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Earth of fire

Actualité volcanique, Articles de fond sur étude de volcan, tectonique, récits et photos de voyage

At the time of infancy of volcanology , and well before the invention of photography , volcanoes and their phenomena were illustrated by means of drawings, etchings or wash .

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Mundus Subterraneus of A.Kircher 1665 - detail on the fire from the center of the earth ( Full image at end of article )

In the 17th century , Father Athanasius Kircher ( 1601-1680 ), a Jesuit, published, among the thirty-nine books he wrote, an illustrated work that marks his time, " Mundus subterraneus " .

                                Cover Page of Mundus Sunterraneus - Athanasius Kircher 1665

Athanasius KircherBorn in Germany, the young Kircher was educated at the Jesuit College in Fulda, and at various universities before being ordained a priest in 1628.
Fleeing the Thirty Years' War , he fled to Avignon, where he built an observatory. Cardinal Barberini had him appointed professor at the "Roman College " in Rome in 1635 , where he remained attached throughout his life, while making many trips .
Thus he observed eruptions of Etna and Vesuvius, he studied these volcanoes as well as earthquakes . He was released from his teaching job in 1646 to devote himself to research and writing.

In the field of geology, he wrote a treatise in 1665, his " Mundus subterraneus " .
We will forward his vision of a hollow earth containing chambers called geophylacia , three types of trapping air , water and fire, named respectively aerophylacia , hydrophylacia ( modern aquifers) and pyrophylacia ( magma chambers ) .

Vesuvius - Typus Montis - a section of Vesuvius, today considered fanciful, but first demonstration test of the presence of a magma chamber in the bowels of a volcano ( 1638 ) . - A.Kircher in Mundus Subterraneus.

He hired a local guide to climb the mount Vesuvius, still smoking, to get it down suspended in a harness in order to take temperature measurements in the crater of Vesuvius ... the volcano will be his " typus Montis " .

He visited the Campi Flegrei , where the Monte Nuovo, formed in 1538 , brings him a nice demonstration of the power of the underground fire .

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                  Campi Flegrei Kirchner's vision / Mundus Subterraneus

His vision of the underground world is influenced by his ministry and the philosophy of his religious order, at a time when Galileo has been condemned by the Holy Office ( June 1633 ) ...
The great pyrophylacium in the center of the earth (A) is hell, the farthest point in the sky and the prison of sinners in the geocentric  Kircher's cosmos. His purgatory are closer to the surface ( B) ... as he says , monks living in a monastery in the vicinity of sulfurous Campi Flegrei heard there moans of those who suffer in Purgatory .

This earth cut depict the subterranean fire traffic through the various rooms of the pyrophylacia . Earth is shown as an active furnace, volcanic plumes ( drawn exaggerated scale ) show the effects of the internal fire - in Mundus Subterraneus / A Kircher.



Sources :

- Université de Strasbourg , SCD - Mundus Subterraneus tome I & II - link

- OU History of Science Collections : Athanasius Kircher, Mundus Sunterraneus 1665 - link

- The Galileo project - Athanasius Kircher - link


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