Galilean Clue

by cheri block

This quarter, we have been studying the trial of Galileo and the factors that led up to it. What has been most surprising to me is how complicated the circumstances were. In other words, this affair was not just a battle  between science and faith. It was so much more.

I’m still trying to piece it all together—the scientific, the philosophical, the Aristotelian, the political, the theologicial (and the myriad issues there….the Jesuits, the Dominicans, the Popes), the psychological, socio-professional, and a number of other avenues one can walk down in trying to understand the Galileo affair.

To visualize this enormous topic, I made a Clue game.

Galilean Clue.

Clue has been around since 1949 when it was invented in England.

The object of the game is to determine who committed the crime, in what room, and with what weapon. Was it Colonel Mustard in the Dining Room with the Knife?

My game has the following rooms: the Observatory, the Pigeon Coop, the Roman Court, the Florentine Court, the Scholastic Room, Heretics’ Corner, the Crying Porch, the Jesuit Room, and the Red Room.

We know who committed the crime (Galileo) but what was the crime? And what was the weapon? In which room was it committed?

The Observatory: there are Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, and Giordano Bruno.

The Pigeon Coop: named after the Florentine “Pigeon League” in this room are three Dominican Friars who started the problems for Galileo: delle Columbe, Caccini, and Lorini.

The Roman Court: Popes Paul V, Maffeo Barberini (who became Pope Urban VIII)and a host of Papal pets.

The Florentine Court: Home of the de’Medici family: Cosimo II and his mother, the Grand Duchess Christina.

The Scholastic Corner: the scholastics were priests who had come through the Thomas Aquinas fusion of Christian and Aristotelian thought.

Heretics’ Corner: Giordano Bruno, one of the most extreme heretics of this period, is here.

The Crying Porch: In a room decorated with Freud’s couch, are Galileo’s sympathizers: Tommaso Campanella, Paolo Foscarini, his daughter Suor Celeste, and even the Scholastic Claudius Clavius.

The Jesuit Room: the Jesuits in Rome made a great deal of trouble for Galileo, especially Aquaviva and Scheiner.

The Red Room: The Red Room is devoted solely to the big man in red: Cardinal Robert Bellarmine who would warn Galileo about promoting the Copernican view of heliocentricity and a geokenetic earth. Bellarmine was the foremost theologian after the Council of Trent that ended around 1563 or so. Bellarmine had died before Galileo’s trial, but he would be there in spirit.

These are just a few of the possibilities in the Galileo Affair.

By the way, the Catholic Church officially pardoned Galileo in 1992.

About Cheri

Writer, artist, cable television host, grandmother to four!
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26 Responses to Galilean Clue

  1. Man of Roma says:

    Hi Cheri,

    Stuffy Man is back.

    A very fascinating game – Cluendo applied to the Galileo case – but my doubt is if it can be even a tiny bit more than just fun (which always finds me more than d’accord). Not only this case but any historical case of any time is terribly intricate (my head is getting dizzy as for Celtic-Roman and Anglo-Saxon Britain alas).

    What I mean, as for human sciences I don’t believe in ‘simplicity’, in this probably disagreeing a bit with Andreas.

    The problem with reconstructing historical events is common to all ‘human’ sciences. It is not the entire context we only have to rebuild, it’s that we humans are part of our study, hence bias, among the rest, is awating us. Much easier is to study crystals (or electromagnetic waves), because they are not ‘us’.

    I am more neo-pagan than Catholic or Christian but, as the British respect their royal family also when they fool around, I respect our Pontifex Maximus despite it is probably the ruin of our people. So I hope Stanford is not pushing you to see the Catholic Church just as a power structure, which in fact was and is 😉

    And Catholics as people who are like witches / wizards who engage in hocus pocus – as one decent Catholic Briton, who felt somewhat desperate about it, cried at my blog.

    You know my thought after all, who are we kidding:

    then Luther arrived, thump, thump, and the North deemed the South revolting in its pagan freedom and started to re-christianize Europe. Saints to them were idols. In fact they were.
    The Catholic Church had to react and strive to be ‘more Christian’ than the Christians of the North, thump, thump. Counter-Reformation, Inquisition, Galileo tortured, Bruno burned in Rome, yada yada yada yada yada

    Manio, el Hombre de Romaaaa

    • Man of Roma says:

      Mind I didn’t drink one drop of anything. I like to fool around with dear friends!

