Exploring the History of Medicine, Part 32: Florence, Part 12

June 1, 2023


Santa Croce Church ( Basilica di Santa Croce )

Santa Croce means “Holy Cross.”

This church was built in the 13th century as the center of the Franciscan church in Florence.

It is a representative example of Gothic architecture and embodies the essence of the Renaissance.

Many famous people such as Galileo and Michelangelo are buried here, so it is known as the "glorious temple of all the gods".


Galileo Galilei: "Do not doubt the truth, but doubt the common knowledge"

Galileo Galilei was born in the late 16th century.

When considering issues related to astronomy and physics, he did not blindly accept existing theories of Aristoteles or other scholars and philosophers.

He also did not easily trust beliefs supported by the majority, such as the Roman Catholic Church.

 Instead, he conducted his own experiments, observed actual phenomena with his own eyes, and analyzed the results mathematically, resulting in various discoveries.

Therefore, he is called the "father of science" for his contribution to separating science from philosophy and religion.

His discoveries are countless, including the isochronism of the pendulum, the law of falling bodies, and the law of inertia.

Notably, as soon as he heard of the invention of the telescope in the Netherlands in the early 17th century, he quickly improved it and used it for astronomical observations.

Galileo discovered that there are four satellites orbiting Jupiter.

In gratitude to the Medici family, especially Cosimo who protected him, Galileo named the four satellites "Cosimo's Stars" that he later renamed "Medici's Stars."

He also observed the phases of Venus and the Moon.

The conclusion he drew from observing celestial bodies through a telescope directly contradicted the geocentric model that had been believed for 2,000 years since ancient Greece, which held that "all celestial bodies revolve around the Earth."

Copernicus, who had died before Galileo was born, wrote in his book "On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres" that "Venus should have phases," and he advocated the heliocentric model. Galileo actually proved Copernicus's heliocentric model through astronomical observations.

The Catholic Church and some astronomers criticized Galileo, saying that "the world seen through a telescope is only an illusion."

Nevertheless, the Catholic Church claimed that "it is heretical to believe in the heliocentric model " and brought Galileo to trial.

As a result of the controversy, the judge warned and advised Galileo not to advocate the heliocentric model.

However, he continued to study the heliocentric model and wrote a book called "Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems."

Although he published this book during a period of confusion in the papacy, he was ordered to appear in Rome the following year.

He was then tried for the second time.

Finally, he was pronounced guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment, although he escaped the death penalty.

It is very famous that he muttered "and yet it moves" at that time.

Galileo eventually went blind, allegedly due to excessive use of the telescope.

However, he continued his research and achieved further results.

He dictated his findings to his disciples and his son.

In the mid-17th century, at the age of 77, Galileo passed away in the outskirts of Florence.

But, due to being considered a criminal, he was not allowed to have a proper burial. It took 95 years after his death to finally be laid to rest in the Santa Croce Church.

Furthermore, in 1992, after 350 years had passed, Pope John Paul II publicly acknowledged and apologized for the wrongful conviction of Galileo.

This is still fresh in our memory. 

 In the center of his tomb, Galileo sits holding a telescope, with sculptures of women representing astronomy and physics on either side.

Proudly engraved in the center are the four moons of Jupiter, those Galileo himself discovered.