The 1561 celestial phenomenon over Nuremberg was a mass sighting of celestial phenomena or unidentified flying objects (UFO) above Nuremberg, Germany. The phenomenon has been interpreted by some modern UFO enthusiasts as an aerial battle of extraterrestrial origin. This view is mostly dismissed by skeptics, some referencing Carl Jung's mid-twentieth century writings about the subject while others find the phenomenon is likely to be a sun dog.
A broadsheet news article printed in April 1561 describes a mass sighting of UFOs. The broadsheet, illustrated with a woodcut engraving and text by Hans Glaser, measures 26.2 centimetres (10.3 in) by 38.0 centimetres (15.0 in). The document is archived in the prints and drawings collection at the Zentralbibliothek Zürich in Zürich, Switzerland.
According to the broadsheet, around dawn on April 14, 1561, residents of Nuremberg saw what they described as an aerial battle, followed by the appearance of a large black triangular object and then a large crash outside of the city. The broadsheet claims that witnesses observed hundreds of spheres, cylinders and other odd-shaped objects that moved erratically overhead.
The broadsheet describes objects of various shapes including crosses, globes, two lunar crescents, a black spear and tubular objects from which several smaller, round objects emerged and darted around the sky at dawn.
The text of the broadsheet can be translated as giving the following description of the event:
According to author Jason Colavito, the woodcut broadsheet became known in modern culture after being published in Carl Jung's 1958 book Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies, a book which analyzed the archetypal meaning of UFOs. More recently, the event has been classified as a UFO sighting by many, and even named the "UFO Battle over Nuremberg" by a few enthusiasts.
Jung expressed a view that the spectacle was likely a natural phenomenon with religious and military interpretations overlaying it. "If the Ufos were living organisms, one would think of a swarm of insects rising with the sun, not to fight one another but to mate and celebrate the marriage flight." A military interpretation would view the tubes as cannons and the spheres as cannonballs, emphasize the black spearhead at the bottom of the scene, and Glaser's own testimony that the globes fought vehemently until exhausted. A religious view would emphasize the crosses. Jung thinks the images of four globes coupled by lines suggested crossed marriage quaternities and forms the model for "the primitive cross cousin marriage". It could also be an individuation symbol. The association of sunrise suggests "the revelation of the light".
Otto Billig made an effort to provide a historical context for the apparition in his comments. He notes Nuremberg was one of the most prestigious cities of the late Middle Ages, a "Free and Imperial City" known for its wealth and nobility. It tried to maintain a neutrality during the furious warring between Catholics and Protestants during the Reformation, but when one Protestant prince was rebuffed when he insisted on financial tributes to fund his battles, the city was besieged and its trade cut off. Though ultimately successful in defending itself, the rebuilding of fortifications in Nuremberg necessitated a new round of taxation and the city suffered hard times in its aftermath. On Good Friday, 1554 another siege happened and one broadsheet publisher described mock suns that prognosticated God's will wanted confession of sinful ways – i.e. the victims brought it on themselves. Another sky apparition followed in July of knights fighting each other with fiery swords, thus warning a coming Day of Judgment. Very similar apparitions of knights fighting in the skies were frequently reported during the Thirty Years' War. Many similar broadsheets of wondrous signs exist in German and Swiss archives and Nuremberg seems the focus of a number of them, presumably because of the hardships and conflicts of the ex-prosperous. Such conditions typically accentuate apocalyptic thought.
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