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History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom by Andrew Dickson White

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worthy successor of the apostles; his genius for Christian work
made him unwillingly primate of Germany; his devotion to duty
led him willingly to martyrdom. There sat, too, at that time, on
the papal throne a great Christian statesman--Pope Zachary.
Boniface immediately declared against the revival of such a
heresy as the doctrine of the antipodes; he stigmatized it as an
assertion that there are men beyond the reach of the appointed
means of salvation; he attacked Virgil, and called on Pope
Zachary for aid.

The Pope, as the infallible teacher of Christendom, made a strong
response. He cited passages from the book of Job and the Wisdom
of Solomon against the doctrine of the antipodes; he declared it
"perverse, iniquitous, and against Virgil's own soul," and
indicated a purpose of driving him from his bishopric. Whether
this purpose was carried out or not, the old theological view, by
virtue of the Pope's divinely ordered and protected "inerrancy,"
was re-established, and the doctrine that the earth has
inhabitants on but one of its sides became more than ever
orthodox, and precious in the mind of the Church.[34]

[34] For Virgil of Salzburg, see Neander's History of the
Christian Church, Torrey's translation, vol. iii, p. 63; also
Herzog, Real-Encyklopadie, etc., recent edition by Prof. Hauck,
s. v. Virgilius; also Kretschmer, pp. 56-58; also Whewell, vol.
i, p. 197; also De Morgan, Budget of Paradoxes, pp. 24-26. For
very full notes as to pagan and Christian advocates of the
doctrine of the sphericity of the earth and of the antipodes, and
for extract from Zachary's letter, see Migne, Patrologia, vol.
vi, p. 426, and vol. xli, p. 487. For St. Boniface's part, see
Bonifacii Epistolae, ed. Giles, i, 173. Berger de Xivrey,
Traditions Teratologiques, pp. 186-188, makes a curious attempt
to show that Pope Zachary denounced the wrong man; that the real
offender was a Roman poet--in the sixth book of the Aeneid and
the first book of the Georgics.

This decision seems to have been regarded as final, and five
centuries later the great encyclopedist of the Middle Ages,
Vincent of Beauvais, though he accepts the sphericity of the
earth, treats the doctrine of the antipodes as disproved, because
contrary to Scripture. Yet the doctrine still lived. Just as it
had been previously revived by William of Conches and then laid
to rest, so now it is somewhat timidly brought out in the
thirteenth century by no less a personage than Albert the Great,
the most noted man of science in that time. But his utterances
are perhaps purposely obscure. Again it disappears beneath the
theological wave, and a hundred years later Nicolas d'Oresme,
geographer of the King of France, a light of science, is forced
to yield to the clear teaching of the Scripture as cited by St.

Nor was this the worst. In Italy, at the beginning of the
fourteenth century, the Church thought it necessary to deal with
questions of this sort by rack and fagot. In 1316 Peter of
Abano, famous as a physician, having promulgated this with other
obnoxious doctrines in science, only escaped the Inquisition by
death; and in 1327 Cecco d'Ascoli, noted as an astronomer, was
for this and other results of thought, which brought him under
suspicion of sorcery, driven from his professorship at Bologna
and burned alive at Florence. Nor was this all his punishment:
Orcagna, whose terrible frescoes still exist on the walls of the
Campo Santo at Pisa, immortalized Cecco by representing him in
the flames of hell.[35]

[35] For Vincent of Beauvais and the antipode, see his Speculum
Naturale, Book VII, with citations from St. Augustine, De
Civitate Dei, cap. xvi. For Albert the Great's doctrine
regarding the antipodes, compare Kretschmer, as above, with
Eicken, Geschichte, etc., p. 621. Kretschmer finds that Albert
supports the doctrine, and Eicken finds that he denies it--a fair
proof that Albert was not inclined to state his views with
dangerous clearness. For D'Oresme, see Santerem, Histoire de la
Cosmographie, vol. i, p. 142. For Peter of Abano, or Apono, as
he is often called, see Tiraboschi, also Guinguene, vol. ii, p.
293; also Naude, Histoire des Grands Hommes soupconnes de Magie.
For Cecco d'Ascoli, see Montucla, Histoire de Mathematiques, i,
528; also Daunou, Etudes Historiques, vol. vi, p. 320; also
Kretschmer, p. 59. Concerning Orcagna's representation of Cecco
in the flames of hell, see Renan, Averroes et l'Averroisme,
Paris, 1867, p. 328.

Years rolled on, and there came in the fifteenth century one from
whom the world had a right to expect much. Pierre d'Ailly, by
force of thought and study, had risen to be Provost of the
College of St. Die in Lorraine; his ability had made that little
village a centre of scientific thought for all Europe, and
finally made him Archbishop of Cambray and a cardinal. Toward
the end of the fifteenth century was printed what Cardinal
d'Ailly had written long before as a summing up of his best
thought and research--the collection of essays known as the Ymago
Mundi. It gives us one of the most striking examples in history
of a great man in theological fetters. As he approaches this
question he states it with such clearness that we expect to hear
him assert the truth; but there stands the argument of St.
Augustine; there, too, stand the biblical texts on which it is
founded--the text from the Psalms and the explicit declaration of
St. Paul to the Romans, "Their sound went into all the earth, and
their words unto the ends of the world." D'Ailly attempts to
reason, but he is overawed, and gives to the world virtually

Still, the doctrine of the antipodes lived and moved: so much so
that the eminent Spanish theologian Tostatus, even as late as the
age of Columbus, felt called upon to protest against it as
"unsafe." He had shaped the old missile of St. Augustine into
the following syllogism: "The apostles were commanded to go into
all the world and to preach the gospel to every creature; they
did not go to any such part of the world as the antipodes; they
did not preach to any creatures there: ergo, no antipodes

The warfare of Columbus the world knows well: how the Bishop of
Ceuta worsted him in Portugal; how sundry wise men of Spain
confronted him with the usual quotations from the Psalms, from
St. Paul, and from St. Augustine; how, even after he was
triumphant, and after his voyage had greatly strengthened the
theory of the earth's sphericity, with which the theory of the
antipodes was so closely connected, the Church by its highest
authority solemnly stumbled and persisted in going astray. In
1493 Pope Alexander VI, having been appealed to as an umpire
between the claims of Spain and Portugal to the newly discovered
parts of the earth, issued a bull laying down upon the earth's
surface a line of demarcation between the two powers. This line
was drawn from north to south a hundred leagues west of the
Azores; and the Pope in the plenitude of his knowledge declared
that all lands discovered east of this line should belong to the
Portuguese, and all west of it should belong to the Spaniards.
This was hailed as an exercise of divinely illuminated power by
the Church; but difficulties arose, and in 1506 another attempt
was made by Pope Julius II to draw the line three hundred and
seventy leagues west of the Cape Verde Islands. This, again, was
supposed to bring divine wisdom to settle the question; but,
shortly, overwhelming difficulties arose; for the Portuguese
claimed Brazil, and, of course, had no difficulty in showing that
they could reach it by sailing to the east of the line, provided
they sailed long enough. The lines laid down by Popes Alexander
and Julius may still be found upon the maps of the period, but
their bulls have quietly passed into the catalogue of ludicrous

Yet the theological barriers to this geographical truth yielded
but slowly. Plain as it had become to scholars, they hesitated
to declare it to the world at large. Eleven hundred years had
passed since St. Augustine had proved its antagonism to
Scripture, when Gregory Reysch gave forth his famous
encyclopaedia, the Margarita Philosophica. Edition after edition
was issued, and everywhere appeared in it the orthodox
statements; but they were evidently strained to the breaking
point; for while, in treating of the antipodes, Reysch refers
respectfully to St. Augustine as objecting to the scientific
doctrine, he is careful not to cite Scripture against it, and not
less careful to suggest geographical reasoning in favour of it.

But in 1519 science gains a crushing victory. Magellan makes his
famous voyage. He proves the earth to be round, for his
expedition circumnavigates it; he proves the doctrine of the
antipodes, for his shipmates see the peoples of the antipodes.
Yet even this does not end the war. Many conscientious men
oppose the doctrine for two hundred years longer. Then the
French astronomers make their measurements of degrees in
equatorial and polar regions, and add to their proofs that of the
lengthened pendulum. When this was done, when the deductions of
science were seen to be established by the simple test of
measurement, beautifully and perfectly, and when a long line of
trustworthy explorers, including devoted missionaries, had sent
home accounts of the antipodes, then, and then only, this war of
twelve centuries ended.

Such was the main result of this long war; but there were other
results not so fortunate. The efforts of Eusebius, Basil, and
Lactantius to deaden scientific thought; the efforts of
Augustine to combat it; the efforts of Cosmas to crush it by
dogmatism; the efforts of Boniface and Zachary to crush it by
force, conscientious as they all were, had resulted simply in
impressing upon many leading minds the conviction that science
and religion are enemies.

On the other hand, what was gained by the warriors of science for
religion? Certainly a far more worthy conception of the world,
and a far more ennobling conception of that power which pervades
and directs it. Which is more consistent with a great religion,
the cosmography of Cosmas or that of Isaac Newton? Which
presents a nobler field for religious thought, the diatribes of
Lactantius or the calm statements of Humboldt?[36]

[36] For D'Ailly's acceptance of St. Augustine's argument, see
the Ymago Mundi, cap. vii. For Tostatus, see Zockler, vol. i,
pp. 467, 468. He based his opposition on Romans x, 18. For
Columbus, see Winsor, Fiske, and Adams; also Humboldt, Histoire
de la Geographie du Nouveau Continent. For the bull of Alexander
VI, see Daunou, Etudes Historiques, vol. ii, p. 417; also
Peschel, Zeitalter der Entdeckungen, Book II, chap. iv. The text
of the bull is given with an English translation in Arber's
reprint of The First Three English Books on America, etc.,
Birmingham, 1885, pp. 201-204; also especially Peschel, Die
Theilung der Erde unter Papst Alexander VI and Julius II,
Leipsic, 1871, pp. 14 et seq. For remarks on the power under
which the line was drawn by Alexander VI, see Mamiani, Del Papato
nei Tre Ultimi Secoli, p. 170. For maps showing lines of
division, see Kohl, Die beiden altesten General-Karten von
Amerika, Weimar, 1860, where maps of 1527 and 1529 are
reproduced; also Mercator, Atlas, tenth edition, Amsterdam, 1628,
pp. 70, 71. For latest discussion on The Demarcation Line of
Alexander VI, see E. G. Bourne in Yale Review, May, 1892. For the
Margarita Philosophica, see the editions of 1503, 1509, 1517,
lib. vii, cap. 48. For the effect of Magellan's voyages, and the
reluctance to yield to proof, see Henri Martin, Histoire de
France, vol. xiv, p. 395; St. Martin's Histoire de la Geographie,
p. 369; Peschel, Geschichte des Zeitalters der Entdeckungen,
concluding chapters; and for an admirable summary, Draper, Hist.
Int. Devel. of Europe, pp. 451-453; also an interesting passage
in Sir Thomas Brown's Vulgar and Common Errors, Book I, chap. vi;
also a striking passage in Acosta, chap. ii. For general
statement as to supplementary proof by measurement of degrees and
by pendulum, see Somerville, Phys. Geog., chap. i, par. 6, note;
also Humboldt, Cosmos, vol. ii, p. 736, and vol. v, pp. 16, 32;
also Montucla, iv, 138. As to the effect of travel, see Acosta's
history above cited. The good missionary says, in Grimston's
quaint translation, "Whatsoever Lactantius saith, wee that live
now at Peru, and inhabite that parte of the worlde which is
opposite to Asia and theire Antipodes, finde not ourselves to bee
hanging in the aire, our heades downward and our feete on high."


