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The Perfect Jeweller - Anselmus De Boodt at the Court of Rudolf II

1. Introduction

This is the second part of my contribution about Jade at the Court of the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II in Prague.

Anselmus de Boodt (Boetius in Latin) (1550-1632), a native from Bruges in the Flanders, has left us an 806 page book on Gemmology and Lapidary Science written in Latin with the title “Gemmarum et Lapidum Historia”. He has assembled this treatise in Prague during his tenure, first as court and then as personal physician of Rudolf II from 1588 onwards and published it in 1609 in Hanau near Frankfurt in what is now Germany. Two further editions in Latin were published later on in Leiden, The Netherlands, in the year 1636 and 1647. These editions where organized by Adriaan Toll, a physician of Leiden and commentator of the works of Galen, the ancient Greek physician. In 1643, eleven years after de Boodt’s death, Jean Bachov translated this text into French and Jean-Antoine Huguetan published it in Lyon/France with the now famous and well known title “Le Parfait Joaillier ou Histoire des Pierreries“.

The information on jade (Lapis Nephriticus) contained in this book and the direct link to stemmed cups made thereof by lapidary artists in Prague for Rudolf II and now in Museums in Europe, make it the crucial document confirming availability of green nephrite jade around the year 1600 in Europe. Although de Boodt mentions that Lapis Nephriticus can be found in Spain, in the Americas and in Bohemia, the precise source(s) of the 15th-16th century material is still a mystery.


The jade link - The nephrite jade rough for this stemmed cup, made by Ottavio Miseroni in Prague for Rudolf II, is acknowledged by Anselmus de Boodt in his “ Gemmarum et Lapidum Historia ” on page 333 and as having had a purchase price of 1600 Thalers. The cup had the number 1444 in the official 1607-1611 Rudolf II inventory and is now, with number 6846, in the Kunstkammer of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna/Austria.

Instead of presenting you just the simple translation of the key passage of his book dealing with the nephrite stone, I have decided to assemble for you important moments of the history of Anselmus’s mother country, the Flanders till 1550, of Bruges, his birthplace and of his academic work with the hope that this added information places him and his book in a interesting historical context.

2. Anselmus, a child of Bruges in the Flanders – The historical background

Anselmus was born in 1550 in Bruges as one of the 10 children of a wealthy Catholic Makelaar or merchandise broker Anselmus de Boodt, the Elder and his wife Johanna Voet.

In the 16th century Bruges was, although loosing its cultural and commercial lustre to nearby Antwerp, one of the richest and most important towns in north-western Europe and acclaimed as culturally and architecturally the Venice of the North.


Map of today’s Belgium and Bruges in the Flanders region.


Waterways and commerce, the lifeblood of Bruges - The Rozenhoedkaai of Bruges on the River Dijver with the 13th century, 83m high Belfry tower in the background and a 16th century map of Bruges (with north at 7 o’clock).

The documented history of Bruges begins around 2000 years ago with a Gallo-Roman settlement and small port on the site of today’s city. The inhabitants did live from agriculture and trade across the Channel with the British Isles and to the South with the rest of Gaul.

Around 270AD the German tribe of the Franks, pushed by the westward expanding Huns, the Xioungnu of the Han’s in Northern China, reached the Flemish coastal plain and were allowed to occupy lands west of the Rhine, in what is now southern Netherlands and Northern Belgium. At that time the old Roman policy of accepting only scattered settlements of non-Romans was abandoned and entire tribes were authorized to cross the frontier and occupy lands along the Roman side of the border and become Roman Federates. These newcomers where allowed to retain most of their political organization and customs, and, generally free from taxes, were expected to defend their section of the border of the Roman Empire and provide recruits for the Legions.


The westwards migration of European tribes under the pressure of the onrushing Huns.

The North Sea level was quite lower in these times and the region rich in agricultural products and active in trade and commerce. As time passed the North Sea began however to encroach on the generally rather low laying lands and the area became a great marsh. At the decline of the Roman Empire, the Franks sensed the developing political vacuum and different clans started to expand from their marshes that were their homes, to more hospitable areas. One of these groups, called the Salian Franks moved southward to the rich agricultural territory between Augusta Suessionum, today’s Soissons, an imperial arms factory manufacturing shields, swords and spears and Camarcum, today’s Cambrai, both in what is now Northern France.

The Salian Franks, with a now increased production capability of foodstuff and arms, could begin to equip many more fighting men than previously and were an important part of the army with which the Roman Commander Aetius defeated the Huns in the Battle of Cabilonum, the modern Chalons, in 451. After Aetius was murdered by his enemies in Ravenna (northern Italy) in 453, the angry Franks threw off their status of Roman Federates and renounced their allegiance to the Empire. In 476 Odovacar, the Germanic commander of the Roman Legions in Italy, deposed the last West Roman Emperor Flavius Romulus Augustus and declared the Empire in the West at an end.

In 481, with everywhere in Europe new entities jockeying for territorial supremacy, Salian Frank choose the 15 year old Clovis, at the dead of his father Childeric 1st as their new leader. He brutally consolidated his power by murdering all competitors and, in constant battle with other tribes was able to consolidate a territory nearly equivalent of today’s France. He also adroitly converted to Christianism in 496 which added legitimacy to his rule as the only Barbarian leader of Christian faith. At the head of the Salian Franks he became the first King of France or of the “Franken Reich” with its first capital Soissons.

Bruges was then a fortified place inhabited by local nobility and merchants and was benefiting, as the only town on the Flanders coast, from a direct access to the open sea by the conjunction of higher sea levels and a navigable creek formed by the River Reie and its estuary.

When the Bishop Eligius of Aquitaine, the patron saint of the goldsmiths, arrived in 650 in the Flanders region to spread Christianity, he recorded that Bruges was the most important settlement in the Flanders coastal area.


Painting by Manuel Niklaus (1484-1530), depicting St. Eligius as goldsmith.

On the 25th of December of the year 800, Charlemagne, King of the Francs, was crowned Emperor in Rome by Pope Leon III. Bruges was then part of the Empire of the Occident which stretched from Denmark to Rome and from the Atlantic coast and Northern Spain to Hungary.


The extension of Charlemagne’s Carolingian Empire in 814.


An ancient illumination depicting the Crowning of Emperor Charlemagne by the Pope Leon III on Christmas Day of the year 800, in Rome.

With their sheltered inland port, the inhabitants of Bruges were able to profitably expand their commerce with the Anglo Saxon territories across the English Channel and the Norsemen’s or Vikings of the Nordic countries. The Vikings, pushed by population pressure and deteriorating environmental conditions, had just started to thrust southwards and “if you can’t beat them – let them to join you” where allowed by the Franks to establish a small base on the Flanders shore. It is assumed that the first name of Bruges, Bruggia , originates from a fusion of " Rugja " the name of the Reie River, and of " Bryggia ", the Scandinavian word for landing-place. The name Bruggia appears for the first time on coins minted in 864.


The West European trade routes of the Vikings and a Viking Dreki, or Dragon longboat at its bryggja.

This Nordic connection and a good defence helped Bruges to avoid of being plundered by the Norsemen, a fate which many other towns on the French and English Coast and down all the way into the Mediterranean, were regularly submitted to.


Illustration from the year 1000 depicting a landing of raiding Vikings and a map from 1452 showing the walled-in Bruges (Brugia) at 8 o’clock and its connection to the North Sea via the Zwin at 1 o’clock.

These incursions and the impotence of the heirs of Charlemagne, son Louis the Pious and grandson Charles the Bald, to protect the population from these Norsemen raids resulted in the rise of power of local chieftains in the region of Flanders now part of the Kingdom of (Western) France. Their fortified mansions or Burgs (castle) offered, during these raids, the local population protection and refuge and they in turn recognized these chiefs as their direct sovereigns.

The first of these Flanders chieftains, officially recognized by the King of France was Baudouin from Ijzer. He was born in 863 as son of Odoacer, lord of Harlebek in their castle located between the two arms of the river Ijzer not far from what is today’s Nieuwpoort. Baudouin rapidly distinguished himself in the battles against the marauders from the sea and acquired the nome de guerre of Baudouin Bras de Fer or of the Iron Arm. This surname came from Ijzer which means iron.

Baudouin Bras de Fer rose to a particular prominence when, around Christmas 861, he eloped with Judith, daughter of King Charles the Bald the grandson of Charlemagne.

Judith, not yet 20, was already twice widow of Ethelwulf and his son Ethelbald, kings of the Saxons of Wessex. For this act of lese majesty, Charles the Bald had Baudouin excommunicated. Excommunication was priced political weapon utilized by Catholic Kings and Emperors for many centuries onward and resulted not only in the exclusion of the person from religious services but also from civil and political life and contact with any other Catholic.

Baudouin responded to this anathema by traveling to Rome and pleading his case to the Pope. He seems to have been convincing and Pope Nicholas 1st granted him pardon. With this papal absolution, Charles the Bald had to relent and finally accepted the marriage of his daughter with Baudouin in 862.


The illuminated 9th century bible of Charles the Bald, depicting him receiving monks and a mosaic depicting Pope St. Nicholas 1st.

So to confer to his son in law Baudouin proper status, King Charles invested him as Baudouin 1st with sovereign power over the northern marches enclosed by the North Sea, the Scheldt, and the River Canche, a territory later known as Royal Flanders.

On the ruins of an old burg, said to have dated from 366, Baudouin built himself a new stronghold in Bruges together with a chapel for the relics of St. Donatian, a the gift of Ebbo, the Archbishop of Reims, He was able to ward off further raids by the Vikings and the security he was thus able to afford for his subjects caused merchants and artisans to gather around the new settlement, which rapidly grew in size and in wealth.

It was under the rule of the third count of Flanders, Arnulph the Great (918-989), that small chapel on the main place of Bruges, the Burg, became the Church of St. Donatian and seat of the Bishop of Bruges. The Cathedral of St. Donatian was desecrated during the French Revolution and sold on the 28th of April 1799 for use as a stone quarry. Its place is now occupied by the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

Baudouin IV (988-1036) was able to consolidate the Flanders territory by abandoning its traditional expansion southwards toward the Kingdom of France and by redirecting its thrust toward territories in the north and the east. With the conquest of both embankments of the River Scheldt he was able to get under his control a large number of trading posts and towns which have sprung up there. His power was thus not anymore based solely on territorial assets but now complemented by equally valuable commercial ventures. He recognized their importance and conferred the Great Charter of Liberties to Bruges and its citizens which provided a new incentive for its growth. The town soon outgrew its boundaries so that his successor was compelled in 1039 to rebuild and extend its walls.

