Cellini, Benvenuto (1500–1571)
This celebrated Italian artist and craftsman was born in November,
1500, in Florence, Italy. Cellini lived a colorful life and
his account of the working life of a sixteenth century artist in
his Autobiography recounting relations with his family, friends,
enemies, and patrons was celebrated in countless translations
by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and served as the basis for an
opera by Hector Berlioz, Benvenuto Cellini 1837. In his book he
claimed to have had interesting adventures with demons and
practitioners of black magic. The following excerpt from his
Autobiography gives a vivid account of one such experience
‘‘It happened, through a variety of odd accidents, that I
made acquaintance with a Sicilian priest, who was a man of genius,
and well versed in the Latin and Greek authors. Happening
one day to have some conversation with him, when the subject
turned on the subject of necromancy, I, who had a great
Cazotte, Jacques Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
258
desire to know something of the matter, told him, that I had
all my life felt a curiosity to be acquainted with the mysteries
of this art. The priest made answer, ‘That the man must be of
a resolute and steady temper who enters upon that study.’ I replied,
‘That I had fortitude and resolution enough, if I could
but find an opportunity.’ The priest subjoined, ‘If you think you
have the heart to venture, I will give you all the satisfaction you
can desire.’ Thus we agreed to enter upon a plan of necromancy.
The priest one evening prepared to satisfy me, and desired
me to look out for a companion or two. I invited one Vincenzio
Romoli, who was my intimate acquaintance he brought with
him a native of Pistoia, who cultivated the black art himself. We
repaired to the Colloseo, and the priest, according to the custom
of necromancers, began to draw circles upon the ground
with the most impressive ceremonies imaginable he likewise
brought hither assafoetida, several precious perfumes and fire,
with some compositions also which diffused noisome odors. As
soon as he was in readiness, he made an opening to the circle,
and having taken us by the hand, ordered the other necromancer,
his partner, to throw the perfumes into the fire at the proper
time, intrusting the care of the fire and the perfumes to the
rest; and then he began his incantations. This ceremony lasted
above an hour and a half, when there appeared several legions
of devils insomuch that the amphitheatre was quite filled with
them. I was busy about the perfumes, when the priest, perceiving
there was a considerable number of infernal spirits, turned
to me and said, ‘Benvenuto, ask them something.’ I answered,
‘Let them bring me into the company of my Sicilian mistress,
Angelica.’ That night we obtained no answer of any sort; but I
had received great satisfaction in having my curiosity so far indulged.
The necromancer told me, it was requisite we should
go a second time, assuring me, that I should be satisfied in
whatever I asked; but that I must bring with me a pure immaculate
boy.
‘‘I took with me a youth who was in my service, of about
twelve years of age, together with the same Vincenzio Romoli,
who had been my companion the first time and one Agnolino
Gaddi, an intimate acquaintance, whom I likewise prevailed on
to assist at the ceremony. When we came to the place appointed,
the priest having made his preparations as before, with the
same and even more striking ceremonies, placed us within the
circle, which he had likewise drawn with a more wonderful art,
and in a more solemn manner, than at our former meeting.
Thus having committed the care of the perfume and the fire
to my friend Vincenzio, who was assisted by Agnolino Gaddi,
he put into my hand a pintacula or magical chart, and bid me
turn it towards the places that he should direct me; and under
the pintacula I held the boy. The necromancer having begun
to make his tremendous invocations, called by their names a
multitude of demons, who were the leaders of the several legions,
and questioned them by the power of the eternal uncreated
God, who lives for ever, in the Hebrew language, as likewise
in Latin and Greek; insomuch that the amphitheatre was
almost in an instant filled with demons more numerous than
at the former conjuration. Vincenzio Romoli was busied in
making a fire, with the assistance of Agnolino, and burning a
great quantity of precious perfumes. I, by the direction of the
necromancer, again desired to be in the company of my Angelica.
The former thereupon turning to me, said, ‘Know, they
have declared, that in the space of a month you shall be in her
company.’