But at an early period another subject in geography had stirred
the minds of thinking men--THE EARTH'S SIZE. Various ancient
investigators had by different methods reached measurements more
or less near the truth; these methods were continued into the
Middle Ages, supplemented by new thought, and among the more
striking results were those obtained by Roger Bacon and Gerbert,
afterward Pope Sylvester II. They handed down to after-time the
torch of knowledge, but, as their reward among their
contemporaries, they fell under the charge of sorcery.

Far more consonant with the theological spirit of the Middle Ages
was a solution of the problem from Scripture, and this solution
deserves to be given as an example of a very curious theological
error, chancing to result in the establishment of a great truth.
The second book of Esdras, which among Protestants is placed in
the Apocrypha, was held by many of the foremost men of the
ancient Church as fully inspired: though Jerome looked with
suspicion on this book, it was regarded as prophetic by Clement
of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Ambrose, and the Church acquiesced
in that view. In the Eastern Church it held an especially high
place, and in the Western Church, before the Reformation, was
generally considered by the most eminent authorities to be part
of the sacred canon. In the sixth chapter of this book there is
a summary of the works of creation, and in it occur the following

"Upon the third day thou didst command that the waters should be
gathered in the seventh part of the earth; six parts hast thou
dried up and kept them to the intent that of these some, being
planted of God and tilled, might serve thee."

"Upon the fifth day thou saidst unto the seventh part where the
waters were gathered, that it should bring forth living
creatures, fowls and fishes, and so it came to pass."

These statements were reiterated in other verses, and were
naturally considered as of controlling authority.

Among the scholars who pondered on this as on all things likely
to increase knowledge was Cardinal Pierre d'Ailly. As we have
seen, this great man, while he denied the existence of the
antipodes, as St. Augustine had done, believed firmly in the
sphericity of the earth, and, interpreting these statements of
the book of Esdras in connection with this belief, he held that,
as only one seventh of the earth's surface was covered by water,
the ocean between the west coast of Europe and the east coast of
Asia could not be very wide. Knowing, as he thought, the extent
of the land upon the globe, he felt that in view of this divinely
authorized statement the globe must be much smaller, and the land
of "Zipango," reached by Marco Polo, on the extreme east coast of
Asia, much nearer than had been generally believed.

On this point he laid stress in his great work, the Ymago Mundi,
and an edition of it having been published in the days when
Columbus was thinking most closely upon the problem of a westward
voyage, it naturally exercised much influence upon his
reasonings. Among the treasures of the library at Seville, there
is nothing more interesting than a copy of this work annotated by
Columbus himself: from this very copy it was that Columbus
obtained confirmation of his belief that the passage across the
ocean to Marco Polo's land of Zipango in Asia was short. But for
this error, based upon a text supposed to be inspired, it is
unlikely that Columbus could have secured the necessary support
for his voyage. It is a curious fact that this single
theological error thus promoted a series of voyages which
completely destroyed not only this but every other conception of
geography based upon the sacred writings.[37]

[37] For this error, so fruitful in discovery, see D'Ailly, Ymago
Mundi; the passage referred to is fol. 12 verso. For the passage
from Esdras, see chap. vi, verses 42, 47, 50, and 52; see also
Zockler, Geschichte der Beziehungen zwischen Theologie und
Naturweissenschaft, vol. i, p. 461. For one of the best recent
statements, see Ruge, Gesch. des Zeitalters der Entdeckungen,
Berlin, 1882, pp. 221 et seq. For a letter of Columbus
acknowledging his indebtedness to this mistake in Esdras, see
Navarrete, Viajes y Descubrimientos, Madrid, 1825, tome i, pp.
242, 264; also Humboldt, Hist. de la Geographie du Nouveau
Continent, vol. i, pp. 68, 69.


It would be hardly just to dismiss the struggle for geographical
truth without referring to one passage more in the history of the
Protestant Church, for it shows clearly the difficulties in the
way of the simplest statement of geographical truth which
conflicted with the words of the sacred books.

In the year 1553 Michael Servetus was on trial for his life at
Geneva on the charge of Arianism. Servetus had rendered many
services to scientific truth, and one of these was an edition of
Ptolemy's Geography, in which Judea was spoken of, not as "a
land flowing with milk and honey," but, in strict accordance with
the truth, as, in the main, meagre, barren, and inhospitable. In
his trial this simple statement of geographical fact was used
against him by his arch-enemy John Calvin with fearful power. In
vain did Servetus plead that he had simply drawn the words from a
previous edition of Ptolemy; in vain did he declare that this
statement was a simple geographical truth of which there were
ample proofs: it was answered that such language "necessarily
inculpated Moses, and grievously outraged the Holy Ghost."[38]

[38] For Servetus's geographical offense, see Rilliet, Relation
du Proces criminel contre Michel Servet d'apres les Documents
originaux, Geneva, 1844, pp. 42,43; also Willis, Servetus and
Calvin, London, 1877, p. 325. The passage condemned is in the
Ptolemy of 1535, fol. 41. It was discreetly retrenched in a
reprint of the same edition.

In summing up the action of the Church upon geography, we must
say, then, that the dogmas developed in strict adherence to
Scripture and the conceptions held in the Church during many
centuries "always, every where, and by all," were, on the whole,
steadily hostile to truth; but it is only just to make a
distinction here between the religious and the theological
spirit. To the religious spirit are largely due several of the
noblest among the great voyages of discovery. A deep longing to
extend the realms of Christianity influenced the minds of Prince
John of Portugal, in his great series of efforts along the
African coast; of Vasco da Gama, in his circumnavigation of the
Cape of Good Hope; of Magellan, in his voyage around the world;
and doubtless found a place among the more worldly motives of

[39] As to the earlier mixture in the motives of Columbus, it may
be well to compare with the earlier biographies the recent ones
by Dr. Winsor and President Adams.

Thus, in this field, from the supremacy accorded to theology, we
find resulting that tendency to dogmatism which has shown itself
in all ages the deadly foe not only of scientific inquiry but of
the higher religious spirit itself, while from the love of truth
for truth's sake, which has been the inspiration of all fruitful
work in science, nothing but advantage has ever resulted to




The next great series of battles was fought over the relations of
the visible heavens to the earth.

In the early Church, in view of the doctrine so prominent in the
New Testament, that the earth was soon to be destroyed, and that
there were to be "new heavens and a new earth," astronomy, like
other branches of science, was generally looked upon as futile.
Why study the old heavens and the old earth, when they were so
soon to be replaced with something infinitely better? This
feeling appears in St. Augustine's famous utterance, "What
concern is it to me whether the heavens as a sphere inclose the
earth in the middle of the world or overhang it on either side?"

As to the heavenly bodies, theologians looked on them as at best
only objects of pious speculation. Regarding their nature the
fathers of the Church were divided. Origen, and others with him,
thought them living beings possessed of souls, and this belief
was mainly based upon the scriptural vision of the morning stars.
singing together, and upon the beautiful appeal to the "stars and
light" in the song of the three children--the Benedicite--which
the Anglican communion has so wisely retained in its Liturgy.

Other fathers thought the stars abiding-places of the angels, and
that stars were moved by angels. The Gnostics thought the stars
spiritual beings governed by angels, and appointed not to cause
earthly events but to indicate them.

As to the heavens in general, the prevailing view in the Church
was based upon the scriptural declarations that a solid vault--a
"firmament"--was extended above the earth, and that the heavenly
bodies were simply lights hung within it. This was for a time
held very tenaciously. St. Philastrius, in his famous treatise
on heresies, pronounced it a heresy to deny that the stars are
brought out by God from his treasure-house and hung in the sky
every evening; any other view he declared "false to the Catholic
faith." This view also survived in the sacred theory established
so firmly by Cosmas in the sixth century. Having established his
plan of the universe upon various texts in the Old and New
Testaments, and having made it a vast oblong box, covered by the
solid "firmament," he brought in additional texts from Scripture
to account for the planetary movements, and developed at length
the theory that the sun and planets are moved and the "windows of
heaven" opened and shut by angels appointed for that purpose.

How intensely real this way of looking at the universe was, we
find in the writings of St. Isidore, the greatest leader of
orthodox thought in the seventh century. He affirms that since
the fall of man, and on account of it, the sun and moon shine
with a feebler light; but he proves from a text in Isaiah that
when the world shall be fully redeemed these "great lights" will
shine again in all their early splendour. But, despite these
authorities and their theological finalities, the evolution of
scientific thought continued, its main germ being the geocentric
doctrine--the doctrine that the earth is the centre, and that the
sun and planets revolve about it.[40]

[40] For passage cited from Clement of Alexandria, see English
translation, Edinburgh, 1869, vol. ii, p. 368; also the
Miscellanies, Book V, cap. vi. For typical statements by St.
Augustine, see De Genesi, ii, cap. ix, in Migne, Patr. Lat., tome
xxiv, pp. 270-271. For Origen's view, see the De Principiis,
lib. i, cap. vii; see also Leopardi's Errori Populari, cap. xi;
also Wilson's Selections from the Prophetic Scriptures in
Ante-Nicene Library, p. 132. For Philo Judaeus, see On the
Creation of the World, chaps. xviii and xix, and On Monarchy,
chap. i. For St. Isidore, see the De Ordine Creaturarum, cap v,
in Migne, Patr. Lat., lxxxiii, pp. 923-925; also 1000, 1001. For
Philastrius, see the De Hoeresibus, chap. cxxxiii, in Migne, tome
xii, p. 1264. For Cosmas's view, see his Topographia Christiana,
in Montfaucon, Col. Nov. Patrum, ii, p. 150, and elsewhere as
cited in my chapter on Geography.

This doctrine was of the highest respectability: it had been
developed at a very early period, and had been elaborated until
it accounted well for the apparent movements of the heavenly
bodies; its final name, "Ptolemaic theory," carried weight;
and, having thus come from antiquity into the Christian world,
St. Clement of Alexandria demonstrated that the altar in the
Jewish tabernacle was "a symbol of the earth placed in the middle
of the universe": nothing more was needed; the geocentric theory
was fully adopted by the Church and universally held to agree
with the letter and spirit of Scripture.[41]

[41] As to the respectibility of the geocentric theory, etc., see
Grote's Plato, vol. iii, p. 257; also Sir G. C. Lewis's Astronomy
of the Ancients, chap. iii, sec. 1, for a very thoughtful
statement of Plato's view, and differing from ancient statements.
For plausible elaboration of it, and for supposed agreement of
the Scripture with it, see Fromundus, Anti-Aristarchus, Antwerp,
1631; also Melanchthon's Initia Doctrinae Physicae. For an
admirable statement of the theological view of the geocentric
theory, antipodes, etc., see Eicken, Geschichte und System der
mittelalterlichen Weltanschauung, pp. 618 et seq.

Wrought into this foundation, and based upon it, there was
developed in the Middle Ages, mainly out of fragments of Chaldean
and other early theories preserved in the Hebrew Scriptures, a
new sacred system of astronomy, which became one of the great
treasures of the universal Church--the last word of revelation.

Three great men mainly reared this structure. First was the
unknown who gave to the world the treatises ascribed to Dionysius
the Areopagite. It was unhesitatingly believed that these were
the work of St. Paul's Athenian convert, and therefore virtually
of St. Paul himself. Though now known to be spurious, they were
then considered a treasure of inspiration, and an emperor of the
East sent them to an emperor of the West as the most worthy of
gifts. In the ninth century they were widely circulated in
western Europe, and became a fruitful source of thought,
especially on the whole celestial hierarchy. Thus the old ideas
of astronomy were vastly developed, and the heavenly hosts were
classed and named in accordance with indications scattered
through the sacred Scriptures.

