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Rome Reports

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Athanasius Kircher, the Jesuit who invented 'early cinema'

It may seem incredible, but going to the movies in the XVII century looked like this. Through this black box, one by one, the viewers could stare at optical effects. It wasn't a comfortable experience, not even for its owners.

DELIA ROSE MARTINO

Director 'Filmoteca Lucana'

""It was very uncomfortable for the owner to transport such a complicated instrument. Sometimes it was necessary to have animals or a wagon to transport it."

It was during that time that a German Jesuit called Athanasius Kircher was developing a new invention in Rome. His machine would allow missionaries to show their message in a very unique way. It was called the Magic Lantern.

The object was able to project and expand drawings and paintings as if they were slides. It also had a very important advantage: it was easy to carry.

DELIA ROSE MARTINO

Director 'Filmoteca Lucana'

"Actually, the Magic Lantern allowed an outdoor screening of the film. That way many people, hundreds, could attend the show, participating in the joy and the wonder, and creating the base of a choral performance, a cinematographic show.�

The Magic Lantern wasn't used only to evangelize. It was also an important tool for teaching and entertaining.

DELIA ROSE MARTINO

Director 'Filmoteca Lucana'

"It's important to see how culture became more accessible to everyone because the visual language is easier to understand. This was a very important cultural moment of our past, one I think we should remember.�

Alongside Athanasius Kirchner, many scholars were developing similar inventions. However, the Magic Lantern is attributed to the Jesuit because he describes perfectly each of its parts in his book 'Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae.'

Delia and his husband Gaetano, share the same passion for the beginnings of cinema. They organized this exhibit at the Museo Nazionale Etrusco in Rome. The reason? A strong belief that in spreading the life and work of researchers like Kircher, they can untangle the mystery that the dream factory we now call cinema. An art of ties its origins to the apostolic mission of the Jesuits.

JRB/IZA

AA

JM

-PR

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