Gerbert of Aurillac (Pope Sylvester II) as a Clockmaker

Marek Otisk



The paper analyses three preserved reports, depicting Gerbert of Aurillac (also known as: of Reims, of Ravenna, of Bobbio, and in 999–1003 as Pope Sylvester II) as a clockmaker. The Benedictine monk William of Malmesbury (died around 1143) writes about clocks Gerbert made in Reims in The History of the English Kings and describes them as arte mechanica compositum. The Benedictine Arnold Wion (died around 1610) mentions clocks from Ravenna, where Gerbert allegedly constructed a clepsydra, in The Tree of Life. In his Chronicle, Thietmar of Merseburg (died around 1018) describes a horologium with an observation tube (fistula) from Magdeburg. These three references are analysed from a historical standpoint and especially Williams’s and Thietmar’s short reports are interpreted as possible references to timekeeping devices – the astrolabe and the nocturlabe.


Gerbert of Aurillac; clepsydra; astrolabe; nocturlabe

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