The next of these three great theologians was Peter Lombard,
professor at the University of Paris. About the middle of the
twelfth century he gave forth his collection of Sentences, or
Statements by the Fathers, and this remained until the end of the
Middle Ages the universal manual of theology. In it was
especially developed the theological view of man's relation to
the universe. The author tells the world: "Just as man is made
for the sake of God--that is, that he may serve Him,--so the
universe is made for the sake of man--that is, that it may serve
HIM; therefore is man placed at the middle point of the
universe, that he may both serve and be served."

The vast significance of this view, and its power in resisting
any real astronomical science, we shall see, especially in the
time of Galileo.

The great triad of thinkers culminated in St. Thomas
Aquinas--the sainted theologian, the glory of the mediaeval
Church, the "Angelic Doctor," the most marvellous intellect
between Aristotle and Newton; he to whom it was believed that an
image of the Crucified had spoken words praising his writings.
Large of mind, strong, acute, yet just--even more than just--to
his opponents, he gave forth, in the latter half of the
thirteenth century, his Cyclopaedia of Theology, the Summa
Theologica. In this he carried the sacred theory of the universe
to its full development. With great power and clearness he
brought the whole vast system, material and spiritual, into its
relations to God and man.[42]

[42] For the beliefs of Chaldean astronomers in revolving spheres
carrying sun, moon, and planets, in a solid firmament supporting
the celestial waters, and in angels as giving motion to the
planets, see Lenormant; also Lethaby, 13-21; also Schroeder,
Jensen, Lukas, et al. For the contribution of the pseudo-
Dionysius to mediaeval cosmology, see Dion. Areopagita, De
Coelesti Hierarchia, vers. Joan. Scoti, in Migne, Patr. Lat.,
cxxii. For the contribution of Peter Lombard, see Pet. Lomb.,
Libr. Sent., II, i, 8,-IV, i, 6, 7, in Migne, tome 192. For the
citations from St. Thomas Aquinas, see the Summa, ed. Migne,
especially Pars I, Qu. 70, (tome i, pp. 1174-1184); also Quaestio
47, Art. iii. For good general statement, see Milman, Latin
Christianity, iv, 191 et seq.; and for relation of Cosmas to
these theologians of western Europe, see Milman, as above, viii,
228, note.

Thus was the vast system developed by these three leaders of
mediaeval thought; and now came the man who wrought it yet more
deeply into European belief, the poet divinely inspired who made
the system part of the world's LIFE. Pictured by Dante, the
empyrean and the concentric heavens, paradise, purgatory, and
hell, were seen of all men; the God Triune, seated on his throne
upon the circle of the heavens, as real as the Pope seated in the
chair of St. Peter; the seraphim, cherubim, and thrones,
surrounding the Almighty, as real as the cardinals surrounding
the Pope; the three great orders of angels in heaven, as real as
the three great orders, bishops, priests, and deacons, on earth;
and the whole system of spheres, each revolving within the one
above it, and all moving about the earth, subject to the primum
mobile, as real as the feudal system of western Europe, subject
to the Emperor.[43]

[43] For the central sun, hierarchy of angels, and concentric
circles, see Dante, Paradiso, canto xxviii. For the words of St.
Thomas Aquinas, showing to Virgil and Dante the great theologians
of the Middle Ages, see canto x, and in Dean Plumptre's
translation, vol. ii, pp. 56 et seq.; also Botta, Dante, pp. 350,
351. As to Dante's deep religious feeling and belief in his own
divine mission, see J. R. Lowell, Among my Books, vol. i, p. 36.
For a remarkable series of coloured engravings, showing Dante's
whole cosmology, see La Materia della Divina Comedia di Dante
dichiriata in vi tavole, da Michelangelo Caetani, published by
the monks of Monte Cassino, to whose kindness I am indebted for
my copy.

Let us look into this vast creation--the highest achievement of
theology--somewhat more closely.

Its first feature shows a development out of earlier theological
ideas. The earth is no longer a flat plain inclosed by four
walls and solidly vaulted above, as theologians of previous
centuries had believed it, under the inspiration of Cosmas; it is
no longer a mere flat disk, with sun, moon, and stars hung up to
give it light, as the earlier cathedral sculptors had figured it;
it has become a globe at the centre of the universe.
Encompassing it are successive transparent spheres, rotated by
angels about the earth, and each carrying one or more of the
heavenly bodies with it: that nearest the earth carrying the
moon; the next, Mercury; the next, Venus; the next, the Sun; the
next three, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn; the eighth carrying the
fixed stars. The ninth was the primum mobile, and inclosing all
was the tenth heaven--the Empyrean. This was immovable--the
boundary between creation and the great outer void; and here, in
a light which no one can enter, the Triune God sat enthroned, the
"music of the spheres" rising to Him as they moved. Thus was the
old heathen doctrine of the spheres made Christian.

In attendance upon the Divine Majesty, thus enthroned, are vast
hosts of angels, who are divided into three hierarchies, one
serving in the empyrean, one in the heavens, between the empyrean
and the earth, and one on the earth.

Each of these hierarchies is divided into three choirs, or
orders; the first, into the orders of Seraphim, Cherubim, and
Thrones; and the main occupation of these is to chant
incessantly--to "continually cry" the divine praises.

The order of Thrones conveys God's will to the second hierarchy,
which serves in the movable heavens. This second hierarchy is
also made up of three orders. The first of these, the order of
Dominions, receives the divine commands; the second, the order
of Powers, moves the heavens, sun, moon, planets, and stars,
opens and shuts the "windows of heaven," and brings to pass all
other celestial phenomena; the third, the order of Empire, guards
the others.

The third and lowest hierarchy is also made up of three orders.
First of these are the Principalities, the guardian spirits of
nations and kingdoms. Next come Archangels; these protect
religion, and bear the prayers of the saints to the foot of God's
throne. Finally come Angels; these care for earthly affairs in
general, one being appointed to each mortal, and others taking
charge of the qualities of plants, metals, stones, and the like.
Throughout the whole system, from the great Triune God to the
lowest group of angels, we see at work the mystic power attached
to the triangle and sacred number three--the same which gave the
triune idea to ancient Hindu theology, which developed the triune
deities in Egypt, and which transmitted this theological gift to
the Christian world, especially through the Egyptian Athanasius.

Below the earth is hell. This is tenanted by the angels who
rebelled under the lead of Lucifer, prince of the seraphim--the
former favourite of the Trinity; but, of these rebellious
angels, some still rove among the planetary spheres, and give
trouble to the good angels; others pervade the atmosphere about
the earth, carrying lightning, storm, drought, and hail; others
infest earthly society, tempting men to sin; but Peter Lombard
and St. Thomas Aquinas take pains to show that the work of these
devils is, after all, but to discipline man or to mete out
deserved punishment.

All this vast scheme had been so riveted into the Ptolemaic view
by the use of biblical texts and theological reasonings that the
resultant system of the universe was considered impregnable and
final. To attack it was blasphemy.

It stood for centuries. Great theological men of science, like
Vincent of Beauvais and Cardinal d'Ailly, devoted themselves to
showing not only that it was supported by Scripture, but that it
supported Scripture. Thus was the geocentric theory embedded in
the beliefs and aspirations, in the hopes and fears, of
Christendom down to the middle of the sixteenth century.[44]

[44] For the earlier cosmology of Cosmas, with citations from
Montfaucon, see the chapter on Geography in this work. For the
views of mediaeval theologians, see foregoing notes in this
chapter. For the passages of Scripture on which the theological
part of this structure was developed, see especially Romans viii,
38; Ephesians i, 21; Colossians i, 16 aand ii, 15; and
innumerable passages in the Old Testament. As to the music of
the spheres, see Dean Plumptre's Dante, vol. ii, p. 4, note. For
an admirable summing up of the mediaeval cosmology in its
relation to thought in general, see Rydberg, Magic of the Middle
Ages, chap. i, whose summary I have followed in the main. For
striking woodcuts showing the view taken of the successive
heavens with their choirs of angels, the earth being at the
centre with the spheres about it, and the Almighty on his throne
above all, see the Neuremberg Chronicle, ff. iv and v; its date
is 1493. For charts showing the continuance of this general view
down to the beginning of the sixteenth century, see the various
editions of the Margarita Philosophica, from that of 1503 onward,
astronomical part. For interesting statements regarding the
Trinities of gods in ancient Egypt, see Sharpe, History of Egypt,
vol. i, pp. 94 and 101. The present writer once heard a lecture
in Cairo, from an eminent Scotch Doctor of Medicine, to account
for the ancient Hindu and Egyptian sacred threes and trinities.
The lecturer's theory was that, when Jehovah came down into the
Garden of Eden and walked with Adam in "the cool of the day," he
explained his triune character to Adam, and that from Adam it was
spread abroad to the various ancient nations.


But, on the other hand, there had been planted, long before, the
germs of a heliocentric theory. In the sixth century before our
era, Pythagoras, and after him Philolaus, had suggested the
movement of the earth and planets about a central fire; and,
three centuries later, Aristarchus had restated the main truth
with striking precision. Here comes in a proof that the
antagonism between theological and scientific methods is not
confined to Christianity; for this statement brought upon
Aristarchus the charge of blasphemy, and drew after it a cloud of
prejudice which hid the truth for six hundred years. Not until
the fifth century of our era did it timidly appear in the
thoughts of Martianus Capella: then it was again lost to sight
for a thousand years, until in the fifteenth century, distorted
and imperfect, it appeared in the writings of Cardinal Nicholas
de Cusa.

But in the shade cast by the vast system which had grown from the
minds of the great theologians and from the heart of the great
poet there had come to this truth neither bloom nor fruitage.

Quietly, however, the soil was receiving enrichment and the air
warmth. The processes of mathematics were constantly improved,
the heavenly bodies were steadily observed, and at length
appeared, far from the centres of thought, on the borders of
Poland, a plain, simple-minded scholar, who first fairly uttered
to the modern world the truth--now so commonplace, then so
astounding--that the sun and planets do not revolve about the
earth, but that the earth and planets revolve about the sun:
this man was Nicholas Copernicus.

Copernicus had been a professor at Rome, and even as early as
1500 had announced his doctrine there, but more in the way of a
scientific curiosity or paradox, as it had been previously held
by Cardinal de Cusa, than as the statement of a system
representing a great fact in Nature. About thirty years later
one of his disciples, Widmanstadt, had explained it to Clement
VII; but it still remained a mere hypothesis, and soon, like so
many others, disappeared from the public view. But to
Copernicus, steadily studying the subject, it became more and
more a reality, and as this truth grew within him he seemed to
feel that at Rome he was no longer safe. To announce his
discovery there as a theory or a paradox might amuse the papal
court, but to announce it as a truth--as THE truth--was a far
different matter. He therefore returned to his little town in

To publish his thought as it had now developed was evidently
dangerous even there, and for more than thirty years it lay
slumbering in the mind of Copernicus and of the friends to whom
he had privately intrusted it.

