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Tycho Brahe

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Tycho Brahe lived worked in Ven for 21 years (1576-97). He performed astronomical and meteorological experiments there, which he carefully noted, he performed chemical experiments, grew plants, made astronomical tools, drew maps, wrote poems and much more.

With his versatility Tycho Brahe was a typical example of a renaissance man.

Tycho Brahe - Childhood and education

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Tycho Brahe was born December 14th 1546 in the estate Knutstorp in Scania, but was literally abducted and raised with his childless uncle Jörgen Brahe in Tosterup in southeastern Scania.

This was not uncommon within the aristocracy, as kin was more important that your own family.

Tycho Brahe - a Renaissance Man
In the year 1634, when a French messenger, Charles Ogier, after having visited Elsinore, left the town and travelled south towards Copenhagen, he saw the island Ven and this made him think of the world famous astronomer Tycho Brahe.
It is doubtful if you can perceive the almost square shape of Ven from the coast of Zealand, but it is no coincidence that Ogier noticed this. The symmetrical, well ordered and continuous appeals to the renaissance man, the scientist Tycho Brahe, who Danish standards is the best example of a universal genius in the spirit of the renaissance.
Map of Ven
Map of Ven

Childhood
Tycho Brahe was born a nobleman and it was therefore expected of him that he would make a career for himself as a landowner, warrior and perhaps member of parliament, as so many other in his family. Tycho had, however, a somewhat ambivalent relationship to his noble colleagues.
Tycho Brahe was born December 14th 1546 in the estate Knutstorp in Scania, but was literally abducted and raised with his childless uncle Jörgen Brahe in Tosterup in southeastern Scania. This was not uncommon within the aristocracy, as kin was more important that your own family. The Brahe family is portrayed in Kågeröd church, which was the patronage church of Knutstorp. The plaque is from 1613, after the death of Tycho Brahe. Tycho (the scholar) sits next to his father and after him you see the brothers, Sten, Axel, Jörgen and Knut. Next to the mother sit the sisters Lisbeth, Margareta, Kristina and finally Sophie Brahe, who was very close to Tycho.
Tycho Brahe
Tycho Brahe
Knutstorp
Knutstorp
Tosterup
Tosterup
Brahefamiljens epitafium
Brahefamiljens epitafium

Studies
At the age of six Tycho started school, which was not uncommon among the aristocracy. Uncommon was however the interests, which he developed. At the age of twelve he entered the University of Copenhagen, which at the same was open and marked by the renaissance humanist currents of the time.
We know, form his book collection, that he in this period was interested in astronomy. In his study travels in the beginning of the 1560´s he started, under cover of law studies, to practise this science. As travel companion Tycho had the commoner Anders Sørensen Vedel, who also was an important renaissance figure. He collected and published old Danish folksongs.
Anders Sørensen Vedel
Anders Sørensen Vedel

Astronomy

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During his stay with his uncle Steen Bille in Herrevadskloster in 1572 Tycho Brahe observes a new star in the constellation Cassiopeia. We know now that it was a so-called super nova, a dying star

The account of this discovery becomes the start of Tycho Brahe´s fame. In time Tycho Brahe also reaches a total picture of the universe, but it doesn´t correspond to that of Copernicus´.

Nova Stella and the New Picture of the Universe
Tycho studied abroad and did not return to Denmark until the end of 1570. He spent his time with his uncle Sten Bille, who was very much interested in chemical and mechanical experiments.
In November 1572 Tycho Brahe observed in Herrevadskloster what he thought was a new star in the constellation Cassiopeia. Strongly encouraged, but against his will, he published a book on the new star in 1573. It was controversial for a nobleman to engage in such matters and the book is prefaced with a number of arguments pro and against a publication.
The book, which was printed in a few copies in Copenhagen was written in Latin and contained apart from the thesis on the new star, an astrological and meteorological almanac for the year 1573, a thesis on a future lunar eclipse and finally a poem dedicated to the god Urania.
This may seem as a strange concoction, but in Tycho Brahe´s mind there was a connection between the different parts.
Nova Stella
Nova Stella
Tycho Brahe´s picture of the world
Tycho Brahe´s picture of the world
Picture of the world
Picture of the world