      • Cheri says:


        You have left a great deal to think about packed into one comment.
        Very lusciously Italian.
        The Galileo affair, as you observe, was anything but simple.
        That’s what makes the whole study so fascinating.
        The professor–one of the best I have ever encountered–has set up her class like a mystery story.What better medium than for me? A Storyteller? Only one problem: too much detail, too many Italian names, too much math, the list goes on.

        At this point in the quarter, with three weeks (and a big paper) left to go, I say the the results might be this:

        In the Roman Court, by Pope Urban VII, with weapon Politics.


        In the Observatory, by Copernicus, with De Revolutionibus.


        In the Florentine Court by Caccini with the Bible

        and the list goes on.

  2. Well, just having the rules of this game read to me, I am now confused about who did what, when, where, why and how. Not to mention whether. Or indeed whither. And even whence.

    Will there, at the end of this, be some resolution? Will we know who won the game? Whodunnit?

    • Cheri says:

      If there were clear resolution, Dr. Findlen would not have a class this full with this many people willing do all this dang reading and write three papers plus a presentation.

      We’ve read most of the angles now. It’s up to the student to figure it out.
      The astronomers and mathematicians in the class have an advantage…or do they?
      Maybe the sociologists do. No! The Catholics in the class…yeah…they understand what went on.

  3. Richard says:

    Your approach is fertile with possibilities and insights, Cheri, and I look forward to seeing how the investigation develops.

    As Man of Roma well knows, he engages with one of the great universal and scientific debates when he asserts that crystals and and electromagnetic waves are not ‘us’.

    • Cheri says:

      Thanks Richard. I will let you know what conclusions I come to at the end of the course. The big paper is due on March 18. I have to ask a question and investigate some aspect of the Galileo affair. I’m leaning toward tackling a question that might be more becoming of an English Major: Why wasn’t Giordano Bruno’s name ever mentioned during the entire Galileo affair?

  4. Interesting. But sad that although Galileo was pardoned in 1992, in 2011 there is probably a huge cadre of people who would persecute him if he were around today:

  5. wkkortas says:

    I smiled and chuckled (softly, though, as not to wake the Archbishop) upon reading this. I think you have the germ for a lucrative game or iPhone app here.

    • Cheri says:

      If I were younger, wk, maybe I’d fire up an app, but I’m afraid I’m slowing down these days.

      My sister did advise me to take a photo of my game board before I took it to class as part of my “book report” on Biagioli’s text.

      I’ll donate it to the professor when the class is over.

  6. Galileo was done in by ignorance, fundamentalists and his own cowardice. Bruno was burned but he was right.

  7. jenny says:

    I’m like Donny: out of my element.

    Plus, I’m still smarting that my sister never let me be Miss. Scarlett.

  8. Cheri says:

    Ok, already. I’m sorry I wasn’t sure WHICH Donny.
    As you know, we own the Bowling Ball Anniversary edition of the Big Lebowski. I have seen this movie over 100 times. Please forgive oh sharp-witted Jenny. I just cannot keep up with you. Period. And I don’t want to try. Your IQ must be 130 or more.

    I wasn’t sure if Donny was Donnie Osmond or was there a Donnie on the Brady Bunch?

    Glad to have assisted in your break from HUDBoredom.

    Thanks, Jenny.

  9. dafna says:

    “galileo’s head was on the block. the crime was looking up the truth.”

  10. dafna says:

    oops, try this link.

  11. Cyberquill says:

    The Vatican sort of pardoned John Lennon in 2008 by downgrading his Jesus remark from 1966 to a “boast,” whereupon Mr. Lennon was relocated from hell to purgatory.

  12. An old Oblate Father preacher used to say: “Brothers do not fear. Nobody will go to hell because, considering the prerequisites, nobody is bright enough to commit a mortal sin.
    I do hope things will pick up for C.Q. before hell opens.

  13. Cheri says:

    What a funny little gem of a quotation.

    Do you think as a whole, we are becoming stupider?


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