At last he prepared his great work on the Revolutions of the
Heavenly Bodies, and dedicated it to the Pope himself. He next
sought a place of publication. He dared not send it to Rome, for
there were the rulers of the older Church ready to seize it; he
dared not send it to Wittenberg, for there were the leaders of
Protestantism no less hostile; he therefore intrusted it to
Osiander, at Nuremberg.[45]

[45] For the germs of heliocentric theory planted long before,
see Sir G. C. Lewis; and for a succinct statement of the claims
of Pythagoras, Philolaus, Aristarchus, and Martianus Capella, see
Hoefer, Hisoire de l'Astronomie, 1873, p. 107 et seq.; also
Heller, Geschichte der Physik, Stuttgart, 1882, vol. i, pp. 12,
13; also pp. 99 et seq. For germs among thinkers of India, see
Whewell, vol. i, p. 277; also Whitney, Oriental and Linguistic
Studies, New York, 1874; Essay on the Lunar Zodiac, p. 345. For
the views of Vincent of Beauvais, see his Speculum Naturale, lib.
xvi, cap. 21. For Cardinal d'Ailly's view, see his treatise De
Concordia Astronomicae Veritatis cum Theologia (in his Ymago
Mundi and separately). For general statement of De Cusa's work,
see Draper, Intellectual Development of Europe, p. 512. For
skilful use of De Cusa's view in order to mitigate censure upon
the Church for its treatment of Copernicus's discovery, see an
article in the Catholic World for January, 1869. For a very
exact statement, in the spirit of judicial fairness, see Whewell,
History of the Inductive Sciences, p. 275, and pp. 379, 380. In
the latter, Whewell cites the exact words of De Cusa in the De
Docta Ignorantia, and sums up in these words: "This train of
thought might be a preparation for the reception of the
Copernican system; but it is very different from the doctrine
that the sun is the centre of the planetary system." Whewell
says: "De Cusa propounded the doctrine of the motion of the earth
more as a paradox than as a reality. We can not consider this as
any distinct anticipation of a profound and consistent view of
the truth." On De Cusa, see also Heller, vol. i, p. 216. For
Aristotle's views, and their elaboration by St. Thomas Aquinas,
see the De Coelo et Mundo, sec. xx, and elsewhere in the latter.
It is curious to see how even such a biographer as Archbishop
Vaughan slurs over the angelic Doctor's errors. See Vaughan's
Life and Labours of St. Thomas of Aquin, pp. 459, 460.

As to Copernicus's danger at Rome, the Catholic World for
January, 1869, cites a speech of the Archbishop of Mechlin before
the University of Louvain, to the effect that Copernicus defended
his theory at Rome, in 1500, before two thousand scholars; also,
that another professor taught the system in 1528, and was made
apostolic notary by Clement VIII. All this, even if the
doctrines taught were identical with Copernicus as finally
developed--which is simply not the case--avails nothing against
the overwhelming testimony that Copernicus felt himself in
danger--testimony which the after-history of the Copernican
theory renders invincible. The very title of Fromundus's book,
already cited, published within a few miles of the archbishop's
own cathedral, and sanctioned expressly by the theological
faculty of that same University of Louvain in 1630, utterly
refutes the archbishop's idea that the Church was inclined to
treat Copernicus kindly. The title is as follows:
Ant-Aristarchus sive Orbis-Terrae Immobilis, in quo decretum S.
Congregationis S. R. E. Cardinal. an. M.DC.XVI adversus
Pythagorico-Copernicanos editum defenditur, Antverpiae, MDCXXI.
L'Epinois, Galilee, Paris, 1867, lays stress, p. 14, on the
broaching of the doctrine by De Cusa in 1435, and by Widmanstadt
in 1533, and their kind treatment by Eugenius IV and Clement VII;
but this is absolutely worthless in denying the papal policy
afterward. Lange, Geschichte des Materialismus, vol. i, pp. 217,
218, while admitting that De Cusa and Widmanstadt sustained this
theory and received honors from their respective popes, shows
that, when the Church gave it serious consideration, it was
condemned. There is nothing in this view unreasonable. It
would be a parallel case to that of Leo X, at first inclined
toward Luther and others, in their "squabbles with the envious
friars," and afterward forced to oppose them. That Copernicus
felt the danger, is evident, among other things, by the
expression in the preface: "Statim me explodendum cum tali
opinione clamitant." For dangers at Wittenberg, see Lange, as
above, vol. i, p. 217.

But Osiander's courage failed him: he dared not launch the new
thought boldly. He wrote a grovelling preface, endeavouring to
excuse Copernicus for his novel idea, and in this he inserted the
apologetic lie that Copernicus had propounded the doctrine of the
earth's movement not as a fact, but as a hypothesis. He declared
that it was lawful for an astronomer to indulge his imagination,
and that this was what Copernicus had done.

Thus was the greatest and most ennobling, perhaps, of scientific
truths--a truth not less ennobling to religion than to
science--forced, in coming before the world, to sneak and

[46] Osiander, in a letter to Copernicus, dated April 20, 1541,
had endeavored to reconcile him to such a procedure, and ends by
saying, "Sic enim placidiores reddideris peripatheticos et
theologos quos contradicturos metuis." See Apologia Tychonis in
Kepler's Opera Omnia, Frisch's edition, vol. i, p. 246. Kepler
holds Osiander entirely responsible for this preface. Bertrand,
in his Fondateurs de l"astronomie moderne, gives its text, and
thinks it possible that Copernicus may have yielded "in pure
condescension toward his disciple." But this idea is utterly at
variance with expressions in Copernicus's own dedicatory letter
to the Pope, which follows the preface. For a good summary of
the argument, see Figuier, Savants de la Renaissance, pp. 378,
379; see also citation from Gassendi's Life of Copernicus, in
Flammarion, Vie de Copernic, p. 124. Mr. John Fiske, accurate as
he usually is, in his Outlines of Cosmic Philosophy appears to
have followed Laplace, Delambre, and Petit into the error of
supposing that Copernicus, and not Osiander, is responsible for
the preface. For the latest proofs, see Menzer's translation of
Copernicus's work, Thorn, 1879, notes on pp. 3 and 4 of the

On the 24th of May, 1543, the newly printed book arrived at the
house of Copernicus. It was put into his hands; but he was on
his deathbed. A few hours later he was beyond the reach of the
conscientious men who would have blotted his reputation and
perhaps have destroyed his life.

Yet not wholly beyond their reach. Even death could not be
trusted to shield him. There seems to have been fear of
vengeance upon his corpse, for on his tombstone was placed no
record of his lifelong labours, no mention of his great
discovery; but there was graven upon it simply a prayer: "I ask
not the grace accorded to Paul; not that given to Peter; give me
only the favour which Thou didst show to the thief on the cross."

Not till thirty years after did a friend dare write on his
tombstone a memorial of his discovery.[47]

[47] See Flammarion, Vie de Copernic, p. 190.

The preface of Osiander, pretending that the book of Copernicus
suggested a hypothesis instead of announcing a truth, served its
purpose well. During nearly seventy years the Church authorities
evidently thought it best not to stir the matter, and in some
cases professors like Calganini were allowed to present the new
view purely as a hypothesis. There were, indeed, mutterings from
time to time on the theological side, but there was no great
demonstration against the system until 1616. Then, when the
Copernican doctrine was upheld by Galileo as a TRUTH, and proved
to be a truth by his telescope, the book was taken in hand by the
Roman curia. The statements of Copernicus were condemned, "until
they should be corrected"; and the corrections required were
simply such as would substitute for his conclusions the old
Ptolemaic theory.

That this was their purpose was seen in that year when Galileo
was forbidden to teach or discuss the Copernican theory, and when
were forbidden "all books which affirm the motion of the earth."
Henceforth to read the work of Copernicus was to risk damnation,
and the world accepted the decree.[48] The strongest minds were
thus held fast. If they could not believe the old system, they
must PRETEND that they believed it;--and this, even after the
great circumnavigation of the globe had done so much to open the
eyes of the world! Very striking is the case of the eminent
Jesuit missionary Joseph Acosta, whose great work on the Natural
and Moral History of the Indies, published in the last quarter
of the sixteenth century, exploded so many astronomical and
geographical errors. Though at times curiously credulous, he
told the truth as far as he dared; but as to the movement of the
heavenly bodies he remained orthodox--declaring, "I have seen the
two poles, whereon the heavens turn as upon their axletrees."

[48] The authorities deciding this matter in accordance with the
wishes of Pope V and Cardinal Bellarmine were the Congregation of
the Index, or cardinals having charge of the Index Librorum
Prohibitorum. Recent desperate attempts to fasten the
responsibility on them as individuals seem ridiculous in view of
the simple fact that their work was sanctioned by the highest
Church authority, and required to be universally accepted by the
Church. Eleven different editions of the Index in my own
possession prove this. Nearly all of these declare on their
title-pages that they are issued by order of the pontiff of the
period, and each is preface by a special papal bull or letter.
See especially the Index of 1664, issued under order of Alexander
VII, and that of 1761, under Benedict XIV. Copernicus's
statements were prohibited in the Index "donec corrigantur."
Kepler said that it ought to be worded "donec explicetur." See
Bertand, Fondateurs de l'Astronomie moderne, p. 57. De Morgan,
pp. 57-60, gives the corrections required by the Index of 1620.
Their main aim seems to be to reduce Copernicus to the grovelling
level of Osiander, making his discovery a mere hypothesis; but
occasionally they require a virtual giving up of the whole
Copernican doctrine--e.g., "correction" insisted upon for chap.
viii, p. 6. For a scholarly account of the relation between
Prohibitory and Expurgatory Indexes to each other, see Mendham,
Literary Policy of the Church of Rome; also Reusch, Index der
verbotenen Bucher, Bonn, 1855, vol. ii, chaps i and ii. For a
brief but very careful statement, see Gebler, Galileo Galilei,
English translation, London, 1879, chap. i; see also Addis and
Arnold's Catholic Dictionary, article Galileo, p.8.

There was, indeed, in Europe one man who might have done much to
check this current of unreason which was to sweep away so many
thoughtful men on the one hand from scientific knowledge, and so
many on the other from Christianity. This was Peter Apian. He
was one of the great mathematical and astronomical scholars of
the time. His brilliant abilities had made him the astronomical
teacher of the Emperor Charles V. His work on geography had
brought him a world-wide reputation; his work on astronomy
brought him a patent of nobility; his improvements in
mathematical processes and astronomical instruments brought him
the praise of Kepler and a place in the history of science:
never had a true man better opportunity to do a great deed. When
Copernicus's work appeared, Apian was at the height of his
reputation and power: a quiet, earnest plea from him, even if it
had been only for ordinary fairness and a suspension of judgment,
must have carried much weight. His devoted pupil, Charles V, who
sat on the thrones of Germany and Spain, must at least have given
a hearing to such a plea. But, unfortunately, Apian was a
professor in an institution of learning under the strictest
Church control--the University of Ingolstadt. His foremost duty
was to teach SAFE science--to keep science within the line of
scriptural truth as interpreted by theological professors. His
great opportunity was lost. Apian continued to maunder over the
Ptolemaic theory and astrology in his lecture-room. The attack
on the Copernican theory he neither supported nor opposed; he was
silent; and the cause of his silence should never be forgotten so
long as any Church asserts its title to control university

[49] For Joseph Acosta's statement, see the translation of his
History, published by the Hakluyt Society, chap. ii. For Peter
Apian, see Madler, Geschichte der Astronomie, Braunschweig, 1873,
vol. i, p. 141. For evidences of the special favour of Charles
V,see Delambre, Histoire de l'Astronomie au Moyen Age, p. 390;
also Bruhns, in the Allgemeine deutsche Biographie. For an
attempted apology for him, see Gunther, Peter and Philipp Apian,
Prag, 1822, p. 62.