The Importance of the Empirical Knowledge
Perhaps Tycho Brahe did not realize the importance of his observations. The leading astronomic perception was that the universe had been created by chance and that there had been no changes without God´s direct participation. Thus they perceived the universe af static. Therefore it was sensational that Tycho Brahe had discovered a change in the firmament and this discovery led to the conception of a dynamic universe. Via later publications he contributed to such a conception. The great importance of Tycho Brahe was his exact empirical observations. Experience had greater importance and the sense of a static cosmos retired.
Tycho Brahe showed that the universe is much greater than hitherto assumed and that it developed and changed continuously. However, he could not accept Kopernikus´ new picture of the universe with the sun and not the earth as the centre of the universe.
Tycho Brahe´s picture of the world
Tycho Brahe´s picture of the world
Obeservationsscene
Obeservationsscene
Sextant
Sextant
Notes
Notes

The Comet
When Tycho Brahe a few years later in Ven in 1577, had studied a comet, he wrote down his observations in the small publication ”Om kometen”, which became another example that you could draw empirical conclusions.

The Astrologer
Tycho Brahe mixed empirical observations with astrological predictions. His astrological predictions he commented thus:
”... even if it is hidden for everybody to know the right reasons for future things, you can however, from the old experienced astrologers´ observations and knowledge, get some indications of things that these miracles in the sky and do and this can be done without any superstition at all.
Tycho Brahe demonstrated his dissociation of superstition knowing well that the reputation and position of astrology was much debated, not least in the church and among the thinkers of the renaissance. But astrology still had a certain official status. The royal power demanded that Tycho Brahe make predictions and he drew up the horoscope of the crown prince.
The starting point in astrology was the fundamental observations about the influence of the planets, for instance that the sun provided heat and light and that the moon changed the level of the sea. Furthermore they saw that the alternation between summer and winter was dependant on the position of the planets. It is not strange that they attributed importance to the position of the planets. Although Tycho Brahe had doubts about superstition he attributed astrology an certain importance, an importance he later south to limit.
Horoscope
Horoscope

The Creator
He even attributed the belief in God importance, but approached the idea that God was the initiator of the system, but he did not intervene in the course of history and could not be influenced by prayers or rites, i.e. a deistic perception.

Recognition
Tycho Brahe in time won great recognition and from 1574 he lectured at the University in Copenhagen, which was notable for an aristocrat. He was even offered the position as rector of the university, but refused. The offer still testified to the recognition, which was offered him, also on the part of the royal power.

Uranienborg

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In Ven Tycho Brahe built a renaissance castle, which became his residence as well as his research centre. The whole building was very symmetrical. Order and coherence was important.


Uraniborg in Ven
The renaissance prince Frederik II saw Tycho´s greatness and offered his support. February 18th 1567 he was awarded a yearly sum of 500 daler, a very large governmental support. The king had, during his inspections in the building site of Kronborg, come to think of the island Ven as a suitable place for Tychos activities. Tycho was offered the island on favourable terms, if it could prevent him from leaving Denmark. Tycho Brahe accepted.

