Furichius, Johannes Nicolaus
Johannes Nicolaus Furichius (1602–1633) was a Franco-German neo-latin Imperial poet laureate, pharmacist, doctor of medicine, Rosicrucian and alchemist from Strasbourg. Born 1602 to French Huguenot parents in Strasbourg, Furichius learned German at school. Although he studied medicine, he is principally known for his poetry and stories, all of which are allegorical and contain considerable symbolism.
He published his first anthology of poems Libelli Carminum Tres in 1622 and this was followed by the Poemata Miscellanea - Lyrica, Epigrammata, Satyrae, Eclogae, Alia in 1624. Neither of these books was alchemical, but described Strasbourg's intellectual life, the activities of his school – the gymnasium, and his life at the University of Strasbourg: from portraits of professors and fellow students, to “valedictions and congratulations over mere formal jesting, satires and confessional polemics to historical and philosophical miniatures and theological exhortations.”
After travelling in Switzerland and Brixen between 1624 and 1626, Furichius enrolled at the medical faculty of the Padovan Universitas Artistarum. And it was here that Furichius became interested in alchemy – both spiritual alchemy and alchemical healing.
Furichius' increasing interest in alchemic and ‘natural philosophy’ – resulted in his first alchemical poem the Golden Chain or Poetical Hermes of the Philosophers' Stone — Aurea Catena siue Hermes poeticus de Lapide Philosophorum (printed in 1627), based on Giovanni Aurelio Augurelli's Chrysopoeia (Venice 1515).
In 1628 he returned to Strasbourg. Having defended his doctoral thesis in medicine and started to practice, he married the daughter of the established goldsmith Josias Barbette (master craftsman in 1605), and had five children. Sadly, three of them died before 1633.
In those years Furichius experimented with pharmaceutic/healing alchemy and - although frowned upon by the local Protestant orthodoxy – he established bonds to the Rosicrucian movement, in particular to the Hamburgian Rosicrucian, Joachim Morsius (1593-1643). Throughout their correspondence and when they met in Strasbourg during the winter of 1631/32, Morsius tried to persuade Furichius to expand the Aurea Catena into a ‘great alchemical scientific poem’. This was published in 1631 as the Four Books of Chryseis — Chryseidos Libri IIII (sic). At the age of 31, Furichius fell victim to the plague, which took a particularly grim toll from the Strasbourgian doctors, on 14 October 1633.
The «Chryseidos Libri IIII» of 1631 - The Chryseidos Libri IIII consists of approximately 1.600 hexametric verses, divided into four books, to which Furichius added his own glossary and wrote an author's commentary, i. e. appendixed Scholia - which were all printed within the 1631-edition. Furichius depicts the alchemical work in sequences of mythological allegories: the Gods as metals:
“Furichius opts for the form of a fantagasmorical [sic] travelogue in verse which he seeks to interlink with most scientific and literary discourses of his time”.
- Book one - provides an introductory alchemical cosmology and narrates how the metals “grow inside the earth and strife for perfection”.
- Book two - then introduces the first-person narrator Chrysanthus who recounts his adventures in a fantastical Libyan desert where he encounters a speaking raven, a dreadful dragon, is plagued by 'divine visions' and finally meets Hermes Trismegistos, who serves as the hermit high priest of Proserpina.
- Books three and four - The sage who is living on a mountain summit by the goddess' temple is in books three and four expounding that all the mysteries represented the alchemical work. Thus further myths are told until finally Chrysanthus is prepared to enter himself the sanctum of Chryseis.
It is unknown whether Furichius was a genuine alchemist, but the sources he used make his works interesting in their own right. He refers to Ludovico Ariosto's (1474-1533) Orlando Furioso, to Byzantine sources, George Ripley (ca. 1450-1490) and Michael Sendivogius (1566–1636). He thus knew his symbolism and for this reason alone is worth exploring.