Doubtless many will exclaim against the Roman Catholic Church for
this; but the simple truth is that Protestantism was no less
zealous against the new scientific doctrine. All branches of the
Protestant Church--Lutheran, Calvinist, Anglican--vied with each
other in denouncing the Copernican doctrine as contrary to
Scripture; and, at a later period, the Puritans showed the same

Said Martin Luther: "People gave ear to an upstart astrologer
who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or
the firmament, the sun and the moon. Whoever wishes to appear
clever must devise some new system, which of all systems is of
course the very best. This fool wishes to reverse the entire
science of astronomy; but sacred Scripture tells us that Joshua
commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth."
Melanchthon, mild as he was, was not behind Luther in condemning
Copernicus. In his treatise on the Elements of Physics, published
six years after Copernicus's death, he says: "The eyes are
witnesses that the heavens revolve in the space of twenty-four
hours. But certain men, either from the love of novelty, or to
make a display of ingenuity, have concluded that the earth moves;
and they maintain that neither the eighth sphere nor the sun
revolves....Now, it is a want of honesty and decency to assert
such notions publicly, and the example is pernicious. It is the
part of a good mind to accept the truth as revealed by God and to
acquiesce in it." Melanchthon then cites the passages in the
Psalms and Ecclesiastes, which he declares assert positively and
clearly that the earth stands fast and that the sun moves around
it, and adds eight other proofs of his proposition that "the
earth can be nowhere if not in the centre of the universe." So
earnest does this mildest of the Reformers become, that he
suggests severe measures to restrain such impious teachings as
those of Copernicus.[50]

[50] See the Tischreden in the Walsch edition of Luther's Works,
1743, vol. xxii, p. 2260; also Melanchthon's Initia Doctrinae
Physicae. This treatise is cited under a mistaken title by the
Catholic World, September, 1870. The correct title is as given
above; it will be found in the Corpus Reformatorum, vol. xiii
(ed. Bretschneider, Halle, 1846), pp. 216, 217. See also Madler,
vol. i, p. 176; also Lange, Geschichte des Materialismus, vol. i,
p. 217; also Prowe, Ueber die Abhangigkeit des Copernicus, Thorn,
1865, p. 4; also note, pp. 5, 6, where text is given in full.

While Lutheranism was thus condemning the theory of the earth's
movement, other branches of the Protestant Church did not remain
behind. Calvin took the lead, in his Commentary on Genesis, by
condemning all who asserted that the earth is not at the centre
of the universe. He clinched the matter by the usual reference
to the first verse of the ninety-third Psalm, and asked, "Who
will venture to place the authority of Copernicus above that of
the Holy Spirit?" Turretin, Calvin's famous successor, even
after Kepler and Newton had virtually completed the theory of
Copernicus and Galileo, put forth his compendium of theology, in
which he proved, from a multitude of scriptural texts, that the
heavens, sun, and moon move about the earth, which stands still
in the centre. In England we see similar theological efforts,
even after they had become evidently futile. Hutchinson's
Moses's Principia, Dr. Samuel Pike's Sacred Philosophy, the
writings of Horne, Bishop Horsley, and President Forbes contain
most earnest attacks upon the ideas of Newton, such attacks being
based upon Scripture. Dr. John Owen, so famous in the annals of
Puritanism, declared the Copernican system a "delusive and
arbitrary hypothesis, contrary to Scripture"; and even John
Wesley declared the new ideas to "tend toward infidelity."[51]

[51] On the teachings on Protestantism as regards the Copernican
theory, see citations in Canon Farrar's History of
Interpretation, preface, xviii; also Rev. Dr. Shields, of
Princeton, The Final Philosophy, pp. 60, 61.

And Protestant peoples were not a whit behind Catholic in
following out such teachings. The people of Elbing made
themselves merry over a farce in which Copernicus was the main
object of ridicule. The people of Nuremberg, a Protestant
stronghold, caused a medal to be struck with inscriptions
ridiculing the philosopher and his theory.

Why the people at large took this view is easily understood when
we note the attitude of the guardians of learning, both Catholic
and Protestant, in that age. It throws great light upon sundry
claims by modern theologians to take charge of public instruction
and of the evolution of science. So important was it thought to
have "sound learning" guarded and "safe science" taught, that in
many of the universities, as late as the end of the seventeenth
century, professors were forced to take an oath not to hold the
"Pythagorean"--that is, the Copernican--idea as to the movement
of the heavenly bodies. As the contest went on, professors were
forbidden to make known to students the facts revealed by the
telescope. Special orders to this effect were issued by the
ecclesiastical authorities to the universities and colleges of
Pisa, Innspruck, Louvain, Douay, Salamanca, and others. During
generations we find the authorities of these Universities
boasting that these godless doctrines were kept away from their
students. It is touching to hear such boasts made then, just as
it is touching now to hear sundry excellent university
authorities boast that they discourage the reading of Mill,
Spencer, and Darwin. Nor were such attempts to keep the truth
from students confined to the Roman Catholic institutions of
learning. Strange as it may seem, nowhere were the facts
confirming the Copernican theory more carefully kept out of sight
than at Wittenberg--the university of Luther and Melanchthon.
About the middle of the sixteenth century there were at that
centre of Protestant instruction two astronomers of a very high
order, Rheticus and Reinhold; both of these, after thorough
study, had convinced themselves that the Copernican system was
true, but neither of them was allowed to tell this truth to his
students. Neither in his lecture announcements nor in his
published works did Rheticus venture to make the new system
known, and he at last gave up his professorship and left
Wittenberg, that he might have freedom to seek and tell the
truth. Reinhold was even more wretchedly humiliated. Convinced
of the truth of the new theory, he was obliged to advocate the
old; if he mentioned the Copernican ideas, he was compelled to
overlay them with the Ptolemaic. Even this was not thought safe
enough, and in 1571 the subject was intrusted to Peucer. He was
eminently "sound," and denounced the Copernican theory in his
lectures as "absurd, and unfit to be introduced into the

To clinch anti-scientific ideas more firmly into German
Protestant teaching, Rector Hensel wrote a text-book for schools
entitled The Restored Mosaic System of the World, which showed
the Copernican astronomy to be unscriptural.

Doubtless this has a far-off sound; yet its echo comes very near
modern Protestantism in the expulsion of Dr. Woodrow by the
Presbyterian authorities in South Carolina; the expulsion of
Prof. Winchell by the Methodist Episcopal authorities in
Tennessee; the expulsion of Prof. Toy by Baptist authorities in
Kentucky; the expulsion of the professors at Beyrout under
authority of American Protestant divines--all for holding the
doctrines of modern science, and in the last years of the
nineteenth century.[52]

[52] For treatment of Copernican ideas by the people, see The
Catholic World, as above; also Melanchthon, ubi supra; also
Prowe, Copernicus, Berlin, 1883, vol. i, p. 269, note; also pp.
279, 280; also Madler, i, p.167. For Rector Hensel, see Rev. Dr.
Shield's Final Philosophy, p. 60. For details of recent
Protestant efforts against evolution doctrines, see the chapter
on the Fall of Man and Anthropology in this work.

But the new truth could not be concealed; it could neither be
laughed down nor frowned down. Many minds had received it, but
within the hearing of the papacy only one tongue appears to have
dared to utter it clearly. This new warrior was that strange
mortal, Giordano Bruno. He was hunted from land to land, until
at last he turned on his pursuers with fearful invectives. For
this he was entrapped at Venice, imprisoned during six years in
the dungeons of the Inquisition at Rome, then burned alive, and
his ashes scattered to the winds. Still, the new truth lived on.

Ten years after the martyrdom of Bruno the truth of Copernicus's
doctrine was established by the telescope of Galileo.[53]

[53] For Bruno, see Bartholmess, Vie de Jordano Bruno, Paris,
1846, vol. i, p.121 and pp. 212 et seq.; also Berti, Vita di
Giordano Bruno, Firenze, 1868, chap. xvi; also Whewell, vol. i,
pp. 272, 273. That Whewell is somewhat hasty in attributing
Bruno's punishment entirely to the Spaccio della Bestia
Trionfante will be evident, in spite of Montucla, to anyone who
reads the account of the persecution in Bartholmess or Berti; and
even if Whewell be right, the Spaccio would never have been
written but for Bruno's indignation at ecclesiastical oppression.
See Tiraboschi, vol. vii, pp. 466 et seq.

Herein was fulfilled one of the most touching of prophecies.
Years before, the opponents of Copernicus had said to him, "If
your doctrines were true, Venus would show phases like the moon."
Copernicus answered: "You are right; I know not what to say;
but God is good, and will in time find an answer to this
objection." The God-given answer came when, in 1611, the rude
telescope of Galileo showed the phases of Venus.[54]

[54] For the relation of these discoveries to Copernicus's work,
see Delambre, Histoire de l'Astronomie moderne, discours
preliminaire, p. xiv; also Laplace, Systeme du Monde, vol. i, p.
326; and for more careful statements, Kepler's Opera Omnia, edit.
Frisch, tome ii, p. 464. For Copernicus's prophecy, see Cantu,
Histoire Univerelle, vol. xv, p. 473. (Cantu was an eminent
Roman Catholic.)


On this new champion, Galileo, the whole war was at last
concentrated. His discoveries had clearly taken the Copernican
theory out of the list of hypotheses, and had placed it before
the world as a truth. Against him, then, the war was long and
bitter. The supporters of what was called "sound learning"
declared his discoveries deceptions and his announcements
blasphemy. Semi-scientific professors, endeavouring to curry
favour with the Church, attacked him with sham science; earnest
preachers attacked him with perverted Scripture; theologians,
inquisitors, congregations of cardinals, and at last two popes
dealt with him, and, as was supposed, silenced his impious
doctrine forever.[55]

[55] A very curious example of this sham science employed by
theologians is seen in the argument, frequently used at that
time, that, if the earth really moved, a stone falling from a
height would fall back of a point immediately below its point of
starting. This is used by Fromundus with great effect. It
appears never to have occurred to him to test the matter by
dropping a stone from the topmast of a ship. Bezenburg has
mathematically demonstrated just such an abberation in falling
bodies, as is mathematically required by the diurnal motion of
the earth. See Jevons, Principles of Science, pp. 388, 389,
second edition, 1877.

I shall present this warfare at some length because, so far as I
can find, no careful summary of it has been given in our
language, since the whole history was placed in a new light by
the revelations of the trial documents in the Vatican Library,
honestly published for the first time by L'Epinois in 1867, and
since that by Gebler, Berti, Favaro, and others.

The first important attack on Galileo began in 1610, when he
announced that his telescope had revealed the moons of the planet
Jupiter. The enemy saw that this took the Copernican theory out
of the realm of hypothesis, and they gave battle immediately.
They denounced both his method and its results as absurd and
impious. As to his method, professors bred in the "safe science"
favoured by the Church argued that the divinely appointed way of
arriving at the truth in astronomy was by theological reasoning
on texts of Scripture; and, as to his results, they insisted,
first, that Aristotle knew nothing of these new revelations;
and, next, that the Bible showed by all applicable types that
there could be only seven planets; that this was proved by the
seven golden candlesticks of the Apocalypse, by the
seven-branched candlestick of the tabernacle, and by the seven
churches of Asia; that from Galileo's doctrine consequences must
logically result destructive to Christian truth. Bishops and
priests therefore warned their flocks, and multitudes of the
faithful besought the Inquisition to deal speedily and sharply
with the heretic.[56]

[56] See Delambre on the discovery of the satellites of Jupiter
as the turning-point with the heliocentric doctrine. As to its
effects on Bacon, see Jevons, p. 638, as above. For argument
drawn from the candlestick and the seven churches, see Delambre,
p. 20.

