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Spiritual stargazing

Ancient gadgetry is the best part of Martin-Gropius-Bau’s library-like new exhibition, "Jews, Christians and Muslims", on through Mar 4.

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© Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Department of Oriental Art (Sprenger 2050)

Ancient gadgetry is the best part of Martin-Gropius-Bau’s library-like new exhibition.

Regular visitors to the Gropius- Bau might be thrown off by Jews, Christians and Muslims: Scientific Discourse in the Middle Ages 500-1500, an exhibition that highlights the transfer of knowledge between the world’s three major monotheistic religions. Comprised almost entirely of giant ancient tomes full of medieval science in archaic languages, it’s more archival library than art, but for those who covet 16th-century manuscript paintings of Aristotle – this one’s for you. After impressive Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, and Occidental texts, an ancient plant book known as the Vienna Dioscorides in the medical section contains sensual illustrations of herbs in many translated and copied forms. Perhaps most interesting from our contemporary standpoint, however, is the historical conflation of astrology and astronomy in which the stars and mythologies are one. This astral obsession can be seen in instruments like the 1029-era bronze astrolabe shown above, used to measure angles in the sky, made for astronomer Muammad Ibn al-Saffar in Toledo. It seems we humans have always been determined to locate ourselves in the universe – by any means necessary.

Jews, Christians and Muslims Through Mar 4