Cover image for Morandi's last prophecy and the end of Renaissance politics
Morandi's last prophecy and the end of Renaissance politics
Dooley, Brendan Maurice, 1953-
Publication Information:
Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xii, 238 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
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BF1679.8.M59 D66 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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One year before Galileo's, another trial was the talk of Rome. The city's most notorious astrologer--Orazio Morandi, abbot of the monastery of Santa Prassede--was brought before the governor's court on charges of possessing prohibited books, fortune telling, and political chicanery. His most serious crime was to have predicted the death of Pope Urban VIII and allowed news of this to spread as far as Spain, where cardinals quickly embarked for Italy to attend a conclave that would not occur for fourteen years. The pope, furious at such astrological and political effrontery, personally ordered the criminal inquiry that led to Morandi's arrest, trial, and death in prison, probably by assassination.

Based on new evidence, this book chronicles Morandi's fabulous rise and fall against the backdrop of enormous political and cultural turmoil that characterized Italy in the early seventeenth century. It documents a world in which occult knowledge commanded power, reveals widespread libertinism behind monastery walls, and illuminates the arduous metamorphosis of intellectual culture already underway. It also sets the stage for, and lends new understanding to, the trial of Galileo that would follow shortly.

The mystery of Morandi concerns the basic compulsion to advance in a status-drenched society and the very nature of knowledge at the birth of science. Told here in colorful detail, Morandi's story is fascinating in its own right. Beyond that, it allows us to glimpse the underside of early modern high society as never before.

Author Notes

Brendan Dooley taught history at Harvard University for many years. He is now Chief of Research at the Medici Archive Project. His books include Italy in the Baroque , The Social History of Skepticism, and Science and the Marketplace in Early Modern Italy .

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix
Prologue xi
Introductionp. 1
1 Crime and Memoryp. 6
2 The Road to Vallombrosap. 14
3 Ad Astra per Asperap. 22
4 The Astrologer's Booksp. 35
5 The Sun Popep. 46
6 The Widening Circlep. 59
7 Heavenly Bodiesp. 74
8 Clean Teeth, Pure Soulsp. 83
9 The Harmony of the Universep. 92
10 Charting the Firmamentp. 101
11 The Science of the Starsp. 112
12 The Business of Astrologyp. 125
13 De Re Publicap. 132
14 Occult Politicsp. 144
15 The Last Prophecyp. 154
16 The Vendettap. 162
17 The Body of the Accusedp. 172
Epiloguep. 181
Acknowledgmentsp. 187
Notesp. 189
Indexp. 225