Previously on the Smackdown...
- We have seen that there were sound empirical reasons for accepting the consensus science of a stationary earth, in particular the lack of stellar parallax and of Coriolis effects.
- In particular, the Church Fathers had interpreted Scripture in the light of this settled science, since like everyone else they assumed the scientists had gotten it right. This consensus has stood for 1400 years.
- In the early 1600s, a series of telescopic discoveries had shaken Aristotelian cosmology and one (the phases of Venus) had broken Ptolemaic astronomy beyond repair. These discoveries were being made nearly simultaneously by mathematicians all over Europe: Harriot, Fabricius pere et fils, de Peiresc, Marius, Galileo, Scheiner, Lembo, and others.
- Since the earth was "clearly" stationary, most astronomers shifted to the Tychonic or Ursine models. A few -- mostly humanists rather than scientists -- rallied around the Copernican model. Kepler's elliptical model for some reason flew below the radar.
- One discovery -- the sunspots -- resulted in a flamewar of epic proportions between Fr. Christoph Scheiner, a mathematician in Ingolstadt, and Galileo Galilei, a mathematician-courtier of the Florentine Grand Duke.
the slanders, frauds, stratagems, and trickeries that were used eighteen years ago in Rome in
order to deceive the authorities!"
Flashback: 2 Nov. 1612.Old Niccolò Lorini (67) denounces Galileo's views at a private meeting. Word gets out and his Dominican superiors force him to apologize to Galileo. He says he never mentioned such things in his All Souls sermon, but "it was only later, in a discussion, and in order not to stand there like a log, that I said a couple of words to the effect that Ipernicus, or whatever his name is, was against Holy Scripture." Ipernicus? Whatever. Lorini is not exactly up to speed on these things. But preachers are not supposed to use the H-word unless the matter has been settled in Rome. It's just a 'boo'-word, like calling someone "un-American" in the 1940s or 50s, and should not be used when an actual heresy has not been defined. Galileo accepts Lorini's apology and laughs the matter off.
Lorini is a humanist scholar of some repute, and is well-thought of by the Grand Duchess Christina of Lorraine (47) and the Archduchess Mary Madeleine (23), the mother and wife, resp., of Galileo's boss. So what Lorini says sorta kinda matters.
The Stage Setting
|Benny Castelli, Galileo's fair-haired boy.|
(*) Galileo's defended Ptolemy's geocentric model in his Padua lectures, falsifying the earth's motion using the traditional arguments. (E.g., if the earth moved, the clouds would be left behind.) (See here, footnotes 16 and 18)
|Old Lady Medici|
Don't mess with Italian Mamas.
Madama Christina's porter fetches Castelli back as he is leaving and he finds some of the guests are still there, including Professor Boscaglia, Paolo Giordano Orsini, a cousin of the Grand Duke (who will soon be named cardinal), and Antonio de Medici, an adopted son of the Duke’s grandfather (which makes him a step-uncle, TOF supposes.) Boscaglia had been telling the Grand Duchess that the motion of the Earth could not take place mainly because (Cue ominous music) it goes against Holy Scripture.* Castelli writes to Galileo afterward:
"The Grand Duchess began to argue Holy Scripture against me. Thereupon, having made suitable disclaimers, I began to play the theologian with such assurance and dignity that it would have done you good to hear me. Don Antonio assisted me, giving me such heart that instead of being dismayed by the majesty of Their Highnesses I carried things off like a paladin. I quite won over the Grand Duke and his Archduchess, while Don Paolo came to my assistance with a very apt quotation from Scripture. Only Madama Christina remained against me, but from her manner I judged that she did this only to hear my replies. Professor Boscaglia never said a word."Galileo, typically, decides Castelli has not answered as well as Galileo would have in his place, so he writes to Castelli and explains how Scripture could be reinterpreted in the light of Copernicanism. Big mistake.