The ensuing growth of importance of the local “merchant” nobility also became a source of conflicts which culminated in the assassination of the Danish born Charles the Good, Count of Flanders. His mother Adela of Flanders was married to Knut II, the Holy of Denmark and when he was murdered in the Church of Odense on the 10th of July of 1086, she fled with her child Charles back to safety in Bruges. Enjoying close relation with the childless Count Baudouin VII of Flanders, he was designated by him on his deathbed to become the future Count of Flanders.

During the captivity of Baudouin II, King of Jerusalem in 1123, a faction hostile to the king offered the throne of Jerusalem to Charles 1st who refused this poisoned offer. He was also one of the four candidates for the election to the throne of Germany after the death of Heinrich V in 1125. Charles 1st acquired quite a large popularity in the Flanders when he released grain for free from the royal stores during the famine of 1124/1125 and started to make increased use of courts to settle disputes in a more civilized and less arbitrary way. His esteem in the population and his attempts to re-equilibrate the power between royal and secular nobility was not appreciated by Bertulf, provost of St Donatian in Bruges, chancellor of Flanders and leader of the Erembalds clan. When comments were made about their servile origins, the Ermebald saw their political future endangered and arranged Charles assassination on the morning of March 2nd 1127 while he was hearing mass in the Cathedral of St. Donatian in Bruges.


An ancient illumination depicting the assassination of Charles 1st the Good in the Cathedral of St. Donatian in Bruges by members of the clan of the Erembalds.

The key to Bruges commercial vitality, the direct access to the North Sea via the Reie estuary required continuous maintenance to assure adequate depth of the river bed, the building of water diversion channels, sluices and dams so that the ever increasing number and size of sea going ships could easily reach the berths inside Bruges. However this access became more and more difficult due to sinking water levels, silting up and maintenance so costly that transhipment ports outside Bruges itself had to be established.


The reconstructed temperature pattern in Europe showing the Medieval Warm Period around 1100 AD, the Little Ice Age around 1600 and the global warming trend of our times.

Bruges commercial future could have ended there had it not been helped by Mother Nature in its quest for an alternative navigable connection to the North Sea.

Around the year 1100 the Northern European Weather Pattern changed significantly heralding in the so called Medieval Warm Period which saw grape vines growing as far north as Southern England.

The intensifying storms restructured once more the coast line and finally, in November of 1134, one of the winter storms for which the Nord Sea is famous, gouged a deep channel or lagoon into the low laying area just north-east of Bruges creating the Zwin inlet east of the actual Knokke.

Bruges quickly exploited this new access to the sea and build channels and transhipment places in its direction. These new ports and town, first Damme and then Sluis where connected to Bruges via manmade channels and grew considerably in size. So not to loose the grip on the flow of merchandise coming in through these outlier ports, Bruges invoked the so called “stapelrecht” or exclusive storage right for itself. This disposition foresaw that any merchandise unloaded there had to the transported immediately to Bruges itself, taxed and stored. Any further transaction would then forcibly involve a middleman and resident of Bruges, the “makelaar”, a profession which made the fortune of de Boodt’s family.


Map from 1622 showing the Zwin river/inlet at 11 o’clock and the auxiliary ports of Bruges, the fortified towns of Damme and Sluis. This map displays also military positions during the second Battle of Sluis in 1602 between Philip II of Spain and Mauritius of Orange.


1630 map showing the Zwin river/inlet and the twin channels of the Zoete (the Sweet) and the Zoute (the Salted) leading from Sluis via Damme to Brugge (lower left corner) and the false colour elevation picture of what is left over of the fortifications of Sluis, the former harbour city, now high and dry on Netherlands’s territory.


Satellite view of the Bruges – Damme – Sluis area and the disappeared Zwin inlet (yellow dotted line). Bruges is 12Km from the sea shore and now joined via the Baudouin canal to Zeebrugge and the Daam Vaart canal, started on the orders of Napoleon I, to Sluis. The Zwin inlet was about 2Km wide and reached Sluis about 7Km inland.


All what is left over today of the Zwin inlet looking from the salt marshes toward the North Sea.

At that time also a technological innovation, the foot treadle floor loom, made its appearance in Flanders which entailed the shift of woollen cloth weaving, from a purely rural cottage industry, to a well organized activity in burgeoning towns. The manufacturing and trade of such textiles involved two mayor types, the worsted and the woollen cloth. Worsteds, a very ancient textile fabric, were generally the much lower quality, lighter and least expensive type and take the name from the village of Worstead in North East Norfolk where Flemish emigrant weavers had set up shop around 1200.


The foot treadle floor loom, a technological innovation which allowed Bruges and the Flanders to become the textile centre of Europe and Jan Goosaert’s 1530 portrait of a Flanders merchant.

The worsted cloth was woven from relatively cheap, coarse and long stapled dry yarns often with diamond and lozenge twilled wave pattern. Woollens on the other hand, were generally of much of finer quality, heavier and more expensive. The principal reason for their greater weight, better quality and higher cost was their wool composition consisting of very fine, curly short stapled greased yarns. The by far most costly wools for this type of cloth were of English origin, especially these from the Welsh Marches, the counties of Herefordshire and Shropshire. Only much later and in the 16th century wool from the improved Spanish merino sheep started to become a qualitative equivalent alternative.

In Ypres, one of the principal weaving centres of the Flanders, 4000 looms where in activity in the heydays of the Flanders textile boom. The heaviest woollens, called also Dickedinnen had an area weight 0.6 to 0.9Kg per square meter and were produced in a standard size with a finished width of 1.6m and a length of 21m. A Flanders worsted cloth, the Hondschoote Say had on the contrary only an area weight of 0.2 to 0.3Kg per square meter. As for the price, a master mason of that time would have to spend 91 days of his wage to buy enough Dickedinnen tissue (12 square meters) for one man’s clothing whereas only 17 days of wages where needed for an equivalent amount of Hondschooten Say.

The woollens acquired their smooth and velvety touch by set of operations called fulling and compression which was then followed by dyeing. Fulling consisted in removing the natural grease from the wool by pounding the cloths in vats with warm water, fuller’s earth (hydrous aluminium silicates) and urine for three to five consecutive days. This cleaned the wool and prepared it for the subsequent dyeing process. But the most important action of this mechanical pounding process was to force the curly, scaly and weak fibres to interlace and interlock and thus felt in order to give the cloth cohesion and strength. This compression explains also the heavier weight of the woollen broadcloths and made them virtually indestructible. At the same time the fulling process obliterated almost all traces or the design created by twilled weaving. This obliteration was completed by the ensuing processes of cloth-tentering (to remove all wrinkles and defects), teaselling (using thistle like teasels to raise naps or loose ends of fibres), napping and shearing so that the final product become as soft and fine to touch as silks.


The process of shearing and teaselling (right) in a Flanders cloth manufacture.

The cloth was then dyed with in either blue or red colour or combinations thereof. The blue colour was obtained from a yellow flowering plant, the woad or Isatis tinctoria, which has been cultivated throughout Europe since the Neolithic. In the late 16th century this indigenous blue colouring agent was supplanted by Indigo imported from the colonies. The red colour of the wool was either obtained from the root a low creeping plant, the madder or Rubia tinctorium, or with the much more expensive vermillion obtained from the eggs of a Mediterranean scale insect the Kemococcus vermilio. By changing the duration of the dying process and re-dyeing the woad-blue wool cloth with madder or vermillion, the Flanders cloth dyers were able to offer an unsurpassed quality and variety of very rich colours with hues of black, Persian-blue, brown, blood red and even green when mixed with the lemon yellow colour from an extract of the weld or Reseda luteola. The Flemish paintings of that epoch are the witnesses of the diversity and subtlety of colours available to Flanders cloth makers.


Woad and madder, which leaves and roots were respectively the main sources of medieval blue and red wool colouring agents.


Kemococcus vermilio eggs and weld, which red colour and dried plant parts respectively gave the medieval de luxe red and lemon yellow colour.

The Flanders cloth industry underwent many crises when, because of widespread warfare, piracy and general insecurity the access to the main market for Flemish Cloth, the Mediterranean Basin became very difficult and expensive or when changing in vestimemtary customs or embargoes on raw material, such as on English wool exports to Flanders, created havoc in industrial activities nearly exclusively centred on cloth making. But each crisis was mastered by resilient merchants and trade organizations until the late seventeenth century when mayor mutations in raw material, such as cotton and alternative places of production spelled an end to this industry in the Flanders leaving us, from the riches accumulated, an extraordinary cultural heritage.


The Belfry Tower of Bruges dating from 1240 and towering 83m above the Cloth Hall which in 1399 was occupied by 384 sales stands offering Flanders cloth.

The excellent quality of the wool imported from the British Isles and the export of the woollen cloth made Bruges and all Flanders immensely rich. The import of wool from England occurred officially only through the staple (forced storage) ports of Sandwich and Dunkirk, each on its side of the Channel, where each wool sack of about 165Kg each was carefully counted and taxed. This levy on the export of wool to the Flanders generated over half of the tax revenue of the English king’s.

The resulting dependency of the Flanders on England’s wool determined its political allegiance and allowed King Edward III of England to force the Flanders, by imposing an embargo on wool export, to side with him during the One Hundred Year War with France.


A painting showing a man powered treadmill crane used to load and unload a cargo of Gascoigne wine from ships in very centre of Bruges and its modern reproduction on the Spiegelrei quay near Pieter van Eyck’s bronze statue.

In the 12th and 13th century Bruges emerged as the most important trading centre in Northwest Europe, entertaining relations with what is now England, France, Spain, Italy, Germany and Scandinavia, and serving as a link between the Mediterranean and the Northern countries.

The trade link to the Northern Countries and the harbour facilities on the Zwin attracted also Genoese and the Venetian Galleys from the South which brought silk, spices and other treasures from the Eastern Mediterranean to Bruges.

Next to physical wares, the Genovese merchant’s introduced to Bruges also the banking and financial know-how needed to finance trans-European commerce and the monetary needs of Princes and Kingdoms. The platform for the exchange of these financial instruments such as long distance cash transfers, letter of credits, promissory notes and so on, was the regular meeting held in the inn of a man called Van der Beurse in Bruges. In 1309 these regular meetings became the known as "Bruges Bourse" and the name of Stock Exchange was born.


Typical flat bottomed sail ships for the transport on the inland waterways of Flanders and the Low Countries.



An ancient view of Bruges, the Venice of the North, with the Belfry Tower, its channels and berths in the middle of the town and a similar view of Bruges today.