A Symbolic Castle
The central part of the ground plan was made up of a square, which measured 60 feet, approximately 15,5 metres on every side. This square was divided by perpendicular corridors, which formed four smaller square rooms. The corridors also tied the central part with symmetrical extensions in the north and south and with symmetrical entrance portals in east and west.
The building consisted of two storeys, attic and basement. On the outside there were balconies, which were used for astronomical observations. The basement functioned as a chemical laboratory.
Astronomy and chemistry/medicine was the sciences he was to engage in and two statuette niches marked this over the entrance portals. Two short Latin inscriptions connected these allegorical works of art: Despiciendo suspicio och Suspiciendo despicio, which roughly means, ”When I look down, I look up” and ”When I look up, I look down”. The first maxim refers to the chemical experiments and the other undoubtedly on the astronomical observations. The deeper meaning is that chemistry and astronomy are connected.
Uranienborg
Uranienborg
Ground plan
Ground plan

Stjärneborg
It was important that the instruments were completely stable, which was difficult in a buidliing. This is why Tycho Brahne built Stjärneborg, where the instruments were placed on the ground or even underground. This made the foundation so stable that technical errors were almost eliminated.
Stjärneborg
Stjärneborg
The layout of Stjerneborg
The layout of Stjerneborg
Venter på tekst
Venter på tekst

Uraniborg - a View of Life
Uranienborg was not only Tycho Brahe´s home and workplace, but it also expressed architecturally and in other ways, the philosophy and the view of life, which characterized Tycho Brahe. A belief in research and the mapping of reality was to make us understand the cosmological connections.

A Renaissance Garden
The garden was, just like the castle, very symmetrical lay out. They also considered the practical use of a garden and planted fruit trees and sowed vegetables and herbs, which could be used in medical recipes.
We know that Tycho as well as his learned sister Sophie Brahe, who lived with him for long periods of time, devoted themselves to the manufacturing of medicinal preparations, in fact to such an extent, that the pharmacies in Copenhagen complained about the competition. It is very likely that Sophie Brahe participated in the lay out and the care taking of the garden, although there are no evidence of this.
The Garden
The Garden
Ground plan
Ground plan

Tycho Brahe leaves Ven
Tycho Brahe stayed in Ven for 21 years until 1597, when felt forced to leave Denmark. It is said that he had fallen out with the inhabitants in Ven, that he neglected his duties and that the new king Christian IV did not support him like Frederik II had done.
The circumstances surrounding Tycho Brahe´s fall are still unclear and much debated. Form Rostock Tycho Brhae wrote the kin in 1597 that he had not gone into exile and emphasized his loyalty. The king reproached him for having left without permission and pointed out several unsolved problems. He wrote of the peasants in Ven: ”There have been complaints about you from our poor subjects in Ven”. And of Tycho´s negligence of the church in Ven: ”...as the word of the baptism have been neglected with your knowledge for a long time against the use of the realm that is notorious for anybody”.
That Tycho Brahe did not take care of his estate obligations is probably correct, but one may wonder why the controversy with the peasants was brought up in a time, where it was the right of any lord of the manor to exploit his subjects and when the plight of the peasants was increased significantly.

The Exorcism
If it is true that they had omitted certain parts of the baptismal rite in Tycho Brahe´s time in Ven that could be a serious matter. The baptismal rites and especially the devil incantation, which was part of it, was one of the theological disputes of the time. Exorcism, a Catholic ritual, was still present in the Lutheranian church, but many did not like it and wanted to get rid of it. This was the view of the supporters of the Calvinistic reformation.
The conflict about the exorcism broke out seriously, when the priest Iver Bertelsen in Møn took out the incantation from the rite and was put on trial in 1567. Iver Bertelsen spent 3 year in prison, before Frederik II pardoned him. In 1588, during the regency of Christian IV a new case cropped up, when the priest at the Holy Spirit Church in Copenhagen, Jon Jacob Venusin, at a christening omitted the Devil incantation. Three weeks after this they issued in the king´s name and with threats of punishment a ban on ”resuscitating undue disputes”. Venusin, who came from Ven, where his father had been the vicar, was the brother-in-law of Tycho Brahe´s son-in-law.

Complaints
It was around this time that the king began to attack Tycho Brahe. Firstly the accusations were directed against the vicar in Ven for not having punished Tycho Brahe of his lack of Communion and his immoral behaviour. The allusion was Tycho Brahe´s life together with a non-aristocrat, something which was not illegal in itself. Last, but not least the priest was accused of having omitted the Devil incantation on the request of Tycho Brahe. The priest lost his job and the next time around the accusations were directed against Tycho Brahe himself.
Another complaint against Tycho Brahe was that he had produced medicine without the permission of the church.

