On 8 March 1632 a violent and scandalous episode took place in the Vatican. Before the entire College of Cardinals the leader of the pro-Spanish faction, Cardinal Gaspare Borgia, read out a sharp protest against the Pope and his lack of support for the Spanish war against the Protestants in Germany. Borgia took the unheard of step of hinting that a meeting should be convened to consider whether the Pope really had the necessary will to defend the Catholic faith.
Pope Urban and his faithful nephew Francesco tried to hush the rebellious Cardinal, without success. Finally, Urban's brother Antonio (who had also been appointed a cardinal) rose to restrain Borgia by force, but another worthy cleric held him back. The chamber was in uproar. One cardinal broke his spectacles, while another got so irate that he tore his biretta to shreds. Urban VIII had to summon the Swiss Guard to restore order in the assembly.
The cardinals left the room at the sight of the hefty guards with their halberds. The Pope was left, scarred, incensed - and politically weakened. He wanted to send Cardinal Borgia away from Rome, but dared not fearing that Spain, through the Kingdom of Naples, would intervene militarily. In a fit of what seemed like paranoia, he also imagined that the Grand Duke of Tuscany was making ready his fleet to put out from Livorno and attack the Papal States' harbours at Ostia and Civitavecchia. The purported excuse for this was the dispute between Tuscany and the Pope over the right to the Dukedom of Urbino. If the Pope's mind had been less distracted, he would have realised that the amicable Ferdinando II entertained no such warlike plans at all; on the contrary, he was more concerned for his people's welfare during the ravages of the plague epidemic.
Urban VIII saw that he had to display a stricter and more orthodox attitude if he were to retain his authority and protect himself from out-and-out scandals like Cardinal Borgia's outburst. But he did manage to exact a small revenge. He banished two less important cardinals who were also known to be pro-Spanish. These two had something else in common -they were close friends of Urban's own Secretary, the old Lyncean Giovanni Ciampoli.
And just to show that he was in earnest he got rid of Ciampoli too. Ciampoli was - like all the members of the Accademia dei Lincei - a man with great gifts. But he was only too well aware of them, and often appeared rather arrogant to the people about him. When the Pope suddenly sent him away after many years' service, the explanation given in Rome was as follows: Urban, who was a poet, and very proud of the fact, wanted to write a personal pastoral letter in Latin. He showed a draft of this to several trusted colleagues, including Ciampoli. But his Secretary did not return it with the customary dose of apposite praise. Instead, he pulled the Pope's words apart and wrote a new, thoroughly reworked version.
It is possible that such an episode could have been the causal factor. But Ciampoli's links to pro-Spanish factions was probably more important. In any event, the Secretary got the sack from an infuriated Urban VIII.
During this spring of crises, the first copies of Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems arrived in Rome. The Pope had no time to immerse himself in it immediately, but there were sufficient eager readers - so many, indeed, that not all of them could get hold of the book.
One of the first was Galileo's indefatigable admirer, the pardoned prisoner and Dominican, Tommaso Campanella. He was very impressed with both the book's style and content, but he was not satisfied with the explanation concerning the tides and he plainly said so in letters to Galileo. He also added dryly: "Apelles will complain a lot about this book."75
"Apelles" was Father Christopher Scheiner's old pseudonym from their first discussion about sunspots. And Campanella was absolutely right. An eye-witness told of an episode in a bookseller's where Father Scheiner heard another priest praise the Dialogue as the best book ever published:
"[Father Scheiner] was completely shaken up, his face changing colour, and with a huge trembling of his waist and his hands, so much so that the book dealer, who recounted the story to me, marvelled at it; and furthermore told me that the said Father Scheiner had stated that he would have paid ten gold scudi for one of those books so as to be able to respond right away."76
During the course of May and June more copies arrived in Rome. Scheiner got one. So did all of Galileo's other enemies in Rome. And one of them made certain that His Holiness was thoroughly informed about the rebellious and unorthodox book Galileo had written - the man all Rome knew enjoyed a very special position with the Pope.
Urban VIII had to show his authority, and he did not wait until he had read the book. The first to find himself in difficulties was the unfortunate Father Riccardi, "Master of the Sacred Palace", who after many ifs and buts had given the all clear for the printing in Florence. Riccardi was given to understand in no uncertain terms that he had failed in his duty: serious objections could be raised against the Dialogue in its present form.
Luckily for him, Riccardi could push much of the blame on to the Inquisitor in Florence. At the end of July he wrote what was, in the circumstances, a calm and courteous letter to Florence, explaining that Galileo's book had run up against problems in Rome and that it would be necessary to make alterations to it. He stated clearly that the order for this had come from the highest quarters, but that it should be done in his - that is Riccardi's - name. In the interim no further copies of the Dialogue were to be despatched from Florence to other places.
His letter contained a strange P.S. On the title page of Galileo's book was a sort of seal, with a drawing of three fishes, or possibly dolphins, swimming after each other. Riccardi insisted on being told without delay what these meant. Could they be the printer's seal?
The question had in fact come from Urban VIII. For some reason he had taken it into his head that the fish were a reference to his three nephews, of whom he had taken more than generous care - a fact which, of course, was general knowledge.
A reassuring message was quickly received from Florence to the effect that it was the printer's common seal. But the matter was serious all the same, for it indicated that the Pope had begun to incline to the idea that the Dialogue was a kind of treachery on Galileo's part, a deceitful attack upon himself.
