4 October 2023

4 October

NEW - The Gregorian Calendar

Why a 16th century Pope decreed that 10 days would not happen

The Gregorian Calendar, which is used today by every country in the world with just four exceptions, was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII on this day in 1582.  The calendar replaced the Julian calendar, which had been implemented by Julius Caesar in 46 BC but which was based on a miscalculation of the length of the solar year and had gradually fallen out of sync with the seasons.  The Catholic Church wanted to make the change because the actual spring equinox - one of the two days in each year when the sun appears directly above the equator - was drifting further away from the ecclesiastical date of the equinox, which in turn determines the date of Easter.  In Christian tradition, Easter marks the resurrection of Jesus three days after his crucifixion, which historical evidence suggests occurred around the time of the spring equinox, nominally dated as March 21.  The miscalculation in the Julian calendar seems tiny, an assumption that the average solar year was exactly 365.25 days when the reality is 365.2422 days. Yet even after the inclusion of the supposedly corrective leap year every four years, the error meant that over the 1,628 years of the calendar’s use, the gap between the actual equinox and the date of the equinox in the ecclesiastical year had grown to 12.7 days.  Read more…


Francesco Solimena - painter

Neapolitan artist who influenced a generation

Francesco Solimena, a prolific painter in the Baroque style who became one of the wealthiest and most influential artists in Europe, was born on this day in 1657 in Canale di Sereno, a village in Campania about 14km (9 miles) southeast of Avellino.  He spent most of his working life in Naples yet his fame spread far beyond and his work was in such demand among his wealthy patrons, including Prince Eugene of Savoy, Louis XIV of France and Pope Benedict XIII, that he acquired a considerable fortune, was given the title of baron and lived in a palace.  His workshop became effectively an academy, at the heart of the Naples cultural scene. Among many who trained there were the leading painters Francesco de Mura, Giuseppe Bonito, Corrado Giaquinto and Sebastiano Conca.  The Scottish portraitist Allan Ramsay was a pupil in his studio in around 1737-38.  Solimena’s own training came initially from his father, Angelo, a revered painter of frescoes, with whom he worked at the cathedral of Nocera in the province of Salerno, and at the church of San Domenico at Solofra, not far from his home village.  He often worked in Nocera later in life.  Read more…


Bernardino Ramazzini - physician

Pioneer in knowledge of occupational diseases, cancer and malaria

The physician Bernardino Ramazzini, often described as the “father of occupational medicine” and responsible also for pioneering work in the study of cancer and the treatment of malaria, was born in Carpi in Emilia-Romagna on this day in 1633.  Ramazzini’s tour de force, which he completed at the age of 67, was his book De Morbis Artificum Diatriba - Discourse of the Diseases of Workers - which came to be regarded as a seminal work in his field, the lessons from which still influence practice today in the prevention and treatment of occupational diseases.  A student at the University of Parma, Ramazzini was appointed chair of theory of medicine at the University of Modena in 1682 and professor of medicine at the University of Padua from 1700 until his death in 1714.  It was while he was in Parma that he began to take an interest in diseases suffered by workers.  When he became a departmental head at Modena, he began to study the health problems of workers in a more systematic way.  He would visit their workplaces, observe the activities they undertook in their work and discuss their health problems with them.  Read more…


Ignazio Boschetto - tenor

Talented singer is known for being the funny guy in Il Volo

Ignazio Boschetto, a singer in the award-winning pop and opera trio Il Volo, was born on this day in 1994 in Bologna in the region of Emilia-Romagna.  His Sicilian parents, Vito Boschetto and Caterina Licari, took him back to live in Sicily and he grew up in Marsala in the province of Trapani in the most western part of Sicily.  He has said in interviews that from being about three years old he used to sing operatic arias alone in his room, such as La donna e mobile from Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi, much to the surprise of his parents.  Ignazio could be classed as a lyric tenor, considering the timbre of his voice, which is warm and soft, but strong enough to sing over an orchestra. A complete artist, Ignazio also plays the piano, guitar and drums.  When he was 12 he started to take part in festivals and competitions and in December 2007 he reached the finals of the Premio Nave Punica, winning third place among competitors of all ages.  The following year he won the 11th Festival della Canzone di Custonaci singing Il mare calmo della sera. In December, when he had turned 13, he won the third edition of the Premio Nave Punica.  Read more…


Giovanni Battista Piranesi – artist

Genius who put 18th century Rome on the map

Draftsman, printmaker and architect Giovanni Battista Piranesi was born on this day in 1720 in Mogliano Veneto near Treviso in the Veneto.  He became famous for his large prints depicting the buildings of Rome, which stimulated interest in Rome and inspired the neoclassical movement in art in the 18th century.  Piranesi went to Rome to work as a draftsman for the Venetian ambassador when he was 20. There he studied with some of the leading printmakers of the day.  It was during this period that he developed his own, original etching technique, producing rich textures and bold contrasts of light and shadow by means of intricate, repeated bitings of the copperplate.  Among his finest early prints are the Prisons - Carceri - imaginary scenes depicting ancient Roman ruins, which are converted into fantastic dungeons filled with scaffolding and instruments of torture.  Piranesi later opened a workshop in Via del Corso and created the series of vedute - views - of Rome that established his fame.  Among his best mature prints are the series Roman Antiquities - Le antichita romane, Views of Rome - Vedute di Roma - and views of the Greek temples at Paestum.  Read more…


Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi

Lamps light up Assisi in memory of saint

The city of Assisi in Umbria is today celebrating the Feast Day - la festa - of their famous Saint, Francis - Francesco -  who is one of the most venerated religious figures in history.  It is the most important festival in the Franciscan calendar as it commemorates Saint Francis’s transition from this life to the afterlife.  For two days Assisi is illuminated by lamps burning consecrated oil. Special services are held in the Basilica Papale di San Francesco and the Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli.  The feast day is also celebrated in other churches all over the world and children are encouraged to bring their pets to be blessed in memory of Saint Francis’s love for animals.  Saint Francis was born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone in about 1181 in Assisi but he was informally known as Francesco by his family.  A theory is that his father, Pietro di Bernardone, a prosperous silk merchant, decided to call his new son Francesco - the Frenchman - because he had been on business in France at the time of the birth.  His wife, Pica de Bourlemont, was a noblewoman from Provence, although it was she who chose the name Giovanni.  Read more…


Book of the Day: Art and Architecture in Italy, 1600–1750 – Volume 3: Late Baroque, by by Rudolf Wittkower

This classic survey of Italian Baroque art and architecture focuses on the arts in every centre between Venice and Sicily in the early, high, and late Baroque periods. The heart of the study, however, lies in the architecture and sculpture of the exhilarating years of Roman High Baroque, when Bernini, Borromini, and Cortona were all at work under a series of enlightened popes. Wittkower’s text is now accompanied by a critical introduction and substantial new bibliography. This edition also included colour illustrations for the first time.  Art and Architecture in Italy, 1600–1750 – Volume 3: Late Baroque is the third book in the three volume survey.

Rudolf Wittkower was a Berlin-born British art historian specializing in Italian Renaissance and Baroque art and architecture, who spent much of his career in London, but was educated in Germany, and later moved to the United States. 

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