A Rematch for Galileo

27 Oct 2009

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition but Galileo, the renowned 17th-century thinker, might finally defeat his tormentors.

More than 400 years after falling foul of the Catholic Church with his rejection of the view that the Earth was the centre of the universe, Galileo took on the papacy in a retrial at the Sir John Clancy Auditorium at the University of NSW last night.

The views Galileo held ensured he became one of the more celebrated cases of religious persecution after being examined by the Inquisition and sentenced to prison and penances.

Facing torture, in 1633 Galileo recanted his heretical theory and said that the sun moved around an Earth, which stood still. It is part of folklore that as he was led away from the trial, he muttered: ''And yet, it moves ...''

Last night a high-profile cast including Julian Burnside, QC, Anna Katzman, SC, the former premier, Bob Carr, the author Paul Collins, Monsignor Tony Doherty, broadcaster Geraldine Doogue, philosophy professor Maurice Finocchiaro, and broadcasters Julie McCrossin and Alan Saunders donned academic gowns to represent figures in a retrial. The astronomer-in-charge of the Anglo-Australian Observatory, Fred Watson, was Galileo.

"This is not a re-enactment of the Inquisition hearing. It's a modern-day trial in which we reopen the case," said event creator Peter Slezak, from the faculty of arts and social sciences at the University of NSW. Read more