Bohuslaus Balbin, Bohemia Docta, part II, 1778
GEORGIUS BERTHOL. PONTANUS. A BREITEMBERG.
Georgius Bertholdus Pontanus, so called from his country, was a relative of Jacobus Pontanus of our order. His talents were suited to all kinds of literature but he was particularly gifted at verse and he was crowned Poet Laureate by Emperor Rudolph II. He was a prominent confidant of the most Illustrious Prince Martin Archbishop of Prague, in whose honour he published a Congratulatory Dialogue when he was consecrated in 1581. He then began to win fame for his poems: in fact in those years hardly a public honour was decreed, whether a wedding or the death of a great man, which Pontanus did not accompany with a poem or an elegy of his own composition. But these minor things would take too long to go in to.. His life of the blessed Hroznata written in heroic verse spoke volumes for his talents.
Soon he turned his thoughts to the priesthood and with his abundance of talent he covered philosophy and theology with us Jesuits in the Academy of Prague. He won recommendations from his many patrons, and was successively named canon of a number of churches, culminating in the cathedral, and ultimately by the personal intervention of Rudolph II he became Provost of the cathedral. He was always considered a leading admirer of our Society. We have proof of this in a gilded tablet in the Church of the Saviour portraying St Ignatius (at that time not yet canonised) in leaf work, with many of the saint’s principal miracles, signed with Pontanus’s firm and tender affection in his own hand.
He put much into print as I have said. His huge volume of stories is worth remarking on, as is another very small one, said to be distinguished by its robust, solid and adult way of thinking, intended to help preachers if they had to speak at short notice. That book has often been reprinted. But all these things are sidelines compared with the gift of Bohemian history which he covered in seven books. In them he tried to express all the piety of our people, but he did so in no proper order and with countless printing errors, and consequently found no favour with the common reader who is offended by the slightest things. Nor did he take sufficient care when he had access to all the papal bulls, diplomas of kings, and the privileges, immunities and exemptions granted to the church of Prague: he did not reproduce the whole text of any of them, being content to reproduce the beginnings of some and the middle of others, often not adding the time or the place etc, so that, to quote Horace, he mocked the gaping vulture. But he must not be denied his praise, particularly for his description of the lives of the patron saints who he celebrated in a peculiar little volume of poems.
Among Pontanus’s sacred poems, the Sacred Firstfruits was widely and deservedly praised by the literary public.. He also published a funeral eulogy for Zbigneus Archbishop of Prague given in the cathedral church of Prague in 1606.
To the most illustrious D Ladislaus Berca D in Menernica and Garoslavita the Councillor and Chamberlain of His Imperial Majesty, supreme Chamberlain of the Marquess of Moravia brother of Zbigneus etc. also Brixia in Bohemia delineated in verse and illustrated with its memorable things. 1592.
This man began life with no higher rank than townsman, for he was born in the episcopal city of Tinborssovia. I have heard from the best of sources that his original name was Sobiehrd, this being the name which he used when he translated Papricius, a Pole who wrote a work on Bohemian families, from Polish into Czech. Later, when he had completed higher studies in the Catholic academies, winning particular credit in civil law, he returned home and assumed the name Missowsky.
Soon he was called to the Imperial court to join the language staff and teach Ferdinand III the Czech language. The latter, with such a master, more than once gave a speech to his august parent Ferdinand II. I remember reading that Czech speech myself at the Graz College of the Society of Jesus. After the application and care which he showed as a tutor Raphael Missowsky was delighted that the Emperor should raise him to the order of knights and send him from Vienna to his own country with recommendations to the leaders of Bohemia. This commendation brought it about that Raphael rose through many grades of honour in which he always behaved honestly and properly, till at last he acceded to the rank of Vice-Chamberlain in the kingdom of Bohemia.
