The Works of Galileo

Trial of Galileo

Urban VIII

In 1630, Oratio Morandi, a friend of an associate of Galileo’s, used astrology to predict an early death of Pope Urban VIII. Morandi was involved in hermetism and a follower of Della Porta’s natural magic. The following year Urban issued a papal bull forbidding astrological predictions of the health or demise of popes, kings, dukes or their families. In 1631, Cardinal Borgia (who would later refuse to sign Galileo’s sentence) led a group of cardinals who openly criticized Urban VIII for his political alliances with French and Swedish forces against Spain and the Holy Roman Emperor. Because Sweden was Protestant, while Spain and the Holy Roman Empire were Catholic, Urban VIII’s alliances appeared both politically and doctrinally vulnerable. Associates of the critical cardinals included some of Galileo’s visible supporters.

When the Dialogue was published, the Pope was furious. Galileo had betrayed his promise to treat Copernicanism hypothetically, and even worse, the Pope’s favored argument from divine omnipotence was put in the mouth of Simplicio. Because of the Thirty Years war and various ongoing intrigues (summarized in the previous paragraph), Urban found himself living (it was said) “in fear of poison.” He certainly did not appreciate a gadfly on his home front. He gave orders for the book to be recalled, and summoned Galileo to Rome for trial. (Figure 1) .

Figure 1 Figure 1 - Return to Text

Vatican, Rome.

Image credit: Duane H. D. Roller slide archive
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Exhibit credit: Kerry Magruder, with the assistance of , Marilyn B. Ogilvie, Duane H. D. Roller.

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