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VMs: Castles and weird manuscripts (facts)
Rene Zandbergen said it before on the list but I wouldn't listen ...
The best matching catles are indeed in the Aosta Valley because there I've
found two that have Ghibelline merlons, square and round towers and
Il castello die Fenis - 1340 - definitive state reached around 1400
And Castel Coira in "Alta Adige"
This one doesn't have round towers but it has a gate with two lightning
So - jumping to conclusions - our VMS author lived in the province, at the
meeting point of Italian renaissance culture and Northern European late
gothic culture. He caught the echoes of both cultural domains and molded
them into his own unique document. He was a provincial and lacked the
sophistication of the city intellectuals but he compensated this with a
creative phantasy and a lot of dilligence.
This is not so far fetched as it seems. I have found an excellent treatise
on the "Liber floridus" where it is explained step by step how the -
provincial and mediocre - author summarized pieces of literature and how he
made his own personal collage from them. I'll try to OCR and post the
summary, it really is interesting.
And we can perhaps add some madness to the profile. This also isn't as far
fetched as it seems. I have borrowed a treatise on Opicinus de Canistris -
Cod. Pal. lat. 1993. These drawings combine theology, mapmaking, anatomy and
God knows what else. The german book (Richard Salomon, Opicinus de
Canistris, 1936) writes (just my rough translation from German:
- In 1334 Opicinus became mortally sick. After his recovery he felt
physically and mentally handicapped. He tried to take up his former job but
failed. He retreated and started making the mysterious and complex drawings
(that don't show any sign of any handicap - other than their weirdness !).
"My right hand became unfit for earthly work, but fitter for works of the
spirit and it has drawn all these plates without human help ..."
- The trouble with interpretation is immense. Just a few of the plates are
self-explanatory. In most of them the system of drawings and captions is
very puzzling and only after a lengthy comparative procedure some meaning
emerges. The language is dark, usually more bizarre than the worst excesses
of political-prophetic literature from his contemporaries. And I was often
frustrated when a difficult and promising surface in the end yielded a
simple thought, a banal fact as it's core. I have often thought of
abandoning the manuscript as a "pathological product". (Sounds familiar
I will try to copy and post the German introduction, because it gives a nice
parallel for profiling our author. (I hope the VMS is a real unique
artifact, but at the same time I fear it's just a hoax.)
I have found no pictures from this codex on the web, but the following text
gives a perfect description. Yes, it really looks this weird:
Renaissance commonplaces about the connections between the microcosm and the
macrocosm take on greater relevance when read in the context of what
Gandelman called "The Mediterranean as a Sea of Sin" in light of an
anthropomorphic map by Opicinus de Canistris (1984, Fig. 1; 1991: 85). He
explains: "One sees 'the woman', mulier, whose head and nose constitute the
coastline of North Africa (present Morocco and the Cape of Tanger),
thrusting her nose toward the ear of 'the man', vir, whose head is
constituted by Spain and whose armed hands correspond to the Italian
peninsula and Greece. According to the inscriptions deciphered by [Georg]
Salomon, what she says is: venite commiscemini nobiscum, 'come, copulate
with me!' Opicinus represents the world as a gigantic and geographical
copulation" (Gandelman, 1984: 245).
Petr Kazil - Urban Adventure in Rotterdam