In vain did Galileo try to prove the existence of satellites by
showing them to the doubters through his telescope: they either
declared it impious to look, or, if they did look, denounced the
satellites as illusions from the devil. Good Father Clavius
declared that "to see satellites of Jupiter, men had to make an
instrument which would create them." In vain did Galileo try to
save the great truths he had discovered by his letters to the
Benedictine Castelli and the Grand-Duchess Christine, in which he
argued that literal biblical interpretation should not be applied
to science; it was answered that such an argument only made his
heresy more detestable; that he was "worse than Luther or

The war on the Copernican theory, which up to that time had been
carried on quietly, now flamed forth. It was declared that the
doctrine was proved false by the standing still of the sun for
Joshua, by the declarations that "the foundations of the earth
are fixed so firm that they can not be moved," and that the sun
"runneth about from one end of the heavens to the other."[57]

[57] For principle points as given, see Libri, Histoire des
Sciences mathematiques en Italie, vol. iv, p. 211; De Morgan,
Paradoxes, p. 26, for account of Father Clavius. It is
interesting to know that Clavius, in his last years, acknowledged
that "the whole system of the heavens is broken down, and must be
mended," Cantu, Histoire Universelle, vol. xv, p. 478. See Th.
Martin, Galilee, pp. 34, 208, and 266; also Heller, Geschichte
der Physik, Stuttgart, 1882, vol. i, p. 366. For the original
documents, see L'Epinois, pp.34 and 36; or better, Gebler's
careful edition of the trial (Die Acten des Galileischen
Processes, Stuttgart, 1877), pp. 47 et seq. Martin's translation
seems somewhat too free. See also Gebler, Galileo Galilei,
English translation, London, 1879, pp. 76-78; also Reusch, Der
Process Galilei's und die Jesuiten, Bonn, 1879, chaps. ix, x, xi.

But the little telescope of Galileo still swept the heavens, and
another revelation was announced--the mountains and valleys in
the moon. This brought on another attack. It was declared that
this, and the statement that the moon shines by light reflected
from the sun, directly contradict the statement in Genesis that
the moon is "a great light." To make the matter worse, a
painter, placing the moon in a religious picture in its usual
position beneath the feet of the Blessed Virgin, outlined on its
surface mountains and valleys; this was denounced as a sacrilege
logically resulting from the astronomer's heresy.

Still another struggle was aroused when the hated telescope
revealed spots upon the sun, and their motion indicating the
sun's rotation. Monsignor Elci, head of the University of Pisa,
forbade the astronomer Castelli to mention these spots to his
students. Father Busaeus, at the University of Innspruck,
forbade the astronomer Scheiner, who had also discovered the
spots and proposed a SAFE explanation of them, to allow the new
discovery to be known there. At the College of Douay and the
University of Louvain this discovery was expressly placed under
the ban, and this became the general rule among the Catholic
universities and colleges of Europe. The Spanish universities
were especially intolerant of this and similar ideas, and up to a
recent period their presentation was strictly forbidden in the
most important university of all--that of Salamanca.[58]

[58] See Ticknor, History of Spanish Literature, vol. iii.

Such are the consequences of placing the instruction of men's
minds in the hands of those mainly absorbed in saving men's
souls. Nothing could be more in accordance with the idea
recently put forth by sundry ecclesiastics, Catholic and
Protestant, that the Church alone is empowered to promulgate
scientific truth or direct university instruction. But science
gained a victory here also. Observations of the solar spots were
reported not only from Galileo in Italy, but from Fabricius in
Holland. Father Scheiner then endeavoured to make the usual
compromise between theology and science. He promulgated a
pseudo-scientific theory, which only provoked derision.

The war became more and more bitter. The Dominican Father
Caccini preached a sermon from the text, "Ye men of Galilee, why
stand ye gazing up into heaven?" and this wretched pun upon the
great astronomer's name ushered in sharper weapons; for, before
Caccini ended, he insisted that "geometry is of the devil," and
that "mathematicians should be banished as the authors of all
heresies." The Church authorities gave Caccini promotion.

Father Lorini proved that Galileo's doctrine was not only
heretical but "atheistic," and besought the Inquisition to
intervene. The Bishop of Fiesole screamed in rage against the
Copernican system, publicly insulted Galileo, and denounced him
to the Grand-Duke. The Archbishop of Pisa secretly sought to
entrap Galileo and deliver him to the Inquisition at Rome. The
Archbishop of Florence solemnly condemned the new doctrines as
unscriptural; and Paul V, while petting Galileo, and inviting
him as the greatest astronomer of the world to visit Rome, was
secretly moving the Archbishop of Pisa to pick up evidence
against the astronomer.

But by far the most terrible champion who now appeared was
Cardinal Bellarmin, one of the greatest theologians the world has
known. He was earnest, sincere, and learned, but insisted on
making science conform to Scripture. The weapons which men of
Bellarmin's stamp used were purely theological. They held up
before the world the dreadful consequences which must result to
Christian theology were the heavenly bodies proved to revolve
about the sun and not about the earth. Their most tremendous
dogmatic engine was the statement that "his pretended discovery
vitiates the whole Christian plan of salvation." Father Lecazre
declared "it casts suspicion on the doctrine of the incarnation."
Others declared, "It upsets the whole basis of theology. If the
earth is a planet, and only one among several planets, it can not
be that any such great things have been done specially for it as
the Christian doctrine teaches. If there are other planets,
since God makes nothing in vain, they must be inhabited; but how
can their inhabitants be descended from Adam? How can they trace
back their origin to Noah's ark? How can they have been redeemed
by the Saviour?" Nor was this argument confined to the
theologians of the Roman Church; Melanchthon, Protestant as he
was, had already used it in his attacks on Copernicus and his

In addition to this prodigious theological engine of war there
was kept up a fire of smaller artillery in the shape of texts and
scriptural extracts.

But the war grew still more bitter, and some weapons used in it
are worth examining. They are very easily examined, for they are
to be found on all the battlefields of science; but on that
field they were used with more effect than on almost any other.
These weapons are the epithets "infidel" and "atheist." They
have been used against almost every man who has ever done
anything new for his fellow-men. The list of those who have been
denounced as "infidel" and "atheist" includes almost all great
men of science, general scholars, inventors, and philanthropists.

The purest Christian life, the noblest Christian character, have
not availed to shield combatants. Christians like Isaac Newton,
Pascal, Locke, Milton, and even Fenelon and Howard, have had this
weapon hurled against them. Of all proofs of the existence of a
God, those of Descartes have been wrought most thoroughly into
the minds of modern men; yet the Protestant theologians of
Holland sought to bring him to torture and to death by the charge
of atheism, and the Roman Catholic theologians of France thwarted
him during his life and prevented any due honours to him after
his death.[59]

[59] For various objectors and objections to Galileo by his
contemporaries, see Libri, Histoire des Sciences mathematiques en
Italie, vol. iv, p. 233, 234; also Martin, Vie de Galilee. For
Father Lecazre's argument, see Flammarion, Mondes imaginaires et
mondes reels, 6th ed., pp. 315, 316. For Melanchthon's argument,
see his Initia in Opera, vol. iii, Halle, 1846.

These epithets can hardly be classed with civilized weapons.
They are burning arrows; they set fire to masses of popular
prejudice, always obscuring the real question, sometimes
destroying the attacking party. They are poisoned weapons. They
pierce the hearts of loving women; they alienate dear children;
they injure a man after life is ended, for they leave poisoned
wounds in the hearts of those who loved him best--fears for his
eternal salvation, dread of the Divine wrath upon him. Of
course, in these days these weapons, though often effective in
vexing good men and in scaring good women, are somewhat blunted;
indeed, they not infrequently injure the assailants more than the
assailed. So it was not in the days of Galileo; they were then
in all their sharpness and venom.[60]

[60] For curious exemplification of the way in which these
weapons have been hurled, see lists of persons charged with
"infidelity" and "atheism," in the Dictionnaire des Athees.,
Paris, [1800]; also Lecky, History of Rationalism, vol. ii, p.
50. For the case of Descartes, see Saisset, Descartes et ses
Precurseurs, pp. 103, 110. For the facility with which the term
"atheist" has been applied from the early Aryans down to
believers in evolution, see Tylor, Primitive Culture, vol. i, p.

Yet a baser warfare was waged by the Archbishop of Pisa. This
man, whose cathedral derives its most enduring fame from
Galileo's deduction of a great natural law from the swinging lamp
before its altar, was not an archbishop after the noble mould of
Borromeo and Fenelon and Cheverus. Sadly enough for the Church
and humanity, he was simply a zealot and intriguer: he perfected
the plan for entrapping the great astronomer.

Galileo, after his discoveries had been denounced, had written to
his friend Castelli and to the Grand-Duchess Christine two
letters to show that his discoveries might be reconciled with
Scripture. On a hint from the Inquisition at Rome, the
archbishop sought to get hold of these letters and exhibit them
as proofs that Galileo had uttered heretical views of theology
and of Scripture, and thus to bring him into the clutch of the
Inquisition. The archbishop begs Castelli, therefore, to let him
see the original letter in the handwriting of Galileo. Castelli
declines. The archbishop then, while, as is now revealed,
writing constantly and bitterly to the Inquisition against
Galileo, professes to Castelli the greatest admiration of
Galileo's genius and a sincere desire to know more of his
discoveries. This not succeeding, the archbishop at last throws
off the mask and resorts to open attack.

The whole struggle to crush Galileo and to save him would be
amusing were it not so fraught with evil. There were intrigues
and counter-intrigues, plots and counter-plots, lying and spying;
and in the thickest of this seething, squabbling, screaming mass
of priests, bishops, archbishops, and cardinals, appear two
popes, Paul V and Urban VIII. It is most suggestive to see in
this crisis of the Church, at the tomb of the prince of the
apostles, on the eve of the greatest errors in Church policy the
world has known, in all the intrigues and deliberations of these
consecrated leaders of the Church, no more evidence of the
guidance or presence of the Holy Spirit than in a caucus of New
York politicians at Tammany Hall.

But the opposing powers were too strong. In 1615 Galileo was
summoned before the Inquisition at Rome, and the mine which had
been so long preparing was sprung. Sundry theologians of the
Inquisition having been ordered to examine two propositions which
had been extracted from Galileo's letters on the solar spots,
solemnly considered these points during about a month and
rendered their unanimous decision as follows: "THE FIRST

The Pope himself, Paul V, now intervened again: he ordered that
Galileo be brought before the Inquisition. Then the greatest man
of science in that age was brought face to face with the greatest
theologian--Galileo was confronted by Bellarmin. Bellarmin shows
Galileo the error of his opinion and orders him to renounce it.
De Lauda, fortified by a letter from the Pope, gives orders that
the astronomer be placed in the dungeons of the Inquisition
should he refuse to yield. Bellarmin now commands Galileo, "in
the name of His Holiness the Pope and the whole Congregation of
the Holy Office, to relinquish altogether the opinion that the
sun is the centre of the world and immovable, and that the earth
moves, nor henceforth to hold, teach, or defend it in any way
whatsoever, verbally or in writing." This injunction Galileo
acquiesces in and promises to obey.[61]

[61] I am aware that the theory proposed by Wohwill and
developed by Gebler denied that this promise was ever made by
Galileo, and holds that the passage was a forgery devised later
by the Church rulers to justify the proceedings of 1632 and 1644.
This would make the conduct of the Church worse, but authorities
as eminent consider the charge not proved. A careful examination
of the documents seems to disprove it.

