Vol. 12 (2023): The Circulation of Cosmographical Knowledge in Early Modern Europe
Part Two - Case Studies

Renaissance Cosmographical Knowledge and Religious Discourse: A ‘Disenchantment of the World’?

Étienne Bourdon
Université Grenoble Alpes

Published 2023-03-19


  • Cosmography,
  • Disenchantment of the World,
  • Geography,
  • Knowledge,
  • Renaissance

How to Cite

Bourdon, Étienne. (2023). Renaissance Cosmographical Knowledge and Religious Discourse: A ‘Disenchantment of the World’?. Journal of Early Modern Studies, 12. https://doi.org/10.36253/jems-2279-7149-14389


Sociologists, philosophers and historians (Weber, Blumenberg, Gauchet) have identified a so-called ‘disenchantment of the world’ which began to be perceptible during the Renaissance. The article discusses the historical relevance of the concept and that of secularization as applied to the history of early modern cosmographical knowledge. I draw a distinction between geography and cosmography in arguing that the process of ‘disenchantment’ was an uneven and complex process. On the one hand, cartography and geography moved away from biblical and Christian readings of the world. On the other hand, cosmography was seen as enabling a form of knowledge of the Divine describing the entire Creation. At the same time, it will be argued that geography in its mediation of earthly knowledge promoted a resetting and restructuring of a system of re-enchantment. All in all, knowledge, science and rationality contributed to appease a ‘panic-stricken Christianity’ (Crouzet).