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Polish Astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus Reburied as a Hero

Updated on May 23, 2010
1580 portrait hanging the the Old Town City Hall in Torun.
1580 portrait hanging the the Old Town City Hall in Torun.

Astronomer, Mathematician and Cleric

Nicolaus Copernicus who lived from 1473 to 1543, was a little known mathematician and astronomer working in Poland. He was a cleric in a Catholic Church in Frombork (Fraunberg), Poland but spent all of his free time developing his theory of a sun-centered universe.


Page from his manuscript "De Revolutionibus" showing the sun with 6 known orbiting planets.
Page from his manuscript "De Revolutionibus" showing the sun with 6 known orbiting planets.


Heliocentrism was actually first proposed in the 3rd century BC by Aristarchus of Samos, but it was Copernicus in the 16th century who presented the world with his model of a sun-centered universe. He based it on complex mathematical equations and his own naked-eye observations. The telescope was not yet invented. His model was expanded by Johannes Kepler with support from Galileo’s telescopic observations which greatly contributed to the acceptance of Copernicus’s theory.

The tower in Frombork where Copernicus worked and lived.
The tower in Frombork where Copernicus worked and lived.

Writing His Manuscript

Copernicus started writing his statement on heliocentrism in 1506. He finished it in 1530 but it was not published until 1543, just before his death. He was still in good standing with church when he died but he was buried in an unmarked grave. His work did not inspire very much debate for the next 60 years and it was only when it was beginning to be noticed that the Catholic Church labeled him a heretic. The Church believed in the geo-centric theory proposed by Ptolemy that the Earth was the center of the universe.

The cathedral in Frombork where Copernicus was reburied in a tomb.
The cathedral in Frombork where Copernicus was reburied in a tomb.

Reburied as a Hero

The Catholic Church has finally acknowledged Copernicus’s revolutionary theory that helped make him the father of modern science, 467 years after his death. On May 22, 2010 he was reburied in a tomb in the cathedral he once served as a cleric. A black granite tombstone identifies him as a church canon and as the founder of the heliocentric theory. The tombstone is decorated with a model of the solar system with the sun and the six planets he diagrammed in their orbits around the sun.

Better Late Than Never

Nicolaus Copernicus was a brilliant man who changed the course of science. I commend the Catholic Church for finally giving him the respect he deserves.


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    • Rose Kolowinski profile imageAUTHOR

      Rose Kolowinski 

      9 years ago

      You are free to express your opinions, but as I said, he was in good standing with the Church when he died. It was only after his work was being noticed that he was labeled a heretic because back then, the Church believed the earth was the center of the universe. The Church persecuted Galileo for his work on the same subject. I did not make this up - it is well documented. I did not deny your comments because I believe in freedom of speech - you have a right to express your opinions, just as I do. This article is only a summary of a great man's life, his contributions to science, and his due respect.

    • profile image

      Dean D 

      9 years ago

      You might try doing a little more homework before setting yourself up as an authority on a subject. Copernicus suffered no "adversity" for his views from the Church. He was promoted by it.

      "In 1533 John Widmanstad, a secretary to the pope, lectured on Copernicus's theory before Pope Clement VII (1536–1605) and several cardinals (religious leaders ranking just below the pope). Widmanstad's hand was behind the letter that Cardinal Schönberg sent from Rome to Copernicus in 1536 URGING HIM TO PUBLISH HIS THOUGHTS..." [Emphasis mine]

      The fact is we probably would not know who he was, not to mention his ideas, were it not for the efforts by the Catholic Church to make his findings public. I understand this doesn't fit the narrative "historians" like you wish to advance of constant struggle between science and religion. It just happens to be the inconvenient truth.

    • Rose Kolowinski profile imageAUTHOR

      Rose Kolowinski 

      9 years ago

      They just gave Galileo his due too not very long ago! Thanks for reading and commenting, Kay.

    • Kay Creates profile image

      Kay Creates 

      9 years ago from Ohio

      Very interesting. I didn't know he was buried in an unmarked grave. I'm glad he's being acknowledged at long last.

    • Rose Kolowinski profile imageAUTHOR

      Rose Kolowinski 

      9 years ago

      Many great men and women get no respect until long after their death. It takes some people that long to recognize greatness. Thanks for your comments, vox vocis.

    • Rose Kolowinski profile imageAUTHOR

      Rose Kolowinski 

      9 years ago

      Yes it is! Thank you for your comments, robie2.

    • vox vocis profile image


      9 years ago

      Nice that they reburied him as he merited! He was a great man and I am really glad he no longer lies in an unmarked grave! After all, his work will ´´live´´ forever!

    • robie2 profile image

      Roberta Kyle 

      9 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Thanks for shining a light on Copernicus-- he deserves some recognition and to be reburied as a hero-- it's about time!

    • Rose Kolowinski profile imageAUTHOR

      Rose Kolowinski 

      9 years ago

      Thanks Nell. I admire people like him who stick to their convictions in adversity. Thanks for commenting.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      9 years ago from England

      Hi, Rose, thanks for this, I am so pleased they have done the right thing at last. That was the trouble back then, anybody that went against the church was branded a heretic, doesn't matter that he was telling the truth. Thank goodness for people like Copernicus. Thanks nell


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