Tag: Portents

Joseph Grünpeck’s “Prodigiorum potentorem”

An illustration from Joseph Grünpeck’s “Prodigiorum potentorem” showing the young Maximilian I confronting various prodigies and monsters. From Joseph Grünpeck’s “Prodigiorum potentorem,” Universitätsbibliothek, Innsbruck, codex 314, fol. 4r.

In 1501 Joseph Grünpeck had to leave his service at the imperial court because he had recently contracted the French Disease.[1] In his absence, however, he continued to maintain connections with bureaucrats at Maximilian’s court. In 1502 he dedicated his “Prodigiorum potentorem” to Blasius Hölzl, Maximilian’s finance secretary. In this manuscript, Grünpeck recounted the many terrestrial and celestial portents that were being reported almost daily across the empire. Some of these monsters had become commonplace, such as the fiery stones raining down from the sky or the sets of conjoined twins.[2] In a dozen or so chapters Grünpeck enumerated the various monsters and explained how they were most often signs from God showing His displeasure at the German people’s and especially the German princes’ disregard for traditional hierarchies and deference to authority, i.e., to Maximilian.


  1. More on Grünpeck’s relationship with the French Disease and his two pamphlets on it here. ↩

  2. Since the mid–1490s Sebastian Brant had deployed the conjoined twins a number of times in broadsheets and pamphlets.  ↩