Several Reasons
It was not only the dissatisfaction of the peasants and the dissatisfaction with the neglecting of his duties, which caused him to move. The suspicion of the church about his astrology, his medicine and not least his liberal religious views in a time of strict Lutheranian orthodoxy, may have been decisive.
Tycho Brahe´s correspondence with the king was not published until the king´s death in 1648. In 1597 Tycho wrote a poem of his break with Denmark. Here is a section of the poem:
”Denmark, what have I have for you to cast me off so cruelly?
How can you, my native land, treat me as an enemy?
I have lifted your name, it is mentioned far and wide with honour
how can you be angry that my work has encircled you with roses?
Tell me, which of your children have given you better things to own?
Are you angry that high in the vaulted arch, native country?
Your name I wrote in twinkling stars
Why thrust me aside? Sometime you will remember me.
In days to come my worth, my work will be understood,
By children of a later generation, everything that I gave for you to build”
Tycho Brahe died in Prague in 1601.

Sophie Brahe

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Sofie was, like her brother, gifted in many ways and she had many interests. She spent a lot of time doing genealogical studies of Danish noble families, but she was also very interested in gardening, medicine, astrology and astronomy and she was at her brother´s side during the years in Ven.

Sofie Brahe also made medicine and in 1625 she sent a recipe for plague elixir to Christian IV.


A Renaissance Woman
Charles Ogier relates that he met Tycho Brahe´s sister Sofie in connection with his leaving Elsinore in 1634. She was then almost 80 years old, had survived her famous brother with almost 30 years, and had lived in Elsinore sine 1626.
Sofie was, like her brother, gifted in many ways and she had many interests. She spent a lot of time doing genealogical studies of Danish noble families, but she was also very interested in gardening, medicine, astrology and astronomy and she was at her brother´s side during the years in Ven.
Sofie Brahe also made medicine and in 1625 she sent a recipe for plague elixir to Christian IV.
Epitaph in Kågeröd
Epitaph in Kågeröd
Sophie Brahe
Sophie Brahe
Memorial Tablet
Memorial Tablet

The Garden Art of Sophie Brahe
Unfortunately we don´t know much about the garden art of Sophie Brahe, which is praised by her brother. She has probably helped her brother in the garden in Hven, but she also grew her own garden in the estate Eriksholm in Scania and later in Elsinore, where she owned a town house with adjoining land on the outskirts of town and close to Kronborg.

A letter to the Swedish nobleman Johan Sparre from September 14th 1629 testifies to her knowledge. The first part is about genealogy - she had borrowed and corrected some genealogical tables. Then she writes about bulbs and how to handle them.
Emperor´s Crown
Emperor´s Crown
Renaissance Garden
Renaissance Garden
Garden Section
Garden Section

The Idea of the Renaissance Garden
The garden layout of Uranienborg was, as seen in contemporary engravings, a square layout marked by symmetry down to the last detail. The outer shape was probably fruit trees surrounding the inner part with the geometrical beds, which contained utility as well as ornamental plants. The transition between the two parts is marked with four identical summerhouses.
Uranienborg´s garden is special with the consistent symmetry, which probably refers to the area´s scientific nature. In this sense the garden fully lives up to the idea of the Renaissance garden. It must divert, but also challenge and stimulate the curiosity of the visitor and incite intellectual and spiritual absorption. The pleasant is combined with useful, and the planting testifies to this. (Picturesr: Villa d ´ Este and Leiden).
Florence 1545
Florence 1545
Norton´s Botanical Work 1597
Norton´s Botanical Work 1597
Angelica 1597
Angelica 1597
Lavender 1597
Lavender 1597
Tulip 1561
Tulip 1561

©  Øresundstid 2009