Bruges became, with London, also the western terminus of the trading route of the German Hanseatic League which stretched from Norway in the north through the Baltic Sea to Novgorod in the east. The league opened in 1253 its Kontor in Bruges after being granted the necessary storage and administrative autonomy by Margaret of Byzantium (Constantinople), Countess of Flanders. The League traded primarily salted herrings, timber, furs, resin, flax, honey, wheat and rye from the Baltic East to the Flanders and England with cloth and manufactured goods going in the other direction.


The trading routes of the Hanse with Bruges as one of its western terminals and a model of a 100 ton hanseatic trading vessel, the Kogge.

The artisan and merchants of towns in Flanders organized themselves in powerful guilds and, at par with their economic clout, gained a large degree of administrative self rule and political power at the expense of the local hereditary nobility. These city governments were vitally interested in a free flow of ideas, merchandise and capital and fought any attempt of kings and emperors to curtail their rights and freedom of commerce.

Bruges , like other towns maintained their own town militia which in 1302 was able to count on 3000 heavy infantrymen carrying pikes and “goedendags” or morning-stars complemented by 320 archers armed with crossbows.

When in 1095 the Pope Urban II, at the Council of Clermont, called for help to assist Byzantium, under siege by the Seljuk’s, and for troops for the liberation Jerusalem, many Flanders Nobles feeling constrained at home, turned eagerly their attention toward the Liberation of the Holy Land.

One of them, Count Baudouin 1st, the brother of Godfrey of Boulogne, the leader of the first crusade, became thus in the year 1100, the first of a line of Flanders Kings of the Holy Land and of the newly liberated Jerusalem.

Tradition has it that Count Diederik van den Elzas brought in 1150 a relic containing the blood of Christ from Jerusalem to Bruges when returning from the second crusade.


The Chapel of the Holy Blood in Bruges and the picture of the rock crystal vial purportedly containing Christ’s blood. Anselmus de Boodt’s father was a long-time Provost of the Brotherhood of the Holy Blood which guards, still today, the reliquary.

Recent investigations however prove that the relic arrived later in Bruges, probably around 1250 and that it came from Byzantium or the actual Istanbul in Turkey. The adoration of the relic, kept in the Chapel of the Holy Blood, is at the origin of the famous Procession of the Holy Blood which passes every year on Assumption day through the streets of Bruges. Citizens dressed in historical costumes enact during this procession medieval scenes culminating with that of the arrival of the Count of Flanders bringing the reliquary to Bruges.


An Italian Fresco of 1402 depicting Godfrey of Boulogne, the leader of the first Crusade and the re-enactment of the reliquary arrival in the yearly Holy Blood procession in Bruges.

With the death of Baudouin IX the long line of purely Flanders counts came to an end and Flanders passed, in the year 1300, under the domination of the French Crown. This period of foreign rule, which lasted the best part of a century, was a time of almost continual warfare between the suzerain power and the vassal people as the centralisation and taxation attempts went against the interest of the locals accustomed to a large amount of autonomy.

This opposition erupted into open rebellion when in the morning of the 18th of Mai 1302, the people of Bruges, led by Peter de Coninck and John Breydel, massacred more than 200 soldiers of the French Garrison and expelled the rest from the town. In reaction, the French King Philippe IV Le Bel sends an army of 10.000 soldiers and cavalry to re-establish order in the Flanders: His troops where severely defeated by the army mustered by the Flanders towns in the Battle of the Golden Spur near Courtrai on the 11th of July 1302. After a new but the indecisive battle at Mons-en-Pévèle in 1304, the King of France imposed the treaty of Athis-sur-Orge in 1305 which however was never accepted by the Flanders towns. Only in 1320, with the mediation of Pope John XXII, peace was established and prosperity returned.

These political troubles and the demise of the important fairs of the Champagne where Flanders cloth was sold to merchants from all across Europe created a first and serious economic crisis in Bruges, Ghent, Ypres and other cloth producing towns.

When Charles IV, King of France, died in 1328 without male descendant and his cousin Philippe VI ascended to the throne of France, Eduard III of England contested this crowning. Eduard III was also a grandchild of Philippe IV le Bel through his mother Isabelle and, with territories in northern France and in the Gascoigne, had a legitimate claim on the French Throne.

This dynastic succession crisis and the confiscation, by Philippe VI, of the Duchy of Guyenne with its capital Bordeaux, a priced possession of the King of England, led to the “War of 100 Years” between England and France of which the initial battles were fought in the Flanders.

Eduard III, recognizing the dependency of the textile industry of the Flanders on the continued import of English wool and undisturbed commerce, pressured the Flanders towns to take sides with him against the France. In view of the menace of economic strangulation key towns rallied under the leadership of Jacques van Artevelde with England and the supply of wool was re-established. As consequence Eduard III was accepted, in parallel with the King of France, as suzerain of Flanders from 1339 to 1345.

Philippe IV resorted first in imposing a maritime blockade of England and then, in preparation of invasion of Edward territory, assembled in the estuary of the Zwin near Sluis, the port of entry for the commerce of Bruges, a fleet of 190 ships including 40 mercenary galleys from Genoa.


Statues of Philip IV of France and Eduard III of England on their tombs in the Cathedral of Saint Denis near Paris and in the Westminster Abbey in London respectively.

Eduard III responded to this treat and sailed on June 22nd 1340, on the helm of a fleet of about 200 ships, from Orwell in Southern England toward the Flanders shores. 50 more ships of his North Sea fleet joined him en route. On the 23rd of June the narrow estuary of the Zwin, barely 7Km long and at most 2Km wide, saw an armada of more than 400 English and French ships ranging from smaller fishing vessels to Genovese galley crowd its waters for what was to become the first battle of Sluis.

The commander of the fast and more manoeuvrable Genovese Galleys, Egidio Bocanegra, recognizing the handicaps of a lack of room for maneuvers, recommended meeting and battling the English fleet in the open waters. The commanders of French fleet, Admiral Hugues Quiéret and Nicolas Béhuchet, more transportation experts than mariners, however preferred to stay within the safety of the estuary and set up a purely static defensive position there to prevent the landing of the English.


Genovese Galleys in the Italian port of Livorno on this 1626 sketch by Baccio del Binaco.

All except 4 of the French ships where tied together with ropes forming three floating defensive walls across the Zwin. The English vessels, under direct command of Eduard III, were able to penetrate the defensive position the 24th with the help of favorable winds and the tide. The attack was carried out in these narrow waters with a special tactic based on individual squadrons formed of three ships. Two of them were filled with archers armed with the formidable English longbows and bodkin or chisel tipped arrows capable, at distances of up to 100 meters, to pierce the then customary chain mail armor of the adversary. The third ship followed slightly behind and had the assault party of armored foot soldiers on board.

Once one of the immobilized French ships was picked out for attack, the rapid fire of up to 10 arrows per minute from the English longbows neutralized the slower to reload crossbow based defense of the French vessel and readied it for boarding by the foot soldiers. In this way vessel by vessel was captured. Although the two French Admirals where able to approach King Edward’s vessel and wound him in his leg, they where captured shortly afterwards with Quiéret hanged and Béhuchet decapitated on the spot. In the ensuing panic a lot of French amour clad soldiers tried to escape by jumping into the waters and died by drowning or from being clubbed to dead by the Flanders soldiers with their goedendags waiting ashore. The battle lasted all day and the following night and ended with the defeat of the French fleet and heavy loss of life on both sides.

In the meantime Philippa of Hainault, the Flanders born queen consort of Edward III, accompanying always her husband on his military expeditions, was waiting anxiously for him in the nearby city of Bruges.


The illustration of the naval battle of Sluis in 1340 and of the confrontation of English longbow’s with the French crossbow’s in the battle of Crecy in 1346 in a 15th century manuscript by Jean Froissart.

The last Count of Flanders, Louis de Male has been able, by adroitly manoeuvring between the French and  English rivals, to preserve his and Flanders interest and give it again a period of tranquillity and prosperity.

In 1348 the first wave of the Black Death or Bubonic Plague began spreading northwards from the Mediterranean ports but it spared lucky Bruges and its immediate surroundings.


The spreading of the bubonic plague from 1347 till 1351 circumventing lucky Milan, Bruges and major parts of Poland and a 1411 illustration of the symptoms of bubonic plague in the Bible of Toggenburg.

With Louis de Male death in 1348, Bruges and Flanders entered into a new phase of its history when, through marriages, it became successively the much coveted part of the Duchy of Burgundy, then Flemish territory of the German Empire and finally part of Spain under King Philipp II.

The attachment of the Flanders to the Duchy of Burgundy was consecutive of the marriage of the Louis de Male’s daughter Marguerite with Philippe le Hardi (the Bold) of Burgundy in 1369. It was customary of these times that countries and territories were personal property to the Counts, Kings and Emperors and the rich Flanders constituted dowry of the Flanders Count sole child and heiress.


Portraits of Philippe II the Bold of Burgundy (1363-1404) and Marguerite de Male, heiress of the Flanders territory.

In 1420, Philippe III le Bon of Burgundy (1396-1467) revelled in the splendour of his court which he had transferred from the Burgundy heartland in Dijon to Lille and then to Bruges in 1420. It was he who on the 10th of January 1429 founded in Bruges the Order of the Golden Fleece supposedly based on the history of the Knight of the Round Table. This order was intended as a mean to tie relations with other noblemen of Europe and as opposition to the English Order of the Garter he refused to accept in 1422.

As a pique against his archrival the King of France Charles VII, Philippe had his troops capture Joan of Arc and handed her over to the English regent John of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Bedford which orchestrated a heresy trial against her and had her burnt at the stake in Rouen in 1431


Portraits of Philippe III le Bon, duke of Burgundy, painted 1450 by Roger van der Weyden and showing him wearing the order of the Golden Fleece he created in Bruges and that of his third wife, Isabella of Portugal which he married 1430 in Bruges.

Munificent in all things, he gathered around him all the great luminaries of his day. It is also on record that within the twenty-four hours of one day in 1450; no less than one hundred and fifty foreign vessels entered the basin and canals of Bruges under the auspices of the resident consuls of seventeen kingdoms, several of whom were established there in sumptuous palaces. Industry at the time boasted no less than fifty-four incorporated associations or guilds, fifty thousand of whose members found constant employment within the city's walls. He also brought in, from the country of his third wife, Portugal, experienced shipbuilders and set up a shipyard in the Potterierei canal section in the hearth of Bruges.

