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Cracking the Cosmic Code: Numerology in Medieval Art

Fri, March 22nd, 2024
10:00 am
- Sun, December 22nd, 2024
5:00 pm

The idea that numbers emanate sacred significance, and connect the past with the future, is prehistoric and global. Rooted in the Babylonian science of astrology, medieval Christian numerology taught that God created a well-ordered universe. Deciphering the universe’s numerical patterns would reveal the Creator’s grand plan for humanity, including individual fates. This unquestioned concept deeply pervaded European cultures through centuries. Theologians and lay people alike fervently interpreted the Bible literally and figuratively via number theory, because as King Solomon told God, “Thou hast ordered all things in measure, and number, and weight” (Wisdom 11:22).

Cracking the Cosmic Code, on view through December 22 at the Williams College Museum of Art, aims to elucidate medieval relationships among numbers, events, and works of art. The medieval and Renaissance art here from the 5th to 17th centuries reveal numerical patterns as they relate to architecture, literature, gender, and timekeeping. As WCMA prepares for a new building, we honor the museum’s past by displaying works from our collection in this gallery originally designed to house medieval European objects. At the same time, we look toward a future opportunity in our new space to explore medieval and early modern numerology from a global perspective.

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