This astronomical clock was designed and built by the mathematician Peter Fanzago of Clusone in 1583.
The idea of harnessing spider silk for weaving is an age-old dream that was first attempted in a methodical way in France in the early 18th century. In the 1880s, Father Paul Camboué, a French Jesuit priest, brought the dream to Madagascar. Intrigued by the strength and beauty of the silk produced by the island’s golden orb spider, he began to collect and experiment with it. In 1900 a set of bed hangings was woven from spider silk at Madagascar’s Ecole Professionelle and exhibited at the Exposition Universelle in Paris (today the whereabouts of those hangings are unknown).Tʻoung Pao, 1899:
A French Catholic priest in Madagascar, Father Camboué, has been devoting himself to a curious industry, the manufacture of spider-silk, as it may be called for want of a better term. As everybody knows, the idea is not a new one. A Frenchman named St. Hilaire made a pair of stockings out of spiders' webs early in the last century. More recently a specimen of spider-silk 6000 yards long was shown to the Society of Arts in London. Father Camboué, however, appears to be the first person who has taken hold of the idea in a practical way. Madagascar, it seems, rejoices in the possession of an exceptionally large and vigorous spider called Lalabe... Father Camboué has invented an ingenious method for getting as much work as possible out of his spiders. If they were left to their own devices like the innocent silkworms, the spiders would of course devote their energies to geometry and fly-catching. Father Camboué takes eight spiders, places them each in a small compartment with the abdomen projecting outside, twists the eight threads together to give them the necessary strength, and winds the strand on a spool rotating at high speed. When the insects have given up all their web - about 40 yards - each, they are taken out of their compartments and replaced by other victims. The spiders when restored to liberty give every sign of profound dissatisfaction with the existing order of things, but a meal of flies soon restores them to good humour. It is probable that in course of time a process of judicious selection will produce a race of famous spinners. Father Camboué mentions one spider which in 27 days produced 4000 yards of thread - and then unfortunately died. As spider yarn is easily woven into a light, strong and glossy material, the day may come when the Madagascar spider will be a rival to the Chinese silkworm.
Around 1379, when the first pyrotechnics in both war and festival in Europe are recorded, fireworks took place amid the devastations of battle and inside the sacred spaces of the church. In that year, the Paduans and Venetians used rockets and various gunpowder incendiaries to blast the town of Chioggia. Fortified spaces were thereafter attacked with fiery mixtures of gunpowder, bitumen and oil, used to tip fire arrows or fill bombs and fire tubes, which cast out flames from a handheld pole...
Against this violent mobilization of pyrotechnics in contested or exterior spaces was a more tranquil, though no less dramatic, location for fireworks: inside, and immediately surrounding, the church. Communal spaces, the churches entertained people with spoken and performative displays of Christian truth, an objective to which fireworks were turned first in the city of Vicenza. Here, before the bishop's palace in 1379, a Pentecostal mystery play was staged in which an artificial dove representing the Holy Spirit flew down a string from the top of a platform, emitting a stream of sparks as it descended. The scene provoked a powerful reaction in the audience: There was a flash and a loud thunder-clap, and straight away there descended down this rope the image of a shining dove. Almost all fell to the ground in terror and amazement, beseeching God in hymns and chants that the promised Holy Spirit should descend upon them according to the prophecies. Fireworks captured something of the portentousness of heavenly phenomena and directed it to aid in the teaching of Christian morals. The interior of a church was equally amenable to such impressive pyrotechnic displays. Churches had long been locations for Christian dramas, staging divine and diabolical action with scenery depicting stars, clouds, ascending angels, demons and the fiery mouth of hell. Fireworks added drama to such decorations, transforming the space of the church into a fiery virtual environment: In the meantime a fire comes down from God and with a noise of uninterrupted thunder passes down three ropes toward the middle of the scaffold, where the Prophets were, rising up again in flames and rebounding once more, so that the whole church was filled with sparks. Fireworks thus brought the ominous phenomena of the skies into the microcosm of the church interior.
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