After his long and laborious journey Galileo stayed with the Tuscan Ambassador. Formally he was not a prisoner in the Villa Medici. It was just a "friendly piece of advice" from the Holy Office that he should not leave the property.
It fell to the Ambassador to gauge the mood and find out whether there were still channels of influence open. He soon realised that the worst problem would be the document from 1616 containing the unfortunate words: Nec quovis modo teneat, doceat aut defendat. But when he gently hinted this to Galileo, the old man reacted with agitation and confusion. He certainly could not recall being given any such order. He had been summoned to Bellarmine and been given a warning not to present Copernicanism as a physical reality, but that was quite a different matter!
Pope Urban VIII was less choleric than the previous year, but just as unyielding regarding the case. He emphasised how leniently Galileo had been treated, especially in living with the Ambassador instead of being thrown into the Inquisition's gaol. But he could not promise any speedy resolution: "... the activities of the Holy Office ordinarily proceeded slowly,"90 the Ambassador reported him as saying. Besides, he was still lambasting Galileo for working with the arch-villain Ciampoli.
The Ambassador was pessimistic, although he did not show his feelings to Galileo. But he wrote to Grand Duke Ferdinando:
"... even if they should be satisfied with his answers, they will not want to give the appearance of having made a blunder, after everybody knows they summoned him to Rome."91
He also had a sense of just how virulent the antipathy, even the hate, towards Galileo was in some quarters - most probably especially amongst the Jesuits close to Grassi and Scheiner.
This tremendous aggression was noted by another observer, the German Catholic, Lukas Holstein. He was an outsider and saw the situation with fresh eyes. He was worried about the real problem as well, which in Rome had been completely obscured in the excitement surrounding declarations and formulations: what would happen to the Church's authority if Copernicus was right after all?
"It would take a long time to report the cause of the hatred harboured against the very fine old man [Galileo] but one thing cannot be seen without irritation, that is, that persons completely incapable have been given the task of examining the book of Galileo and the whole Pythagorean and Copernican system, while it is above all a matter of the authority of the Church which will suffer widely from a less correct judgment. Galileo suffers from the envy of those who see in him the only obstacle to their having the reputation of the highest mathematicians. Because this whole storm was raised by the personal hatred of a monk whom Galileo does not wish to recognise as the first among mathematicians (.. .)"92
It was the Ambassador who received the news that the hearing was imminent. In a final attempt he visited the Pope yet again, on the pretext that he was thanking him, on behalf of the Grand Duke, for the special treatment Galileo had been promised - he was not to be incarcerated in a cell, but live in an ordinary room under light guard. The Pope was calm but inflexible:
"His Holiness complained that he [Galileo] has entered into that matter which for him [the Pope] it is still a most serious matter and one that has great consequences for religion."93
It was the Ambassador himself who had the unpleasant task of telling Galileo about the trial.
The old man took it very hard. Fears, sleeplessness and rheumatic pains prostrated him to such an extent that the Ambassador feared for his life. But no postponement was mentioned. The Ambassador earnestly advised him not to try to defend himself, but to submit to any objection the judges of the Inquisition might raise, and have faith that out of his own fame, and political deference to the Grand Duke, a lenient sentence would result.
"Nor Further to Hold, Teach, or Defend It in Any Way Whatsoever" 163
On 12 April 1633 Galileo was taken from the Villa Medici, through the streets of Rome, across the Tiber, to the headquarters of the Holy Office. There he was held as a prisoner. But he was lodged in rooms that were intended for the use of officials, and he was allowed to go out into the courtyard. The servant who had come with him from Florence was permitted to attend him, and the embassy servants could bring him food twice a day.
Once the interrogation began, however, the tone was entirely formal. Present were the Commissary of the Inquisition, Father Maculano, together with witnesses and a notary The other cardinals were content - as usual - to read the summary and form their opinions based on that.
The interrogation began with the usual questions about name and background - and about how much Galileo knew about why he had been summoned. He answered deferentially that he assumed it must have something to do with "my book which has just been printed", and which he gave a short resume of. He was then shown a copy of the Dialogue, and confirmed that he had written it and was responsible for everything it contained. In reply to a question about how long he had taken to write the work, he answered that he had begun ten or twelve years ago, and spent perhaps six or eight years on it with breaks in between.
This was mere formality and preliminary skirmishing. Instead of going further into the book and its contents, the Commissary suddenly changed the subject and asked Galileo if he had been in Rome previously, and particularly in 1616.
