Showing posts with label Arcetri. Galileo Galilei. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Arcetri. Galileo Galilei. Show all posts

22 June 2017

Galileo Galilei convicted of heresy

'Father of Science' forced to deny that earth revolved around sun


This 1857 painting by Cristiano Benti depicts  Galileo's appearance before the Inquisition
This 1857 painting by Cristiano Benti depicts
Galileo's appearance before the Inquisition
One of the more bizarre episodes in the history of human intellectual advancement took place in Rome on this day in 1633 when Galileo Galilei, the brilliant astronomer, mathematician, philosopher and engineer – often described as ‘the father of science’ - was convicted of heresy.

His crime was to support the view – indeed, to confirm it with scientific proof – that the sun rather than the earth was the centre of the solar system, as had been theorised by the Polish scientist Nicolaus Copernicus in the previous century.

This flew completely in the face of a major plank of orthodox Roman Catholic beliefs, within which the contention that the sun moved around the earth was regarded a fact of scripture that could not be disputed.

Galileo, something of a celebrity in his day who won the patronage of such powerful Italian families as the Medicis and the Barberinis following the discoveries he made with his astronomical telescope, had been essentially under surveillance by the Church since 1609 after publishing details of observations he had made that supported Copernicus’s theory of heliocentrism.

In 1616 the Copernican view was formally declared heretical and the biblical interpretation of creation was reaffirmed, part of which said that “God fixed the Earth upon its foundation, not to be moved forever.”

Pope Urban VIII - Matteo Barberini -  was sympathetic to Galileo
Pope Urban VIII - Matteo Barberini -
was sympathetic to Galileo
Galileo feared arrest but was given permission by Pope Urban VIII, a member of the Barberini faily, to continue his studies into Copernican theory provided his findings drew no definitive conclusions and acknowledged divine omnipotence.

However, when in 1632 Galileo published his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems – namely that proposed by Copernicus and the traditional view put forward by the second century astronomer Ptolemy – he came down heavily in favour of Copernicus.  He was considered by the Church to have gone a step too far and Urban VIII, fearing for his future in a fiercely political climate, felt compelled to act.

Galileo was summoned to Rome for trial by Inquisition in 1633 and despite the strength of his evidence he was found guilty of heresy and forced to recant his own findings as “abjured, cursed and detested”. He did so with great reluctance but little choice, given that the alternative was to be burned at the stake.

As it was he was sentenced to be imprisoned indefinitely, his Dialogue was banned and the future publication of any of his research was forbidden.  He is said to have muttered the words “E pur, si muove” – “And yet, it moves” – after declaring the earth to be a fixed object, which had it been overheard might have enraged the court still further.

Yet he was again shown some clemency, the sentence of imprisonment being commuted to house arrest the following day, after which he was allowed to live out the remainder of his days at his villa at Arcetri, near Florence.  

He went blind in 1638 and died in 1642 but was able, nonetheless, to reconstruct and summarise the discoveries he had made earlier in his life in Two New Sciences, which was smuggled out of Italy and published in Holland.

The 1630 portrait of Galileo by Peter Paul Rubens resides in a private collection
The 1630 portrait of Galileo by Peter Paul
Rubens resides in a private collection
Of course, Copernicus and Galileo were subsequently proved beyond any doubt to be have been right.  Amazingly, it took the Catholic Church more than 350 years to formally acknowledge their error.

In 1757, Galileo’s Dialogue was removed from the Vatican’s list of banned publications and in 1984 a panel of scientists, theologians and historians, assembled in 1979 to look into the 1633 accusations, published a preliminary report which accepted that Galileo had been wrongfully condemned.

However, it was not until 1992 that the investigation was closed and Galileo was officially vindicated in a statement issued by Cardinal Paul Poupard, head of the investigation, which said: “We today know that Galileo was right in adopting the Copernican astronomical theory.”

Galileo's house in Arcetri, the Villa Gioella
Galileo's house in Arcetri, the
Villa Gioella
Travel tip:

The house to which Galileo returned after his sentence was commuted to house arrest is called Villa Gioella, which he rented. It is situated just three or four kilometres – a couple of miles – from the centre of Florence in the Arcetri hills.  In Galileo’s time it was a farmhouse, surrounded by many acres of land. He lived there with his daughter Celeste, who was a nun in an adjoining monastery.

Travel tip:

The Palace of the Holy Office, the building in Rome to which Galileo would have been summoned for trial in 1633, is what is known as an extraterritorial property of Vatican City, in that it lies outside the confines of the Vatican itself. The palace, originally built in 1514 for Cardinal Lorenzo Pucci and called Palazzo Pucci, is situated south of St. Peter's Basilica near the Petriano Entrance to Vatican City. In 1566–67, the palace was purchased by Pope Pius V and it was converted into the seat of the Holy Office.