The last Duke of Burgundy, Charles 1st the Bold, was born in Dijon but raised in the Flanders. He married his third wife, Margaret of York in Damme, just outside Bruges, on the 9th of July 1468.

His full title of Duke of Burgundy, Lorraine, Luxembourg and Limburg, Count of Flanders, Artois, Charolais, Hainaut, Holland, Friesland and Zeeland, Lord of Malines, Knight Paladin of Bourgogne, Margrave of Antwerp, Count of Nevers, of Macon, of Auxerre, of Vermandois, of Ponthieu, of Eu and Boulogne, Lord of Salins, Count of Mortagne, Duke of Geldern and Züpten aptly describes the extent of his territorial possessions.

The marriage was a spectacular event displaying all the urban riches and sophistication of the Burgundy Court and the Flanders. Charles 1st has been able to gain support of England, Aragon and Castile in his battle against his archenemy Louis XI of France whereas the benevolent neutrality of Sigmund of Austria assured his eastern border.

Charles 1st the Bold (1433-1477) and his third wife, Margaret of York.

Charles 1st the Bold died on January 5th 1477 during his disastrous siege of Nancy in the Lorraine. His daughter Mary, just aged 20, was now sole heiress to the throne of Burgundy and under heavy pressure by the French King Louis XI, her suitor and royal neighbour to marry him. Mary was Charles only surviving child from his previous marriage with Isabella of Bourbon.

In 1550 Charles V, to honour his dynastic ancestor had the remains of Charles 1st the Bold brought to Bruges and buried in the Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk in an equally magnificent sarcophagus next to that of Charles daughter Mary.

So to assure her political survival and raise funds for a new army in replacement of that decimated in the Lorraine, Mary turned to the cities of the Low Countries for financial and military help. This help was given but at the price of political concessions known as the “Great Privilege” by which the provinces and towns of Flanders, Brabant, Hainaut and Holland recovered all the local and communal rights which had been abolished by the arbitrary decrees of the previous Dukes of Burgundy in their effort to create in the Low Countries a centralized state on the French model. Mary had to accept not to declare war, make peace or raise taxes without the consent of the States, and not to employ any but natives in official posts.

This charter of rights became the constitutional basis for the later struggle of independence of Flanders (not successful) and Holland (successful) against Spanish domination.

As the political pressure mounted, Margaret of York, the widow of Charles the Bold, sought to consolidate the political alliance with its eastern neighbour and arranged the marriage of Mary with Maximilian of Habsburg, Archduke of Austria and future Holy Roman Emperor in Ghent on August 18th 1477 at the great damn of Louis XI.


Portrait of Maximilan I of Habsburg (1452-1519) Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, and Mary, Duchess of Burgundy, his wife.

The French pressure was now kept in check by the potency of the Habsburgs until the early death of Mary on March 27th of 1482 in a riding accident just outside Bruges. Her death reignited the war with Louis XI resulting in the treaty of Arras in 1483 and then that of Senlis which in 1493 finally re-established peace in the Low Countries.


Mary’s monumental tomb in the Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk (Church of Our Lady) in Bruges few paces away from the altar triptych showing on the centre panel “The transfiguration of Christ” by the Gerard David and, on their hinged side panels, the portraits of Anselmus De Boodt’s family painted by Pieter Pourbus in 1573.

Their two children, Philipp IV and Margaret of Austria, born in Bruges 1478 and 1480 respectively, became, due to their uprising as true Flanders natives, the preferred and cherished representatives of their Austrian father.

Margaret acted as intermediary between her father and his subjects in the Low Countries, negotiated a treaty of commerce with England favorable to the Flanders cloth interests and played a key role in the League of Chambrai and the ensuing wars in Italy in 1508. The principal participants of this struggle for supremacy in Northern Italy were France, the Papal States and the Republic of Venice. They were joined, at various times, by nearly every significant power in Western Europe, including Spain, the Holy Roman Empire, the Kingdom of England, the Kingdom of Scotland, the Duchies of Milan, Florence and Ferrara and the Swiss Confederates.

Charles, the future Charles V Holy Roman Emperor, rebelled against her influence upon reaching majority in 1515 but soon recognized her as one of his wisest advisers. Margaret became then from 1519 until her death in 1530, once more the regent of the Low Countries. In 1529, together with Louise of Savoy, she negotiated the Treaty of Cambrai, the so-called Ladies' Peace concluding the wars in Italy.


Portrait of Margaret of Austria, dressed as widow, by Bernard van Orley (1491-1542) and her brother Philip IV of Burgundy, the future Philippe 1st of Spain.

The two children are also the dynastic link by which the Flanders unintentionally became a territory of the Spanish crown. Philip IV of Burgundy married Joanna of Castile on August 21st of 1496 in Lille and is better known as Felipe el Hermoso or the future Philip 1st King of Spain. His sister Margaret married the same day Joanna’s brother Juan Prince of the Asturias. Both of these where the children’s of Ferdinand, King of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, the sponsor of Christopher Colombo’s expedition to the Indies.

Due to the early death of Juan just 6 months later and that of of Felipe el Hermoso in 1506, the succession for Burgundy’s and Spanish throne was suddenly wide open. Felipe’s wife Joanna, Juana la Loca, had become mentally deranged after her husband’s death so that their two male children’s Charles and Ferdinand were put under the protection of their Grandfather Ferdinand of Aragon.


Portrait of Felipe el Hermoso (1478-1506) and Juana in vigil at hers husband coffin after his death in Burgos, Spain.

When their grandfather, Ferdinand of Aragon died in 1516, Charles, born in Ghent and educated at the court in Brussels, became as King of Castile and Aragon the First King of Spain, and then as Charles 5th, the Holy Roman Emperor. Ferdinand, born in Madrid was entrusted with the government of the Habsburg hereditary lands in Austria and Germany becoming later Holy Roman Emperor and Grandfather of Rudolf II at which court Anselmus de Boodt was to write his Gemology Book.


Ferdinand I of Habsburg (1503-1564), Holy Roman Emperor and his brother Charles I King of Spain or as Charles 5th (1500-1558) Holy Roman Emperor.

Although these royal children of the Flanders became the rulers over an empire where the sun never settled, the decay of the fortunes of the Flanders in general and that of Bruges in particular set in almost imperceptively.

Art and culture still flourished under the patronage of rich local merchants such as for example Alessandro and Giovanni Moscheroni. These two brothers bought for 4000 florins in 1506 the statue of “the Madonna with Child” made by Michelangelo and which was originally destined for the Cathedral of Siena in Italy. This was the only statue by Michelangelo leaving Italy during his lifetime and was purchased to adorn the Moscheroni family chapel in their parish church, the Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk in Bruges. Also the first book to be printed in English Language, the “The Recuyell of the Histoires of Troy” was published in Bruges by William Caxton on the behest of Margaret of York, the wife of Charles I, the Bold of Burgundy.


Michelangelo’s white marble statue of the “Madonna with Child” in the Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk in Bruges (128cm tall).


Young Man at Prayer”, probably a Bruges Wool Merchant with ties to Spain and “Portrait of an Old Woman” by Hans Memling (1435-1494) one of the Flemish master painters residing in Bruges.


Gerard David (1460-1523) of the painter’s guild of Bruges and his famous „Christ at the Marriage Feast of Cana“ giving a glimpse of the vestimentary attire of a noble family from the Flanders.


Pieter Brueghel, the Older (1530-1569) painting “The Dutch Proverbs” depicting life in the Low Countries.


Pieter Brueghel, the Younger (1564-1638) painting “The return from the Fair” depicting another aspect of life in the Flanders.


Jan van Eyck (1390-1441), another painter and resident of Bruges in a possible auto portrait as the “The man with the red turban” and his famous 1441 painting of “Giovanni di Arrigi Arnolfini and his wife Giovanna Cenami of Lucca”, a wealthy Italian merchant couple of Bruges.

Periods of continual disturbances, ruthlessly repressed by a government destitute of stability, produced a feeling of uneasiness in the commercial world so vital for the prosperity of Bruges. Antwerp, preferred by Charles V over Bruges, was already proving a dangerous rival and gradually the merchant princes, enticed by the greater security offered and the many advantages held out to them, moved to the city on the Scheldt. When the Spanish tried to introduced the 10% tax on sales few decades later, Antwerp activities would have yielded 160.500 Florins of tax income whereas those of Bruges only 36.400 Florins giving thus a measure of its diminished commercial importance.


The Flanders chequered political landscape in the century before Anselmus de Boodt's birth.

Beside these political troubles, the vital Zwin inlet started to silt up more and more and the commercial and port activities of Bruges, Damme and Sluis were drastically curtailed notwithstanding efforts to clear the inlet again by opening sea walls, the polders, build years before as a protection against flooding of agricultural lands. The 200 ton ships which were regularly calling into the Zwin and the port of Sluis, started to favour nearby Antwerp which access from the North Sea was more straightforward and where the waterways were purged naturally from silt by the River Scheldt.

Also the wool cloth industry, which made the fortune of Bruges, Ypres and Ghent, declined as England started, under the impulse of Eduard III, to produce more and more of its own superior and cheaper woollen cloth with the help of increased mechanization of key finishing processes such a water wheel driven fulling. This increased domestic consumption of wool and production of cloth in England reduced drastically the export to the Flanders which had to turn to inferior wool from further distant Spain. At the same moment also increased competition in the market place from emerging production in Brabant, Zeeland and the region around Brussels pushed Flanders cloth production into a crisis.

The religious disturbances of the Lutheran Reform movement of the last quarter of the sixteenth century further hastened the exodus of the last of the foreign consuls and their commercial ties. The severities of the Emperor Charles V and the still harsher rule of son Philip II and of the Duke of Alba led to the overtaking of local government by the Calvinists. Catholic worship was then entirely proscribed, the clergy exiled or murdered and the churches and abbeys pillaged and desecrated.

It is in these times of painful transitions, with Charles V’s widowed sister Mary of Hungary reigning in his brother’s name over the Lower Countries in Brussels, that Anselmus de Boodt was born in 1550 in Bruges.


Mary of Hungary, Regent of the Lower Countries and Charles V, her brother, King of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor. Both painting where made from originals by Titian.


3. Anselmus, a child of Bruges in the Flanders – His career path to become the personal physician of an Emperor

Anselmus was born in 1550 as son of Anselmus de Boodt, a scion of a well respected and rich merchandise broker or “makelaar” family of Bruges. His father has been member of the Bruges city council and for 20 years the Provost of the Brotherhood of the Holy Blood. His mother, Dame Jeanne Voet was the daughter of a famous lawyer and legal expert Antonius Voet, lord of Steenkerke and Vormesele.

