Sunday, February 3, 2008


In 1606 the Archdukes of Vienna declared:

“His majesty is interested only in wizards, alchemists, Kabbalists and the like, sparing no expense to find all kinds of treasures, learn secrets and use scandalous ways of harming his enemies…He also has a whole library of magic books. He strives all the time to eliminate God completely so that he may in future serve a different master.”

The subject of this coruscating attack was the Holy Roman Emperor, Rudolf II, and his court at Prague. Rudolf had filled Prague with the wonders of the age – the great paintings of Italy were carried over the Alps, intricate automatons constructed, maps and models of the heavens unfurled and engineered. But Rudolf’s greatest possessions were people - the astronomers Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe, the magus John Dee and the philosopher Giordano Bruno had all found their way to his city. Far from the devilish inquisitor of the archdukes’ imaginations, Rudolf patronised a powerhouse of Renaissance ideas.

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