed to me, ‘The eye does not see, the ear does not hear, nor does the human heart comprehend.’”
We have now related this vision as it was dictated to us by this slave of God. Saint Ansgar, after having been both terrified and consoled by his experience, began thereafter to conduct himself with greater concern for the divine, and to persevere, with greater zeal on each passing day, in goodly works. Thus he acted in hope for the mercy of God, believing himself capable of attaining to the glory of martyrdom by whatever occasion God would assign. As it was, this did not happen by way of the violence of a hostile enemy; rather, it occurred from the mortification of the flesh which Saint Ansgar incurred by continuously bearing the a cross in honor of the name of Christ. Concerning that, we shall describe it in greater detail, and how it took place by the mercy of God, when we begin to tell of Saint Ansgar’s death.

Mystical Meditation on the Creation in the Book of Genesis

The following poem was written by a Benedictine monk and theologian known as Wandelbert of Prum (813 C.E. - d. after 850 C.E.). Although a native of France, Wandelbert (also spelled "Wandalbert") was a monk at the Abbey of Prum, in what is now Germany. His most famous work is an account of the life of St. Goar of Aquitaine, the patron saint of innkeepers, potters, and vinegrowers. Wandelbert's other surviving works are not widely read today, and very little is otherwise known of his life. The copyright for this translation is owned by Darius Matthias Klein.

The Creation of the World in Six Days
by Wandelbert of Prum

Concerning the God Who is One and Three
Simple, pure, and One
Source and parent of the highest goodness
Existing without end
Since the beginning of time eternal:
God caused the Universe to take shape
Creating all things by the Word -
A revolving cosmic machine
Turned by the Heavens.
Equal to the Father and the Begotten
And illuminating all things with its light
The Spirit fills the Universe:
One and Threefold Power, containing
All things by the guidance
Of Your assent.

The First Day
The primordial beginning thereafter takes place
With creation not as yet enslaved by the flesh;
This creation holds the heavenly citadel
And, by seeing the king
It serves the blessed law
And the heavenly army as well.
The brilliant light from the eternal source
Shines forth.
That part of the day
Which by His will departs
From the light
Exalts, even if blind;
While that which remains
Abhors the night and the darkness.
But God the King discerns them both,
And assigns worthy beginnings to each.
The darkness, being despicable,
Adds the filth of anger and wickedness
To blind mortals;
Whereas the light everywhere disburses
The love of a blessed life
And the power to do good.
Then God created the lofty heavens
And the earth, submerged by its own great weight -
Covered by the waters,
Still in the primordial void,
It yet lacked the gift of the Light.
By these things were the seeds
Of pure fire and dry nature of the air
Made to come into being.
Of course, when all of these things
Have been made to come to pass
All bodies put into motion by Him,
Who breathes on them
In no perceptible way.

The Second Day
Afterwards, that portion of the Heavens
Nearest the Earth was established,
Often exposed to the loathsome fires [i.e., of the firmament?].
For indeed did the supernal waters
Which covered the Earth
Run out in a common mass.
Amidst these things, God the Originator
Established the nebulous
And cloud-bearing sphere.
This power tempers
The fires of the liquid and watery
Element of Heaven.

The Third Day
It is by this mandate that at last
He Who cultivates the beautiful Earth
Covered the fields again with water;
And into great channels, the masses of dispersed water
Presently flowed as different bodies
Into springs, rivers, streams
And wide-shored lakes.
Then the bare Earth decorates
The viridescent form of the leaf
With gladdening honor;
The tree and various seeds compel
And create and germinate
Fruits and greenery.

The Fourth Day
And lest the entire incarnate realm
Lack the honor of the Light
And warmth for the breathing creatures -
The Creator fixed the fire of the Sun
And the lamp of the Moon
And the brightness of the stars.
The stars were affixed to their places
To remain under the canopy of the spheres;
They were ordered to go into motion,
So that they preside over
The years and days and signs and miracles and times.
The light from one luminescent entity,
Solar in nature,
Pervades the essence of all of the stars.
Fearful night yields.
Even the Moon, wandering in uncertain orbit,
In diverse and varying course,
Now grows, and, filled with the light of the Sun,
Radiates; then, when the light
Is removed, recedes.

The Fifth Day
After the order and fabric of the Universe
Has been radiated from a full star,
The Creator then orders living and breathing Nature
To arise and come into being.
Then the marvelous mass
Of innumerable species emerges
From beneath the waves.
All the waters grow full
With living things -
Diverse kinds of beings and bodies
Of enormous form wing their way
Everywhere through the air;
Huge cetaceans rise up;
Fish both large and small
Jump over the waves with scaly leaps.
The multitude of creatures contained
In the waters arise as a witness,
Along with the immense force
Of the violent sea.
From these very waters do colorful birds
Spread out, over forests,
Fields, and waves.

The Sixth Day
And then, as they delighted the Heavens
with their resounding praise,
The birds departed en masse on the wing,
While the rivers flowed with fish.
The Originator embellished those elements
Which were joined to their natures;
He went over a portion of the Earth,
That portion which could bring forth
Living forms by His order.
He also ordered the Earth
To assume the blessing of breathing life;
Then diverse bodies arise
Over the entire Earth, drawn
Directly out of the primordial ooze.
Whatever form is intended
For the grazing animals - that is,
The beasts of the fields,
Becomes differentiated and varied.
Whatever is a creature of the forest
Brandishes its limbs with wild movement,
And by His order runs in excitement.
The entire feral mob of beasts comes forth
With a vertiginous roaring.
Thus for all creatures,
Whether they rejoice in solitude,
Or to run with a flock,
There are forms engendered.

The Creation of Man
Now the completed machine of the primordial Universe
Pleased the Creator of the World.
He said: "Now that this has been done
"It is necessary that We now make,
"For all that have been created,
"One who is above them all,
"Rendered from the likeness of the supernal image."
The Founder then molds the slime,
He forms a steadfast citadel, and by
His breathing He animates
This perfect work.
The mind, which is eternal,
Shall always abide within.
Since this portion of the Heavens
Is of divine shape,
The high vertex of this being shines.
None of his bodily parts has the power
To restrain the mental faculty,
However much they might slow it.
After the Moderator has fashioned this form
One can perceive that there is a male,
While a female ought not to be absent.
An imposed sleep suffuses
The joints of the former;
Henceforth a vigorous female
Is taken up from the bone.
The Highest Author orders them
To have rule over all created things
Which Nature has established
Through variation, whether that be
Aquatic, aerial, or terrestrial -
Whether they walk, fly or crawl.
A simple and harmless repast
Is ordered to be prepared, of that sort
Which the tree bestows with its branches.
For the Creator in His providence had filled
A broad and leafy Paradise
With much fruit, and with the spring
Of an eternal river,
So that Eternal Law held the blessed
And native-born dweller here
In his past, present, and future home.
The greatest Author of Nature,
With six days completed and the Earth filled,
Now that he has seen all things
To please Him by their blessed becoming,
Rested on the seventh day.

