Document analysis: Galileo: Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina (1612)

The sixteenth century is known as an era in the history of civilization that contributed heavily to the process of civilization. This is because it was during his period that most discoveries grounded in the fields of social and physical sciences were made by individuals widely regarded as geniuses considering the natures of their discoveries. Concurrent to this much talked about inventions were instances of interdisciplinary turmoil pitted the theology gurus against the representatives of religious issues. These were majorly affected by the reformations that had rocked the protestant and inquisition groups. Disparities in the various schools of thought in as far as matters scientific and religious were concerned were continually witnessed. On e such person who emerged as a philosophy and mathematical great was one Galileo Galilei of Florence, Italy. Due to his widely acknowledged discoveries he won admirers and adversaries in equal measures. His adversaries formed a colossus that presented t self as the Roman ecclesiastical opposition their major points of reference being his theory on the movement of the earth in relation to other celestial bodies such as the sun and moon. To this effect, he wrote a letter to the Grand Duchess Christina in the year 1612 trying to voice his complains and clearing doubts about his criticized inventions. Various themes that made this letter important have been highlighted in the discussion that follows.

            In this letter to the duchess, Galileo tends to justify his propositions in the wake of heightened opposition and rejection. Since the field of philosophy, mathematics and astronomy were considered lucrative then, competition amongst the players in these vast fields was rife such that an individual’s proposition was in most case subjected to thorough levels of scrutiny and in many instances rejection and withdrawals. Galileo’s works were no different. However, for him the stakes were seemingly higher since he based his works on the Copernican theories, systems and teachings that seemed to be at odds with the bible advancements. Since the world at that time was predominantly catholic, all the works were passed through the religious tests to check out for their conformities with the teachings of the bible that was obviously the guiding object. Having based one of his discoveries on the Copernican theory, Galileo seemed to have invited trouble not only for the specified work but also to any affiliates that would share common grounds with the earth’s rotation works. This generated a conflict between the propositions of Galileo and the religious teachings. 

            The main cause of the argument was the movement of the earth in relation to the sun. While the bible in certain sections was very categorical on the earth’s immobility with reference to the sun, Galileo’s works having strong footings in the Copernican theory, advanced a totally different scenario such that in this case, it was the earth that was moving and not the sun. This he extrapolated through arriving at certain conclusions that the earth rotates around he sun in a systematic manner. This argument led to unprecedented levels of opposition from other inventors who were strongly rooted to religious teachings thereby forming the basis upon which this letter was written. Therein, Galileo points out to the slanderous ways that have been adopted by dissenting inventors in an aim to belittle his propositions or do away with them in totality. These distracters he says are on a mission to convince the masses that his propositions are contradictory to the teachings of the bible thereby rendering them heretical and ultimately damnable in totality 

            This portends more threat than actually assumed since the society is deeply engrossed in religious matters such that any propositions that would tend to expand unfounded and non religious facts are highly likely to be shunned. He also insists that his rivals in the field of academia are resorting to rumors as a weapon against him. In this way, they try to convince the people that the supreme authorities are without a doubt going to discard such propositions. These people, he further points out, are out to create a picture of his propositions as individualistic and self made to attain certain goals rather than the goals that are intended to be achieved. On his part Galileo claimed that his adversaries were only concerned about their welfare and to such selectively read the bible to get the facts that support their stance and nothing more. For that, he painted this rather grim picture of choosy individuals whose paranoia and desire for greatness drive them to great lengths in the search for such status. Galileo further adds that these individuals have taken to the surface rather than the analytical meanings that these verses in the bible tend to extrapolate. He argues that these distracters are keen on using the surface meanings that their verses paint out and not the intended meanings that tend to depict even bigger scenarios of God’s prowess.

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             Misguided information and biased analysis of the various religious teachings by individuals in a bid to fend their propositions while championing for the eradication of other propositions is what Galileo saw as the reason behind his opposition because his other works that previously elicited reactions grew into widely accepted propositions for which those opposing were left with no choices but to conform to those ideals or acquire obstinate muteness as their resolve.

            The document (the letter), like discussed above has its significant that in a way sets it apart from other documents. The key theme that tends to define the importance of this document is the fact that biblical revelations are crossing paths with scientific discoveries and this is causing great levels of discordance as exhibited in the contents of the letter. The key context that tends to redefine the whole issue at hand is the role of the Copernican theory in its explanation of the earth’s movement. The Copernican theory advances the fact hat the earth is not immobile and instead it is the sun that is immovable.  This tends to sharply contravene key excerpts from the bible that tend to advance a different idea altogether. Some of these excerpts that tend to create a clearer distinction between these two scenarios include these verses from the bible: Psalm 104:5 ("You set the earth on its foundations, so that it shall never be shaken."), Joshua 10:13 ("And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped ...”) and Psalms 93:1b ("He has established the world; it shall never be moved "). These three verses and many others tend to make suggestions as to the fact that the earth does not move.


            This letter tends to bring to the fore many issues that still play out in even bigger ways in the contemporary world. The major aspects here are the scientific alteration versus the scripture or the natural settings. The bible is widely regarded as a standard measure to the origin of everything in the world such that any alterations tend to contradict the standard norms. As in the time of Galileo, the widespread opposition is still bound to occur considering that human beings tend to live as per the standards set to them by nature. Galileo’s vindication acts as a pointer to the difficulties that arise in the event one tries to go against the established systems. 

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