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Peter De Abano's Biography (Books) (Photos)

Peter De Abano
Pietro d'Abano also known as Petrus De Apono or Aponensis (c. 1250 - c. 1316) was an Italian philosopher, astrologer and professor of medicine in Padua. He was born in the Italian town from which he takes his name, now Abano Terme. He gained fame by writing Conciliator Differentiarum, qua inter Philosophos et Medicos Versantur. He was eventually accused of heresy and atheism, and came before the Inquisition. He died in prison before the end of his trial.

He studied a long time at Paris, where he was promoted to the degrees of doctor in philosophy and medicine, in the practice of which he was very successful, but his fees were remarkably high. In Paris he became known as "the Great Lombard". He settled at Padua, where he gained a reputation as a physician. Also an astrologer, he was charged with practising magic: the specific accusations being that he got back, by the aid of the devil, all the money he paid away, and that he possessed the philosopher's stone.

Gabriel Naude, in his Antiquitate Schola Medica Parisiensis, gives the following account of him:

Let us next produce Peter de Apona, or Peter de Abano, called the Reconciler, on account of the famous book which he published during his residence in your university. It is certain that physic lay buried in Italy, scarce known to any one, uncultivated and unadorned, till its tutelar genius, a villager of Apona, destined to free Italy from its barbarism and ignorance, as Camillus once freed Rome from the siege of the Gauls, made diligent enquiry in what part of the world polite literature was most happily cultivated, philosophy most subtilly handled, and physic taught with the greatest solidity and purity; and being assured that Paris alone laid claim to this honour, thither he presently flies; giving himself up wholly to her tutelage, he applied himself diligently to the mysteries of philosophy and medicine; obtained a degree and the laurel in both; and afterwards taught them both with great applause: and after a stay of many years, loaden with the wealth acquired among you, arid, after having become the most famous philosopher, astrologer, physician, and mathematician of his time, returns to his own country, where, in the opinion of the judicious Scardeon, he was the first restorer of true philosophy and physic. Gratitude, therefore, calls upon you to acknowledge your obligations due to Michel Angelus Blondus, a physician of Rome, who in the last century undertaking to publish the Conciliationes Physiognomic? of your Aponensian doctor, and finding they had been composed at Paris, and in your university, chose to publish them in the name, and under the patronage, of your society.

He carried his enquiries so far into the occult sciences of abstruse and hidden nature, that, after having given most ample proofs, by his writings concerning physiognomy, geomancy, and chiromancy, he moved on to the study of philosophy, physics, and astrology; which studies proved so advantageous to him, that, not to speak of the two first, which introduced him to all the popes of his time, and acquired him a reputation among learned men, it is certain that he was a great master in the latter, which appears not only by the astronomical figures which he caused to be painted in the great hall of the palace at Padua, and the translations he made of the books of the most learned rabbi Abraham Aben Ezra, added to those which he himself composed on critical days, and the improvement of astronomy, but by the testimony of the renowned mathematician Regiomontanus, who made a fine panegyric on him, in quality of an astrologer, in the oration which he delivered publicly at Padua when he explained there the book of Alfraganus.


In his writings he expounds and advocates the medical and philosophical systems of Averroes and other Arabian writers. His best known works are the Conciliator differentiarum quae inter philosophos et medicos versantur (Mantua, 1472; Venice, 1476), and De venenis eorumque remediis (1472), of which a French translation was published at Lyon in 1593. The former was an attempt to reconcile Arab medicine and Greek natural philosophy. It was considered authoritative as late as the sixteenth century.

It has been alleged that Abano also wrote a grimoire called the Heptameron, a concise book of ritual magical rites concerned with conjuring specific angels for the seven days of the week (hence the title). It should not be confused with the Heptameron of Marguerite of Navarre.

The Inquisition

He was twice brought to trial by the Inquisition; on the first occasion he was acquitted, and he died before the second trial was completed. He was found guilty, however, and his body was ordered to be exhumed and burned; but a friend had secretly removed it, and the Inquisition had therefore to content itself with the public proclamation of its sentence and the burning of Abano in effigy.

The general opinion of almost all authors is, that he was the greatest magician of his time; that by means of seven spirits, familiar, which he kept inclosed in chrystal, he had acquired the knowledge of the seven liberal arts, and that he had the art of causing the money he had made use of to return again into his pocket. He was accused of magic in the eightieth year of his age, and that dying in the year 1305, before his trial was over, he was condemned (as Castellan reports) to the fire; and that a bundle of straw, or osier, representing his person, was publicly burnt at Padua; that by so rigorous an example, and by the fear of incurring a like penalty, they might suppress the reading of three books which he had composed on this subject: the first of which is the noted Heptameron, or Magical Elements of Peter de Abano, Philosopher, now extant, and printed at the end of Agrippa's works; the second, that which Trithemius calls Elucidarium Necromanticum Petri de Abano; and a third, called by the same author Liber experimentorum mirabilium de Annulis secundem, 28 Mansiom Luna.

Barrett (p. 157) refers to the opinion that it was not on the score of magic that the Inquisition sentenced Pietro to death, but because he endeavoured to account for the wonderful effects in nature by the influences of the celestial bodies, not attributing them to angels or demons; so that heresy, instead of magic, in the form of opposition to the doctrine of spiritual beings, seems to have led to his persecution.

His body, being privately taken out of his grave by his friends, escaped the vigilance of the Inquisitors, who would have condemned it to be burnt. He was removed from place to place, and at last deposited in St. Augustin's Church, without epitaph, or any other mark of honor. His accusers ascribed inconsistent opinions to him; they charged him with being a magician, and yet with denying the existence of spirits. He had such an antipathy to milk, that seeing anyone take it made him vomit. He died about the year 1316 in the sixty-sixth year of his age.