Commissary-General Vincenso Firenzuola to Cardinal Francesco Barverini (April 28, 1633)

In compliance with the commands of His Holiness, I yesterday informed the Most Eminent Lords of the Holy congregation of Galileo’s case, the position of which I briefly reported.  Their Eminences approved of what has been done thus far and took into consideration, on the other hand, various difficulties with regard to the manner of pursuing the case and of bringing it to an end.  More especially as Galileo has in his examination denied what is plainly evident from the book written by him, since in consequence of this denial there would result the necessity for greater rigor of procedure and less regard to the other consideration belonging to this business.  Finally, I suggested a course, namely, that the Holy Congregation should grant me permission to treat extra judicially with Galileo, in order to render him sensible of his error and bring him, if he recognizes it to a confession of the same.  This proposal appeared at first sight too bold, not much hope being entertained of accomplishing this object by merely adopting the method of argument with him; but, upon my indicating the grounds upon which I had made the suggestion, permission was granted me.  That no time might be lost, I entered into discourse with Galileo yesterday afternoon, and after many and many arguments and rejoinders had passed between us, by God’s grace, I attained my object, for I brought him to a full sense of his error, so that he clearly recognized that he had erred and had gone too far in his book.  And to all this he gave expression in words of much feeling, like one who experienced great consolation in the recognition of his error, and he was also willing to confess it judicially.  He requested, however, a little time in order to consider the form in which he might most fittingly make the confession, which as far as its substance is concerned, will, I hope, follow in the manner indicated.

I have thought it my duty at once to acquaint your Eminence with this matter, having communicated it to no one else; for I trust that His Holiness and your Eminence will be satisfied that in this way the affair is being brought to such a point that it may soon be settled without difficulty.  The court will maintain its reputation; it will be possible to deal leniently with the culprit; and, whatever the decision arrived at, he will recognize the favor shown him, with all the other consequences of satisfaction herein desired.  Today I think of examining him in order to obtain the said confession; and having, as I hope, received it, it will only remain to me further to question him with regard to his intention and to receive his defense plea; that done, he might have [his]house assigned to him as a prison, as hinted to me by your Eminence, to whom I offer my most humble reverence.

   Your Eminence’s most humble and most obedient servant,
      Fra Vinc:. Da Firenzuola

Rome, April 28, 1633
   Source: Giorgio de Santillana, The Crime of Galileo, pp. 252-253 (1955).

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