Monday, September 06, 2004

Here I am in Florence, pounding the sidewalk from Botticelli to Caravaggio via Michaelangelo. Frankly, this city is somewhat overendowed with art treasures and it might be better if they were spread around a bit.

The most interesting sight so far, from my point of view, is a fresco by Botticelli of Saint Augustine of Hippo in the Ognissanti Church. In it, Augustine is portrayed reading and writing at a desk with various books and instruments on the shelf behind him. These include a armillary sphere, mechanical clock and an open book on geometry. In all, Augustine is shown not as a theologian but as a mathematician. This must reflect the view of his genius in the fifteenth century where maths was seen as a road to philosophy so, of course, Augustine would be good at it. We should also remember that he did urge people to study science in as much as it was necessary to understand the bible and not look foolish. Given Augustine is often portrayed as the archetypical close minded theologian, I thought this picture of him as a man of science was an interesting corrective.

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