Being a broker in Bruges was to be at the top of the commercial hierarchy. He had to be a native of the Flanders, member of the Guild of the Makelaars and was the obligatory intermediary whenever merchandise was sold and bought between two merchants. No direct transaction from merchant to merchant was to be allowed and each time a commission was to be paid to him.

A makelaar was not supposed to be active in trade, except in the commerce of horses and herrings, so to maintain independency, judge merchandise objectively and solve disputes equitably.

In this position Anselmus de Boodt (the Elder) followed in 1556 his father Willem and grandfather Cornelis as member of the Guild of the Makelaar’s in Bruges.

Anselmus had 6 brothers and three sisters. When, in 1573, Pieter Pourbus painted the portraits of the members of the Boodt family on the doors of the family sponsored triptych “The transfiguration of Christby Gerard David, three of his brothers and one of his sisters had already died.



The de Boodt family with Anselmus in the centre of front row behind his father Anselmus and with his brother Wilhelm to his right. The small red cross on the head of three brothers and one sister indicates that they already died at them moment of the painting. One sister was slightly affected by the Down’s syndrome, indicating her birth at a mature age of her mother.


The Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk in Bruges with Michelangelo’s Madonna at position 8, the Gerard David/Pieter Pourbus triptych, with Anselmus de Boodt family portraits at 11. The sarcophagus of Charles I the Bold and of his daughter Mary of Burgundy are in the front of the main altar at position 12.


Anselmus de Boodt’s former home at the number 15 of the Ridderstraat, now Hotel Anselmus and a 1567 map of the centre of Bruges with the Ridderstraat marked. The woodcut was made by Lodovico Guiccardini and is found in the first atlas ever published, the Civitates Orbis Terrarum edited by Braun and Hogenberg in Cologne in 1572.

The de Boodt’s children had access to their father’s library which was one of the largest private book collections in Bruges and their father, involved in city politics, destined the older boys to study law so that their expertise could benefit the future of the family.

Anselmus started his academic curriculum at the University of Leuven, in today’s Belgium, in 1566. This university had been founded in 1425 by Pope Martin V and was famous for its law studies.

However, in the same year, the antagonism which had started between the Calvinists of the Lower Countries and the Catholic Kings of Spain, Charles V escalated into an open revolt against his Son Philipp II in what was to become the Eighty Year’s war between Spain and the Lower Countries.

All started with a small incident on the 10th of August of 1566 in the small village of Steenvoorde where a fiery Calvinist Preacher harangued the masses and incited them to storm Catholic churches, abbeys and cloisters in a massive iconoclastic movement. According to Calvinist, religious statues represented a worship of false idols and reflected the opulent life of the Court in Spain for which support the Seventeen Provinces were heavily taxed.

The movement spread to the close by Antwerp and to many other towns. Bruges was spared from this ransacking by its well organized citizen army and Spanish troops stationed there.

Philip II, considering himself the Protector of Catholic Faith, reacted in 1567 with military force by sending his battle proven military commander Fernando Alvarez de Toledo, Duke of Alba to Brussels which then was the de facto capital of t the Seventeen Provinces.

At the head of 10.000 soldiers and given unlimited power, his order was to repress this Protestant uprising and re-establish the predominance of Spanish rule and the Catholic Faith.


The allegoric map of the Seventeen Provinces as roaring Lion and the 1548 portrait of Fernando Alvarez de Toledo, Duke of Alba by Antonis Mor, a Dutch painter.

With direct military campaigns and by prosecuting dissidents with a special Inquisition style tribunal called the “Blood Council” as also thousands of executions later, the Duke of Alba has been able to re-establish Spanish Authority. But the harshness of his and Philipp II actions finally precipitated the secession of what is now Netherland into an independent state in 1648.

The Duke of Alba, in his effort to strengthen the power of King Phillips II in the Low Countries, wanted to get rid of the “bede” - the regular plea for money - to the “Staten”. This could only be done by introducing taxation. So in 1569 he introduced a one time tax of 1 % on property and a few years later a regular tax of 5 % on property sales. Still short of money Alba then wanted also to introduce the Spanish Alcabala or sales tax of 10 %. This tax was called in the Low Countries the “tiende penning” and was met with furious opposition. Alba accepted a deferral of this tax for two years for a hefty sum of money. William of Orange, one of his opponents was seen as a hero in this fight against further levies from Spain and an unknown medal maker immortalized this feat in the silver token shown below.


The small token, with a diameter of 28 mm, shows William of Orange in harness with sword and battle hammer. The text reads “P.V.O” or “Prince of Orange” and “DAT EDEL BLOET”, literally “that noble blood”. On the reverse 9 “penningen” are shown on a coat of arms, with the text “HEFT ONS VOER DEN 10 PENNINCK BEHOT” or “has guarded us against the 10th penning”.

This new attempt of taxation rekindled the unrest within both the Catholic and Protestant population. The Calvinists faction was encouraged into open rebellion again resulting in the capture, on April 1st 1572 of Den Briel, a fortified town in Zeeland by the Water Geuzen led by the most famous Admirals of them, the hot headed Willem van der Marck and better known as Admiral Lumey.

The term Geuze comes from French Gueux or Beggar and was used for the first time by Count Charles of Berlaymont which, when asked by Margareta of Parma and representative of Philip II in the Low Countries, who those nobles were which were asking a more lenient handling of religious matters in an royal audience, responded with….. Ce ne sont que des gueux ! This insult became then the battle name of the Calvinist Exiles from the Northern or Dutch part of the Seventeen Provinces.


Contemporary painting of Willem van der Marck (1542-1578) a Calvinist from Belgium’s province of Limburg as the Admiral Lumey of the Watergeuzen and conqueror of Brielle.

These “Beggars of the Waters” where Calvinist exiles from the Low Countries which, having fled the repression by the Duke of Alba, where raiding Spanish convoys and the Lower Countries coastal towns with their fleet of pirate vessels from their bases in England and in Northern Germany. The punitive expedition by the Spanish fleet against them was unsuccessful and the open rebellion spread again to many towns also in the Flanders.


Map of Den Briel or Brielle with East at 9 o’clock from volume II of Civitates Orbis Terrarum edited by Braun and Hogenberg in Cologne in 1575


Arial view of today’s Brielle, now a town of 15000 inhabitants, in the Dutch Province of Zuid-Holland and contiguous to the Europort of Rotterdam.

These political circumstances did not allow Anselmus to continue to study law in Leuven. He saw himself forced to leave the university toward the end of 1572 and he inmatriculated instead in the university in Orleans in France. Pope Gregory IX had authorized there the teaching of Roman law in 1235 and Pope Clement V endowed in 1306 the Orleans institute with the title and privileges of a university specializing in law and letters. Philipp II of Spain had founded, and was financing there, a college destined for Catholic and French Speaking Students of the Lower Countries, or a Fulbright Scholarships before its time.

Anselmus completed his study of civil and canonical law in Orleans and thus satisfied his father’s strong desire for a lawyer in the family. However Anselmus had tasted science through the vast collection of books of his father’s library and did not return immediately home to Bruges but instead went to Padova. This town in Northern Italy was hosting like Paris, Bologna, Oxford and Cambridge one of the great centres of learning of the Western World.

The Republic of Venice, on which territory Padova was located, had given the university, established there in 1222, the mission of being a “Gymnasium Omnium Disciplinarium” or School for all Learning. The University of Padova, encouraged and stimulated by the political tolerance of its mentor, the Republic of Venice, was attracting scholars and teachers which would leave an indelible mark in science such as Galileo Galilei (telescope), Nicolas Copernicus (planetary motion), William Harvey (circulation of blood in the human body), Paolo Toscanelli (physicist and navigation expert) and many more.

Anselmus followed this call and his presence in Padova, in February 1576, is confirmed by university records. He returned home to Bruges in 1578.

In the meantime Frans van Kethulle, lord of Ryhove, a Calvinist from nearby Ghent on the 20th of March 1578 took over with his troops and supports from the local Calvinist Jacob Mastaert , the still predominant Catholic City of Bruges. A local government was formed by the Calvinist dominated Council of Eighteen. In order to follow the principles of the pacification treaty of Ghent, signed between Catholics and Calvinist in 1576 and stipulating religious tolerance as also to soothe the feeling of the Catholics, several council members of Catholic faith were nominated into the new council on March 26th. Anselmus de Boodt was one of them.

The religious tensions however did not die down. In 1579 an incident starting with the discovery, by Nicholas Despars, head of the Council of Eighteen, of a clandestine Catholic Church Service and ending with the accusation of fifteen Franciscan Lay Brothers of homosexual practices and which were then punishable by death, ignited again Calvinist vs. Catholic antagonism. After a process in front of the assembled Council of Eighteen, involving torture and forced confessions, three of Franciscans were burned in public and the remainders expulsed, after flogging, from the town.


A contemporary drawing showing the execution of the three Franciscan Lay Brothers by burning at the stake on the main square of Bruges, the Burg, or about 200 m from Anselmus home in the Ridderstraat.

The Catholic portion of the Council was quite upset by this process orchestrated by the Calvinist faction. When the council was asked on the 27th of June 1579 to vote for the joining of Bruges of the Calvinist led Union of Utrecht and organized by William of Orange against Spain, a strong opposition developed asking for the replacement of the mayor by a person having the support of the Catholic Church and Spain.

On the 2nd of July 1579 the Catholic council men, temporary in majority due to the absence of many Calvinists, voted in favour of the removal of the Mayor of Bruges, Nicholas Despars, and his replacement by Hieronymus de Mol. After an initial success resulting in the dismissal of Despars, the dissolution of the Council and the nomination of Mol as new strongman, the Catholics gained control of the strategic points of Bruges. But treason and the arrival, on the 4th of July, of a detachment of Scottish infantry and cavalry, under the command of Henri Balfour led to the collapse of the uprising. These English troops were in the Flanders by order of Elizabeth I which was supporting Wilhelm of Orange against her personal enemy, Philipp II of Spain.

All the participants of the uprising were arrested, half of them imprisoned in Sluis and the remainders put under house arrest in Bruges. Their punishment was however lenient for these times and consisted only of fines and banishment. Anselmus, a member of the Council, and his father were also sentenced and went into exile.

Whereas many of Bruges Intelligentsia took refuge in Germany and Northern Nederland, Anselmus followed a call to the Court of Wilhelm von Rosenberg, an important diplomat and military leader of Bohemia residing in his renovated Renaissance Castle of Ceksy Krumlov in southern Bohemia.