‘‘He then requested me to stand resolutely by him, because
the legions were now above a thousand more in number than
he had designed; and, besides these were the most dangerous;
so that, after they had answered my question, it behoved him
to be civil to them, and dismiss them quietly. At the same time
the boy under the pintacula was in a terrible fright, saying, that
there were in that place a million of fierce men, who threatened
to destroy us; and that, moreover, four armed giants of an
enormous stature were endeavoring to break into our circle.
During this time, whilst the necromancer, trembling with fear,
endeavored by mild and gentle methods to dismiss them in the
best way he could, Vincenzio Romoli, who quivered like an
aspen leaf, took, care of the perfumes. Though I was as much
terrified as any of them, I did my utmost to conceal the terror
I felt; so that I greatly contributed to inspire the rest with resolution;
but the truth is, I gave myself over for a dead man, seeing
the horrid fright the necromancer was in. The boy placed
his head between his knees, and said, ‘In this posture I will die;
for we shall all surely perish.’ I told him that all these demons
were under us, and what he saw was smoke and shadow; so I bid
him hold up his head and take courage. No sooner did he look
up, but he cried out, ‘The whole amphitheatre is burning, and
the fire is just falling upon us;‘ so covering his eyes with his
hands, he again exclaimed that destruction was inevitable, and
he desired to see no more. The necromancer entreated me to
have a good heart, and take care to burn the proper perfumes;
upon which I turned to Romoli, and bid him burn all the most
precious perfumes he had. At the same time I cast my eye upon
Agnolino Gaddi, who was terrified to such a degree that he
could scarce distinguish objects, and seemed to be half-dead.
Seeing him in this condition, I said, ‘Agnolino, upon these occasions
a man should not yield to fear, but should stir about and
give his assistance; so come directly and put on some more of
these perfumes.’ Poor Agnolino, upon attempting to move, was
so violently terrified that the effects of his fear overpowered all
the perfumes we were burning. The boy, hearing a crepitation,
ventured once more to raise his head, when, seeing me laugh,
he began to take courage, and said, ‘That the devils were flying
away with a vengeance.’
‘‘In this condition we stayed till the bell rang for morning
prayer. The boy again told us, that there remained but few devils,
and these were at a great distance. When the magician had
performed the rest of his ceremonies, he stripped off his gown
and took up a wallet full of books which he had brought with
him. We all went out of the circle together, keeping as close to
each other as we possibly could, especially the boy, who had
placed himself in the middle, holding the necromancer by the
coat, and me by the cloak. As we were going to our houses in
the quarter of Banchi, the boy told us that two of the demons
whom we had seen at the amphitheatre, went on before us leaping
and skipping, sometimes running upon the roofs of the
houses, and sometimes upon the ground. The priest declared,
that though he had often entered magic circles, nothing so extraordinary
had ever happened to him. As we went along, he
would fain persuade me to assist with him at consecrating a
book, from which, he said, we should derive immense riches
we should then ask the demons to discover to us the various
treasures with which the earth abounds, which would raise us
to opulence and power; but that those love-affairs were mere
follies, from whence no good could be expected. I answered,
‘That I would readily have accepted his proposal if I understood
Latin’ he redoubled his persuasions, assuring me, that
the knowledge of the Latin language was by no means material.
He added, that he could have Latin scholars enough, if he had
thought it worth while to look out for them; but that he could
never have met with a partner of resolution and intrepidity
equal to mine, and that I should by all means follow his advice.
Whilst we were engaged in this conversation, we arrived at our
respective homes, and all that night dreamt of nothing but devils.’’

Cellini died in February, 1571, in Florence.
Sources
Cellini, Benvenuto. Autobiography. New York Dodd, Mead,
1961.
Pope-Hennessy, John Wyndham. Cellini. New York Abbeville
Press, 1985.
Symonds, J. A. The Life of Benvenuto Cellini. 2 vols. London,
1888

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