This was on the 26th of February, 1616. About a fortnight later
the Congregation of the Index, moved thereto, as the letters and
documents now brought to light show, by Pope Paul V, solemnly
CONTRARY TO HOLY SCRIPTURE"; and that this opinion must neither
be taught nor advocated. The same decree condemned all writings
EARTH." The great work of Copernicus was interdicted until
corrected in accordance with the views of the Inquisition; and
the works of Galileo and Kepler, though not mentioned by name at
that time, were included among those implicitly condemned as
"affirming the motion of the earth."

The condemnations were inscribed upon the Index; and, finally,
the papacy committed itself as an infallible judge and teacher to
the world by prefixing to the Index the usual papal bull giving
its monitions the most solemn papal sanction. To teach or even
read the works denounced or passages condemned was to risk
persecution in this world and damnation in the next. Science had
apparently lost the decisive battle.

For a time after this judgment Galileo remained in Rome,
apparently hoping to find some way out of this difficulty; but
he soon discovered the hollowness of the protestations made to
him by ecclesiastics, and, being recalled to Florence, remained
in his hermitage near the city in silence, working steadily,
indeed, but not publishing anything save by private letters to
friends in various parts of Europe.

But at last a better vista seemed to open for him. Cardinal
Barberini, who had seemed liberal and friendly, became pope under
the name of Urban VIII. Galileo at this conceived new hopes, and
allowed his continued allegiance to the Copernican system to be
known. New troubles ensued. Galileo was induced to visit Rome
again, and Pope Urban tried to cajole him into silence,
personally taking the trouble to show him his errors by argument.
Other opponents were less considerate, for works appeared
attacking his ideas--works all the more unmanly, since their
authors knew that Galileo was restrained by force from defending
himself. Then, too, as if to accumulate proofs of the unfitness
of the Church to take charge of advanced instruction, his salary
as a professor at the University of Pisa was taken from him, and
sapping and mining began. Just as the Archbishop of Pisa some
years before had tried to betray him with honeyed words to the
Inquisition, so now Father Grassi tried it, and, after various
attempts to draw him out by flattery, suddenly denounced his
scientific ideas as "leading to a denial of the Real Presence in
the Eucharist."

For the final assault upon him a park of heavy artillery was at
last wheeled into place. It may be seen on all the scientific
battlefields. It consists of general denunciation; and in 1631
Father Melchior Inchofer, of the Jesuits, brought his artillery
to bear upon Galileo with this declaration: "The opinion of the
earth's motion is of all heresies the most abominable, the most
pernicious, the most scandalous; the immovability of the earth
is thrice sacred; argument against the immortality of the soul,
the existence of God, and the incarnation, should be tolerated
sooner than an argument to prove that the earth moves." From the
other end of Europe came a powerful echo.

From the shadow of the Cathedral of Antwerp, the noted theologian
Fromundus gave forth his famous treatise, the Ant-Aristarclius.
Its very title-page was a contemptuous insult to the memory of
Copernicus, since it paraded the assumption that the new truth
was only an exploded theory of a pagan astronomer. Fromundus
declares that "sacred Scripture fights against the Copernicans."
To prove that the sun revolves about the earth, he cites the
passage in the Psalms which speaks of the sun "which cometh forth
as a bridegroom out of his chamber." To prove that the earth
stands still, he quotes a passage from Ecclesiastes, "The earth
standeth fast forever." To show the utter futility of the
Copernican theory, he declares that, if it were true, "the wind
would constantly blow from the east"; and that "buildings and
the earth itself would fly off with such a rapid motion that men
would have to be provided with claws like cats to enable them to
hold fast to the earth's surface." Greatest weapon of all, he
works up, by the use of Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas, a
demonstration from theology and science combined, that the earth
MUST stand in the centre, and that the sun MUST revolve about
it.[62] Nor was it merely fanatics who opposed the truth
revealed by Copernicus; such strong men as Jean Bodin, in
France, and Sir Thomas Browne, in England, declared against it as
evidently contrary to Holy Scripture.

[62] For Father Inchofer's attack, see his Tractatus Syllepticus,
cited in Galileo's letter to Deodati, July 28, 1634. For
Fromundus's more famous attack, see his Ant-Aristarchus, already
cited, passim, but especially the heading of chap. vi, and the
argument in chapters x and xi. A copy of this work may be found
in the Astor Library at New York, and another in the White
Library at Cornell University. For interesting references to one
of Fromundus's arguments, showing, by a mixture of mathematics
and theology, that the earth is the centre of the universe, see
Quetelet, Histoire des Sciences mathematiques et physiques,
Bruxelles, 1864, p. 170; also Madler, Geschichte der Astronomie,
vol. i, p. 274. For Bodin's opposition to the Copernican theory,
see Hallam, Literature of Europe; also Lecky. For Sir Thomas
Brown, see his Vulgar and Common Errors, book iv, chap. v; and as
to the real reason for his disbelief in the Copernican view, see
Dr. Johnson's preface to his Life of Browne, vol. i, p. xix, of
his collected works.


While news of triumphant attacks upon him and upon the truth he
had established were coming in from all parts of Europe, Galileo
prepared a careful treatise in the form of a dialogue, exhibiting
the arguments for and against the Copernican and Ptolemaic
systems, and offered to submit to any conditions that the Church
tribunals might impose, if they would allow it to be printed. At
last, after discussions which extended through eight years, they
consented, imposing a humiliating condition--a preface written in
accordance with the ideas of Father Ricciardi, Master of the
Sacred Palace, and signed by Galileo, in which the Copernican
theory was virtually exhibited as a play of the imagination, and
not at all as opposed to the Ptolemaic doctrine reasserted in
1616 by the Inquisition under the direction of Pope Paul V.

This new work of Galileo--the Dialogo--appeared in 1632, and met
with prodigious success. It put new weapons into the hands of
the supporters of the Copernican theory. The pious preface was
laughed at from one end of Europe to the other. This roused the
enemy; the Jesuits, Dominicans, and the great majority of the
clergy returned to the attack more violent than ever, and in the
midst of them stood Pope Urban VIII, most bitter of all. His
whole power was now thrown against Galileo. He was touched in
two points: first, in his personal vanity, for Galileo had put
the Pope's arguments into the mouth of one of the persons in the
dialogue and their refutation into the mouth of another; but,
above all, he was touched in his religious feelings. Again and
again His Holiness insisted to all comers on the absolute and
specific declarations of Holy Scripture, which prove that the sun
and heavenly bodies revolve about the earth, and declared that to
gainsay them is simply to dispute revelation. Certainly, if one
ecclesiastic more than another ever seemed NOT under the care of
the Spirit of Truth, it was Urban VIII in all this matter.

Herein was one of the greatest pieces of ill fortune that has
ever befallen the older Church. Had Pope Urban been broad-minded
and tolerant like Benedict XIV, or had he been taught moderation
by adversity like Pius VII, or had he possessed the large
scholarly qualities of Leo XIII, now reigning, the vast scandal
of the Galileo case would never have burdened the Church:
instead of devising endless quibbles and special pleadings to
escape responsibility for this colossal blunder, its defenders
could have claimed forever for the Church the glory of fearlessly
initiating a great epoch in human thought.

But it was not so to be. Urban was not merely Pope; he was also
a prince of the house of Barberini, and therefore doubly angry
that his arguments had been publicly controverted.

The opening strategy of Galileo's enemies was to forbid the sale
of his work; but this was soon seen to be unavailing, for the
first edition had already been spread throughout Europe. Urban
now became more angry than ever, and both Galileo and his works
were placed in the hands of the Inquisition. In vain did the
good Benedictine Castelli urge that Galileo was entirely
respectful to the Church; in vain did he insist that "nothing
that can be done can now hinder the earth from revolving." He
was dismissed in disgrace, and Galileo was forced to appear in
the presence of the dread tribunal without defender or adviser.
There, as was so long concealed, but as is now fully revealed, he
was menaced with torture again and again by express order of Pope
Urban, and, as is also thoroughly established from the trial
documents themselves, forced to abjure under threats, and
subjected to imprisonment by command of the Pope; the Inquisition
deferring in this whole matter to the papal authority. All the
long series of attempts made in the supposed interest of the
Church to mystify these transactions have at last failed. The
world knows now that Galileo was subjected certainly to
indignity, to imprisonment, and to threats equivalent to torture,
and was at last forced to pronounce publicly and on his knees his
recantation, as follows:

"I, Galileo, being in my seventieth year, being a prisoner and on
my knees, and before your Eminences, having before my eyes the
Holy Gospel, which I touch with my hands, abjure, curse, and
detest the error and the heresy of the movement of the

[63] For various utterances of Pope Urban against the Copernican
theory at this period, see extracts from the original documents
given by Gebler. For punishment of those who had shown some
favor to Galileo, see various citations, and especially those
from the Vatican manuscript, Gebler, p. 216. As to the text of
the abjuration, see L'Epinois; also Polacco, Anticopernicus,
etc., Venice, 1644; and for a discussion regarding its
publication, see Favaro, Miscellanea Galileana, p. 804. It is
not probable that torture in the ordinary sense was administered
to Galileo, though it was threatened. See Th. Martin, Vie de
Galilee, for a fair summing up of the case.

He was vanquished indeed, for he had been forced, in the face of
all coming ages, to perjure himself. To complete his dishonour,
he was obliged to swear that he would denounce to the Inquisition
any other man of science whom he should discover to be supporting
the "heresy of the motion of the earth."

Many have wondered at this abjuration, and on account of it have
denied to Galileo the title of martyr. But let such gainsayers
consider the circumstances. Here was an old man--one who had
reached the allotted threescore years and ten--broken with
disappointments, worn out with labours and cares, dragged from
Florence to Rome, with the threat from the Pope himself that if
he delayed he should be "brought in chains"; sick in body and
mind, given over to his oppressors by the Grand-Duke who ought to
have protected him, and on his arrival in Rome threatened with
torture. What the Inquisition was he knew well. He could
remember as but of yesterday the burning of Giordano Bruno in
that same city for scientific and philosophic heresy; he could
remember, too, that only eight years before this very time De
Dominis, Archbishop of Spalatro, having been seized by the
Inquisition for scientific and other heresies, had died in a
dungeon, and that his body and his writings had been publicly

To the end of his life--nay, after his life was ended--the
persecution of Galileo was continued. He was kept in exile from
his family, from his friends, from his noble employments, and was
held rigidly to his promise not to speak of his theory. When, in
the midst of intense bodily sufferings from disease, and mental
sufferings from calamities in his family, he besought some little
liberty, he was met with threats of committal to a dungeon.
When, at last, a special commission had reported to the
ecclesiastical authorities that he had become blind and wasted
with disease and sorrow, he was allowed a little more liberty,
but that little was hampered by close surveillance. He was
forced to bear contemptible attacks on himself and on his works
in silence; to see the men who had befriended him severely
punished; Father Castelli banished; Ricciardi, the Master of the
Sacred Palace, and Ciampoli, the papal secretary, thrown out of
their positions by Pope Urban, and the Inquisitor at Florence
reprimanded for having given permission to print Galileo's work.
He lived to see the truths he had established carefully weeded
out from all the Church colleges and universities in Europe; and,
when in a scientific work he happened to be spoken of as
"renowned," the Inquisition ordered the substitution of the word

[64] For the substitution of the word "notorious" for "renowned"
by order of the Inquisition, see Martin, p.227.

