Galileo (1564-1642) was an Italian astronomer. Like Copernicus, his studies and measurements of the heavens led him to believe that the sun is the centre of our solar system and that the earth spins and circles around the sun.

At this time the Roman Catholic Church banned these views as heresy. Although Galileo’s books were very popular in Florence, the Pope ordered the presses to be stopped and Galileo was called before the Inquisition in Rome.

To avoid being put to the rack, he eventually agreed not to say or write such things. He was put under house arrest for the rest of his life. The book on earth physics he then wrote was only published after his death in the Protestant Netherlands.

  1. How does this illustrate the action of religion as a conservative force?
  2. Find other examples of conflict between science and religion.
  3. In groups, carry out research to find examples of European paintings, architecture, music and medicine before the 15th century. What do they tell us about the power of the Church?