The Mystical Significance of the Creation of the World, Which Humankind Must Understand
Now, mortal one, that you have discerned
That so great a Creator has selected you:
Look at yourself and become
Acquainted with yourself.
Naturally all of these things
came into being by the order
Of Him Who wished them to do so,
By Whom the cosmic order exists.
The highest, wise, and eternal Founder
Fashioned you from the mud,
And erected your formed joints
By animating them -
You who surpass all things by virtue of the mind;
So that the entire cosmic machinery
Of the Heavens might see you.
For your sake does
The entire created world instruct you,
Since you are a world
Unto yourself; and you, being a world,
Have been thusly called since ancient times –
You to whom this fashioned world yields.
That eternal light, emitted
By primeval command,
Reveals you as the one
Nourished by light.
For the illumination of the mind
Was placed in you by the Creator
When He fashioned you;
And this is the most gracious
Of the parts that bless you.
Hereafter, whatever portions of your senses
Wanders through the depths of incarnate existence
Adheres only to blind shadows.
That portion of your which is preeminent
Ought not to express the lower
And sluggish part, but rather
Ought to lift it up.
That this is so can be seen
In the spheres of the heavens,
Whose waters come to moisten
That which is below.
Such is the instruction therein.
By this does the Earth,
Visible with infertile fields,
Blossom forth with fruit and grain.
This spiritual power is
The highest form of life -
And our form is that which
Raises sluggish members.
Whatever part of you knows
To inflame a heart grown cold,
To that does the pernicious part yield.
When you contemplate bringing forth
Great or middling spiritual powers,
One bears forth the fruit and herbs
And leafy trees which are
Engendered by the spirit
With pleasant cultivation.
Soon the celestial illumination
Of the Sun, and its gracious splendor
Begin to radiate for you;
Then your shining mind will be purified
By the worthy favor of Heaven.
First you will be productive,
Then you will have the power to discern
Whether a thing is suitable
For light or for darkness.
You will then be able to restrain
Your inflamed desire;
And senses which are hidden from the heart
You will cast to the very winds.
An understanding of the highest things
Is achieved by the highest apex
Of the right mind. But those
Who are diverted by the cares of this world
With headlong flight and great haste
Seek the conveniences of the world.
Indeed, the very mass of the earthly body,
Heaving and tottering with its weight,
Either gives birth to clean deeds,
Harmless to life and worthy of reward -
Or, by creating impure things,
Foul and bloody,
It soils highest honor.
In truth, that human will wax strong
By the illumination of his mind,
And by heavenly perception, if
He rules all of his movements,
Suppressing vile thoughts, and
Exercising only chaste acts.
The eternal flower and everlasting fruit
Of eternal Paradise, and the source of Life,
Shall nourish him.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Saints Sergius and Bacchus - a same-sex wedding hymn from the Ninth Century

This remarkable hymn can be found in the series Momumenta Germaniae Historica volume 12, pp. 418-9. It was spuriously attributed to the famous Carolingian poet and hagiographer Walahfrid Strabo. The saints Sergius and Bacchus have been made famous in recent years by the work of Gay historian John Boswell, who noted that Sergius and Bacchus, on the basis of their Greek hagiograph, were used as models of same-sex love by Christians in Ancient and Medieval times (the hymn to Sergius and Bacchus found in Boswell's Same-sex Unions in Premodern Europe is not the same as the hymn translated here).

Not surprisingly, given the generally negative official attitude of the Church toward same-sex love and eroticism, the hymn which we have here points to a same-sex union through connotation rather than direct statement. The double entendres have been rendered more blatant by the translation in order to get the meaning across to the reader who has no facility with Latin. The opening verb, "Pangite", from "pangere", has the general meaning of "to affix" or "to hang up", and in the context of a hymnal is usually translated as "sing" (i.e., sing in such a way as to render a permanent record, or commemorate); "pangere" also has the idiomatic meaning of "strike up a marriage contract", which I have deemed appropriate to use here in order to convey the concealed meaning. In the final stanza, the poet wishes that his listeners may have a "compar": a word which has multiple meanings, including best friend, military buddy, lover, and consort. The word denotes an egalitarian relationship which the standard Classical vocabulary for both same-sex and opposite-sex relationships (i.e., erastes/eromenos, amator/delictus, maritus/uxor, vir/femina) did not. Here "compar" has been translated as "consort." However, that is not necessarily the meaning that the original audience members would have heard: only those who were "in the know" would have perceived a homosexual connotation; it would have gone over the heads of those who were not. The copyright of the present translation is owned by Darius Matthias Klein, the translator.

Hymn of SS. Sergius and Bacchus – spuriously attributed to Walahfrid Strabo (c. 808 – 849 CE)

I. O ye heavens, draw up the marriage contract as our voices resound with odes
And let us make manifest the gracious rewards of the Lord.
We who are below shall celebrate the saints with an illustrious hymn
From our very hearts.

II. Holy martyrs shining by virtue of your merits, Sergius and Bacchus,
As partners you wear God's crown, you have transcended
Together the enclosure of the flesh; and now you are
Above the stars.

III. Blessed champions of the supernal Lord
You have conquered death, overcoming the savage weaponry
Of the ancient enemy, lord of this world,
In agony of the flesh.

IV. Now you are the glory of God's power, crowned
By the garlands of the blessing of faith; you have deserved
To come to be the children of the Heavenly Lamb,
By being washed in His blood.

V. For it is He Who is the equitable God, Redeemer of the world
Radiant martyr and soldier of the Master
Waxing strong in the rosy dew of His deliverance
By donning the outward form of a slave.

VI. The sky, the sea, and the earth all call to Him with their prayers
The chorus' of angels all praise Him together;
Heavenly descendent of the supernal Solomon
Harmoniously resounding!

VII. The horrid vortex of Hell fears Him
The rebellious prince of the demons likewise trembles -
The loathsome Archfiend himself, inventor of sin,
And author of death.

VIII. And now we on earth zealously seek you out with prayer;
Show favor to us with your kindness
That no affliction can do harm unto these citizens
Who are yours.

IX. This place of yours is called The White City
Adorned with holy treasures
Which your consecrated ashes now embellish -
Ashes which now are sacred bodies.

X. You are healing for the sick, the cure for those who are ill;
And by You is mercy borne from the heavens to those of us
Who have been overlooked; all fear and terror
Are banished.

XI. The hymn-bearing chorus sings a psalm, and its harps
Harmonize in concert with lilting tones.
And we can be seen composing a melody
With the chants of Saint Trophimus.

XII. Beseech ye, then, the partners of the cross of Christ
Who are the companions of the Lamb of God the Father
That we may deserve to enter into the seven gates
Of the city of the heavens.

XIII. Let there be glory and power unto the Father, unto Christ His Son
And unto the Holy Spirit; and may there be unto you [sing.]
A consort by the will of the threefold God Who is One
For all time to come. Amen.




Excerpt from Commodianus' Carmen Apologeticum

We know very little of the life of Commodianus (see links for info). His poetry is not ranked as first-rate by scholars; but it is of interest because of irregularities of syntax which point to the later development of Romance languages (such as the use of stress instead of meter). The Carmen Apologeticum, also known as the Carmen De Duobus Populis, is a long exhortation in verse to the Pagans and the Jews to repent and accept Christ. It concludes with an apocalypse, which is excerpted here. The discerning reader will notice that the text, being written prior to the First Council of Nicaea (325 CE), contains some unorthodox ideas which did not survive in mainstream Christianity. The translation is taken from Kircher, Commodianus, and Pseudo-Strabo: Three Translations of Christian Latin. Copyright owned by Darius Matthias Klein, the translator.

Excerpt from Carmen Apologeticum lines 785-1053 by Commodianus (3rd Century CE)

And with the fulfillment of six thousand years shall these things come to pass. I hope indeed that we are already on the farther shore by that time. For at that time, a man of the sun, revived in agony, will arise once more. Recalling what had taken place beforehand, he shall rejoice in God. Because he is incorruptible, he shall be cognizant of the prophecies of the previous age which he had heard while in the flesh. Amazed that such glory could come forth before a mere human being, he shall say: "I see exactly what is, just as I heard it before." And all who will be lifted from Hell will likewise cry: "Just as we heard in former times, behold! this is now what we see." All suffering will take leave of the body, and every wound as well. There shall be no anxiety, but always joy. Each nation believes intuitively that there is One: One Who will be perpetually reborn into the generations of eternity.

