The Works of Galileo

Trial of Galileo

Explanations of the Trial

The trial lasted for several weeks. Historians debate a multitude of theories to explain what took place behind the scenes, including:

  • Urban’s sense of personal betrayal and the withdrawal of papal support for Galileo;
  • controversies related to courtly performance and patronage;
  • Galileo’s overconfident sense of personal mission as if he were destined to convert the Church to Copernicanism;
  • political events related to the Thirty Years war;
  • concerted maneuvers by Aristotelians like Colombe, Dominican theologians like Caccini, Jesuit mathematicians like Scheiner, or the many others who had suffered humiliation at Galileo’s hands;
  • and even the implications of mechanistic science for the physics of the Eucharist.

If there is no simple explanation, yet the chief issue at the trial was a legal technicality: Despite having received private papal permission and a public official license to print the Dialogue, Galileo was accused of violating a 1616 injunction not to hold, defend or teach in any way the Copernician theory. However, we noted earlier that Bellarmine did not issue this injunction, but stated that Galileo acquiesced to the admonition only to consider Copernicanism hypothetically.

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

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These teaching resources provided by the History of Science Department at the University of Oklahoma.

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