Caterina Sforza during her impetuous existence, became interested in science, cosmetics and alchemy. The art of embellishing her face and body fascinated her no less than politics and in this regard she wrote a collection of recipes and experiments. The manuscript has the title:
“GLI EXPERIMENTI DEL LA EX.MA S.RA CATERINA FURLJ”
The recipes, written in Latin, vulgar and ciphered, are over 450 in all and include recipes for medicine, chemistry and cosmetics.
Her lifelong dedication to experiments made her truly competent in this field, as evidenced by the enormous amount of correspondence she had with doctors, scientists, noblewomen and sorcerers, in order to have an exchange of “secrets” for the preparation of make-up, lotions, straighteners, elixirs and ointments. Her most important adviser in this field was Lodovico Albertini, an apothecary from Forlì, who remained fond of it and continued to serve Caterina even when she no longer lived in Forlì.
The most famous recipe contained in the text is undoubtedly the Aqua Celeste which: “It is of so much virtue that old people become young and if they were 85 years old, it will make them become aparent of 35 years, and it will make dead people become alive”
Take carnations, nutmeg, ginger, long pepper, round pepper, juniper grains, cucumber, sage leaves, basil, rosemary, fine marjoram, mint, elderflower, white and red roses, cardamom, cinnamon, odorous cane, white incense, opaque aloe, anise seeds and leaves, mugwort seeds, dried figs, raisins, sweet almonds, pine nuts, bitter almonds. Take as much sugar until it is double of all things said and everything is well pulverized than can be pulverized and the others are pest incorporated together and put them in as much water that is three times and as much of all other things. , the water is distilled 5 times in a glass alembic always taking the good water, after doing this, put all the things in the water in a well closed bowl and weld well and let it stay like that for two days and then put it in the stove with its closed lambicco and to be distilled over low heat and even better in a bain-marie and a very clear and precious water will come out. Continue with the fire until the water changes color and when you see that the water becomes white change the container and put that white water, which is used to make the face and skin smell, to make it clear, clean, colored and removes all marks and stains from the face.
To become beautful
All the chronicles agree in defining Caterina as a woman of extraordinary beauty. Undoubtedly for this reason, a large part of the book consists of recipes to preserve this beauty, which slavishly followed the canons of the time: to “make your face very white and beautiful”, “make your hair grow”, “make your hair blonde gold “, to” make your hands white and beautiful so that they will look like ivory “are just some of the many beauty recipes.
Caterina devoted herself to her “experiments” with constancy throughout her life, making her not only competent but also anticipating future times. It is to her, for example, that we owe the invention of what today we could define as a kind of waxing.
Take barrel powder, lupine flour, 2 ounces of cooked rock alum and boil with a mug of water. As it starts to boil, remove from the heat, filter and let it rest in the jar for eight days. Then wash the place where you want the hair to fall out with water and then wet a sponge in the water obtained and pass it on the point where you want the hair to fall out several times and all the hairs will fall out and never grow back.
The first experiments of anesthesia
Medicine recipes are certainly the most numerous, and those dedicated to sleeping pills, to be smelled or ingested in pills, certainly find a special place, because they are particularly avant-garde.
Take Opium, Giusquiamo juice, poppy juice, mandrake juice, ivy leaf juice, bean juice, hemlock juice and put everything in a copper pot in the sun or on a low heat. Put a sponge in it and leave it in until everything dries. When you want to operate, hold this sponge for an hour under the nose of the patient who will fall asleep. At that point you can remove it and operate; when you want to wake him up, put a little bread soaked in strong vinegar under his nose and he will wake up.
For Body Health
In two moments of the Riario-Sforza dominion in Forlì, the plague struck the city. The first was in April 1486 and the second in the summer of 1499, a few months before the siege of Cesare Borgia.
On both occasions, Caterina immediately ran for cover. In 1486 she called a doctor, a surgeon and two monatti and went personally among the sick, regardless of the possible contagion, using treatments and ointments prepared by herself.
Furthermore in 1499, fearing the weakening of the defenses, she enforced strict rules and measures, which allowed her, even in a sometimes unpopular way, to circumscribe the epidemic. It was in fact common in those times, when the first signs of the disease appeared in the city, the lords moved their residences from the cities to the countryside. Not wanting to leave the city to be able to personally control its defenses, Caterina subverted this habit. She divided the city into compartments, closed the gates in and out and called doctors from nearby cities. Then she set up hospitals outside the city walls in which it was possibile to take care about the sick persons. The measures that Caterina put in place to combat the epidemic included the free distribution of food and medicines, the order to burn clothes and in some cases even the homes of the sick and the arrival in the city of monatti for burials and transport of the sick. The rapid and radical intervention of the countess made it possible to remove the danger of an epidemic in a few weeks, suffering only 176 deaths compared to the thousands that could have been.
Remove the liver from a pig. The pig must be male and alive, and immediately after opening it, take the liver and put it in a glazed pot wrapped with a sheet of dough like that used for cakes. So wrapped put it in the oven to dry and when it is dry pound it and add powder. Whenever you suspect poison or plague, take half a spoonful of good wine or real meat broth every morning.
Catherine’s book is a mirror of the state of scientific knowledge at the end of the fifteenth century: certainly full of legacies of medieval superstitions, it nevertheless presents insights and remedies that form the foundation of modern homeopathy, based on the formula “similia similibu curantur”, “the same cures the same” or fight fire with fire.
The collection includes various categories of preparations, some of them are even curious and nice. Among these recipes we can certainly include those against evil and demons, which show us that despite Catherine appears to us as a modern and enlightened woman, she was still a woman of her times, made of superstition and popular beliefs.
The Hypericum plant, also called the fugue of demons, if kept at home, casts out all demons.
Again: the mugwort, hanging on the corners of the house means that no spell harms that house.
Again: the stone called a magnet removes all discord between husband and wife.
Again: if the man carries the heart of a male crow and the woman the heart of a female crow, husband and wife will be together forever.
Take some amount of tin and lime as much as you want, then chop them on a marble slab with ammonium salt and wash with lemon juice until the juice is clear, then let it dry in the sun. Then take some Greek pitch (solid, yellow and transparent vegetable resin) and put it to melt in an iron box over low heat; when it is melted, put the tin in it and let it simmer until the pitch is consumed. Then melt the tin into rods three or four times and if it still has any imperfections put in a pound of this tin of mercury and melt everything again on a strong fire so that the mercury goes up in smoke.
The copied spells
From the very first page of the code, you enter the world of Caterina, in fact on the first page of the Experiments you can see the following:
This is the simple code used in the preparation of some recipes that Caterina wanted to remain secret. Most of the recipes written through this code relate to the sexual sphere
Take Betonica water with rose water and drink it with mulled wine or milk and you will see what a great experience.
“If I could write everything, I would amaze the world”
Catherine confides this to a priest before dying. And even today, centuries later, without her having written everything, discovering her life, her deeds and her acute and avant-garde mind, the amazement still strikes us and shows us what a great woman she was and what importance had Caterina Sforza for the late medieval-Renaissance period.
Exhibition of botanical tables by Father Cesare Majoli (30 of the 75 manuscript volumes of his complete work, “La Plantarum Collectio” are kept in Forlì in the Ancient Library of the Civic Library.