De Villanova, Arnold (or Arnuldus) (d. ca.
Arnold de Villanova was a physician by profession and is reported
to have been a theologian and a skilled alchemist. His
place of birth has never been determined, but Catalonia
(Spain), Milan, and Montpellier (France) have been suggested;
the approximate date was the middle of the thirteenth century.
De Villanova studied medicine for many years at the Sorbonne
in Paris, which in medieval times was the principal European
school training physicians. Thereafter he traveled extensively
in Italy and Spain.
In Spain he heard that a friend was in the hands of the
dreaded Inquisition, and, fearing that he might be arrested, de
Villanova quickly returned to Italy. He lived in Naples for a
long period, enjoying the friendly patronage of the Neapolitan
sovereign and spending his time compiling various scientific
treatises. Later he was appointed physician in ordinary to Pope
Clement V, so presumably the rest of his life was spent in Rome,
or possibly in Avignon.
His interest in alchemy became widely known. Many people
declared that his skill was derived from communication with
the devil, and the physician deserved nothing less than burning
at the stake. He also attracted particular enmity from the clergy
by sneering openly at the monastic regime and declaring boldly
that works of charity are more acceptable to God than the
repetition of paternosters.
Thanks to papal favor, de Villanova remained unscathed by
his enemies. However, soon after his death, about the year
1313, the Inquisition decided that they had dealt too leniently
with him and ordered certain of his writings burned publicly at
De Villanova was acquainted with the preparation of oil of
turpentine and oil of rosemary, while the marcasite frequently
mentioned by him is said to be identical to the element bismuth.
His most important treatises are Thesaurus Thesaurorum,
Rosarium Philosophorum, Speculam Alchemiae and Perfectum Magisterum,
while two others of some importance are his Testamentum
and Scientia Scientiae. A collected edition of his works was
issued in 1520, and several of his writings are included in the
Bibliotheca Chemica Curiosa of Mangetus, published in 1702.