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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Joseph-Nicolas Robert-Fleury, Galileo before the Holy Office

Galilée devant le Saint-Office au Vatican
(Galileo before the Holy Office)
author: Joseph-Nicolas Robert-Fleury, 1847
Musée du Louvre, Paris
no copyright infringement intended

The judgment of Galileo, in 1616, took place at Vatican in the Stanza della Segnatura. You will note the fresco of Raphael, La Disputa del Sacramento, in the background of this painting. Strong message: the ecclesiastic judge, Cardinal Bellarmine, finding support in the art of  Raphael - the authority of the Church, based on its mystery of faith, using the symbolism created by Renaissance artists, against the authority of Science, based on experiment and calculus. Bellarmine prevailed then and Galileo was summoned to abjure. Today we know that the victory then of  the Church was apparent, and actually it marked the dawn of a new era. E pur si muove.




  • Galileo was a product of a purely mechanical age. He had no concept of modern progress from technology. He thought about human truth and the embellishment of the human spirit as means of knowing Gods creation. The utopian ideas that would plunge the Modern World into unimaginable terror - all in the name of progress - of the 19th and 20th centuries were not Galileo's design.
    In Fleury's composition we see the mensa of the jury which makes a reference to the Last Supper, and behind the apotheosis of the Eucharist, the cup of Christ, all as a sign of the New Pact with the embodied God who impersonates human truth. Galileo however turns his gaze outward, not solely onto us, but onto the opposite wall of the Stanza della segnatura where Raphael painted the School of Athens, thus founding the Christian faith on the teachings of those who unwittingly searched the truth in God's creation before. Raphael legitimizes the ancient thinkers and their findings and makes them the founding truth for the Christian church of the Renaissance. Galileo identifies with this renaissance way of thinking, and it is he who finds strength in the composition of Raphael's.

    By Blogger Henrik Harpsoe, at 4:45 AM  

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