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MEDIEVAL

ASTRONOMICAL
TRADITIONS
1. COMPUTUS
Was a practical
astronomy,
concerned with
reconciling the
periods of the Sun
and Moon – in other
words ‘the science of Computus Runicus – refers to a
the numbering and Runic Calendar

division of time’.
2. TIME KEEPING
Timekeeping provided the
earliest locus of medieval
astronomical observations.

Cassiodorus described
Sundial on Bewcastle Cross
knowledge of the correct
time as the thing that
seperates man from the
beast.
Bewcastle Cross
The crosses of Bewcastle
and Ruthwell have been
described by the scholar
Nikolaus Pevsner as
“The greatest
achievement of their
date in the whole of
Europe”
CASSIOdorus
Cassiodorus, was a Roman
statesman and writer
serving in the
administration of
Theoderic the Great, King Flavius Magnus Aurelius
of the Ostrogoths. Cassiodorus Senator
•In the9th century, they begin to see different
kinds of portable instrument being used to
regulate nocturnal prayer. The earliest
HOROLOGIUM was the star clock described in
th
the early 9 century by Pacificus of Verona,
which determined the time by observing a
bright start (Polaris) rotating around the faint
star that was then the pole star.
HOROLOGIUM
The clock was imagined
with a fully marked dial
and even a seconds-hand,
a remarkable feat for an
area of the sky that
contains a sparse scattering The Pendulum Clock
of stars no brighter than
fourth magnitude.
3. The liberal arts
• The liberal arts presented the general medieval cosmological picture through the
study of ancient texts dealing with the four mathematical arts of the Quadrivium.

TRIVIUM QUADRIVIUM
Rhetoric Arithmetic
Idioms Geometry
Vocabulary Music
Etymology Astronomy
4. The ptolemaic tradition
• the Ptolemic Tradition, enhanced by
Arabic improvemnets, brought a new
concern with quantitative
observations and computations to
Western European astronomy in the
th th
11 and 12 centuries.
5. astrology
• Astrology used as its astronomical basis the calculation of the positions
of the stars and the seven classical planets for any chosen date or time.
Until very recently, the scholarly consensus maintained that before the
reception of Ptolemic astronomy in the 11th and 12th centuries,
Europians lacked the astronomical and mathematical techniques
needed to support horoscopic astrology.
• These include a method to compute the sign of the zodiac that was
rising on the horizon at a chosen date and time and several methods to
compute ‘positions’ of the planets which, while bearing no relation to
astronomical reality, do provide sufficient data for astrological
prognostication.
6. Solar horizon astronomy
•Reflects the ancient recognition, expressed by
Isidore of Seville (early 7th century AD), This
tradition of turning east to pray was frequently
elaborated by Christian writers and the
astronomical principle was incorporated into
the construction of many medieval churches.