The Works of Galileo

Trial of Galileo


Corrections to Copernicus were issued in 1620, which made it permissible to read so long as one interpreted it hypothetically, as we have seen. Yet Copernicus’ De revolutionibus and Galileo’s Dialogue were still listed on the Index of Prohibited Books in the 19th century. In September of 1822 Pope Pius VII approved a decree of the Holy Office of the Inquisition that gave permission to print works treating the immobility of the Sun and the mobility of the Earth. This decree was occasioned by the case of Giuseppe Settele (1770-1841), professor of astronomy at the Collegio Romano, who wanted to publish a textbook on astronomy. The Vatican's own Master of the Sacred Page, who was responsible for licensing books printed in Rome, would not give permission, despite a letter from the cardinals of the Holy Office encouraging him to do so. Therefore the Holy Office issued the decree, approved by the Pope, so that the book could be published. Fantoli summarizes the irony of this case:

"With this decree of the Holy Office the official dossier regarding the Copernican question is closed. Through... an irony of history, that same Holy Office, which in 1616 had imposed on Galileo the promise not to defend any more the Copernican opinion and which in 1633 had condemned him for having transgressed that promise with the publication of the Dialogue, was now seeing itself forced to threaten 'punishments at its choice' against the ecclesiastics responsible for the printing of the book in Rome (the Masters of the Sacred Palace), should they further oppose permission for the Copernican books!" (Fantoli, p. 499.)

Thirteen years after this decree, in 1835, the De revolutionibus of Copernicus and the Dialogue of Galileo were finally removed altogether from the List of Prohibited Books.

Exhibit revised 11/17/04.

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

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