According to the memoir of Athanasius Kircher, even the circumstances of his birth were auspicious. And in a sense they were, if you choose, as he did, to leave out the witch hunt.
Kircher’s mother was “the daughter of an upright citizen,” his father a learned man with “expertise in expounding complicated matters.” They lived in a hilltop town called Geisa, part of the old principality of Fulda, in a valley of the gentle and green Rhön Mountains. (Fulda was also the name of the small city at the center of the principality; the trip there from Geisa took about three hours on foot.) For a long time before Kircher was born in 1602, his parents were caught up in the conflict that had disrupted northern Europe since 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. Catholics and the new Lutherans felt the special kind of hatred for each other that comes from a split within the same religion, as did the Catholics and the Calvinists, the followers of John Calvin.