(Letter: Castelli to Galileo, 14 December 1613)
Not that Galileo is wrong about Scripture, BTW. He's just repeating stuff that churchmen from Augustine of Hippo to his friend Cardinal Conti and others have said. The problem is, it's the middle of the Protestant Revolution and the Church is like super-touchy about amateurs interpreting Scripture.Castelli thinks Galileo's letter is so rad kool that he makes copies and passes them around. Second big mistake. At least one ends up in the wrong hands; viz., those of the aforesaid Dominican Fr. Niccolò Lorini. Remember: Galileo had been feted by the Jesuits, and the Jesuits and Dominicans are playing for the Stanley Cup of Intellectual Chops, so the "Hounds of God"* might take a swipe at Galileo just for the sake of intramural rivalry.
14 Dec. 1613. The Jesuit turtle pulls in its head. Intent on keeping the Order out of controversy, Fr. Claudio Acquaviva, general-poobah of the Jesuits, circulates an instruction to adhere to strict Aristotelianism in their lectures, re-iterating an earlier instruction (24 May 1611) to ensure uniformity in the curriculum (Ratio Studiorum). They are not to include "novelties" or personal hobby horses in their lectures without clearing it through the curriculum committee, i.e., their superiors. Otherwise, they might get reassigned out of teaching. For a comparable mind-set, imagine someone getting fired as editor of a scientific journal by, oh say, the Smithsonian Institution, because he published non-Darwinian papers in the journal.
|Simon Mayr: libeled by Galileo|
But Simon claims to have observed the Jovian moons several days before the Tuscan. Galileo's head explodes. He has proprietary feelings about everything in the sky*, and starts flaming Marius and accusing him of plagiarism. Since Galileo is famous and has powerful friends, he manages to trash the poor German's reputation for the next 200 years. Not until the end of the 19th century, will Marius' data be examined objectively, and found to be independently derived. But the Protestant North was still using the Julian calendar while Galileo and the Catholic South were using the cool new Gregorian calendar. At first glace, the notebook dates give Marius the priority of discovery, as he claimed. But when corrections are made for the difference in calendars, we find that Simon saw the moons of Jupiter one freaking day later than Galileo.
|The Roman College is now a high school.|
From these roofs, Galileo's discoveries
June 1614. Fr. Christoph Grienberger (53), who has succeeded Clavius as head of the Roman College, tells Giovanni Bardi (who then writes to Galileo) that as a result of Fr. Acquaviva's directive, he [Grienberger] must adhere to strict Aristotelianism, even though he would gladly have spoken up for Galileo. The Jesuits had been teaching Copernicanism from an instrumentalist viewpoint: that is, as a way of calculating reasonably correct predictions, with no presumption that the gimmicks in the model are physically real.
Remember: If the Copernican (or Keplerian) model is physically real, it will require an entirely new physics to accommodate it. No one has such a physics handy, and everyone is anxious for Newton to be born so they can get on with it.
Merry Christmas, Galileo21 Dec 1614. The Dominican preacher, Tommaso Caccini preaches a sermon from the pulpit of S. Maria Novella, in Florence, on the text, "Men of Galilee, why do ye stand here looking into the sky?" (Acts 1:11). Viri Galilei ("men of Galilee") can also translate as "Men of [Galileo] Galilei." Some people just cannot pass up a pun. Caccini, a member of the Pigeon League, tells his audience that mathematicians, being spreaders of heretical ideas, should be banished from the Italian states.
Sounds weird. But keep in mind that in the Renaissance the words astrologus, astronomus and mathematicus are synonymous. Unlike the 14th century, the Renaissance is more into mystical woo-woo, and everyone supposes there must be something to it. Galileo, Kepler, and all the rest cast horoscopes, and not just because they needed the money. But astrology does remain officially heretical, so "mathematicians" really are suspect of heresy. There is no doubt that Galileo is in Caccini's cross-hairs. "The name of 'provocateur' had not been invented yet, says de Santillana, but the dodge is as old as the world." (De Santillana, Giorgio. p.44)
Thus begins what Galileo will in later years describe as the slanders, frauds, stratagems, and trickeries that were used ... to deceive the authorities. Let the mud-wrassle begin.
