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Florence: Cosmos Exhibition with Galileo

Mar 18th, 2009 | By | Category: Art & Culture

A sweeping exhibition of art, scientific instruments, star maps and ancient artefacts opened in Florence on Friday, celebrating conceptions of the cosmos and the groundbreaking discoveries of Galileo Galilei.

‘Images of the Universe from Antiquity to the Telescope’ promises a dazzling array of exhibits, carrying visitors on a voyage through centuries of ideas about the universe and the cosmos.

More than 250 precious objects are on display from an array of fields, with paintings, drawings, telescopes, star charts, archaeological finds, mosaics, sculptures, illuminated manuscripts and functioning cosmological models.

The exhibition, a key event in international celebrations marking 400 years since Galileo’s first observations of the night sky, is divided into eight sections.

The first looks back to the dawn of astronomy, focusing on Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt and the Biblical cosmos.

The second and third parts explore Ancient Greek conceptions of the cosmos, the spherical model developed by Plato and Aristotle and the geometrical vision of Ptolemy.

The fourth, fifth and six parts respectively spotlight Islamic visions of the universe, their Christianization and the rebirth of astronomy with Copernicus and his sun-centred theory.

The seventh section focuses on Galileo, featuring one of his two surviving telescopes, while the exhibition concludes with progress made by Johannes Kepler and Isaac Newton in legitimising his theories.

Also on display will be the middle finger from Galileo’s right hand, mounted on a marble base and encased in a crystal jar. The digit was removed from his body in 1737, nearly a century after his death, when his remains were exhumed from an unconsecrated grave and transferred to Florence’s principal Franciscan church, the Basilica of the Holy Cross.

The general excitement surrounding the anniversary of Galileo’s discoveries has also revived talk of a second exhumation.

Last year, a team of Italian and British scientists said they had requested permission from the Catholic Church to open the mausoleum in order to carry out DNA tests.

The researchers said they were seeking further information on the degenerative eye condition that eventually left Galileo blind, as well as confirmation that the remains of the woman sharing his tomb are those of his daughter.

Sister Maria Celeste, one of the scientist’s illegitimate children with his long-time mistress Marina Gamba, was sent to a convent at age 13 but remained close to her father throughout her life.

But the church’s director, Father Antonio Di Marcantonio, said ”an official request of this nature has not been received”.

”Furthermore, I have always made it clear I am opposed to the idea,” he said. ”I see no point in breaking a tomb to disturb the final rest of a figure of the past.

”Besides which, exhumations entail extensive bureaucracy, requiring permission both from the Church and Florence’s Superintendent’s Office”.

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