A portrait of Wilhelm von Rosenberg in his youth and an older painting of his castle in Krumlov which later became property of Rudolf II and the scene of his son Don Juan of Austria’s murderous folly.

From 1578 to 1583 Anselmus was thus in contact with was the hot house of naturalist and alchemistic research of these times, the court of Rosenberg in Krumlov, Prague and Vienna. He turned away from law and politics and found a long lasting passion in natural science and medicine. With certainly plenty of personal wealth, he undertook during this time what was then known as “peregrinatio academica” or academic travels through Europe visiting places of cultural and academic importance thereby perfecting and complementing his education. Although not unequivocally documented, Anselmus probably stayed during these travels for some time at the University of Heidelberg and met there the well known Swiss doctor of medicine, philosopher and theologian Thomas Erastus which he then recognized as his “Preceptor” in a footnote in his Gemmarum et Lapidum Historia on page 205.

In 1584 Anselmus, although absent and in Prague was nominated Secular Canon of the Cathedral of St.Donatian in Bruges by Bishop Remigius Drutius, a position and associated prebendary income he accepted till 1601 when returned this honour.


Thomas Erastus (1523-1583) recognized by Anselmus as his preceptor and the old lecture hall of the University of Heidelberg.

In September 1586 Anselmus was again in Padova with the intent to gain a doctorate in medicine in what was the most advanced academic facility in this field in Europe.

It was in this medical school that modern anatomy and physiology was born in the years of Anselmus studies there. Anselmus graduated as medical doctor already a year later which would indicate that his previous studies in Padova and Heidelberg where recognized as part of his completed curriculum. In the same year also his father, which had returned to Bruges in 1584, died and bequeathed to his son the vast paternal library.


The modern replica of the anatomical theatre of the University of Padova in 1595 and Andrea Vescalio or Andreas van Wescle, a fellow son of the Flanders, teaching there the modern principles of anatomy .

From Padova Anselmus returned directly to Prague and was nominated in March 1588 “Hof medico cum privilegio exercendi praxim für D. Anshelmum de Boodt” or medical doctor of the court of Rudolf II in Prague. This nomination paper was duly registered in the Imperial Tax Register and declared “tax gratis” or a tax fee act.

The next 16 years of Anselmus life in Prague were filled with mineralogical, pharmaceutical and medical research activities which are reflected in the various chapters of his future Gemmarum et Lapidum Historia.

In this period of European history, when alchemy and mysticism were still clouding science Anselmus tried to be a sceptical observer when confronted by claims that minerals and precious stones where influencing his or his patients health. He nevertheless accepted the notion that precious stones, and medicines derived from them, affect the health of mind and body.

This acceptance was corroborated by a personal experience of his when, ill with high fever and not capable of sleep for four days, he was apparently miraculously and rapidly healed by taking two spoons full of a tincture made from piled red corals and distilled oak spirit all diluted in a concoction of boiled violets.

Anselmus also tried to explain the effects of placebos, in this case the effect of japer on preventing the frequent bleeding of a young lady, and how the wearing an amulet, made from jasper yielded relief.

He however refused to accept the more esoteric notions that astrological factors could influence the powers of precious stones as in the famous case of emeralds and their influence on marital fidelity. He compared this notion as being like a carriage that would pull the oxen.

A French Alchemist and Calvinistic Activist, Nicolas Barnaud, sojourning around 1590 in Prague reported that he met Anselmus de Boodt and became his good friend. From this encounter he reports Anselmus de Boodt’s short lived skirting with alchemy as follows:

Sometimes it happens that treasures are buried and hidden because nobody exists which would be worth to receive them. Therefore one better buries the treasure and lays the case in the hand of God, the Giver. I remember such a case when, after a visit to Krakau I returned to Prague to become personal physician of Wilhem Rosenberg and met by lucky guidance of the fate, a Flemish person , a doctor of medicine with the name of Anselmus de Boodt to which I tied a friendship. This good man had just transferred the extensive collections of books of his deceased father from the Flanders to Prague and found therein a small book written on ram’s vellum with the title “Cymbalum Areum” which I was able to see also later on. He wanted to have it bound in parchment because the cover was broken. As the Doctor eliminated the broken part, he discovered to his astonishment a small cavity covered with parchment. In this cavity he found small roll of paper on which the preparation of the Stone of the Philosophers was described in cryptic phrases, as nobody would have written (this secret) in clear words and also a small sample, of a grain in weight, of red powder.

Surprised by this find Doctor Anselmus, at this time still an enemy of Alchemy, followed the instructions on the paper and threw half of the powder into heated mercury. As he saw that mercury turned into gold which was not unlike natural gold, he got extremely exited, then froze and was speechless. I report only what I heard from himself. He then visited a goldsmith well known to him which was an expert in distillation (a key alchemist practice) and asked him to teach him this art. In turn he promised to demonstrate to the goldsmith the transformation of mercury into real gold. Doctor Anselmus still had one half of a grain of the red powder left over. As the two found an agreement, Doctor Anselmus divided the remaining quantity of red powder into two parts and gave one part of it to the goldsmith. As the goldsmith poured the powder into heated mercury and saw that it changed into gold he became upset because he thought that he has been tricked by the Doctor as he believed that a piece of gold had been placed surreptitiously into the crucible. What did the good man do? To eliminate any doubt in the mind of the goldsmith, he gave the last available part of red powder and walked away. The goldsmith repeated the experiment, poured the red powder into new mercury and as he saw that also this time the mercury changed into real gold, fell onto his knees and thanked God and asked the Doctor for forgiveness. He then also instructed the Doctor in the Spagiric art (to make medicines with chemicals) of which he was an expert. The Doctor tried later the follow the instruction ( to make the red powder) literally, but the letter kills (if taken literally) and undertook also with the chief metallurgist of the imperial mines of Bohemia, Paul Grimiller, many experiments but without success. He then finally threw the towel, abandoned his alchemist ambitions and directed his interest to other things. He then finally left the instructions to me. They corresponds, except for minor details, to the method which Jean Fernel, mathematician, astronomer and personal physician of King Henri II of France had published in his work “De abditis rerum causis”. I will publish the methods, if God permits, in a collection for the benefits of alchemist in a collection of other very precious chemical processes which I had received from different sources….

This report was published by Barnaud in 1597 in his book “Commentariolum in Aenigmaticum qoddam Ephitation” and then widely reproduced and spread by others.

The true nature of this story is unknown as de Boodt itself did not confirm or deny it in his Gemmarum et Lapidum Historia. Several interpretations of its content and of the enumerated objects were made in later years with many Renaissance scientists trying to pierce the secret of its real meaning.


The illumination in the Splendor Solis manuscript of 1577 by Vollnagel. This manuscript is now in the Bibliotheque Nationale de France and its illustration depicts Mercury as the Knight and all the symbols which can be found in De Boodt’s alchemist experience reported by Barnaud.

In one of the most beautifully illuminated (illustrated) alchemical manuscripts, the Splendor Solis, originally dating from 1532 all the key elements of de Boodt’s experience are reunited in an image depicting a knight in armour representing Mars. He stands on two fountains from one of which a silvery liquid, (mercury?) flows to the second one and thereby turning into a golden liquid (gold?). The knight holds a red coloured fleece with an inscription which states that from the two liquids only one has to be made and with it, the enemy killed.

The existence of a tincture, the aurum potabile, capable to turn mercury or common metals into gold has been also reported by Kunrath, an alchemist active at the same time as Anselmus at the court of Rosenberg in Krumlov, in his book Lux Lucens in Tenebris. The processes described to make this tincture involves Aqua Regia, the only acid mixture capable in dissolving gold, prolonged heating and other compounds such as common salt.


Heinrich Kunrath (1560-1605) and his alchemist lab, the Ampitheatrum Sapientiae.

Modern chemistry can explain this reaction which results in the formation of a stable salt of gold also named tetrachloroauric salt with the chemical formula H[AuCl4]. This salt forms red (!) crystals which precipitate from the boiling solution after prolonged heating.

This salt can then be either thrown onto hot metal where it decomposes forming a gold coating or in the case of mercury an alloy or amalgam. If the mercury is distilled away the gold is left over, a practice used in today’s gold panning for example in the Amazonas. Or it can be dissolved in water and with the aid of a tin salt, form an extremely fine dispersion of gold particles which gives the liquid an intensive reddish colour. By sprinkling this solution onto heated and less noble metal it can cover the surface with a very thin layer of gold thus simulating a transmutation of a common metal into real gold.


The modern version of “aurum potabile” or gold sol formed by dissolving H[AuCl4] in water and then adding a reducing salt and thereby forming nanometre sized gold particles so small that the do not settle nor can be filtered out of the solution. The small particles induce an intense red colouring of the liquid.

On January 1st 1604 Anselmus de Boodt was nominated, as the Imperial Tax Register duly records, “Leib Medici Anselm Boetius vom 1.1.1604 monatlichen 40Fl doch der gestaltt dz er ausser erforderung täglichen nicht dienen darf” or one of the personal physicians of Rudolf II.

His monthly salary amounted to 40 Guldens and was assorted with the privilege not to have to serve daily except when needed. He shared this duty with two physicians of Italian origin Octavio Rouorethi and later in the year, with Hector Moscaglia. Compared to other doctors his had the lowest salary of them all. The Gulden had then a silver purity of 930/1000 and an equivalent silver weight of 22.9g. The purchasing power of one Gulden was in these times approximately equivalent to 100$ US.

The Imperial Tax Register reports in the section “Leib Medici” that on 1.9.1606 Johann Athmstett, on 15.7.1611 Joann de Secundis, on 1.8.1611 Wilhelm Maior and on 10.11.1611 Symon Perger were also nominated personal physicians of Rudolf II. This acceleration of nomination of personal physicians had probably to do with the failing health of the Emperor which died of emphysema the 20th of January 1612.

From the job description and the output it appears that Anselmus was more involved in scientific than in medical activities. Beside writing his Gemmarum et Lapidum Historia, published in 1609 and which we will discuss in detail below, Anselmus has been put in charge by Rudolf II of preparing the so called “Papier Museum” or an illustrated compendium which was to depict all then known phenomena and specimens from the fauna, flora and mineral world in a kind of portable “Wunderkammer”. Unconfirmed sources report that he received 1000 guldens as payment for this work.


Joris Hoefnagel’s engraving showing Prague and the Hradschin in 1591

This work finally encompassed 12 volumes with approximately 750 aquarelles which confirm Anselmus as an accomplished artist. He was assisted in this task by Elias Verhulst, a well known Dutch painter of flower pieces, Daniel Fröschel, the Court Antiquarian and by Joris Hoefnagel, from Antwerp and an accomplished painter of miniatures, engravings and city views. Anselmus stile of painting was strongly influenced by that of Hoefnagel.