But certain persons shall cry out: "At what point can we be certain that these things shall come about?" Accept it as truth, I say, from the few signs by which other signs shall multiply. For many signs of the fulfillment of the terrible destruction will come to be, and our seventh persecution shall begin. Already it knocks at the gate: the sword of the Goths will presently cross the river, and they shall break in. King Apollyon, he of the dire name, shall be with them. He shall use his armies the spread the persecution of the holy ones. He shall proceed to Rome with many thousands of tribes; and by the decree of God will he take captive a portion of those subdued by him. And many of the nobility, having been led captive, shall weep. When they see that they have been vanquished by the barbarian, they shall blaspheme the God of the Heavens. Still, the nations that are shall continue to nurture the Christians. Filled with joy, they shall seek them as brothers, desisting from worshipping vain idols and luxuries. They shall persecute and enslave the nobility. Those who persecuted the beloved ones shall perpetrate these evils: and within five months, those under the rule of the enemy shall be slain.

Meanwhile, Cyrus shall arise. It shall be his will to terrorize his enemies and liberate the nobility. He who had been put in command of the kingdom, and was known for a long time to have been preserved in his body for many years, shall return from the dead. It has already been revealed to us that this is Nero, who had flogged Peter and Paul in the city. From hidden places at the very end of the world shall he return, since he was reserved for these things. The nobility shall marvel that he is hated: for when he appears they will think that he is almost like a god.
The exact time of his coming, which will be in the middle of the week, shall be prophesied by Elijah at the appointed time. And when Nero has completed his time, the Unspeakable One shall succeed him. Him shall both the Jews and Romans worship. But there shall be another coming from the East whom they await. Nevertheless they shall wax savage with Nero in slaughtering us. Thus when Elijah prophesies in Judea, and baptizes the appropriate populace in the name of Christ (concerning whom Elijah in outrage shall pray against their receiving rain, inasmuch as so many of them shall choose not to believe), then the heavens shall be closed, nor shall they moisten the earth with their dew. And in a rage shall the prophet turn the rivers into blood. The land shall become sterile, it shall not be moistened with spring waters, and famine shall come about. There shall be, moreover, a plague over all the world. Because Elijah shall do these things, the tormented Judeans shall contrive many false charges against him after they have provoked the nobility to rise in wrath against him by calling him the enemy of the Romans. Then the nobility, taking note of these things, will hasten to beseech Nero with prayers and iniquitous gifts: "Take this enemy of the people, by whom our gods are condemned rather than worshiped, away from the affairs of men." And Nero, entirely possessed by madness induced by the prayers of the nobility, shall seize the Eastern prophets in a public vehicle. And when he is satisfied that they are Jews, he shall burn them first. Thereafter he shall turn to the churches, in whose martyrdom a tenth part of the city - seven thousand all in all - shall perish. On the fourth day of the persecution the Lord shall bear those denied graves into the heavens. He shall only revive those made immortal from death. And their enemies shall look up and behold them going through the heavens.

But they shall not be terrified, but shall instead wax fierce, execrating the people of Christ with all of their hatred. The Most High shall harden these disgraceful ones in their hearts, just as he once hardened Pharaoh's ears. Then the hard and wicked monarch Nero, formerly exiled, shall order the Christian populace to be expelled from the city. Two Caesars shall participate with him in this, with whom he shall persecute the Christian populace with dire madness. They shall order the judges to issue edicts throughout the land, so that they can compel Christians to abandon the name of Christ. And in the event that any should be able to evade them, they shall order all to go forth crowned that they should place offerings of incense before idols. If any of the faithful refuse to take part in the spectacle, he shall die a blessed death. But if not, he merely becomes one of the crowd. At that time there shall be no day of peace, nor offering to Christ. Blood shall flow everywhere, which I shrink from describing. Fear shall prevail, hands shall fail, and hearts shall tremble: many shall be the deaths fit to impose upon the martyrs. For a long time shall the despised victims be sought over the sea, over the lands, through the islands, and in their hiding places, before they have been led forth to their deaths.

Nero shall do these things for three and one-half years - thus he shall fulfill his appointed time. But a fatal revenge shall be exacted for his crimes. The city and its people will be handed over along with him; and his rule, filled as it was with wickedness, shall be taken away. For he had oppressed for so long a time all of the people by imposing evil tribulations. With the downfall of Nero, a king will again arise from the East with four other nations. As many nations, moreover, as are willing to bring him assistance shall he thus invite into the city with him. And thus he shall be exceptionally powerful, and he shall fill the sea with many thousands of ships. And if anyone shall go against him, that one shall be cut down with the sword. He shall subdue and capture Tyre and Sidon, that the nations on the borders may faint with terror. Henceforth pestilence, wars, famine, and announcements of sad tidings shall all come at once. And so all of the peoples shall be confounded.

Meanwhile a trumpet blares forth from Heaven, the sound of which shakes all in their very bowels. At that time a fiery chariot, drawn by four horses, shall be seen among the stars, and a running torch shall announce a conflagration to the nations. The entire Euphrates River shall be dried, so that the way is prepared for the king and the nations with him. Persians, Medes, Chaldeans, and Babylonians shall come. They shall be mighty and agile men, incapable of knowing pain. When this one arises and begins to come, Nero will be confounded, and with him the nobility, at the very sight of him. The three Caesars will go out to fight against him - but he shall slay them and hand them over to the vultures to be eaten. And their armies shall be compelled to worship the victor. When they return to the city with their minds so altered, they will despoil the temples and whatever else is in the city. They will seize the men and slaughter them with great bloodshed. And when the city is at last laid bare by fire, they will destroy it, leaving no vestige whatsoever to remain. The hearts of the authorities shall melt at this destruction, nor will they be able to ascertain at what time they themselves shall be overthrown. She [Babylon?] indeed rejoices while the whole earth groans. Nor can a retribution worthy of such oppressors be found anywhere on Earth. She who once considered herself eternal [Babylon again?] now mourns, she whose tyrants are now judged by the Most High. At the very end, when Rome burns, will the time be ripe. But fitting forms of recompense will eventually come about for those deserving.

Nevertheless, the victor shall continue on to Judea, he whom the Judeans had observed conquering Rome. He shall make many signs so that they can believe in him. For he was iniquitously sent to seduce them. But a voice believed to come from the Most High rebukes him from the very heavens. A man from Persia will call himself immortal - as Nero for us, so shall this one be for the Jews. These are the two of whom there have been prophecies throughout the generations, who shall appear in the final age. Nero is the destroyer of the city, but this latter shall lay waste to the entire earth. But concerning him I may only hint darkly of a few things, which themselves ought to be read secretly.

Meanwhile he will displease the Jews and the other nations, and they will murmur amongst themselves that he fraudulently deceived them. With wailing voices they will cry as one to the heavens, that the true God will come to their aid from on high. Then the almighty God, in order to end all the things which I have described, will lead forth a populace that had been hidden for a long time. They had been Jews, hidden on the further side of the Persian river [Euphrates?], whom God had wished to tarry there until the end. Captivity had compelled them there, who were fully half of the twelve tribes. There is no dishonesty amongst them, nor any hatred. The child does not die before the parents; there is no bewailing over the dead, nor any mourning, as there customarily is amongst us. There they await the life to come. They eat no animal flesh, but only vegetables, since to eat as much involves no shedding of blood. They exist with their bodies intact, the course of their lives dictated by justice. Impious powers are not engendered in them, nor do illnesses of any kind ever draw near to them. For they are sincerely obedient to the law which we also follow in order to live in purity. Only death and toil can be found amongst them, but other afflictions are absent.

