The importance of the number 7 in medieval times

It will come as no surprise to those of you who have found yourself exploring medieval people’s relationship with the cosmos this week to discover that seven was a significant number in the medieval world. Everything was supposed to be in balance whether it was the elements or the humours – so unsurprisingly in a world that saw seven planets with the world at the centre of the cosmos that there should be corresponding balance elsewhere – from seven sacraments, seven virtues and sins to seven metals. Each one of the metals linked up to it’s own planet and it’s own day of the week. There was also a religious significance thanks to Biblical interpetation -seven days to create the Earth; the four corners of the world link up to the Holy Trinity resulting in completeness – a balance between the spiritual and the world – harmony. Number theory connects the world to the Divine in much of medieval thinking. And from there study of numbers and organising things in numerical pattern draws mankind closer to the Divine.

The theme of numbers can be seen in many medieval works – Dante’s Divine Comedy being the one that sticks from long ago study. And of course patterns such as those created by the Fibonacci sequence are pleasing to the eye. I’m not quite sure how the seventh son of a seventh son fits into the pattern but for today at least here are the seven planets of the medieval cosmos and the seven metals that alchemists worked with.

 Day Planet Metal
 Sunday Sun Gold
 Monday Moon Silver
 Tuesday Mars Iron
 Wednesday Mercury Mercury
 Thursday Jupiter Tin
 Friday Venus Copper
 Saturday Saturn Lead
medieval metals and their planets