Anselmus de Boodt's aquarelles in the “Historia Naturalis” he prepared and published for Rudolf II in Prague

Another publication which we have from Anselmus sojourn in Prague is the compilation “Symbola varia diversorum principum, Tomus tertius”. This was the third volume of a commented anthology of Emblems of Popes, Emperors and Nobles which Jacopo and Ottavio Strada, the well known antiquarians of Rudolf II had collected and wanted to have assembled in a printed book. Jakob Typotius commented the Emblems in the first two and Anselmus de Boodt that in the third volume.

The 1531 publication in Augsburg of a first emblem book, the “Emblemata” of the Italian jurist Andrea Alciato launched a fascination with emblems that lasted two centuries and touched most of the countries of Western Europe. An emblem in this sense refers to a didactic or moralizing combination of a picture and text proper of an important person.


Frontpage of the first volume of “Symbola Divina” commented by Jakob Typotius and published 1601. The engravings where made by Egidius Sadeler and are based on the originals owned by Ottavio Strada, the son of Jacopo.


Frontpage of the third volume “Symbola Divina” commented by Anselmus de Boodt and published 1603.

Aegidius Sadeler, a fellow Flemish from Antwerp, was  then also in Prague and employed by Rudolf II, from 1.10.1605, as the Official Court Engraver or “Khupfferstecher” for a salary of 25Fl a month.


Engraved portrait of Aegidius Sadeler (1570 1629), a personal friend of Anselmus de Boodt in Prague.

We have, thanks to Aegidius Sadeler, an engraving showing the portrait of Anselmus de Boodt at an age of about 52.


Engraving made between 1609 and 1614 by A. Sadeler showing his friend Anselmus de Boodt with his personal motto “Obstando Sortis Casus Delemus Acerbos Hinc Uni Fidas, Nam Sic Sumes Stabilo Uno” or “Because we offer resistance, we fight the cruel adversity of destiny. Therefore believe in the one, because through the one you gain that what is persistent”. The words obstando delemos and Sumes stabile uno are the anagrams of Anselmus Boetius.

The above portrait contains also two alchemist symbols. One shows, in the small medallion on top, a falcon battling a crane with the repeated inscription Obstando Delemos “through resistance we shall win”. The second one, below his portrait and again the wording “Sumes Stabilo Uno” or “gain what is stable” shows the alchemist symbol of the sun or gold, a circle with a dot in its centre.

The family crests of his father’s (Boodt/boat) and mother’s family (Voet /foot) and of their ancestor’s families Hond, Patvoorde, Nieulandt, Cevoli, Ghiseghem and Witte are on to the left and the right of the portrait.


4.0 Anselmus De Boodt’s monumental opus the Gemmarum et Lapidum Historia

In these times the lingua franca of Europe was Latin in which nearly all scientific information was written and exchanged. It was thus natural that also Gemmarum was written and printed in Latin. It was only in 1644 translated into French and then into other languages.

The full title of the book is: Anselmi Boetii De Boodt, Brugensis Belgae, Rudolphi Secundi Imperatoris Romanarum Personae Medici. - Gemmarum et lapidum historia qua non solum ortus, natura, vis et precium, sed etiam modus quo ex iis olea, salia, tinctura, essentiae, arcana et magisteria arte chymica confici possint, ostenditur- Opus Principibus, Medicis, Chymicis, Physicis, ac liberalioribus ingeniis utilissimum” or “Anselmus Boetius de Boodt, from Bruges, Belgium, Personal Physician of Rudolph II, Holy Roman Emperor -The History of Gems and Minerals which shows their origin, naturalness, power and their price but also how through the art of chemistry oils, salts, tinctures, essences, arcanes and magisteria can be prepared – This work being of great use for Physicians, Chemists, Physicist.

This book contains, after the first bibliographic reference in “Primer y segunda y tercera parte de la historia medicinal de las cosas que se traen des nuestras Indias occidentales que sirun en Medicina” by the Spanish physician Nicholas Monardes of Seville in 1569, the second mayor European description of the medicinal uses of jade and gives a precise link to ornamental objects made thereof for the Emperor Rudolf II in Prague and visible today in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

The original text was published in Latin in 1609 in Hanoviae (Hanau) what is now Germany. Two further editions in Latin were published in Leiden, The Netherlands, in 1636 and in 1647. These where organized by a physician of Leiden, Adriaan Toll, a commentator of the works of Galenus.


Frontpage of the 1647 Latin Edition of “Gemmarum et Lapidum Historia” published in Leiden.

The first Latin edition of Toll has been translated into French by Jean Bachou and published for the first time in 1644 by Jean-Antoine Huguetan, a Huguenot publisher in Lyon, the centre of book publishing in France of that century.


The Rue Merciere today in Lyon/France, where Jean-Antoine Huguetan had his library “At the sign of the Orbital Sphere”. He published there, first in 1644 and then in 1649, Anselmus de Boodt French Edition “Le Parfait Ioaillier ou Histoire des Pierreries”.


The first page of the 1644 French Edition of Gemmarum et Lapidum Historia

The version utilized for this contribution is a 1644 edition kept in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris and which can be accessed and downloaded with this address http://visualiseur.bnf.fr/Visualiseur?Destination=Gallica&O=NUMM-57396 as .PDF file.

The book is divided in 10 sections as follows:

i) Dedication of the book by Jean-Antoine Huguetan to Monsieur Gaspard de
Monconys, Lord of Liergues, Polly le Monial et de la Bruyere, Counsellor of
the King (of France) and Criminal Affair Lieutenant in the Sénéchaussée
(territory) of Lyon
5 pages
Note: Gaspard Monconys and his brother Balthasar have later established
in Lyon the first Natural History Cabinet.

ii) Introduction by Jean Bachov, the translator of the Latin text into French
3 pages
Note: Jean Bachov lauds Latin and its property to allow elegantly and precisely define scientific matters and thoughts. When translating into French he declared to have had difficulties in achieving at the same moment fidelity in terms and an elegancy in the construction of the phrases. He is not the only one, I had the same difficulty to get the texts smoothly translated into English.

iii) Warning by the Author (Anselmus de Boodt) about the order in which the precious and common stones have been listed and discussed in the book. He decided to deviate from that used by ancient and contemporary scientists such as Plinius and Gesner respectively. He decided to start with the most rare and most expensive precious stone, the diamond and then use, in a descending order size, translucency, hardness and the colour as the further selection and classification criterion.
4 pages

iv) Authorization by the King of France to Jean-Antoine Huguetan to print, sell,
expose as many times he wishes and with whatever font he intends, this book
for a duration of eight years counting from the day of the first printing.
Interdiction is made to anybody under our jurisdiction (of the King) to print,
have printed, copy, change its title, add items and so on under a penalty of
3000 Livres, payable by each of the infringers with one third (of the fine) going
to Us (the King), one third to the Poor within our city of Lyon and one third to
the Editor and including the confiscation of the counterfeited copies. This
(authorization is given) under the condition that two copies are deposited in our
public library and one copy in that of Lord Seguier, Chancellor of France and
Keeper of the Seals (Ministry of Justice today) before offering them for sale.
3 pages

v) List of all the stones mentioned in this book
10 pages
Note: The alphabetic list starts with Absinthe and finishes 564 stones later with Zonorostios

vi) List of the Authors (18) cited in this book
1 page

vii) Summary (in Latin) of the content extolling the utility of the book
3 pages

viii) About Stones and Minerals in General (26 chapters) – First Volume
143 pages

The chapters are:

1. About the definition and the classification of the stone in general and of the precious stone


The classification of Stones, precious and common, by Anselmus de Boodt in the first chapter with the Nephrite Stone (jade) classified as a stone being: Big – rare – hard – deformed (as opposition to nice)

2. The differences of the stones in general

3. The differences of the common stones and the precious ones based on their place of origin and the way they were born.

4. The differences which can be deduced from their aspect

5. The differences which can be deduced from their action and their passion (resistance against fire)

6. The differences of their quality and their effect on the five senses

7. The way to use these differences

8. The reason of the mixtures of common and precious stones

9. The reason of the material (composition) of the precious and common stones

All stones are formed of four elements, earth, water, air and fire. Precious stones have more water then common stones which have more earth.

10. The formal reason and the way how common and precious stones are created

11. The basic properties and the essence of common and precious stones

12. Of the place and the substance in which the common and the precious stones have been created.

13 The way of formation of common and precious stones and their resulting shape.

14. Of the transparency and opacity of common and precious stones.

15. The colours of common and precious stones.

16. The hardness and tenderness of common and precious stones.

17. The weight and the gravity of the common and precious stones.

18. Some other properties of common and precious stones.

19. To distinguish precious stones from their counterfeit ones

20. How precious stones are counterfeit.

21. By which way common stones of great weight and dimensions are counterfeit to make columns and obelisks.

22. Metallic foils which are underlain precious stones (to enhance their lustre)

23. Of the cutting of common and precious stones

24. Equipment with which once can cut and engrave

25. To know if precious stones have powers and faculties

26. Which effects precious stones can cause and which not


The illustration of a tubular drill for working precious stones

ix) About Stones and Minerals in detail (154 chapters) – Second Volume
603 pages

Starting with 1. The diamond  and mentioning in chapter 58/59/60 The Nephritic Stone and finishing with chapter 154. The Enamels

x) Table of content and of the most remarkable definitions treated in this book
34 pages

Starting with: "Why is the air transparent?" and finishing with "The eyes of the crayfish are good for wounds and for


5.0 Anselmus de Boodt description of the Nephritic Stone

The description of the Nephritic stone, its origin and powers can be found in chapter 58, 59 and 60 starting on page 331 and terminating on top of page 336.

The copies of these pages are presented below as extracted from the on-line copy of the BNF in Paris/France.







The screen captures of the Lapis Nephriticus sections in the 1644 copy in the BNF in Paris.

The translation of the French text gives the following information with the words in italics and in [brackets] being my explanations.

Of the Nephrite Stone – Chapter CVIII

Such as the heliotrope [a green stone with red specks formerly found only in the Orient] also the nephrite stone is to be counted as a species of jasper. Like the jasper also the nephrite stone exists in different colour. One can nevertheless establish a difference between the jasper and the nephrite stone in the sense that the latter is much harder then the Jasper and one discovers never a red colour in it. [The red colour specks in the heliotrope jasper are, according to the legends, the blood of Christ and therefore this stone was highly valued]

Furthermore the nephrite stone cannot be perfectly polished as its surface appears to be greasy and like imbibed by oil. Rarely this stone shows two colours, on the ordinary it has one colour only independently how big the stone is and nearly always one sees a colour which results from a mixture of white and black. If one starts to polish the stone and reduces its thickness to the thickness of the small finger, it shows a sombre colour and a partial transparency.

