cover image Galileo Heretic : Galileo Eretico

Galileo Heretic : Galileo Eretico

Pietro Redondi. Princeton University Press, $49.5 (356pp) ISBN 978-0-691-08451-0

At Galileo's trial in 1633, Inquisition officials forced him to renounce his heliocentric theory, which put the sun at the center of the universe. Yet according to Redondi, an Italian historian, the astronomer's downfall was set in motion a full year earlier when the Jesuits denounced him for spreading the notion that atoms are the building blocks of matter. Both the Jesuits and the Catholic Church feared mechanistic physics as a threat to Eucharistic dogma, the belief that a wafer could be transformed into the body of Christ. Drawing on recently discovered documents in the Vatican archives, Redondi presents a startling reevaluation of this historic trial. He portrays it as a cover-up for charges of heresy stemming from Galileo's atomism. The Machiavellian doings of Pope Urban VIII and Cardinal Bellarmino, a fresco by Raphael and anonymous denunciations are pieces in a puzzle welded together in Redondi's meticulous, scholarly narrative. This study has generated controversy since its original publication in Italy, then France. (October)