6 March 2017

Francesco Guicciardini - writer and diplomat

Friend of Machiavelli among first to record history in context


A portrait by an unknown artist of Francesco Guicciardini
A portrait by an unknown artist
of Francesco Guicciardini
The historian and statesman Francesco Guicciardini, best known for writing Storia d'Italia, a book that came to be regarded as a classic history of Italy, was born on this day in 1483 in Florence.

Along with his contemporary Niccolò Machiavelli, Guicciardini is considered one of the major political writers of the Italian Renaissance.

Guicciardini was an adviser and confidant to three popes, the governor of several central Italian states, ambassador, administrator and military captain.  He had a long association with the Medici family, rulers of Florence.

Storia d'Italia - originally titled 'La Historia di Italia' - was notable for Guicciardini's skilful analysis of interrelating political movements in different states and his ability to set in context and with objectivity events in which sometimes he was a direct participant.

Born into a prominent Florentine family who were influential in politics and long-standing supporters of the Medici, Giucciardini was educated in the classics before being sent to study law at a number of universities, including Padua, Ferrara and Pisa.

The title page from Guicciardini's work in an early printed version
The title page from Guicciardini's
work in an early printed version
He was interested in pursuing a career in the priesthood but his father, Piero, considered the church to have become decadent, with too many of the clergy drawn to it because of the potential for wealth and power.

Consequently, after graduating in civil law, Guicciardini set up a successful legal practice, finding clients within the leading Florentine families and merchant organisations.

He earned his first political appointment, in the highly prestigious role of Florence's ambassador to Spain, at the age of just 28.

After the restoration of the Medici to power in Florence in 1512, following a period in exile, Cardinal Giovanni de' Medici was elevated to the papacy as Leo X.  Guicciardini returned to Florence and was appointed by Leo X as governor of Modena.

This began a period of service to the popes that lasted until 1534.

For a time he was a military strategist, although his reputation was damaged with the Sack of Rome by troops of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, in 1527, when the papal forces of Pope Clement VII, ultimately under the command of Guicciardini, were unable to resist.

Soon afterwards, Guicciardini returned to Florence only to find that the Medici had been expelled and a new republic established. Because of his close ties to the Medici, Guicciardini was declared a rebel and had his property confiscated. He left Florence in 1529.

The statue of Guicciardini at the Uffizi Gallery
The statue of Guicciardini
at the Uffizi Gallery
The republic collapsed a year later and, under the command of Clement VII, Guicciardini was given the task of punishing the Florentine citizens for their resistance to the Medici.

His next assignment was the governorship of Bologna, the most important city in the northern Papal States. He resigned after the death of Clement VII in 1534 and returned to Florence, where he was hired to advise the new duke, Alessandro de' Medici.

Alessandro was assassinated in 1537, after which Guicciardini aligned himself with Cosimo I de' Medici, then only 17 and new to the political system. It was not long, however, before he retired to his villa in Arcetri, just outside Florence, where he spent his last years working on Storia d'Italia.  He died there in 1540.

Guicciardini had been friends with Machiavelli. Guicciardini was from a higher social background, but the two are said to have established a rapport because of mutual regard for each other's intellect.  They did not always agree but their discussion of political ideas influenced each other's work.

The Villa Rava in Arcetri, where Guicciardini retired
The Villa Ravà in Arcetri, where Guicciardini retired
Travel tip:

Arcetri, located in the hills south of the centre of Florence beyond the Arno river, was a village in the time of Guicciardini.  It is famous also as the place in which the astronomer and physicist Galileo Galilei was kept under house arrest by the Roman Inquisition and as the home of the Arcetri Observatory. Guicciardini is said to have lived in a house called Villa Ravà while he was writing his Storia d'Italia.



Palazzo Guicciardini is now an hotel
Palazzo Guicciardini is now an hotel
Travel tip:

The 15th-century Palazzo Guicciardini, the family's home in Via Santo Spirito in Florence, situated just across the street from a house once owned by Niccolò Machiavelli and a short walk from the Uffizi Gallery and the Ponte Vecchio, is now a beautifully appointed hotel, comprising just eight rooms, many of which feature frescoed walls and ceilings by the Mannerist painter Bernardo Poccetti, whose work can be found in several churches and palaces in the city, including the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella. There is a statue of Guicciardini in the Uffizi.

Hotels in Florence by Booking.com

More reading:

How the name of Machiavelli became associated with political cunning

The founding of the Medici dynasty

Leo X - the Medici Pope who supported the arts

Also on this day:

1853: The opera La Traviata is performed in public for the first time

(Picture credits: Villa Rava and Palazzo Guicciardini by Sailko via Wikimedia Commons)


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