The nephrite stone is called by the Italians Osiada, due the fact that one says that it heals the sciatica if worn. In the Flanders it is called Kalswee and in Germany ein Kalssuwyn and in France, with a corrupted word derived from the Italian, Siadre.

[Note: The term Gälzur, Isada or Ischiada for nephrite is also found in a list established by the Viennese Treasure Master Nikolaus von Kurland as the definition of the material of one of the carved stemmed cups brought to Vienna on the 5th September 1622 by Ottavio Miseroni, the master carver of Rudolph II. and contemporary of DeBoodt at the court in Prague.

This cup is in nephrite jade and now kept in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna with the Number 6828. The terms Kalswee or Kalssuwyn are unknown in Flemish and German language and could derive, as Fischer in “Nephrit und Jadeit” explains in1875, from a corruption of Chalcihuitl, the Central America name for greenstone or jade ]

The kind, the birth place, the size and how [the nephrite stone] is born - Chapter CIX

If the diversity of colors establishes different types [of stones], then different nephrite stones exist because one finds some of them with a white colour tending toward green. This green tends sometimes toward yellow and sometimes toward blue. On the ordinary its color is a mixture white, yellow, blue and black, not that these colors are all intermingled, only some of them. Due to this, one can find [nephrite stones] of so much different colors. I have at my place different types and between them is one like a crystal, which is transparent and where one sees a small white cloud [inclusion?] which wanted to be separated from another [inclusion?] of much greener color and next to it [the white cloud] formed. It [nephrite stone] customary forms sometimes next to jasper and to prasem [emerald quartz or green chalcedony, another mythic green stone of the antiquity].

Nevertheless most of the times it [the nephrite stone] forms alone such as the cos (lettuce?) in the field. It can be found in such sizes that one can make cups [out of it]. It is brought in from New Spain [Americas]. It can be found also in certain places in Spain and in Bohemia. But it [the nephrite stone] is still known only to few persons and for this it is mistaken by ignorant lapidaries for an emerald, prasem or jasper.

The nature, the properties, the faculties, the dignity, the value and the use of the Nephritic Stone - Chapter CX

The nephrite stone should not be counted as a precious stone because it is not extremely agreeable when looked at. Nevertheless because of its admirable faculty [to heal and prevent], proven by the experience of many, it has a great authority with Princes and Kings.

I have seen a piece [in the workshop] of the jeweller [Ottavio Miseroni] of the Emperor Rudolph, my very clement master, bought for one thousand and six hundred Thalers [the monthly salary of DeBoodt at the court of Rudolph II was 40 thalers a month], and of which a quite large cup has been made [this 20cm oblong stemmed cup in green nephrite is the one now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna with inventory number 6846 and arrived there from the Kunstkammer of Rudolph II in Prague].

Nicolas Monardes, a Spanish Physician [the famous one of the piedra de jiada] describes these things of this stone. The Indios wear the nephrite stone, cut in different shapes, the ones in the form of fishes, others in the shape of bird heads, others in the shape of parrot beaks, sometimes round like small spheres or pierced wheels. [These shapes are used] because they [the Indios] carry them as pendants and they [pendants in nephrite stone] are quite good against pains in the loins and of the stomach. But is principal effect is [preventing and curing] the pain in the kidneys and against calculi and sand [large and small kidney stones].

A Nobleman of my acquaintance wears one and one has not seen anything comparable. Because wearing it on his arm [wrist?] he expelled such a big quantity of sand [very small kidney stones] that he was worried that such a big discharge would harm him. He therefore sometimes does not wear the [nephrite stone] and thus does not expel the sand anymore. But when the pains increase, he wears it [the nephrite stone] immediately [again] and is relieved from the discomfort or the pain diminishes by the ejection of a quantity of sand and even small stones. It [the nephrite stone] has also the faculty that wearing it, it protects against such pains by calming the heat of the kidneys. Ducilla Beiar, affected three times within a short time by kidney pains, made herself a bracelet with this stone, which she wears always. Since that time, now more than ten years ago, she has not anymore been tormented by this pain. Many others have felt the same relief and for this reason this kind of stone commands a high price and cannot be purchased as easily as at the beginning [of this fad] because the Kings and Noblemen’s of the provinces where they are born [found) retain [hoard] them not without reason in view of their admirable faculties. Until here we report [the sayings] of Monardes.

I have quite often heard that a very noble Gentlemen N. Dummanne, Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece (which grandparents have been related to our family and thus is my cousin) has healed several persons with a nephrite stone which he has received from his brother, which lives at the Court for the King Philip of Spain. These persons, which could not be healed with any other remedies, applied the nephrite stone suddenly [solidly] to the arm, around the wrist or the lower part of the hand, got healthy not without the admiration of the physicians. This stone has an opaque a dark green color; similar to the [color] if one would have mixed black with the color green. One sees also small black spots like in the ophite. He [Dummanne] mounted it [the nephrite stone] in silver because he assumed that thus the stone would have a more active faculty [to heal]. He preferred it to all other [stones] he owned.

When he was send to Prague by the King of Spain to present the Order of the Golden Fleece to the Prince of Transylvania he found per chance that a nephrite stone was for sale so similar the vulgar vitriol [crystallized green iron sulphate with the name derived from the initials of the alchemist name for it “Visita interiora terrae rectifiando invenies occultum lapidem."] in color and transparency that one would have taken it for vitriol. The stone was in the shape of a small column of the size of the middle finger and round. At one end it had two small handles so that it held more easily as it was inserted into the flesh. It appears that this was the stone that noble Brazilians, when walking in public, inserted into their lips which were pierced from their infancy. This he [Dummanne] said by a subtle allusion because (the nephrite stone column] had all the characteristics of that which Gessner [Swiss scientist *1516 +1565] had described as mouth [lip] pendant.


A sketch from Heinrich Fischer’s 1875 book “Nephrit und Jadeit” and illustrating on page 26 the use of the nephrite stone as a “lip stone” as reported by Gesner. Anselmus included in his book the same description of Gesner’s “oripendulum” in jade. To the right is the picture of an actual practice by an Amazonian Indian but with the lip plug made out of wood.

He wanted that one cuts a small piece from this jasper which he gave to me as gift and which he renamed nephrite stone. [This stone] appeared more to be a kind of fake emerald or prasem [emerald quartz]. To know if [this] nephrite stone has the faculty to provoke [the elimination of kidney sand] by the urines I do not yet know with certainty.

The nephrite stones have a high price because one does not obtain them so easily. I have seen [pieces] smaller than a half thaler [coin] which were estimated at one hundred imperial ecu’s. The price rises in proportion to their [healing] power. It is used [for] bracelets to fend off diseases like other precious stones which one calls health stones. An imitation is useless because [the nephrite stone] is not sought after for its beauty but for its faculties [to heal].

Augerius Clutius, the very famous physician and distinguished botanist in Amsterdam, has [published in 1627] an entire book on the Nephrite Stone.[Comment by Toll


6.0 Anselmus returns home

By 1611 Emperor Rudolf II had lost all his royal prerogatives to his brother Matthias. Matthias, pretending governmental inaction and pointing out the growing mental instability of the Emperor had, with the support of the remainder of the Habsburg clan, edged him out of power by successively becoming the head of the Habsburg Dynasty, King of Austria, Moravia and Hungary and then in 1611 also King of Bohemia. After the death of Rudolf II in January 1612, Matthias grasped the last title of Rudolf II and became, as Matthias I, the new Holy Roman Emperor. He then quickly transferred the rest of the imperial court to Vienna.

Anselmus stayed two more years in Prague and then returned 1614 home to Bruges. This return was certainly influenced by the less than rosy financial situation of the remainder of the imperial administration in Prague, he had to fight to get the payment of overdue salary, and favoured by the so called “12 year truce” which brought to the Flanders a period of relative calm before the final spasm of the Eighty Year’s war.

Anselmus started, upon his return to Bruges, an intensive literary activity. He joined the literature society “Chamber of the Holy Spirit” in 1628 and published in the same year a collection of more than 300 chants and poems with religious themes under the title “De Baene des Hemels ende der Deughden” or the Role of Heaven and of the Virtues.

Anselmus died 82 years old, still single, on the 21st of June 1632. He was interred in the Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk in Bruges were already his grandparents Wilhelm de Boodt and Elizabeth de Hondt had their tomb. His epitaph was removed and lost when mayor changes were made in the church in 1786.

In 1640, 8 years after his death, Anselmus last scientific work, with the title “Florum, Herbarum ac fructuum selectiorum icons et vies pleraeque hactenus ignotae” was published.

It contains 61 descriptions of plants and parts of the illustrations therein are from Crispyn de Paas, the younger, a famous engraver and publisher of the famous Hortus Floridus.


Aquarelle of  blue bells flowers by Cryspin de Paas, the Younger (1597-1670) and which illustrations adorn Anselmus de Boodt last publication published posthumously in 1640.


7.0 Acknowledgements

I have freely collected information from numerous websites and sources to which anonymous authors I extend my sincere thanks.

I want to thank specially Ivo Purs of the Institute of Art History of Prague for making his publication ”Anselmus Boetius de Boodt, Pansophie und Alchemie” published in the Acta Comeniana Volume 18, p.43, 2004 in Prague and the high resolution portrait of Anselmus, by Egidius Sadeler accessible to me. Thanks go also to Veronique de Boi of the Museum Library of Bruges and Father Kurt Priem, Archivist for the Bishop of Bruges, for helping my to identify Anselmus on the Portrait of Pourbus.

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Reader Comments (1)

A friend of " A friend of Jade " ( Tom F. ) can write: Jade carving ( Vancouver, 1972-1976 ), also during which time I met Anthroposophia through the C.C. priest, Mr Verner Hegg, has brought me over the years to study Alkemia. Splenor Solis is the basis of my " Oracle, the Alchemy Stones " which I combine with the Runes. This " dual " system I use once a year, according to the mystical " Sevenfoldness " as divination, quite unlike the I Quing. I salute your research in finding, and making public the Royal Tincture. May Hermes protect your species, and the necessary Silence descend on your enemies. " SUMES SABILE UNO "
January 18, 2007 | Registered CommenterTom Finneran

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