I knew the man, and for all his grave and stern face he was extremely kind and witty: I could give many examples of the fact. He published many things in his native tongue and all decrees coming from Vienna would be given to Raphael to translate into Czech and set in type. He was quite devoted to poetical pursuits and was always working on something, elegies, epigrams or whatever. and if any of the leaders was graced with a new honour he would congratulate him: likewise he would join his friends’ griefs with funeral poems.
He wrote many epitaphs for himself and, amazing though it seems, named the year in which he was to die long before the time came exactly as it actually happened. I can witness to this because I was present at his funeral. He ordered this poem to be carved on his tomb.*
I was the Vice-Chamberlain of the King in this Realm and now I Missowsky Raphael am built into this chamber.
A picture of Raphael Missowsky carved in brass from the life can be seen in the short volume called The Funeral of Raphael Missowsky of Sebuzin. The epigraph is this: I am RAPHAEL MISSOWSKY himself. If you will add a table I shall speak and move.
Jacobus Sinapius, or Horziczky. came from the poorest class, and long worked as a kitchen boy in our College at Krumlov. He was set to study and when he got noticed he served under the pharmacist of our order, a man of great skill in chemistry
He made so much progress in that art that he made many rare discoveries himself.. When Emperor Rudolph, a great admirer of such arts, came to hear of it, he called Sinapius to him at Prague. Sinapius was for many years the Emperor’s Laborator as they called it, and as a result of the money he collected he was able to give the Emperor hundreds and hundreds of thousands. For that reason the Emperor pledged the Melnik region to his cherished Sinapius. But of Sinapius more elsewhere.
Well before he arrived at such riches he administered the goods of the nuns of St George under the title of Captain. At that time he wrote a Catholic Confession, no doubt aided by one of our fathers, and dedicated it to Zdenko the Chancellor of the kingdom and to other Catholic nobles. In the preface to that book he calls himself a courtier of Emperor Rudolph II.
The life of Jacobus Horziczky of Tepenecz can be found together with a picture engraved on copper from life in Part I of Eruditorum Bohemiae et Moraviae.
Marcus Marci of Landskron, born in the Reginohrad district of Bohemia, was a man distinguished for every branch of learning and was a genuine ornament of our century and of his country. He was skilled in rare languages such as Greek, Syriac, Hebrew and Arabic. He was at home in all parts of mathematics. It is said that a great number of books on philosophy, medicine, classics and poetry were produced by him..
I sang his praises and his constant goodwill and love to me in a poem which I have placed among the epigrams.
Now Marci found in death what in life he long sought with many prayers, to be admitted to the Society of Jesus after taking vows, and he was buried among our people wearing our robes.
He wrote a good book on Ideas and another, Philosophia Vetus Restituta, on the Motion of the Rainbow etc. Jacobus Dobrzensky is preparing to edit a certain posthumous work of his. We here append a list of the works of Marcus Marci of Kronland ordered by the years in which they were written:
- The Idea of operative Ideas, or Hypotyposis, and an analysis of the hidden power which makes seeds fertile and produces organic bodies from them. Prague 1635
- Exotico-Philosophical ObservationsLabyrinthus, in which a way is opened to squaring the circle by various methods. Prague 1646. Prague 1647.
- Thaumantias, or a book on the rainbow, and on the nature and causes of the appearance of the heavens. Prague, 1648.
- On the proportion of the motion of rectangular figures, and the squaring of the circle by motion. Prague 1648.
- Labyrinthus, in which a way is opened to squaring the circle by various methods. Prague 1646.
- A Physico-curious dissertation of the nature of the rainbow, and on the natural causes of the purple rain at Brussels. Prague 1650.
- Liturgy of the mind, or a medical treatise on the nature of epilepsy. Regenbsurg 1727.
See also part I of Eruditorum Bohemiae & Moraviae.
