Cabinet de Kircher, Athanase

Décrit dans G. de Sepibus, Romani Collegii Societatis Jesu Musaeum celeberrimum, Amsterdam, 1678. Cabinet cité dans Huguetan (1681). Témoignage de John Evelyn (1644)

Ce cabinet est mentionné par Spon dans la liste annexée au Voyage d’Italie… d’Huguetan (Lyon, 1681), pour la ville de Rome :
« Le Cabinet du College Romain où sont les pieces de mechanique Dioptrique, Talismans et medaillles du Pere Kirker. » (p. 286)
Le P. Athanase Kircher (1602-1680), jésuite, lègue sa collection au Collège romain. Après la suppression de l’ordre des Jésuites en 1722, le Vatican récupère le musée, jusqu’à ce qu’il soit restitué aux Jésuites en 1825. Devenu Musée d’Etat en 1873, il voit ses collection dispersées en 1912. Ce qui reste du Musée d’Athanase Kircher se trouve à présent dans les salles 12 à 16 de la Villa Giulia, au Musée des Thermes et dans le Palais Massimo.


Témoignage de John Evelyn (1644)

8th November. We visited the Jesuits’Church, the front whereof is esteemed a noble piece of architecture, the design of Jacomo della Porta and the famous Vignola. In this church lies the body of their renowned Ignatus Loyola, an arm of Xaverius, their other Apostle ; and, at the right end of their high altar, their champion, Cardinal Bellarmine. Here Father Kircher1 (professor of Mathematics and the oriental tongues) showed us many singular courtesies, gardens, and finally (through a hall hung round with pictures of such of their order as had been executed for their pragmatical and busy adventures) into his own study, where, with Dutch patience, he showed us his perpetual motions, catoptrics, magnetical experiments, models, and a thousand other crotchets and devices, most of them since published by himself, or his industrious scholar, Schotti2.

1Athanasius Kircher was born at Fulda, in Germany, early in the seventeenth century. He received his education at Wurtzburg, and in 1635 entered the College of Jesuits, at Avignon. He became a good scholar in Oriental literature, and an admirable mathematician ; but he directed his attention particularly to the study of hieroglyphics. Father Kircher’s works on various abstruse subjects amount to twenty folio volumes, for which he acquired great renown in his day. On Evelyn’s visit to Rome, he was considered one of the greatest mathematicians and Hebrew scholars of which the metropolis of Christianity—then the head-quarters of learning—could boast. He died in 1680. He his mentioned in other passages of the Diary.
2Caspar Schott, a native of Wurtzburg, where he was born in 1608, who had the advantage of being the favourite pupil of Father Kircher. He taught philosophy and mathematics at Rome and Palermo, and published several curious and erudite works in philosophy and natural history ; but they have long since ceased to possess any authority. He died in 1666.

(The diary of John Evelyn, Ed. William Bray, J.M. DENT et E.P DULTON, London-New York, 1905, Tome I, p.107-108.)

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