Item: Drawing Riccioli 1633 - 'Earth
as an immovable centre of the universe'
In earlier days it was presumed, based on the views and
writings of Plato, Aristotle and Ptolemy, that the earth was
the centre of the whole universe. The sun, stars and planets
revolved around the earth. This was also the opinion of the
Roman Catholic Church. Gradually other opinions emerged, with
serious opposition. Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) is considered
the founder of the heliocentric hypothesis. This hypothesis
stated that the sun was the centre of the solar system and
that the planets revolved around it. In the beginning the
Church had no official position in concerns to this. Nevertheless,
because of the conflict with the prevailing doctrine, Copernicus
had serious hesitations about announcing this hypothesis.
Galileo Galilei’s (1564-1610) observations proved
that earth orbited the Sun and lent support to the heliocentric
model. Now the Church reacted. The works of Copernicus were
placed on the list of forbidden books. Galileo was brought
before a church court in 1632. He renounced his assertions
and was condemned to life imprisonment in his house.
In connection to this, we see the drawing below with
the Divine Name in Hebrew at the top. The Jesuit Giovanni
Battista Ricciloi (1598-1671) was assigned the task of declaring
and protecting the position of the Church in this matter.
His book 'Almagestum Novum' and the cover page drawing, engraved
by F. Curtus, made the position very clear.
The explanation of the drawing is given below.
Giovanni Battista Riccioli, Almagestum novum, astronomiam
veterem novamque complectens, observationibus aliorum, et
propriis novisque theorematibus, problematibus ac tabulis
promotam, in tres tomos distributam [... Tomus primus.] Bononiae,
ex typographia haeredis Victorij Benatij, 1651. -- (673 A
The following persons and elements are depicted:
The giant Argus: he can be seen on the
left hand side with a telescope in his left hand. In Greek
mythology, Argus Panoptes or Argos was a giant with a hundred
eyes. Because of the eyes Argus was the most suitable person
to practise astronomy. Rolling out of his mouth are the words
"Videbo caelos tuos, opera digitor[um] tuor[um]"
("I shall see Your heaven, the works of Your fingers”
- Psalm 8 verse 3).
A female figure: on the left side, considered
to be Astronimia. Her dress and the plates on her legs are
strewn with stars. Her belt is decorated with the signs of
the zodiac. She speaks the words: "Non inclinabitur in
saeculum saeculi" ("He set the earth on its foundations,
so that it should never be moved” - Psalm 104, verse
5). Those who considered the earth to be the immovable centre
used this Bible text. In her left hand she is holding an “armillarium’,
a compound globe made of rings.
A balance: the most prominent item in
the drawing. Below the right arm of the woman is written "Ponderibus
librata suis" ("According their own weight measured”
- Isaiah 40 verse 12), pointing to the content of the two
scales. On the left side is the hypothesis of Copernicus (much
too light). On the right side the hypothesis of Riccioli himself,
an improvment on the version by Tycho Brahe.
Ptolemy: the man below. In his left
hand he is holding the coat of arms of cardinal Hieronymus
Grimaldi, prince of Monaco, the person to whom Riccioli’s
book was dedicated. The text says “Erigor dum corrigor”
(“Discipline raises me up”).
God's hand is seen in an ecliptic. At
God's fingers is written "numerus, mensura, pondus"
(number, measure, weight) – the three methods of describing
The sun and the planets: to the left
of God’s hand are figures of plump children (putti)
with wings. They are pictured orbiting the sun together with
Mercury, Venus and Mars. On the right side they are pictured
with the Moon, Jupiter (with its 4 satellites), Saturn (with
its ring) and a Comet. The fitting text is: ‘Dies diei
eructat verbum, et nox nocti indicat scientiam’ (“One
day passes to the other, the night announced it to the next
one”). This is according to the symbolic expression
of the day on the left side and the night on the right side.
God's name: to the top and centre of
the image is God's name written as the Hebrew Tetragrammaton,
JHWH in masoretic vowels.
Source: the website of the University of Leiden. Source
on their website: H.A.M. Snelders, ‘Van geocentrisch
naar heliocentrisch wereldbeeld’, in: Sterrenkunde.
Geschiedenis en moderne inzichten over de bouw en evolutie
van het heelal. Utrecht 1984 ( = Studium generale programma.
Najaar 1984), p. 15-23.