I place the Bohemian Marcus Marci of Landskron among our brothers because just before his death he was admitted to our order on the authority of the Prefect General and was buried in the common grave of the Prague College dressed in our robes. He was a very learned man, the rector of the Charles University, skilled in rare languages: Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Arabic, Chaldee, German and his native Czech. I have listed his studies above: in the mathematical disciplines he had the admiration of all. Marcus Marci of Kronland, born at Landskron in Bohemea 13 June 1595, learned classics at Neuhaus, and philosophy at Olmütz and then theology with great speed. Endowed with a weak body, he suffered firstly from phthisis and then from his eyes (so much so that he could not write his lessons) and made great progress purely by hearing. This chronic poor health meant that he vainly sought admission to the Society of Jesus and could not acquire any ecclesiastical benefice. Instead he came to Prague and gave himself entirely to medicine.
He made almost all foreign languages his own, for he could speak Greek, Hebrew, Syriac, Arabic, and Spanish, French and Italian perfectly. To this he added the study of Cabbala, paying for the services of a prominent and very learned rabbi. With Kircher’s encouragement he so skilfully tackled the Arabic language that within a few short weeks of returning from Rome he could write a letter in Arabic to his mentor. He so excelled at geometry and astronomy that he afterwards won for a high reputation for himself with the greatest minds of the world.
He had extraordinary skill and success in treating illnesses of all kinds He was a foe of foreign medicines and recommended domestic ones, and could cure the plague and many other illnesses with sealed Bohemian earth. With such a panoply of learning Marcus could not long languish in obscurity. He was decorated with the highest honours in medicine: he was a Physician of the Kingdom of Bohemia and was named public professor of medicine in the academy of Prague. He exercised this gift with incredible dedication to the great increase in his reputation for forty years. In the year 1657 he superintended the treatment of Emperor Ferdinand III for illness and he made much of the man’s learning and dexterity. He decorated him with the insignia of nobility, giving him a shield on which the Bohemian lion was displayed. In this he was imitating Charles IV, who conferred a similar device on Batolus of Saxoferratum. Marcus crowned his manifold learning with great virtues: piety towards God, humility and great trustworthiness (by which he put out a fire at his residence, Marcellina). Once he spotted a house and with no indication he predicted that it would fall down in a moment, and hardly had he spoken when the house trembled and collapsed. He died of apoplexy on 10 April 1667, over seventy years old.
We have listed the works he published on page 146.
Jacobus Dobrzensky of Prague is an outstanding and successful doctor of medicine and a personal friend. He is known for his mathematical and medical writings in both Italy and Bohemia. He was a good friend of Marci when he was still living, and Marci summoned him home from a stay in Italy, in Parma, where he had a flourishing practice. But since he is still alive and a close friend of mine, I must write less in praise of Dobrzensky than such a learned man deserves: posterity will give him his due.
On his return to Prague, Jacobus Dobrzensky published A new and more convenient Heron’s Philosophy of Fountains, dedicating it to his Excellency Innocentius de Comitibus (Ferrara, 1657). The book was received with great acclaim by all doctors, and it is the dearest hope of his friends that he will offer the public more such fruits of his teaching and experience. He has also produced the Praeservativum Universale, dedicated to His Majesty the Emperor Leopold, and also a Corollary on Principles etc.
He has begun to publish the physical and mathematical works of Marci, his professor, which he preserved. They are: Liturgia Mentis and another short work whose title is Otosophia. To that booklet he added the rules of healthy living which I heard from my dear Doctor Marci and which I have noted down in response to many requests.*
* Jacobus Dobrzensky de Nigro Ponte’s Praeservativum Universale was the subject of a bitter verbal attack by one Fridericus Rain Carniolus, an uncultured man. The reason was purely that Dobrzenksy incidentally called that cherished secret, the Philosopher’s Stone, into question But many learned men refuted the insolence of Carniolus under assumed names. He, Dobrzensky, also wrote Hippocrates Redivivus, his inaugural medical theses (Prague, 1686).
Those who want more should consult part I of Eruditorum Bohemiae et Moraviae and also the Acta Literaria of those provinces.