Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

        entry May 2010     revised Feb 2020
                       still in revision
                                      
 

                   
Luigi Lilio, the Gregorian Calendar & the Carafa Castle in Cirò

This can't be a coincidence. Cirò is a small town in Calabria in the province of Crotone, a few kms inland from the Ionian Sea, on the sole of the Italian boot. The Carafa Castle is one of many such medieval relics of feudal rule in southern Italy. This one was started in 1496 by count Andrea Carafa and then finished by his grandson with a large wall around the whole thing to protect it from Saracen invaders then roaming the southern coastal regions of Italy. The castle is said to be one of the largest in Italy and to have housed royalty and other illustrious persons in its long history.
"Carafa" itself is the surname of a powerful medieval feudal family in southern Italy in general and, importantly, in Naples. There are dozens of persons with that surname including cardinals in the Roman Catholic church, and there are many buildings named for one Carafa or another all over the south (the Palazzo Carafa della Spina in the heart of the historical center of Naples, for example). The name is traceable to at least the 1200s.

The image (above) is on the Italian homepage for the town of Cirò.
It proudly displays their castle and just as proudly an image of Luigi Lilio, known by his Latin user-name of Aloysius Lilius (c. 1510 – 1576), the "primary author" of the proposal that was the basis for the Gregorian Calendar reform of 1582 (the reference is to Pope Gregory XIII, who approved the new calendar). Cirò calls itself "The town of the calendar." (The town also calls itself the "town of wine", but every town in Italy calls itself that.) The calendar is something special. Here's where "This can't be a coincidence" comes in — the castle has 365 rooms. You don't have to be an astronomer to figure out that the number might have something to do with the number of days in a year. You are most perceptive.

As a matter of fact, Lilio, stayed in the castle (recent image, right). He was born in Cirò before the castle was completed, went north to study medicine in Naples and lectured in Perugia. He then returned home with a solid reputation as a doctor, astronomer, and philosopher. There is now a crater on the moon named for him, and there is even such a thing as a Lilian date, the number of days that have passed since the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar (October 15, 1582). I started writing this on LDN (Lilian Day Number) 157261, for example. (I do not know how this converts to Star Date. If you do, please tell me.) In the Calabria region of Italy, they have also declared March 21 (the spring equinox) "Regional Calendar Day" in honor of Lilio. Or Lilius. Or Aloysius. His friends called him Al.

The calendar invented by Lilio but named for the pope, is the most common calendar in use in the world today, even by cultures that also use other calendars for various civil and religious reasons. The Gregorian calendar was a reform of the Julian calendar in order to bring the date for the celebration of Easter back to the time of the year agreed upon by the First Council of Nicaea in the year 325. Since there are slightly more than the popular version of 365 days in a year, festivals on fixed days (such as Easter) will "slip" or "drift" through the seasons unless you put in a "leap day" once in a while (our Feb. 29). Julius Caesar (ergo, "Julian" Calendar) had the calendar revised once in 46 BC, but after 1500 years, the drift had again become intolerable. Lilius' manuscript/proposal was entitled Compendiuem novae rationis restituendi kalendarium (Compendium of the New Plan for the Restitution of the Calendar). The actual decree of the new calendar did not occur until a few years after Lilio's death, however, when his brother Antonio presented the manuscript to Pope Gregory. The most dramatic and immediate effect was that it required the calendar to skip eleven days. Thus October  4, 1582 was followed by October 15, 1582. The system was adopted by Catholic countries quickly, with some Protestant and Orthodox countries holding out until as late as 1923 (in Greece). That's the reason we are confused by references to the "October Revolution" of 1917 in Russia. That was late Julian October, but early Gregorian November. (The subject is much too hard for me. I mean intensely skull-crunching! I have just pondered weak and weary over the Julian, Gregorian, Armenian, Coptic, Mayan (both long and short versions) and the Thai Solar calendars, and all I have been able to glean is that Christmas and Easter don't fall on the same day.
[There is more information on calendars at this entry on the lunar calendars of Cuma.) Essentially, our Christian calendar is an "epochal" calendar -- our epochal beginning is the birth of Christ; the epochal beginning of the Muslim calendar is the flight of Muhammad from Mecca to Medina, known as the Hijra, which corresponds to July 16, 622 AD. Some Roman historians used AUC (ab urbe condita), meaning “from the foundation of the city” (traditionally, 753 BC). And so forth.]

Back to the 365 rooms. Lilio went to work on his home-town castle in Cirò by engraving in the atrium(courtyard) of the castle a strange design (image, left; an accurate line-drawing is in the image on the right). Various scholars have called it to a nine-pointed star, a sun-dial, a wind-rose, a chart of planetary movements, the stone-scribblings Lilius used when he was working out the new calendar, and the illustration for the dust jacket of any novel by Dan Brown — and every August 30, a ray of light shines through the nearby belfry and strikes that design dead center! There are about 70 medieval castles in Calabria, but none has something as strange as this (though farther north in Puglia, Frederick II's Castel del Monte comes close!)

It is simplistic to dismiss the "Star of Lilius" as simply "astrological" symbols if you remember what Lilius did. Remember that Christian calendars served primarily to calculate the precise date of Easter. The Resurrection of Christ is the real focal point of the Christian faith. (Anyone can be born, but...) To calculate Easter, you have to know what a solar year is, what a sidereal year is, what a tropical year is, exactly when the solstices occur, when to intercalate "leap" days, and even "leap" seconds (!), know what expacts are, know what "precession of the equinixes" means and make painstakingly precise measurements, all of which are complicated because nothing in our universe "goes into" anything else as a nice round number. But, you say, there are 365 days in a year, right? Well, no. It's more like 365.242189 days: that is, it takes Earth 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 45 seconds —approximately!— to circle once around the Sun (and it's slowing down the longer we stand here and jaw about it). See the problem? It's a messy approximation and those things add up over centuries until it's Christmas in July. So you revise the calendar. That's what Lilius did. His star with nine points (if that's what it is) likely represents those calculations. He did something that even Copernicus shied away from because we didn't yet know enough about how the heavens really move. Lilius just went ahead and did it. Did a good job, too. No wonder the town of Cirò is boastful.

But all this still leaves me wondering why there are 365 rooms. Luigi might have foreseen the confusion and downright anger that were to follow in the wake of the adoption of a calendar that "robbed" people of ten days of their lives! If you believe all the stories (and I don't, but they're good ones, anyway), there were "calendar riots". If I could go back in time, I think I would advise Lilio to rub it in a little bit —sort of a practical joke on the future— and get him to lop eleven rooms off the castle.
I am indebted to Mr. Robert Thuerck for asking me a few questions about my original entry, and I'll never forgive him. Lilius died before his calendar was published as official, so he never knew how famous he became. Infamous, too, because of that little diagram that still confuses us. He must have helped the count out around the castle once in a while, I don't get it...

"Say, Al, you sure are moving a lot of furniture these days. A different room for each day of the year? Why is that, Al?"
"Here, sire, let me show you this diagram."


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