What shocks the Florentine public now is that this mere friar has attacked a popular member of the ruling class, a personal friend of the Grand Duke, and a renowned scholar whose discoveries have been applauded by the Pope and the cardinals. Either Caccini has just made a dangerous faux pas -- an attack on Galileo is by implication an attack of Cosimo deMedici -- or he has powerful backers lurking in the shadows. Had the Internet been invented then, the boards and blogs would have exploded with speculations and conspiracy theories. (De Santillana, Giorgio. p.44-45)
Winter 1614/1615. Fr. Luigi Maraffi, Preacher-General of the Dominicans, who is friendly with Galileo, writes a letter of apology over Caccini. "Unfortunately, I have to answer for all the idiocies that thirty or forty thousand brothers may and do actually commit." Galileo describes Caccini as a person "of very great ignorance, no less a mind full of venom and devoid of charity." Caccini's own brother shares this appraisal, calling his sibling "a dreadful fool" whose "ugly drives" and "performance...makes no sense in heaven or earth."
But Prince Federico Cesi (29), Galileo's friend and leader of the Lyncean Academy, who is savvy in all ways Renaissance and Italian, advises Galileo to button his lip. So does Cardinal Piero Dini (44), another friend. "It is very easy to proscribe a book or suspend it," Cesi writes, and "this is done even in case of doubt." So if Galileo makes a big stink over this, he might provoke Bellarmino into suspending Copernicus' book just to make everything go away. This may actually be the Pigeon League's objective! Galileo agrees to play possum.
The Pigeon League grumbles. Time for...
Plan BLate 1614. Lorini -- remember him? -- meets Caccini in Pisa and tells him like, what were you thinking, dude? Hearing of this, Benedetto Castelli thinks Lorini's seen the light, but it is likely more a tactical critique. Don't piss off the Grand Duke by slandering his fair-haired boy, you moron. If you charge someone with heresy, you have to have evidence of actual heresy -- and only the Holy Office can make a ruling on something like that, not Friar No-Name from Podunk. Caccini ponders this.
While Lorini is in Pisa, someone slips him a copy of Galileo's Letter to Castelli. Lorini is horrified to read Galileo pontificating on Scriptural exegesis, and makes a copy of the letter for himself. In the process, Lorini changes:
- "...which, taken in the strict literal meaning, look as if they differ from the truth" → "...which are false in the literal meaning" and
- "Scripture does not refrain from overshadowing its most essential dogmas..." → "...perverting its most essential dogmas"
7 Feb. 1615. Returning to Florence, Lorini sends the letter to Cardinal Paolo Sfondrati (54), prefect of the Congregation of the Index, with a cover letter denouncing "the Galileists" for "taking upon themselves to expound the Holy Scriptures according to their private lights." Notice that the charge is scriptural interpretation, not heliocentrism. The Copernican theory is simply the Galileists' occasion for ad libbing on Scripture, much as States' Rights will be the occasion for defending slavery and wind up being attacked simply because it is "annexed" to something else.
Early 1615. Meanwhile down in Rome... Paolo Antonio Foscarini, a Carmelite professor of theology at the university of Messina, comes to Rome on what we may as well call a book tour for his Letter on the opinion of the Pythagoreans and of Copernicus. He sends a copy to Bellarmino and offers to take on all comers in debate, arguing that Scripture is expressed in the language of common people, not in the language of astronomy. Prince Cesi thinks the timing great. Galileo asks Giovanni Ciampoli (26), a long-time friend from the Medici court now working his way up the Curia, what's shaking.
Johnny Ciampoli, Galileo's BFF
on the make in the Curia
The Index. Prince Cesi did not worry about Copernicanism being condemned, but was concerned that the book might be placed on the Index. The Index was a tool for controlling the spread of heresy, which had been facilitated by the16 Feb. 1615. Galileo sniffs the wind and asks Castelli to return the original letter and, when he has received it, makes a new copy, perhaps with his own alterations. He asks his friend Cardinal Dini to show it to Fr. Grienberger and (if possible) Cardinal Bellarmino. He tells Dini that the Castelli letter had been written in haste and that he is busy revising it. (The revision will become the Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina.)
