Artes Mechanicae

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A high medieval construction site from the Maciejowski Bible.

The Artes Mechanicae (mechanical arts) are a medieval concept juxtaposed to the seven Artes liberales. Already Johannes Scotus Eriugena (9th century) divides them somewhat arbitrarily into seven parts,

vestiaria (tailoring, weaving), agricultura (agriculture), architectura (architecture, masonry), militia and venatoria (warfare and hunting, "martial arts"), mercatura (trade, commerce), coquinaria (cooking), metallaria (blacksmithing, metallurgy)

Hugh of St Victor includes navigation, medicine and theatrical arts instead of commerce, agriculture and cooking.

The classification of the Artes Mechanicae as applied geometry was introduced to Western Europe by Dominicus Gundissalinus under the influence of his readings in Arabic scholarship.

References and notes

Hugues de Saint-Victor, Libri septem eruditiones didascaliae, ch.26 (PL 176, col.760): lanificium, armaturum, navigationem, agriculturem, venationem, medicinam, theatricam

Walton, S.A., An Introduction to the Mechanical Arts in the Middle Ages, AVISTA, University of Toronto, 2003 [1]

See also