This was partly connected with the dismissal of Ciampoli. The feeling of conspiracy on every side made Urban instantly perceive a link between him and Galileo, Lynceans as they both were. Indeed, on one occasion he even called the publication of the Dialogue a ciampolata77 - a word of his own coining that meant something like "a nasty trick typical of Ciampoli".
Beneath this mask of injury, a more calculating scheme was hatching. If Urban were now to deal decisively in the matter of his former favourite
Galileo, he would be able to demonstrate two things at once. Firstly, that he really did take the orthodox faith and doctrine seriously, and secondly that he did not bestow unfair advantages on those who were close to him.
Just what part Father Scheiner and others close to the Collegio Romano played, has never been completely revealed. Galileo's friends in Rome were in no doubt. They thought it certain that "the Jesuit Fathers are working most valiantly in an underhand way to get the work prohibited", and the censor himself, the Dominican Father Riccardi, was reported to have said "The Jesuits will persecute him most bitterly"78.
Much indicates that someone from this circle may have pointed out the concluding sequence of the Dialogue to Urban VIII, where his well known tenet about God's omnipotence was trotted out by il semplicione, the simpleton. Was this not an infamous trick, a neat way of inferring that the Pope was unsophisticated, that Urban VIII was the jester in the drama beingplayed outbetween the Aristotelian-Ptolemaic system which Galileo so obstinately and obviously despised, and the Copernican, which the Church itself had clearly and expressly forbidden?
Riccardi at first understood that the Pope considered it necessary to make certain amendments and additions to Galileo's text. The formal grounds for this were that the book was not printed exactly in accordance with the manuscript that the censor had approved. But what actually had been approved in the confusing process prior to publication was not so easy to ascertain.
In early August Galileo received news from Rome about the hiatus in printing and distribution. He was furious, but did not lose courage. There must be an amicable solution to the problem if the Grand Duke interceded. After all the Dialogue was dedicated to him. He therefore applied to the court at Florence, which made contact with its Ambassador in Rome. Ambassador Niccolini lodged an official protest with Father Riccardi over the attempts to confiscate a book that had been lawfully printed in Florence, with the imprimatur of the local Inquisitor.
The Ambassador got an immediate reply, a reply which showed that in the course of a couple of hot summer weeks in Rome, the matter had taken a completely new turn. Now, he reported back to Florence, there was no longer any talk of small additions and corrections:
"... I hear that there has been set up a commission of persons versed in his profession, all unfriendly to Galileo, responsible to the Lord Cardinal
Tommaso Campanella had also heard about this commission. He was rather less diplomatic than the Ambassador when he wrote to Galileo:
"I have heard (with great disgust) that they are having a commission of irate theologians to prohibit your Dialogue; and there is no one on it who understands mathematics or recondite things (...) I fear the violence of people who do not know. The Father Monster [Riccardi] makes fearful noises against it; and, says he, ex ore Pontificis [from the Pope's mouth]. But his holiness is not informed... "8o
It was Campanella himself who was uninformed. He clung to his belief in a liberal Urban VIII for as long as possible, the man who had freed him from prison in Naples and given him a position in Rome. But the Barberini Pope was no longer the inquisitive and open intellectual.
Campanella's advice to Galileo was that Grand Duke Ferdinando had to intervene and demand that the commission be enlarged by two members, namely Father Castelli, Galileo's faithful pupil from Padua, who was now a professor in Rome - and Campanella himself!
The latter would have been of little help. The brave, colourful and highly unorthodox Campanella was rapidly falling from grace, greatly helped by someone who had dug up his prohibited work In Defence of Galileo from obscurity. Other things piled up and, two years later, in 1634, he found himself in deep trouble. After 27 years in prison he did not want further confrontations with the courts, and he fled from Rome in disguise.
The diplomatic post now began to fly back and forth between Florence and Rome. The Grand Duke's Secretary of State, Andrea Cioli and the Ambassador maintained that Galileo's case was legally unassailable: the Dialogue had been approved in accordance with the procedure that Father Riccardi had finally dictated. Therefore, no commission was required but, if one were to be appointed, it had to include representatives that were well disposed towards Galileo. They wisely refrained from putting forward names.
The Grand Duke's Ambassador did not approach the Pope over the matter for the time being. He contacted his nephew, Cardinal Francesco Barberini, who was to be directly responsible for the commission. Francesco spoke warmly and at length about the "goodwill" he bore Galileo, and gave assurances that the Pope himself still regarded the mathematician as a much loved and favourite friend. However, he made no promises to intervene.
The Ambassador in Rome got a more concrete idea of the nature of the problems from another source. They revolved around two points in particular. One was obviously that Urban's argument had been put in the mouth of Simplicio. The other concerned the preface. This was clearly separate from the rest of the book. It was placed before the first "day" and was also set in a different type. The preface might therefore give the impression of being "added on" - which, of course, it very much was.
But in spite of everything this reassured the Ambassador and his superiors in Florence. The objections were not so serious that they could not be dealt with by changes to the text, unless the commission came to quite a different conclusion. The Ambassador was to have an audience with Urban VIII about another delicate matter - a man who had been charged by the Holy Office, but whom Grand Duke Ferdinando did not want to hand over to Rome straight away.
The way matters now stood, it might be as well to take up the Dialogue with His Holiness directly.
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