And now measures were taken to complete the destruction of the
Copernican theory, with Galileo's proofs of it. On the 16th of
June, 1633, the Holy Congregation, with the permission of the
reigning Pope, ordered the sentence upon Galileo, and his
recantation, to be sent to all the papal nuncios throughout
Europe, as well as to all archbishops, bishops, and inquisitors
in Italy and this document gave orders that the sentence and
abjuration be made known "to your vicars, that you and all
professors of philosophy and mathematics may have knowledge of
it, that they may know why we proceeded against the said Galileo,
and recognise the gravity of his error, in order that they may
avoid it, and thus not incur the penalties which they would have
to suffer in case they fell into the same."[65]

[65] For a copy of this document, see Gebler, p. 269. As to the
spread of this and similar documents notifying Europe of
Galileo's condemnation, see Favaro, pp. 804, 805.

As a consequence, the processors of mathematics and astronomy in
various universities of Europe were assembled and these documents
were read to them. To the theological authorities this gave
great satisfaction. The Rector of the University of Douay,
referring to the opinion of Galileo, wrote to the papal nuncio at
Brussels: "The professors of our university are so opposed to
this fanatical opinion that they have always held that it must be
banished from the schools. In our English college at Douay this
paradox has never been approved and never will be."

Still another step was taken: the Inquisitors were ordered,
especially in Italy, not to permit the publication of a new
edition of any of Galileo's works, or of any similar writings.
On the other hand, theologians were urged, now that Copernicus
and Galileo and Kepler were silenced, to reply to them with
tongue and pen. Europe was flooded with these theological
refutations of the Copernican system.

To make all complete, there was prefixed to the Index of the
Church, forbidding "all writings which affirm the motion of the
earth," a bull signed by the reigning Pope, which, by virtue of
his infallibility as a divinely guided teacher in matters of
faith and morals, clinched this condemnation into the consciences
of the whole Christian world.

From the mass of books which appeared under the auspices of the
Church immediately after the condemnation of Galileo, for the
purpose of rooting out every vestige of the hated Copernican
theory from the mind of the world, two may be taken as typical.
The first of these was a work by Scipio Chiaramonti, dedicated to
Cardinal Barberini. Among his arguments against the double
motion of the earth may be cited the following:

"Animals, which move, have limbs and muscles; the earth has no
limbs or muscles, therefore it does not move. It is angels who
make Saturn, Jupiter, the sun, etc., turn round. If the earth
revolves, it must also have an angel in the centre to set it in
motion; but only devils live there; it would therefore be a
devil who would impart motion to the earth....

"The planets, the sun, the fixed stars, all belong to one
species--namely, that of stars. It seems, therefore, to be a
grievous wrong to place the earth, which is a sink of impurity,
among these heavenly bodies, which are pure and divine things."

The next, which I select from the mass of similar works, is the
Anticopernicus Catholicus of Polacco. It was intended to deal a
finishing stroke at Galileo's heresy. In this it is declared:

"The Scripture always represents the earth as at rest, and the
sun and moon as in motion; or, if these latter bodies are ever
represented as at rest, Scripture represents this as the result
of a great miracle....

"These writings must be prohibited, because they teach certain
principles about the position and motion of the terrestrial globe
repugnant to Holy Scripture and to the Catholic interpretation of
it, not as hypotheses but as established facts...."

Speaking of Galileo's book, Polacco says that it "smacked of
Copernicanism," and that, "when this was shown to the
Inquisition, Galileo was thrown into prison and was compelled to
utterly abjure the baseness of this erroneous dogma."

As to the authority of the cardinals in their decree, Polacco
asserts that, since they are the "Pope's Council" and his
"brothers," their work is one, except that the Pope is favoured
with special divine enlightenment.

Having shown that the authority of the Scriptures, of popes, and
of cardinals is against the new astronomy, he gives a refutation
based on physics. He asks: "If we concede the motion of the
earth, why is it that an arrow shot into the air falls back to
the same spot, while the earth and all things on it have in the
meantime moved very rapidly toward the east? Who does not see
that great confusion would result from this motion?"

Next he argues from metaphysics, as follows: "The Copernican
theory of the earth's motion is against the nature of the earth
itself, because the earth is not only cold but contains in itself
the principle of cold; but cold is opposed to motion, and even
destroys it--as is evident in animals, which become motionless
when they become cold."

Finally, he clinches all with a piece of theological reasoning,
as follows: "Since it can certainly be gathered from Scripture
that the heavens move above the earth, and since a circular
motion requires something immovable around which to move,... the
earth is at the centre of the universe."[66]

[66] For Chiaramonti's book and selections given, see Gebler as
above, p. 271. For Polacco, see his work as cited, especially
Assertiones i, ii, vii, xi, xiii, lxxiii, clcccvii, and others.
The work is in the White Library at Cornell University. The date
of it is 1644.

But any sketch of the warfare between theology and science in
this field would be incomplete without some reference to the
treatment of Galileo after his death. He had begged to be buried
in his family tomb in Santa Croce; this request was denied. His
friends wished to erect a monument over him; this, too, was
refused. Pope Urban said to the ambassador Niccolini that "it
would be an evil example for the world if such honours were
rendered to a man who had been brought before the Roman
Inquisition for an opinion so false and erroneous; who had
communicated it to many others, and who had given so great a
scandal to Christendom." In accordance, therefore, with the wish
of the Pope and the orders of the Inquisition, Galileo was buried
ignobly, apart from his family, without fitting ceremony, without
monument, without epitaph. Not until forty years after did
Pierrozzi dare write an inscription to be placed above his bones;
not until a hundred years after did Nelli dare transfer his
remains to a suitable position in Santa Croce, and erect a
monument above them. Even then the old conscientious hostility
burst forth: the Inquisition was besought to prevent such
honours to "a man condemned for notorious errors"; and that
tribunal refused to allow any epitaph to be placed above him
which had not been submitted to its censorship. Nor has that old
conscientious consistency in hatred yet fully relented: hardly a
generation since has not seen some ecclesiastic, like Marini or
De Bonald or Rallaye or De Gabriac, suppressing evidence, or
torturing expressions, or inventing theories to blacken the
memory of Galileo and save the reputation of the Church. Nay,
more: there are school histories, widely used, which, in the
supposed interest of the Church, misrepresent in the grossest
manner all these transactions in which Galileo was concerned.
Sancta simplicitas! The Church has no worse enemies than those
who devise and teach these perversions. They are simply rooting
out, in the long run, from the minds of the more thoughtful
scholars, respect for the great organization which such writings
are supposed to serve.[67]

[67] For the persecutions of Galileo's memory after his death,
see Gebler and Wohwill, but especially Th. Martin, p. 243 and
chaps. ix and x. For documentary proofs, see L'Epinois. For a
collection of the slanderous theories invented against Galileo,
see Martin, final chapters and appendix. Both these authors are
devoted to the Church, but unlike Monsignor Marini, are too
upright to resort to the pious fraud of suppressing documents or
interpolating pretended facts.

The Protestant Church was hardly less energetic against this new
astronomy than the mother Church. The sacred science of the
first Lutheran Reformers was transmitted as a precious legacy,
and in the next century was made much of by Calovius. His great
learning and determined orthodoxy gave him the Lutheran
leadership. Utterly refusing to look at ascertained facts, he
cited the turning back of the shadow upon King Hezekiah's dial
and the standing still of the sun for Joshua, denied the movement
of the earth, and denounced the whole new view as clearly opposed
to Scripture. To this day his arguments are repeated by sundry
orthodox leaders of American Lutheranism.

As to the other branches of the Reformed Church, we have already
seen how Calvinists, Anglicans, and, indeed, Protestant
sectarians generally, opposed the new truth.[68]

[68] For Clovius, see Zoeckler, Geschichte, vol. i, pp. 684 and
763. For Calvin and Turretin, see Shields, The Final Philosophy,
pp. 60, 61.

In England, among the strict churchmen, the great Dr. South
denounced the Royal Society as "irreligious," and among the
Puritans the eminent John Owen declared that Newton's discoveries
were "built on fallible phenomena and advanced by many arbitrary
presumptions against evident testimonies of Scripture." Even
Milton seems to have hesitated between the two systems. At the
beginning of the eighth book of Paradise Lost he makes Adam state
the difficulties of the Ptolemaic system, and then brings forward
an angel to make the usual orthodox answers. Later, Milton seems
to lean toward the Copernican theory, for, referring to the
earth, he says:

"Or she from west her silent course advance
With inoffensive pace, that spinning sleeps
On her soft axle, while she faces even
And bears thee soft with the smooth air along."

English orthodoxy continued to assert itself. In 1724 John
Hutchinson, professor at Cambridge, published his Moses'
Principia, a system of philosophy in which he sought to build up
a complete physical system of the universe from the Bible. In
this he assaulted the Newtonian theory as "atheistic," and led
the way for similar attacks by such Church teachers as Horne,
Duncan Forbes, and Jones of Nayland. But one far greater than
these involved himself in this view. That same limitation of his
reason by the simple statements of Scripture which led John
Wesley to declare that, "unless witchcraft is true, nothing in
the Bible is true," led him, while giving up the Ptolemaic theory
and accepting in a general way the Copernican, to suspect the
demonstrations of Newton. Happily, his inborn nobility of
character lifted him above any bitterness or persecuting spirit,
or any imposition of doctrinal tests which could prevent those
who came after him from finding their way to the truth.

But in the midst of this vast expanse of theologic error signs of
right reason began to appear, both in England and America.
Noteworthy is it that Cotton Mather, bitter as was his orthodoxy
regarding witchcraft, accepted, in 1721, the modern astronomy
fully, with all its consequences.

In the following year came an even more striking evidence that
the new scientific ideas were making their way in England. In
1722 Thomas Burnet published the sixth edition of his Sacred
Theory of the Earth. In this he argues, as usual, to establish
the scriptural doctrine of the earth's stability; but in his
preface he sounds a remarkable warning. He mentions the great
mistake into which St. Augustine led the Church regarding the
doctrine of the antipodes, and says, "If within a few years or in
the next generation it should prove as certain and demonstrable
that the earth is moved, as it is now that there are antipodes,
those that have been zealous against it, and engaged the
Scripture in the controversy, would have the same reason to
repent of their forwardness that St. Augustine would now, if he
were still alive."

Fortunately, too, Protestantism had no such power to oppose the
development of the Copernican ideas as the older Church had
enjoyed. Yet there were some things in its warfare against
science even more indefensible. In 1772 the famous English
expedition for scientific discovery sailed from England under
Captain Cook. Greatest by far of all the scientific authorities
chosen to accompany it was Dr. Priestley. Sir Joseph Banks had
especially invited him. But the clergy of Oxford and Cambridge
interfered. Priestley was considered unsound in his views of the
Trinity; it was evidently suspected that this might vitiate his
astronomical observations; he was rejected, and the expedition

The orthodox view of astronomy lingered on in other branches of
the Protestant Church. In Germany even Leibnitz attacked the
Newtonian theory of gravitation on theological grounds, though he
found some little consolation in thinking that it might be used
to support the Lutheran doctrine of consubstantiation.

In Holland the Calvinistic Church was at first strenuous against
the whole new system, but we possess a comical proof that
Calvinism even in its strongholds was powerless against it; for
in 1642 Blaer published at Amsterdam his book on the use of
globes, and, in order to be on the safe side, devoted one part of
his work to the Ptolemaic and the other to the Copernican scheme,
leaving the benevolent reader to take his choice.[69]

[69] For the attitude of Leibnetz, Hutchinson, and the others
named toward the Newtonian theory, see Lecky, History of England
in the Eighteenth Century, chap. ix. For John Wesley, see his
Compendium of Natural Philosophy, being a Survey of the Wisdom of
God in the Creation, London, 1784. See also Leslie Stephen,
Eighteenth Century, vol. ii, p. 413. For Owen, see his Works,

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