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Galileo's House Arrest

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House Arrest

Though ill, old and partially blind, he went, having been offered a horse-drawn “litter” by the Duke of Tuscany, though Venice had offered sanctuary. In Rome, he was housed comfortably and on 13 April at the first hearing, he pleaded ignorance of the unsigned document and promised to produce that signed by Bellarmine in 1616. He almost won the day. There followed considerable activity behind the scenes — the Cardinals probably detested the Scheiners — and Francesco Barberini, the Pope’s brother, who remained a loyal and admiring friend to Galileo throughout, was very active. He appeared once more and was then kept in suspense for months. The Pope eventually decided on life imprisonment. Of the 10 cardinals, three had refused to sign the verdict, Francesco had demanded a pardon and when it was refused he persuaded his brother to make life “imprisonment” that of house arrest in the home of a sympathetic bishop. To pay for this, Galileo was made to kneel and admit to being vain and ambitious and to renounce the Copernican doctrine as being wrong.

“I Galileo Galilei, being in my seventieth year having before my eyes the Holy Gospel, which I touch with my hands, abjure [renounce], curse and detest the error and heresy of the movement of the Earth.”

According to popular legend, after recanting his theory that the Earth moved around the Sun, Galileo allegedly muttered the rebellious phrase "And yet it moves". A 1640s painting by the Spanish painter Bartolomé Esteban Murillo or an artist of his school, in which the words were hidden until restoration work in 1911, depicts an imprisoned Galileo apparently gazing at the words "E pur si muove" written on the wall of his dungeon. The earliest known written account of the legend dates to a century after his death, but Stillman Drake writes "there is no doubt now that the famous words were already attributed to Galileo before his death". After a period with the friendly Ascanio Piccolomini (the Archbishop of Siena), Galileo was allowed to return to his villa at Arcetri near Florence in 1634, where he spent part of his life under house arrest. At Il Gioiello, Galileo watched the candle burn out of his last days. Galileo was ordered to read the Seven Penitential Psalms once a week for the next three years. However, his daughter Virginia, now Sister Maria Celeste relieved him of the burden after securing ecclesiastical permission to take it upon herself, she was a great comfort to her father. The untimely death of his favourite daughter in 1634, a blow from which Galileo never really recovered came the year after his prosecution in Rome. The same year, suffering from a painful hernia, he applied to the Inquisition to be allowed to move to Florence to be closer to his doctors. The church officials refused his petition and warned him that any further requests would land him in prison. Alone, depressed, and in constant ill health, he worked to complete his masterpiece, Discourse on the Two New Sciences, which laid the foundations of modern physics. The book was smuggled out of Italy and published in 1636 in the Netherlands. In the book, he summarized work he had done some forty years earlier, on the two sciences now called kinematics and strength of materials. This book was highly praised by Albert Einstein. As a result of this work, Galileo is often called the "father of modern physics". Galileo made his last astronomical discovery, the Moon’s slight wobble, or “libration” in July 1637. At the time he was able to see only a bit with his left eye. Months later, he went completely blind. At last, in 1638, the Roman authorities showed mercy to Galileo. He received permission to move for several months to his house in Florence so that he could more easily visit his doctors. After this brief interlude, he was back at Il Gioiello in September 1638 when John Milton, a 30-year-old poet from England, visited him there, “in darkness, and with dangers compassed round.” Dava Sobel argues that before Galileo's 1633 trial and judgement for heresy, Pope Urban VIII had become preoccupied with court intrigue and problems of state, and began to fear persecution or threats to his own life. In this context, Sobel argues that the problem of Galileo was presented to the pope by court insiders and enemies of Galileo. Having been accused of weakness in defending the church, Urban reacted against Galileo out of anger and fear. Late in his life, when totally blind, Galileo designed an escapement mechanism for a pendulum clock (called Galileo's escapement), although no clock using this was built until after the first fully operational pendulum clock was made by Christiaan Huygens in the 1650s. [1] [2] [3] [4]

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