Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Behind the Scenes at Galileo's Trial: Including the First English Translation of Melchior Inchofer's Tractatus Syllepticus

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Behind the Scenes at Galileo's Trial: Including the First English Translation of Melchior Inchofer's Tractatus Syllepticus

Article excerpt

Behind the Scenes at Galileo's Trial: Including the First English Translation of Melchior Inchofer's Tractatus syllepticus. By Richard J. Blackwell. (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press. 2006. Pp. xiii, 246. $35.00.)

Galileo was condemned in 1633 for asserting that the earth moves around the sun in violation of a formal injunction that he had received on February 26, 1616, shortly before the Congregation of the Index banned Copernicus's On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres on March 5 of that year.The trial was mainly concerned with determining whether Galileo had actually transgressed the injunction, and it was held in private before the Commissioner of the Inquisition, the Dominican Vincenzo Maculano, and the Prosecuting Attorney, Carlo Sinceri. No one else was present, but historians have long been interested in what was not said at the trial and, more specifically, in the role that some Jesuits may have played in getting Galileo into trouble. The two "culprits," as they sometimes have been called, are the astronomer Christoph Scheiner and the theologian Melchor Inchofer. Scheiner believed that he had seen the sunspots before Galileo and, in an age that valued priority, this had led to a bitter dispute. Recent scholars are less hard on Scheiner than used to be the case, but Inchofer has received little attention in the English-speaking world. He was one of the three experts that the Holy Office appointed to study Galileo's Dialogue on the Two World Systems to ascertain whether he had taught and defended the heliocentric theory. The other two were Agostino Oregio, the pope's theologian, and Zaccaria Pasqualigo, a member of the Theatine order. Both concluded that Galileo had contravened the injunction of the Holy Office, but they stated their views in objective and measured terms. Melchor Inchofer had little grasp of the nature of the Copernican system, but he took a polemical stance and attacked Galileo on doctrinal terms. …

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