About Giuseppe Bezza, starred images, scorpions and much more

Yesterday morning at 6.30 Giancarlo Ufficiale Fabrizio Corrias and me left Rome for Milan:  there we met Patrizia Nava and Lucia Bellizia.
Our astrological destination, Giuseppe Bezza‘s lecture about Centiloquium and much more.

Duomo e la Madonnina

Some stupid girl – guess who?- insisted to see the famous Duomo, the very symbol of Milan together with  Panettone cake.

The church is an example of late gothic style, which it is not used in Italy-for example in Rome we have no examples of this style (still we have a lot of churches!)

Inside, we had the possibility of experiencing  a true travel  back in the Middle Ages: it was Sunday, and they were celebrated the Mass with the ancient Latin rite, as again introduced by the Pope.

inside the Church
inside the Church

The legend says that the church, dedicated to the rising Virgin, was built on an ancient temple dedicated to the Goddess of wisdom Minerva 🙂 and that the Lord of Milan, Gian Galeazzo Visconti, dedicated the church to the devil, who wanted his soul.

The devil asked Gian Galeazzo to built a church full of devilish statues and pictures: in every case Galeazzo could not see the Church because he died before it was finished and Virgin – people of Milan call them  “la Madunina”, put on highest point of the church became the  symbol of the city.


But obviously yesterday Milan  offered many examples of wisdom, still a little suffering because of the hot weather.

A picture before leaving for the first astrological destination, Sforza Castle – the (shy) Leo of the group took the picture 🙂

Patrizia, Fabrizio, Lucia and me

Inside the castle two different astrological jewels, the gentle author of this blog in fact loves collecting astrological Renaissance pictures.

Profiting from the famous Milanese kindness 😉 we had the opportunity to stay for hours in front of the famous Trivulzio tapestries, 12 enormous panels (5 x 5 metres) with the 12 months, astrological signs, planets’ children and everything they would imagine around the beginning of 1500.

This is November:


The panel shows farmers come back from the fairy of St. Martin, on the 21st November.

Please notice the little Scorpio in the right corner: the claws are depicted as the Libra scales.

And below we will find other scorpions….

In the Castle there are several things to see, a painting of Leonardo da Vinci and  Pietà Rondanini carved by Michelangelo, but we can find another astrological  Renaissance treasure, the frescos of Roccabianca, the so called Griselda’s room.

On the walls an unknown painter depicted the story of Griselda, told by Boccaccio in Decameron, which is very famous because was translated in Latin by Francesco Petrarca.

But the vault is a covered with the 48 Ptolemaic constellations, according the following map, a litograph of 1878:

In the four central squares there are the constellations of the northern hemisphere, while in surrounding eight quadrants we can find southern constellations, planets, zodiacal signs.

Planets are repeated more than once according their domicile and exaltations.

In the vault we can find two uncommon elements, never depicted in this kind of strological frescoes, the Nodes, according their traditional exaltation, Caput Draconis in Gemini and Cauda in Sagittarius:

The Head of the Dragon
The Head of the Dragon

In the south-left corner there is some cloudy shape of uncertain nature, I would think to Praesepe, still it seems to me that between Capricorn and Aquarius, it is really impossible….. Maybe the Milky Way?


Yesterday afternoon was dedicated to Giuseppe Bezza lecture about Centiloquium, in fact he is going to publish a new translation – if I well understood from a Greek version,  Prof. Bezza explained a little – more than a little to be honest 🙂 – about this work.

Waiting for Bezza: Giancarlo, Fabrizio, Lucia and Patrizia
Waiting for Bezza: Giancarlo, Fabrizio, Lucia and Patrizia

This book is called Karpos, i.e. the “fruit”: we should think to an imaginary tree of Ptolemy’s works, where the roots are the Almagest, the trunk is Tetrabiblos and other Ptolemy’s works, but the fruit,  now we would say the cream, was this collection of Aphorisms.

Obviously it was not written by Ptolemy, it was just a collection of aphorisms as Medieval and Renaissance  and pre-modern let’s think about Cardano and Lilly) astrologers; people liked them because they could easily learned by heart and the teacher could comment them and better explains his lessons to his students.

Prof. Bezza and Marco Fumagalli
Prof. Bezza and Marco Fumagalli

But who wrote Centiloquium? Lemay thinks the original text was an Arab one, but Bezza said he does not think so, and he agrees with a Greek origin. In every case, astrologers were never worried for the presence of doctrines Ptolemy never mentioned anywhere in his works, and they could variably accept or dismiss them, Abano was favourable, Ciruelo against, to make some names. Not very different from what happens now 🙂

In every case it seems they really don’t  care about the authorship if Gerolamo Vitali  in his Lexicon in 1668 could write:

“Astronomers debate if the Centiloquium is Ptolemy or Hermes’ work. Well, Hali Ibn Ridwan states in his comment to Quadripartitum, that it is  by Hermes.  We, following St. Thomas,  will put Centiloquium under Ptolemy’s name. “

Still some astrologer should have some doubts – here I’m quoting Professoressa Faracovi-  if Giovanni Pontano, author of a translation of the work from Greek writes  about “Chaldeos  translatores multa addidisse, quae graece scripta non sunt,” in a few words if I understand, there were many things added by Arabs, that surely could not come from Ptolemy, like the famous aphorism n.9 which opened the door of making of infinite talismans manipulation, the most famous of all, the story of the scorpion talisman we can find everywhere in the astrological literature, let alone Tetrabiblos, obviously 🙂

Cardano was always against these kind of activities and, according Faracovi, strongly denied that Ptolemy could write something like that. Before writing the comment, he almost finishes his Aphorisms with these words:

We  shortly presented true assumptions, and trying to avoid it could be found some mistake, we corrected or dismissed what is false or useless: we rectified the calculation of celestial motion and renounced to talk about degrees, and novenaries, and  dodecatemoria, and  planetary hours, and other similar things of no value….

But sometimes it seems that great declarations have poor value, so yesterday after a question of mine- Bezza revelead an awful gossip about Cardano life 🙂 that he used to wear a necklace with an emerald ring around his neck. Bezza told me Cardano tells this story in his autobiography, so I searched a little for more details.

He was suffering for the death of his son, beheaded for some crime, and he could not think anything else, so while he was trying to rest, he heard a supernatural voice who advised him to untie the necklace and put the emerald in his mouth, because in that way he could forget the pain: he tried and he could rest after months and months….

It should be the natural philosophy 🙂

Written by Margherita Fiorello @ year 2009



Giuseppe Bezza, A proposito del Centiloquium pseudo tolemaico, Phos n.7, 2003 (integrated with notes taken at the lecture)

Girolamo Cardano,  Aforismi astrologici cura Giuseppe Bezza (Xenia, 1998).  (Integral version)

Girolamo Cardano,  Vita di Girolamo Cardano, milanese filosofo medico e letterato celebratissimo(Vincenzo Mantovani) Sonzogno, 1821

Ornella Pompeo Faracovi, “Le immagini e le forme. Pontano e il commento al nono aforisma del Centiloquio,” Bruniana e Campanelliana, 2004, 1: 73-86.

Kristen Lippincott, “The Astrological Vault of the Camera di Griselda from Roccabianca,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 48 (1985): 43-70. 

2 thoughts on “About Giuseppe Bezza, starred images, scorpions and much more

  1. What a pity 😦
    I believed you were still in the USA….

    In every case I’m planning to visit Florence for Galileo’s exhibition. I will write you soon….
    Lucia, Patrizia?

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