This people who now live beyond the borders [i.e., of the Roman Empire] shall be the people that go forth. When the river has dried up, they will once more seek the land of Judea. And when the Lord comes to fulfill His promises to them, they will exult in His presence throughout their journey. All of the lands will become fertile before them, all things will rejoice; the beasts themselves will be glad to receive the saints; springs will well up in every place as if of their own volition. The people of the Most High go forth in fear of the Lord. The clouds shall make shade for them, lest they be harassed by the sun. And should they become fatigued, the mountains will prostrate themselves before them. An angel of Him Who is on high shall be sent before them, who shall preside over their peaceful army in its passage. With no effort shall they go forward with light steps, and they shall lay waste to all whom they cross, just like passing lions. No nation will be able to resist them if they should wage war against them - for God shall be with them. They will cast out the peoples, and overthrow their cities. By the permission of God they will deprive all of the colonies of their gold and silver, that they might grow rich by such depredations. And thus they shall chant hymns to their upright God along the way. Presently they shall draw near to the city of their holy ancestral land; and that fearsome tyrant will become terrified. He shall flee from that great army into a northern land. He shall vanquish to populace there and from them raise another army which shall fight as if for its own territory. But when they draw near, the army of God will cause the rebels to lie prostrate after a single battle waged by the angels. The wicked king and the false prophets, seized at the same time, shall be cast down; they shall endure the punishments of Hell while still living. His principal commanders and ambassadors, being wicked like their master, shall be demoted to the station of slaves. The saints, meanwhile, shall enter into their holy estates, which, having been promised to them, they take with unending rejoicing. They will beseech God to bring their dead back to life, which He Himself had once promised with regards to the first resurrection.

At that time God shall grow angered at his enemies, and the appointed day will at last come upon the wicked. Then He shall commence to judge the world with fire. He shall bypass the pious while He lets fire fall upon the impious. Scarcely a few shall remain who can tell of such events. Whosoever is reserved to live shall escape only to be slaves unto the just.

After the persecution and ghastly slaughter of the holy ones, the dreadful day of burning shall be imminent. Lo! A loud trumpet shall sound, reverberating across the sky in all directions. It shall terrify an entire world as it falls to ruin. The sun shall withdraw straightaway, and a likeness of the night shall suddenly come to be. And God shall exclaim: "How long did you believe I would tolerate you?" After He has given this signal, destruction shall pour forth from the sky, thunder shall come down, and a rush of lightning shall descend with a terrific noise. From the stars shall come more lightning yet again - a fiery storm held back for so many ages shall rage. Disaster shall come with a great clamor, and the agitated earth shall tremble. None of the human race shall be able to predict for how long they might escape it. The stars of the heavens shall fall, and the heavenly bodies shall be judged by us: the inhabitants of the heavens shall be disturbed while the destruction of the age is accomplished. At that time there shall be no aid, and any outcry will be in vain. There will be no ship to deliver a man, nor any hiding place. None whom they had heretofore worshipped, as if great, shall come forth to provide assistance: every man, no matter how vexed, shall be left to his own devices. The only help will come to those who were known to Christ, for whom there shall be safety. But for the remainder there shall only be death-bearing punishments. A portion of the unbelievers shall be only lightly scorched, and so preserved; and thereby they and their kind can bewail their lot on the last day.
Wherever men turn, there the fiery power burns. The universe itself, formerly so delighted with itself, shall be consumed by fire from its very essence. And all lightning and storms of the heavens which I have described are the accumulated rage of the ages pouring forth. Thus fire, thunder, and all the evils of maelstrom shall boil over. The heavens themselves shall be taken up into the shadow of death. The quaking earth shall first release the destruction enclosed within it, then the thunder will overturn the lowest walls and foundations of the world just as if it were casting dust into the wind. Cliffs shall crumble and stones shall fall; all the houses shall be obliterated, every city of the fatherland shall be laid low. Nothing whatsoever shall remain as a vestige. Who will be able to bear so much noise, so much uproar, so great a ruination - or to look upon such wreckage? What shall the wretched mother do for her sweet little one? What will it profit the father to clutch his son to his breast? Woe to those who flee before the Lord! The quarreling prophets who knew not Christ, whose once-happy lot shall also be judged, shall now bewail themselves. They shall prostrate themselves on the ground, lowing like cattle, while the blessed heavenly palace shall begin to shine on the Christian brothers. Then the eternal light of the supernal life shall wash clean the man, and whoever was humble shall now seem to be a celestial god. Angels of the eternal effulgence will descend with Him; graves will be broken open, bodies will rise up from the slime. But whatever is marked by corruption will be carried by Hell's savage guardians into the abyss. Here there will be living Jews: and He shall lift them up that they might see the glory of Him Whom they crucified. But at last he shall arise from the depths that He might be a witness of those miserable ones, He Who was killed by them. How much money do you now count, you who cunningly laid snares by bribing soldiers to be silent? Concerning you, envious nation, we now declaim. We shall conquer you, Judea, when the just rejoice and the damned are burned in Hell. God shall say to them: "Go back down!" And whoever did not believe shall go out into the shadow of death; likewise will it be for those who were capable of attaining to more, but chose only the things of this world instead. The remainder of those who opposed Christ will make a headlong descent into Hell. With regards to the holy ones, there shall forever after by one holy multitude from the two peoples [i.e., from among the Jew and the Gentiles shall come the single holy Christian populace]. This shall be the greater end: and God has judged that it should remain so for eternity.



Athanasius Kircher's Natural History of Dragons

The following text is a translation of Athanasius Kircher's "De Draconibus" (here titled "A Natural History of Dragons"). "De Draconibus" is a chapter within Kircher's monumental study of all things underground, Mundus Subterraneus. While most of this work is scientific in the modern sense of the word, "De Draconibus" is a curious digression into learned fancy: Here Kircher demonstrates a fair degree of credulity with regard to second- and third-hand narratives which could only be considered folklore. However, it is also worth noting that we have in this text one of the first documented European attempts to account for fossils of extinct species, inasmuch as that is exactly what the dragon bones which Kircher observed undoubtedly were.

"A Natural History of Dragons" is the first piece of a collection entitled Kircher, Commodianus, and Pseudo-Strabo: Three Translations of Christian Latin. Copyright owned by Darius Matthias Klein, the translator.

A Natural History of Dragons – by Athanasius Kircher (1601/2-1680 CE)

There is a great deal of debate among writers with regards to dragons: do animals of this sort actually exist in nature, or, as is often the case in many other things, can they only be found in fables and fairy tales? And we also were stubbornly undecided for a long time as to whether these animals have ever in fact existed. At last, however, it was necessary for us to set aside our doubts; which we did easily, in light of having not only read excerpts from a variety of established authors, but also having heard the accounts of trustworthy eyewitnesses. Because monstrous animals of this kind (i.e., dragons) quite often make their nests and rear their young in underground caverns, we assert with a solid basis that they are a verifiable kind of subterranean species, in accordance with the worthy topic of this book.

We know for a fact from recent writers that this kind of animals is of two types: one winged, the other not. As to whether the first is in fact a living creature, no one can doubt this; nor ought he to doubt, unless he were to dare to contradict Holy Scripture (itself an unspeakable act), where in the Book of Daniel mention is quite plainly made of the dragon Bel, whose cult was maintained by the Babylonians. Dragons are also mentioned in various other places in Scripture, and it is quite plainly stated that animals of this sort make their lairs in the hidden depths of the earth; and that, when any means of egress is found, they emerge to cause great harm both to animals and to humans. We also find in the non-Christian accounts of Aristotle that, during the reign of Phillip of Macedon, two dragons dwelt underground in the caves of the nearby mountains, diffusing a toxin of such virulence that no one was able to travel there without peril to his life. And the existence of dragons, or rather serpents, of enormous size is entirely certain, for they are found everywhere, and most especially in Ethiopia, India, and in other places in the tropical zones under the present rule of various European maritime powers. A similar dragon can still be seen at Rome in the Museum of Cardinal Francis Barbarini, stuffed with pillow stuffing, having the length of fifteen palms, the width of one, and with two rows of formidable teeth. With regards to the winged dragons there is no agreement among the Authors, who for the most part deemed them to be imaginary. But they are contradicted both histories from all eras and eyewitness accounts as well. Winged dragons - small, large, and enormous - have occurred in every era in all parts of the globe; see Cardinal Barbarini, Book VII, Chapter 23, concerning winged dragons, which he himself claimed to have seen in the museum of Gulselm Asulica the Parisian. Here also we must make mention of the authoritative account of Bellon, who tells that he saw the complete bodies of winged dragons which he found in Egypt after a zealous search. He relates that it had a distended belly, two feet, two wings anatomically similar to those of bats, and the tail of a serpent. Aldeovarius relates in his Annals of 1551 that bodies of the dragons of this sort could be found preserved in his museum, which had been brought to him by Gabriel Barbarus and Franciscus of Crete. He describes them as having two feet, the skin of a snake - that is, covered all over with green and blackish scales, ears also like those of a snake, wings on its back appropriate for flying, and a long and crooked tail covered with protuberant scales. Their mouths are armed with fangs, which, although they were not of unusual size, still had the potential to grow over time, in the same way that the teeth of crocodiles or other such monsters grow continually as long as they are alive.

