In a night in April 1631 pater Athanasius was woken up* by unusual noise and saw a kind of gloaming in front of his cell’s window. Finally he got up, curious to find out what caused the twilight. He found the spacious yard of his collegium filled with armoured men and battle horses, standing in rank and file. Shattered he tumbled back and turned to the next sleeping chambers, only to find his brethren in deep sleep. Blaming his drowsy state of being half asleep he returned and had a second look, but nonetheless – there they stood. He turned away and tryed to find another living soul to share and witness what he saw, but found nobody, and finally the vision vanished.
He was deeply moved, felt anxiety and nervousness. Furcht had grabbed his soul, in the coming days he paced the floors and corridors like a madman. The feeling of impending doom was overwhelming, before his inner eye scenes of destruction materialized, he saw all the details “like in a mirror”. His state of mind did not go unnoticed, confratres asked him what tantalized him so much, finally his superior wanted to know. Athanasius answered, that he felt misfortune and harm coming onwards, not only for the collegium, but for the whole of Franconia and even all Deutschland: “Take care, my father, to bring the treasures of our church to a place of safety. And the house construction your Reverence started will sadly not be finished.” His predictions were met with laughter.
After the battle of Breitenfeld (Ger., Eng.) in September king GUSTAV (Ger., Eng.) advanced to the South of Germany, dividing his army in two columns: One moved over the Thuringian mountains, the other went more to the South and finally followed the valley of the Main river, point of rendezvous for his 30.000 men was Würzburg. The Northern column made short work with the fortress of Königshofen (Ger., Eng.); the protestant Reichsstadt Schweinfurt (Ger., Eng.) took the side of the king on 12th of October; that was the moment when the newly installed Fürstbischof FRANZ (1596-1642) (Ger.) decided to leave and go to the Rheinland. On the 14th king GUSTAV stood in front of the city’s walls, some suburbs outside were looted, and burnt, immediately. The advance happened with unexpected velocity and momentum, as Athanasius puts it: All lost their head, everyone quickly grabbed his stuff – or what he believed to be necessary – and fled.
They panicked. Within 24 hours, while the enemy was closing in, the collegium was disbanded in total confusion. Rumours about the enemy killing religious people, especially members of the societas Jesu (Ger., Eng.) made the round and fired the state of bewilderment. Athanasius KIRCHER (1602-1680) (Ger., Eng.) was swept away in the chaos and had to leave behind all his writings. He fled first to Mainz, later to Speyer. Finally his superiors decided to sent him to Lyon, later Avignon, where he taught as professor for mathematics, ethics (Moralphilosophie), and Hebraic and Syriac language, as he had done in Würzburg.
* Selbstbiographie des P. Athanasius Kircher aus der Gesellschaft Jesu. Aus dem Lateinischen übersetzt durch Dr. Nikolaus Seng, Fulda 1901, S. 28 ff.