The Trials of Galileo

Nic Young
Greenside @ Infirmary Street

The Trials of Galileo

Galileo sits alone in a room recalling a trial that consigned him to life imprisonment. It is a story that illustrates the ruthless corruption of the Church hierarchy.

Tim Hardy gives an eloquent, often witty performance as Galileo, ready to dismiss at least in words the nonsense thrown at him. Speaking of the Jesuits, he says, “they reacted as if I’d drawn moles on the face of the Madonna.”

However, when threatened with torture, he had signed a confession. He recalls the fate of Giordano Bruno who years earlier had insisted on standing by his beliefs, for which he was “dragged off, tied naked to a pole and burned.”

His confession saved him from that, even if his supposedly heretical book would be banned and burnt.

Galileo had reckoned he was safe given the Church edict objecting to the Copernican idea that the earth revolved around the sun didn't ban debating it. However, the trial suddenly manufactured a false document supposedly instituting such a ban

Another reason he had felt safe from persecution was the book's title, which had been suggested by the Pope. Unfortunately, the Pope had been irritated by the way the book had represented his ideas.

Thinking back to the garden walk with the Pope in which the suggestion was made, he remembers his puzzlement at the silence of that garden. Later, he heard that the Pope had ordered all the birds to be killed so they didn't disturb his concentration.

It was a chilling omen of the whimsical cruelty of what can happen if you get in the way of unaccountable power. Galileo, like other scientists throughout history, had mistakenly assumed it was enough to have on his side the truth, the evidence and the eloquent arguments to support his view of the world. It was not. Like the inconvenient birds in the garden, he was to be silenced.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna

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