If anyone wishes to know more about dragons, they can be found in the pages of Aelian, Olaus Magnus, Panfanta, and Pliny. The reader may also come upon dragons in the lives of the saints, where they are killed or routed by saintly virtues. In the account of Matthias the Governor, one can learn of the dragon in Taurica of the Chersonnese, which was killed by the saintly virtues of the Virgin Mary. Syrius, in his Life of Saint Margaret, writes about an horrific dragon slain by the Saint Margaret's spirit-derived powers. Saint Jerome writes of a dragon handed over to hellfire in his Life of Saint Hilarion. In the Lives of Saints of Arsace of Nicomedia, dragons can be found in the accounts of the lives of Saints Donatus the Bishop, John the Abbot, Sylvester and Leo the Fourth, all Popes of the Roman Catholic Church; and in Syrius' Lives of Saints, Saints Theodore, Marcellus, and Crescentius; in the Metaphrastes and the Sozomenus, and in the writings of many others, all of whom describe the dragons as having been deadly creatures. The reader may also consult Fulgosius, Diodorus, Orasius (Book 4, Chapter 8), and Saint Augustine. Whether or not these dragons were winged dragons is not known. So let us go forward to those accounts which describe not only bipedal dragons, but the four-footed variety as well. Gesnerus first, and then Stumphinus, and in recent times Cysatus in his Description of the Cities of Switzerland, all say that the remote fastnesses and inaccessible caves of the Swiss Alps sustain a population of dragons, which delight in such places. Even now, according to the memories of men of recent generations, these creatures can be found there. Thus it is impossible to doubt the truth of these amazing monsters. But I shall also here treat of flying dragons, which witnesses describe as visible the air by the great flapping of their wings. The lesser kind of this variety, with which I shall begin, are the notorious flying snakes known to inhabit the land of the Egyptians. They are depicted them in the hieroglyphic inscriptions of that nation. Pliny, Aelian and Solinus confirm that to this very day it invariably happens that winged snakes come from Arabia to Egypt after the flooding of the Nile has occurred. Once there, their offspring are born as insects in the decaying matter of the muddy slime left behind by the flood.

In 1660, in the month of November, a Roman named Lanio was in the coastal marshes trapping birds. Instead of finding birds ran into a dragon about the size of a very large vulture. He judged it to be a bird and unloaded his shotgun into the creature. Wounding its wing in this way, he succeeded in enraging the beast. Then, in counterattack, the dragon charged the hunter, propelling itself headlong with a semi-flying run. When the hunter realized that he had used up his supply of ammunition, he cut its throat, and it died. After he had returned home on that same evening, he died himself, either from the toxicity of the creature's blood, or from the virulence of its breath. His entire body was suffused with poison. Since this was a matter which was of concern to the entire city, it occurred to a certain very curious person, who had been informed of the incident by a relative of the deceased hunter, to go to the location where the struggle had taken place. There he found the rotting body of the dragon. So that he could in all truthfulness bear witness to the matter, he brought back the dragon's head to the city. This was conveyed to me even as I wrote this treatise by the most expert Lord Jerome Lancta, curate of Cardinal Baberini's museum. This head was very carefully examined and I received the report that it was indeed a true dragon, with a double row of teeth just as one can find in a snake's mouth. The dragon itself was bipedal; and it had the bizarre feature of webbed feet, like those of a duck. It is on display for all to see in my own museum. It is an example of the bipedal type of winged dragon.

It is well-known that the winged basilisk is born from the egg of a chicken in its dotage - so well known, in fact, that anyone so insolent as to deny this would be considered insane (see the passage concerning this in our Treatise on Miraculous Crosses). Just as some smaller kinds of cabbage grow oversized flanking leaves, so some worms grow continuously into a large mass. Then at last they become a quadrupedal spoloumorph [meaning uncertain] by taking on bird-like wings from the inherent arrangement of the matter from which they are spawned. And these are the horrific winged dragons which we are now discussing. It can be read in the Life of Saint Mary the Magdalene that when the blessed lady sought a more secluded hideaway in the wilderness, she took leave of her home in Marseilles and settled down five leagues away in a certain mountainous tract of land. This area is today called Mount Beaume. She took up residence in a cave of one of Mount Beaume's loftier pinnacles; from here she could not be conveyed away, unless it was by angelic assistance. There, when she had come into conflict with a hideous dragon of unusual size, she ordered it in the name of Christ to depart at once. And when the saint's holy power had succeeded in driving off the creature, it flew away to a deserted locale on the Isle of Rhodes. At that time, Saint Martha was herself sojourning on the Isle of Rhodes. Eventually she captured the beast by means of both the great curses which she laid upon it and the hurried prayers of the local populace. They bound the monster with ropes and led it to that place which was later called Tarasco. It is said that there they killed it. I recall that I myself in 1632 saw an account of this incident in the Cathedral of Tarascus as I was traveling in the area. It was depicted pictorially with great artistry. And I shall here append two more accounts from this region. For from this area there are reports of flying dragons from so many and such reliable witnesses, that anyone, I think, who denies their veracity must be himself completely mad - unless, that is, he is one who, inasmuch as he has concluded that all human faith must be disregarded, cannot accordingly be categorized as a human being with a brain. One of these accounts can be found in Bosius' History of the Cult of Saint John of Jerusalem. The other is in John Cysatus' Description of Switzerland. We shall here briefly summarize each. From Bosius, who writes in Book II, page 45 in the aforementioned work:

"In the year of Our Lord 1345, when Clement VI was pope and while Elion of Villanova, Grand Magistrate of the Order, still lived, a memorable incident occurred which has awed the succeeding generations. There was on the Isle of Rhodes, not far from the Church of Saint Stephen's, a large cliff in which there was an extensive underground cavern with a stream trickling forth. In this cavern a dragon had made its nest - a horrid monster indeed, huge and terrifying to look upon. Not only had it preyed upon men and beast in great numbers alike all over the eastern part of the island with unspeakable savagery and rapaciousness, but it was corrupting the very air with its virulent breath. For this reason, no one was able without obvious danger to his life to approach the entrance to the dragon's lair. The Grand Magistrate instituted by public proclamation a ban on the attempt of anyone, whatever their condition or status, to go near the place. The prohibition applied even to knights, who risked death or the revocation of their knightly status should they defy it. From this a not undeserved name had remained for the place: Malpasso. There was at that time a knight living in Rhodes, who was a most noble youth endowed with great strength both of spirit and body. His name was Francisco Deodato of Gozon, for he had been born at Gascony. He deemed it a disgrace that no one, even from so many courageous soldiers and knights which lived nearby, had dared to oppose the monster. Prompted not only by a desire to work a great deed, but also by an infatuation with acquiring an immortal name for himself, the young knight perceived that there never had been a more suitable occasion to rid his homeland of the reputation for cowardice that it was acquiring by reason of its submission to the monstrous beast. And so he set out to provoke a heretofore unheard-of battle with this horrifying, raging monster, from whose multitude of oppressive evils he would liberate the island. He considered this undertaking with such single-mindedness that he seemed unable to sleep either day or night; until at last he figured out how to put his plan into action. What concerned him most was how he could achieve his intentions without anyone noticing or guessing what was in his thoughts, for he greatly feared the impartial capital punishment of the Grand Magistrate's edict. And so he went about it in this way: first, from the vantage point of a hidden spot, he observed the form and constitution of the monster's body, and the colors of its hide.