Internetprinting press. Books with ambiguous passages that could be interpreted in a heretical manner were often suspended until corrections and clarifications could be made. One of Bellarmino's own books had been placed on the Index by Sixtus V.
ca. 25 Feb. 1615. Dini meets with Bellarmino and the next day with Grienberger. The meetings likely took place ca. 25 Feb. Dini writes back to Galileo on 7 Mar.
“As to Copernicus, [Cardinal Bellarmino] said that he could not believe his [Copernicus'] work would be forbidden, and that the worst possibility, in his opinion, would be the insertion of a note stating that the theory was introduced to save the celestial appearances, or some similar expression, in the same way as epicycles had been introduced without thereafter believing in their existence. With this reservation, he continued, you would be at liberty to speak freely on these matters whenever you liked… [Regarding Scriptural passages] I [Dini] answered that the Holy Scriptures might be considered in this place as simply employing our usual form of speech, but the Cardinal said that in dealing with such a question we must not be too hasty, just as it would not be right to rush into condemnation of anyone for holding the [Copernican] views which I had put before him … He told me that he intended to invite Father Grienberger to his house that he might discuss the question with him, and this very morning I have been to visit the Father, to see if there were any further news. I found that there was nothing fresh except that Father Grienberger would have been better pleased if you had first given your proofs before beginning to speak about the Holy Scriptures…” Letter: Dini to Galileo, 7 Mar. 1615Let’s not be hasty, Bellarmino has told Dini, either to embrace or condemn the theory. But while Bellarmino has no problem with interpreting Scripture should Copernicanism be demonstrated with certainty, he does have a problem so long as it remains merely a supposition. Exegesis certainly evolves as new knowledge is grasped, but it has to be knowledge and not just hypothesis.
25 Feb. 1615. Since the letter Lorini has given them is not in print, the Index decides it has no jurisdiction and passes it on Cardinal Giovanni Millini (52), Secretary of the Holy Office. The Office meets in Bellarmino's residence: six other cardinals, the commissary, the assessor, and the notary. But all they have is Lorini's cover letter -- which is not a judicial deposition, and hence has no legal standing -- and the copy of the Letter to Castelli. An Inquisitor has examined it and found "such words as 'false' and 'perverting' sound very bad," but since the letter is otherwise orthodox, they might be construed innocently in context. (Galileo's version of the text is already in Dini's hands at this point, but the Office cannot take official notice of it. Whether Dini met with Bellarmino shortly before or after the Official meeting is unclear)
Knowing that Lorini is ill-disposed to Galileo, the Office decides to have Allesandro Marzi de'Medici (57), archbishop of Florence, tactfully* obtain and submit the signed original. Millini also writes to Francesco Bonciani, newly-ordained archbishop of Pisa (where Castelli lives) to expedite matters.
on mere accusation. False accusations are themselves punishable by the Inquisition.
12 Mar. 1615. Archbishop Bonciani tells Castelli to give up these impossible opinions about the earth being in motion. Castelli blandly asks for rational reasons why he should do so, but the archbishop's answer seems senseless to him. Then the archbishop says that it was "soon to be made known"* to everyone, "including His Serene Highness" (Cosimo II) that these ideas are silly, and by the way do you have a copy of that letter Galileo wrote you, I'd really like to see it. Castelli says he does not (he had returned it to Galileo last month) and the archbishop tells him to ask for another copy. Castelli says sure thing and tells Galileo everything that went down. (Letter: Castelli to Galileo, 12 Mar 1615)
the Holy Office asks to see the letter; but maybe Bonciani is a Pigeon!
|Cardinal Matt (30) in 1598|
- Christie, Thony (2009) Astronomy and Astrology.
- Christie, Thony (2013) Refusing to look
- De Santillana, Giorgio. The Crime of Galileo. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1955.
- The Galilean Library. Non-Intellectual Contexts.
- The Galileo Project. Chronology.
- Linder, Douglas. The Trial of Galileo.
- Rowland, Wade. Galileo's Mistake. New York: Arcade Publishing, 2003.
- Sant, Joseph (2012). Jesuits and the Early Telescope: Scheiner and Grienberger.
- Shea, William R. & Mariano Artigas. Galileo in Rome. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.
- Shea, William R. & Mariano Artigas. The Galileo Affair. A short summary of #9, with slides.