The Story Of The Mechanical Padre

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The rise of the Jesuit Terminators was so slow, so seemingly harmless that by the time the final models were deployed, it was far too late to stop them.

Radiolab has an excellent story about one of the most fascinating clockwork automatons ever made, a 15-inch high figure of a well-known miraculous monk, San Diego de Alcalá. The story is a bit apocryphal but the gist is this: the son of the King of Spain, Don Carlos, fell down a set of stairs in 1562 and fell into a deep illness due to his injuries. The King prayed to God, asking for his son to be spared with a miracle and promising a miracle in return. In a few days the boy began to heal and in the end he was perfectly fine. The King then commissioned this monk as a celebration of prayer, piety, and faith.

The monk walks around, beating its chest, and lifting a cross. It’s essentially a prayer machine that never tires and it was probably one of the most miraculous things anyone had ever seen in the 16th century.

From an article about the piece:

In the history of European clock technology, the monk is an early and very rare example of a self-acting automaton, one whose mechanism is wholly contained and hidden within its body. Its uncanny presence separates it immediately from later automata: it is not charming, it is not a toy, it is “fearfully and wonderfully made,” and it engages even the twentieth-century viewer in a complicated and urgent way.

Here’s the Monk in action and you can listen to the 10-minute podcast below.

via BB


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