ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Galileo's Defense of a Heliocentric Universe in his Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina in 1615

Updated on December 16, 2013
Copernican Heliocentric Model of the Universe (1543)
Copernican Heliocentric Model of the Universe (1543)

Galileo Confirms the Heliocentric Model

At the time Galileo wrote his letter to Madame Christina of Lorraine - Grand Duchess of Tuscany, there was much debate about the orientation of the Universe. Galileo, following the belief of Nicolaus Copernicus, was a proponent of a heliocentric Universe, meaning that the Sun was fixed in space and that the Earth revolved around it. This was a novel idea during the early 17th century in a time when most believed the Ptolemaic portrayal of a geocentric or Earth-centered Universe. With his newly improved telescope, Galileo had observed things that people before him had not been able to see and thus he came to agree with the earlier assumption of Copernicus. Over time, it came to a point where those scientists who still believed in a geocentric system could no longer refute the evidence that Galileo had presented through observation with his telescope. He said they they took refuge in obstinate silence. However, there were those who set out to discredit Galileo in any way they could. Causing much turmoil between himself and the Catholic church, Galileo was repeatedly harassed by his contemporaries. The letter to the Grand Duchess served as his response to his critics and a defense of his position. It is important to note that Galileo not only sent word to the Duchess Christina but also to others in which his main purpose was to set forth clearly his view of the impropriety of mixing science and religion.

Throughout the letter, Galileo describes the main argument against him as coming from scripture and also seems to reassure the Grand Duchess, a Church affiliate, that his argument and moreover, his science, served to reinforce the Bible. It is easily seen from Galileo's writing that his stance was criticized with material taken mainly from the Christian Bible. This indicates the Christian beliefs that most people had during the time and the reverence that was paid to the Bible. While in this instance it may have been used incorrectly, most people still chose the Bible as their first voice of reason, even to describe things such as the physical world surrounding them. Galileo reported that they used literal translations of scripture to deface his character and ideas. He stated that he was being attacked by those who did not understand the idea of a heliocentric system and who were simply trying to discredit him in any way they could. Not only did they attack his scientific thoughts, they attacked him personally and went as far as calling him a heretic.

Galileo vs. The Inquisition
Galileo vs. The Inquisition

The Relationship Between Science and Religion

Galileo defends himself by saying that it is incorrect for his critics to use the Bible in the way they are using it. Essentially, he says they are using it out of context and he goes on to state that the Bible was not created to describe the heavens, it is for the single purpose of the salvation of souls. Therefore, how could one seek to describe something with a text that had nothing to do with what one was attempting to describe. He continues to say that science should reinforce what the Bible says. People should use their observations of the heavens to help reveal the true meaning that the Holy Spirit gives. According to Galileo, God would not give us senses, reason, or intellect for us to deny them or let them go unused. He seems to hold the Bible in great esteem and is obviously trying to make sure that the Duchess knows that he is by no means discrediting or disagreeing with the Bible - he is discrediting and disagreeing with his critics who are incorrectly using the Bible to attack his character.

The main source of criticism toward Galileo came from those who took the meaning of the Bible literally. It is difficult to tell whether or not this was the case with everyone else: whether they believed in a literal translation of the Bible or they sought to find a deeper meaning from scriptures as a whole. However, it is obvious that the Church and Christianity had a lot of power in Italy and Europe at this time. The letter gives clues about the beliefs and ideas of people during this time: that they had a strong belief in Christianity, but they were also in a time of great debate - not only on the matter of how the Universe was oriented, but also on the progression of science as a whole. The Church had a great deal of power as evident from Galileo's eventual condemnation which took nearly 300 years to be reconciled in which a public apology was made by the Catholic church.

Related Reading


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Thomas Swan profile image

      Thomas Swan 

      6 years ago from New Zealand

      An interesting hub RCW, voted up. I think people take comfort in religion, which means it is used as a "cure" for unpleasant uncertainties, such as the shape of the solar system. This can lead people to use the Bible for a wider purpose than intended. Also, the profundity of answers ascribed to religion means that it will be the first source used. It will also lead to an ignorance of many other intellectual pursuits, including science, because the individual will become pre-occupied with gods and scripture - if God is always the answer, why learn of anything else? Galileo was an absolute hero for what he had to face.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)