[subscript to the illustration: "This is the winged quadrupedal dragon memorialized for all ages, which the most illustrious knight Deodato of Gozon killed by stratagem on the Isle of Rhodes, concerning which we have written. This knight, because of his goodly work, was later appointed Grand Magistrate of the Order for the entire island."]

[cont'd] And this was the form of the dragon: it had a head shaped like that of a large horse, but was wide like a cow's head. The head was scaled like a snake's, and was situated at the end of long neck. It was known to have elongated ears like those of a mule's. Its horrific gaping mouth was outfitted with massive teeth; it had oversized eyes, breath which burned like fire, and four feet with claws like those of a bear. Its tail and other hind parts were similar to those of a crocodile. The entire body was well-protected by an extremely tough hide of overlapping scales; it had two membranous wings; and its long sides were of a color similar to that of dolphin fins': it was blue on its back, and its underside was a golden-yellow, while the remainder of the body was tinted with a mixture of these two colors. It conducted itself in a frenzied and excited manner, so much so that no horse could equal its speed, however fast it went in its attempt to outrun it. The monster seemed partly to fly, and partly to go about on its feet. As it went about in search of food, its scaly hide gave off a rattling noise, and the monster itself emitted an awful hiss which could be heard for miles around. By this it could cause one to faint, or even to die outright from sheer terror (Francisco Deodato of Gozon's careful observations and description, here briefly summarized, have provided the basis for much of what is known of the anatomy of winged dragons).

Once he had observed the dragon, the young knight immediately sought permission from the Grand Magistrate to go out into the countryside, using the excuse of the necessity of taking care of household affairs. Without delay he began to construct a model of the dragon from paper and hemp-cloth, equal in size and form to the real dragon and having the same variety and arrangement of pigmentation. He also bought a horse which had been bred specifically for battle, and likewise two very powerful mastiffs. He then ordered his servants to put on the model of the dragon and to move its members about from the inside. Thus the dragon model was able to move forward, open its horrid mouth by the use of ropes, and to flick its tail this way and that. This marvelous spectacle of the similitude of the living dragon was complete, moreover, with flapping wings. Deodato goaded both his horse and his dogs against the dragon with a simulated attack. And after he had engaged in this exercise for six months, the horse and the dogs were prepared for any effort and gripped by such a fierce desire for combat that they were scarcely able to be restrained, once they had caught sight of the dragon model. Now certain of a successful outcome to his dragon-battle, Deodato terminated the shadow fighting and without further delay made haste to Rhodes with his horse, servants, and dogs. As soon as he had arrived at Rhodes, Deodato, recognizing that he must put his designs into effect as soon as possible, arrayed himself in a suit of armor of the better kind, and armed himself with a stout lance and a sword most suitable for battle. He commended himself to God, to Saint Stephen, and to John the Baptist at the Church of Saint Stephen's, not far from the dragon's lair. Having done so, he went forward to the cave of the deadly dragon. He made sure that his servants were armed; and he additionally admonished them that they climb a cliff nearby in order to observe the fight. This was so that, should the outcome be that he lived and the dragon were killed, they could run to his aid with the medicines he had already prepared for them; or, if he were killed and the dragon were still alive, they could flee for their lives by a pre-appointed route. Once he had given them these instructions, Deodato went before the dragon's cave with courageous resolve. And just as it seemed that nothing might happen, the ferocious monster came at him from the depths of its lair, its wild shrieking, horrid hissing, and the rattling of its scales all unnerving the horse. Deodato went forward to a level spot suitable for fighting to await the monster's charge. The dragon, thinking that it had espied easy prey, at last charged, half-flying, half-running. The dogs and the horse, not at all fearing the sight of their opponent the monstrous dragon, attacked in the manner in which they had been for so long accustomed and trained. The knight, brandishing his lance, charged and with great strength impaled the tough, scaly hide of the dragon. He then withdrew his weapon from where he had lodged it, and the dragon was thus deprived of the sense of safety imparted by its hard outer integument. It was marvelous to behold! The dogs tormented the beast by chewing off its genitals, and because the dragon was occupied with defending itself against the dogs, it was forced to desist from fighting the knight. The knight was still armed with his sword and shield, and believed it to be easier at this point to continue the combat on foot. The monster turned toward him and stood on its hind feet - and while erect it attacked with its forepaws, using its right to assail the knight with its fearsome claws, and its left his shield. The knight then discerned the softer part of the dragon's neck and drove his sword into it - and an enormous outpouring of blood flowed forth. With the dragon thus vexed by pain and driven into a blind rage, the knight moved himself close enough to his opponent to drive his sword all the way through its entrails, until the thrashing motions of the dragon caused the adamantine blade to open its underside up all the way to its throat. Once this had happened, the monster, weakened by the huge loss of blood, threw its entire mass upon the knight as it fell. The knight, now exhausted by his labors in the terrible struggle and poisoned, moreover, by a massive dose of the hellish toxin which the beast had exhaled from its open body, was now rendered nearly lifeless. The servants saw this and recalled the orders he had given. They came down from the cliff at once and flew to his aid. Dragging Deodato away from the beast, they discerned some faint signs of life in him. They then brought cold water from a nearby stream in buckets and poured it continually over his entire body until he began to revive, and his heart began to beat once more. When Deodato felt that his powers had returned to him, he straightaway mounted his horse and returned to the city. He told the story of the deed, and how he had accomplished his glorious victory, exactly as it had happened, to the Grand Magistrate. And while he was hoping for great glory and payment for a deed which was of such goodly benefit to the public, however illegal it may have been, he instead was forced to endure the opposite kind of reward. The Grand Magistrate convened a council and by public censure had the knight cast into the most miserable prison for his insolence and presumptuous audacity in violating of an inalterable edict. This, the Grand Magistrate reasoned, would make a public example to knights in general. But when the news of the dragon's demise was disseminated throughout the island, the stout-hearted determination of the knight elicited nothing but applause. And from an island now liberated from the dire calamity with which the unvanquished monster had afflicted it, great gratitude now arose. The island resounded with praises for the knight, which at last induced a consideration of his merits and led to his freedom and the restoration of his title. Not only that, he was subsequently promoted to the highest grades of the worthy Order of Magistrates. Since he had been promoted to that level by virtue of his own prudence, he published accounts of his undertaking, showing the excellence of his judgment. As a result, he was eventually chosen as the successor of the Grand Magistrate by a unanimous election, once Elion of Villanova had retired. Even today these laudatory inscriptions can be publicly seen, which were written by Jerome of Meggisero, whose pictorial rendering bore witness to the event: "Sir Deodato of Gozon, Slayer of the Dragon, Magistrate of Province III. The Dragon was slain before He acted as Magistrate." The other, also inscribed under the same depiction, reads: "Sir Francisco Deodato of Gozon: here He valiantly slew a Dreadful Serpent of Great Size, Which was devouring the Inhabitants of Rhodes. Thereafter, He was elected Magistrate in the Year of Our Lord 1349."