But Galileo was prepared. He answered calmly that he had travelled to Rome on his own initiative in 1616 - and that, furthermore, he had been in the city twice afterwards, "in the second year of His Holiness Urban VIII's pontificate", and in 1630 to organise the printing of his book. And so, without saying it openly, he managed to emphasise that his work on the Dialogue quite literally had continued with the blessings of those in the very highest places.
Father Maculano had no interest in listening to Galileo's connections to Urban and the papal court. He turned again to 1616 and what had happened then. Why precisely had Galileo come to Rome?
The old man replied that some of the cardinals, including Bellarmine, wanted to have an explanation of Copernican theories, which were extremely hard for laymen to understand.
And what emerged from these discussions and explanations? asked the Commissary.
Galileo had to admit that it resulted in a statement from the "Holy Congregation of the Index" saying that Copernicus' doctrine contradicted
Holy Scripture if taken literally and that it was only to be used hypothetically (ex suppositione) - just as Copernicus had done, he added piously.
This last was in fact an evasion of the truth, but the Commissary did not pick up on it. Instead he followed the obviously pre-arranged plan, and asked how and from whom Galileo had heard of this decision.
This was serious stuff. Galileo immediately admitted that he had been personally informed of it by Cardinal Bellarmine. But he insisted that Bellarmine had expressly said that "Copernicus' theory could be presented ex suppositione, just as Copernicus himself had presented it".
Galileo obviously felt fairly secure. He held a trump card in his hand and now he played it: he submitted a letter to the court, the certificate that Bellarmine himself had written in May 1616, just before Galileo had returned to Florence. It explained that Galileo had simply been informed of the decisions of the Inquisition and Congregation of the Index, and that there was no question of refutation or punishment.
Commissary Maculano now had two contradictory documents before him: Bellarmine's sober statement and the severe, unsigned document which had originated from Cardinal Segizzi and about which Galileo had as yet not been properly informed. Maculano now went to the heart of the matter via a tactical diversion:
Were there any others there with Bellarmine on the day Galileo had been warned not to take Copernicus literally?
Yes, said Galileo. There had been some Dominican Fathers there, but he could not recall their names, nor had he met them subsequently.
Now Father Maculano stuck the knife in: had any prohibition (praecep-tum) been issued on that occasion, by the Dominicans or any others? Galileo's answer was strange:
"I remember that the transaction took place as follows: the Lord Cardinal Bellarmine sent for me one morning and told me certain particulars which I had rather reserve for the ear of His Holiness before I communicate them to others. But the end of it was that he told me that the Copernican opinion, being contradictory to Holy Scripture must not be held or defended. It has escaped my memory whether those Dominican Fathers were present before or whether they came afterward; neither do I remember whether they were present when the Lord Cardinal told me the said opinion was not to be held. It maybe that a command [precetto] was issued to me that I should not hold or defend the opinion in question, but I do not remember it, for it is several years ago."94
For the last time Galileo here attempts to exploit the special ties of friendship he had to Pope Urban VIII Barberini. It is impossible to say what information from Bellarmine he wanted to convey to Urban. Presumably, Bellarmine said something to the effect that the then Cardinal Barberini looked with favour on Galileo's work - something everyone knew at the time anyway.
But Commissary Maculano pretended that he had not heard. Not a single word does he say about the "certain particulars" that Galileo will not divulge to the Inquisition. He knew that Pope Urban's former closeness to Galileo is a subject that must not be mentioned in this context, and certainly not by the defendant himself; it could do nothing but embarrass the Pope.
Instead the Commissary followed his plan of attack: could the defendant not recall a promise not to "hold, teach or defend in any way whatsoever" the Copernican doctrine - and who exacted it?
Wisely, Galileo refrained from denying that such a thing could have been mentioned. But if it was, he did not remember it, because he acted upon Bellarmine's written resume, and it said nothing about "in any way whatsoever" or "teaching".
Even so Maculano asked: how could he consider writing the Dialogue? Had he got special permission?
No, replied Galileo, nor did he require it. For the Dialogue in no way attempted to hold, teach or defend Copernicus' theory - on the contrary it tried to repudiate it!
This assertion must have struck Maculano as remarkable to say the least. Galileo had certainly been advised to be pliant, but this was going a bit far, especially as he was under oath. It is doubtful if the Commissary himself had read the book, but he did have the expert opinion from the committee constituted the previous autumn to go on.
He did not follow up this comment either, but turned instead to the circumstances surrounding the permission to print, and the interrogation ended soon after with Galileo still on the retreat: Copernicus' arguments were weak (invalide) and not conclusive. After this he signed the minutes of the interrogation, swore himself to secrecy about what had passed -the Inquisition's actions were so secret that not even a person accused or sentenced was allowed to say anything about them - and was conducted to his comfortable prison.
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