We have related this matter in perhaps too great a detail, so that by this noteworthy history people can most humbly come to believe that winged dragons exist in nature, in the past and in the present day. We have to decided to append here an illustration of another dragon along with the above history of the battle, with the illustrious knight of Melitense sent to me. Aldrovando, formerly known as Hugo Compagno, Cardinal of the Pontificate (for which name he is renown), who died under the name of Gregory XIII, found a dragon in the Bononine Field, the drawing of which is below. Concerning the origin and genesis of such creatures there will be a fuller discussion elsewhere in this work.

[subscript to illustration] "This little dragon, wingless and bipedal, was caught in the Bononine Field by Hugo Compagno, Cardinal of the Pontificate, before he assumed the name Gregory XIII. Its stuffed body can now be seen in the Museum of Aldrovandi."

And because those who scoff will require more than one factual account to be convinced, I shall here add others no less worthy of amazement. These were published by John Cysatus in his Description of the Four Swiss Sylvanian Cities, in which he informs us with numerous examples that there are more dragons to be found in this region than in any other locale outside of Switzerland. Additionally, we corresponded with the worthy gentleman Christopher Schorer, prefect of the Soliduranum Canton, in order to ascertain the veracity of Cysatus' accounts. He affirmed that not only were these things entirely true according to reports that he had received, but he had seen with his own eyes the truth of the matter: "During the year 1619, as I was contemplating the serenity of the nighttime sky, to my great astonishment I saw a brightly glowing dragon fly from a large mountain cliff (which is commonly called Mount Pilate), to another cave on the opposite cliffside (commonly called the Flue Cave) with a swift flapping of its wings. Its body was quite large; it had a long tail and an extended neck, while its head displayed the toothsome mouth of a snake. As the creature was in the midst of flight, it spewed out sparks from its body, not unlike the embers which fly when smiths beat glowing iron. It was after I had observed all of the details that I knew it rightly to be a dragon from its bodily motions, by which I could discern the arrangement of its limbs. I write this to Your Reverence, lest you doubt that dragons truly exist in Nature." This same gentleman also wrote to us as we were still writing this work; and his letters stated the he had found "something similar concerning a certain local hunter by the name of Paul Schumperlin. In 1654, around the time of the Feast of Saint James, Paul Schumperlin was hunting around the base of Mount Flue, where he ran into a dragon next to the mouth of a cave in which it was making its lair. It had a snake-like head, a neck and tail of equal length, and it walked on all fours about a foot or more off of the ground. Its entire body was covered with scales, and it was mottled with both grey and whitish-yellow spots. The formation of its head was not dissimilar to that of a horse. When it caught sight of the hunter, it retreated into its cave with a great rattling of its scales. In 1602, a skeleton of a dragon was found in another mountain cave, commonly called Mountain Staffelwand, near the aforementioned Mount Flue. It had been killed when the cave collapsed during an earthquake." These things were related to us by correspondence with the aforementioned gentleman Christopher Schorer.

Cysatus also tells us of something similar which happened to a farmer who was harvesting hay. At that time the farmer saw on a nearby mountain a dragon of enormous size. It was sufficiently distant that he did not lose his wits from fear when he saw it. And so he was able to observe that it exuded a liquid from itself. Later on he found this liquid in a certain field in the form of hardened blood in which there was a multicolored gem. This stone has been conserved to the present day in Lucerne like an invaluable carnelian, where it acts as an excellent remedy for all illnesses, especially poisonings and infections, as the annals of the city testify.

But let us now move on to the Description of Cysatus. Here he recounts four noteworthy incidents pertaining to the subject of this treatise. Here is an excerpt from his History, which was written in German, but here translated into Latin: "There is a very old city in the Bernenine Province called Burgdorpium. It is so named from two brothers, the elder of whom was named Syntram, and the younger Beltram. They were the Dukes of Lenzenburg in the year of Our Lord 792. There was one occasion when they went hunting through vast forests and remote vales of the mountains. And as they were wandering here and there they came upon a large mountain cliff where a wild monster of immense size - a dragon, I say - was nesting in a deep cave. This same beast had recently been roaming the nearby countryside, robbing farmers of their animals. When the knights encountered it, it charged them as if it were attempting to seize prey as it ordinarily did. It immediately gulped down Beltram while he was still living. Syntram, with the help of their squires, bravely made battle against the beast - first with their spears, then with their swords. When they had at last destroyed the beast, Syntram cut open the belly and extracted his still-breathing brother. In this very spot and to this very day, a pictorial account of the affair can be seen next to the Chapel of Saint Margaret at Berne, which the two brothers themselves commissioned to be built in memory of their deed".

The other account is found in the above-cited author, in Folio 168, which Saint Stumphius, Book VII, Chapter 2, confirms. "Before Sylvania was under cultivation, a large dragon in a good-sized mountain cave was making his nest near the canton of Weylam. It was preying on both humans and animals, so that the inhabitants were compelled to abandon their homes and move to another locale. This second village is called Odeweyla to this day, while the first retains the name Abandoned Vyla. At that time there was a brave and noble gentleman, known in the area as Winkelkried. Winkelkried had at that time been banished from his homeland and was living in exile due to vague accusations of homicide. But once he had heard of those damnable things which the dragon had been inflicting on the entire canton, he contacted the local Magistrate so that he might kill the dragon in order to reacquire his liberty. The Magistrate accepted the conditions and gave Winkelkried leave to do as he saw fit. The knight discovered the dragon's wild lair, and, armed with a lance and large sword, provoked it to conflict. He had already prepared a bundle of exceedingly long spines, which he had then affixed to the tip of his lance. So when the dragon was charging him with great speed, he impaled it securely with the spiny bundle in its mouth. The dragon was then preoccupied not with devouring the knight but with freeing itself from the spiny ball. The knight, meanwhile, with his sword affixed in the soft underside of the dragon, finally slew the beast. But when he hurled the blood-spattered sword upward as a gesture of celebration, what should happen but that the poisonous blood flowed downward upon his exposed skin; and inasmuch as it was powerfully toxic, he who had believed himself to be the victor was in turn conquered by the dragon's avenging blood. The knight Winkelkried, poisoned by contact with the dragon's blood, died a short while later." I have added here a drawing of this dragon, which was sent to me from Switzerland.

The Astounding Story of Victor, the Man Who Lived with Two Dragons for Six Months

Here I shall now add an account related to me by the same Cysatus mentioned above. I would hardly have believed it, had I not been persuaded of its truth by so many personal testimonies and indeed by the surviving public devotion in the Church of Saint Leodegard at Lucerne, which serves as a witness to the affair. The events occurred as followed:

There was a man named Victor living in the Swiss city of Lucerne. One day, while he was looking for material to make traps in remote areas the Alpine forests and hills, became hopelessly lost in the labyrinthine pathways of the trackless wilderness. He did not know how he might find his way back, and he wandered in all directions for the greater part of a night. He made his way in the semi-somnolent state induced by pure exhaustion; because of the lack of light he did not see the mouth of a pit gaping before him. And so he fell right into it. But because of the soft mud which had accumulated at the bottom of the pit, he suffered no injury. His mind, however, was torn by anxiety born of the certainty of his imminent destruction. For when he looked up, he saw that the depth of the pit was such that it would be impossible for him to climb out of it (the pit was circular in shape, and its walls were sheer all the way around). Despairing of ever being rescued, Victor turned his entire mind toward seeking Divine assistance, soliciting both God and His Mother with continual prayers and petitions, that they might free him from so miserable a pass. Yet it pleased His Divine Majesty to afflict him further, in order that he could accumulate merits. In the sides of the pit were passageways of substantial length and width. Victor entered one, hoping to find a comfortable resting place, when to his horror he found his egress blocked by two hideous dragons. Frightened half out of his wits, he attempted to retreat to the muddy pit, pleading all the while in the midst of a great outpouring of tears that God and His mother defend him against such terrifying monsters. But the dragons, wrapping their tails and long necks around him, still did him neither harm nor violence. It would be easier to imagine just what despair this man experienced, being in company of such frightful and bizarre creatures, than it would be to describe it. You would have seen the prophet Daniel all over again, except that he was in a pit of dragons rather than lions. But Victor remained there, not for one day or even a week, but for six whole months, from the sixth of November all the way to the tenth of April. And how do you suppose that he was able to eat during this time? Listen, and be astounded. He observed that the dragons ate no other food throughout the winter season except a salty liquid exuded from the walls of the pit. And so, inasmuch as he was bereft of everything necessary to survive, he followed the example of the dragons. He set about licking and lapping up the liquid himself, and thus revived by this sort of food, he was able to live for half a year. During the equinoctial sun, from which he felt the air to grow a little warmer, the monsters also seemed to feel that the time was at hand for them to come out of their underground lairs to look for food. One of them swiftly flew upward from the muddy pit ahead of the other with a great flapping of his wings; and when the second dragon began the same ascent, Victor, seeing that this was his best chance for freedom, seized the tail of the beast, and was carried away from the pit. Never was there a more marvelous sight! And once the dragons had set him down, he found, by the providence of God, a path back to Lucerne. When he came to his family, who had believed him long dead, they were utterly speechless at the account he gave of what had happened to him. It was, they adjudged, the most frightening experience imaginable. And because he had obtained his liberation from so horrendous a situation by the intercession of the Great Mother of God, Victor wished that there be a testament to his ordeal. And so he ordered that, as a witness to the matter for the wonder of future generations, the kind of priestly garb which is called a casula or planeta to be sewn, in which the story of his experiences were depicted by the art of needlework. It survives to this day in the Church of Saint Leodegard at Lucerne, where it is shown to foreigners. Victor himself was taken into the bosom of God because he was no longer able to take ordinary food because of the damage done to his stomach; and two months after he had escaped from the pit of the dragons, he died piously in the Lord.

Many things are contained in this history which far exceed the powers of nature, for which reason it must be admitted that Victor's life was maintained supernaturally in so horrific an abyss. Anyone can easily surmise from this account and from others like it that the descriptions of winged dragons among various writers are accurate. And now, so that the reader's curiosity does not go unsatisfied, we shall explain the origin of dragons, and how they come into being.

How Dragons Come into Being

How and in what kind of environment dragons come into being is a matter of no small wonder. And since no written account has yet been found which provides a treatment of this subject, we have set about here to explain the means of dragon reproduction to the extent that our relative ignorance permits.

All doctors and physiologists know that hybrid species of animals are engendered by a mixture of more than one kind of sperm. This is the case in animal species whose representatives are complete organisms in and of themselves, such as mules, mountain nyalas, cameleopards, and other hybrid species. This also occurs in human fetus' formed from more than one kind of sperm in the womb of either a wild beast or a human female. Many examples of these monsters, such as the anthropomorphs in the accounts of Lycostenis, have been documented. This process most especially occurs among insects, whose remarkable metamorphoses have been sufficiently described. A good example is the bee, which is born from cattle manure. It is undeniable upon close examination that the bee's head replicates exactly that of a cow (we have demonstrated this exhaustively in our chapter on the "Head of the Hieroglyphic Cow", in our tract The Pamphilian Obelisk). This is also the case for the horned head of the scarab beetle, whose head is not at all dissimilar to that of the horse from whose manure they are born. And then there's the stag beetle, which is sometimes called a tragelaphus because of its resemblance to the horned stag whose manure engenders it. In fact, the feces of animals invariably generate some kind of insect showing a resemblance to the very animal in whose excrement they have been born. If the insect does not resemble the animal in its entirety, it at least resembles it in some anatomical particular. We have described this in greater detail elsewhere. And now that we have given this preliminary explanation, we shall say in a few words how dragons can come into being in remote mountain caves and in desert places.

It is a known fact that those places in which dragons are generally observed are also the haunt of eagles, vultures, and other birds of prey. Large vultures are known to nest in remote cliffs and escarpments in the Alps, so there is no need to describe their habits in detail here. Dominic the Black, in his Geography, tells us that the Isle of Rhodes abounds in formidable eagles. These birds customarily make off with all kinds of prey, such as snakes, birds, rabbits, and lambs. They even seize children and take them to their mountain fastnesses to serve as food. Many have borne witness to the fact that in the eagles' nests the prey are gradually accumulated into a heap from the continual hunting by which the eagles ensure that their food supply remains inexhaustible. The heap inevitably becomes a mass of decaying matter suitable for generating other forms of life. Inasmuch as some portion of the sperm stays in the corpse after death (as we will show in Book 12), it so happens that an animal can come into being in the deposited mass of fermenting matter. This occurs as a result of the confluence of various kinds of sperm. From the sperm which remains in the corpse of a quadruped, a worm is generated which resembles a quadruped. If the quadruped is a rabbit, the worm acquires elongated ears from the co-radiating force of the rabbit sperm. When the sperm of a flying animal is also present in mass of decaying matter, it joins with the other sperm to produce a worm which, if it is not altogether winged, has at least the cartilaginous membranes suitable for wings. In this way also, if snake corpses are present, their sperm imparts the head, tail, and neck of a snake to the nascent worm. The resulting serpent-hybrid embryo, once it has been formed from the variety of spermatozoa, increases in mass over time until it grows into a dragon of considerable size. If many dragons of both sexes come into being through generation in a mass of decaying matter, they are also able to reproduce sexually, as are insects which come into being in this way. And should the fecundity of such a noxious animal result in too much damage to the environment, Nature provides an excellent law by which only one dragon at a time can be generated by the mixture of spermatozoa in an underground cavern. (As for the life-giving power of the sperm which remains in a corpse, a full explanation of this awe-inspiring faculty will be given in Book 12).

It therefore must be asked why the various kinds of sperm do not produce another whole creature. The answer is that it comes about by the blending of the kinds of sperm. And while the sperm is the actuating force behind each individual creature to the extent that it is able, it still happens as a result of the blending that individual animals, when they are unable to produce a whole due to the resistance of matter, at least produce a part similar to themselves. For this reason, since individual animals bring forth another from their own form, the appalling and monstrous body of the dragon is accordingly born.

Another question is why dragons seem to breathe fire. The answer is that because of a certain viscous matter they have an inborn glowing light, such as some fish, rotting wood and glow-worms have, which shines forth most greatly in darkness. And so when people see dragons glittering with light, they think that they have fiery bodies. You might ask how they acquire their extremely tough armor of scales. This is because of the same arrangement of matter by which shelled animals are covered, as well as by the moisture of a viscous and adhesive mucous which covers their outer surface all the way around, and gradually degenerates into a durable, horn-like substance.

From these things we know most certainly that it is a fact that a hybrid animal can be born from the fermentation resulting from the varied mixture of sperms in an incubating mass of decaying matter. It is known that the chicken generates a basilisk when it eats a snake egg. And this is because the sperm lying in the snake's egg gradually unleashes its powers and thus brings forth a ptereophiomorph, which is an animal whose constitution is both chicken and snake. Such a creature was the prodigious rooster which Francisco, the Archduke of Tuscany, exhibited for many years to spectators in the garden of Bobolo at Florence. It had the crest, scaly legs, and spurs - indeed the entire bodily form - of a rooster; but it also displayed a flexible and coiled snake's tail. It was, in short, something similar to a dragon, inasmuch as it was born from a chicken-snake egg. In the same manner such creatures are born at Bernicla in Scotland, and the neighboring areas. For eggs are laid in the frigid sea by ducks and geese in great numbers (as Batavus mentions in his account of his voyage to the Arctic), where they are broken open by the melting ice, and their sperm is washed up on the shores of the Orkneys and the Hebrides by the tides. Then from certain unusual climatic conditions, the remora which cling to the undersides of ships are brought to life by the underlying matter of sperm from the ducks and geese. Only a minimal amount of sperm is required to effect this. But enough has now been said with regard to dragons.