Fingers amputated to Galileo

In Florence everyone knows where Galileo Galilei is buried. Their mortal remains rest in a crypt inside the famous Basilica of the Holy Cross, the main Franciscan church of the city. This scientist born in the sixteenth century shares this space with several of his illustrious Italian colleagues, such as Michelangelo, Machiavelli, the poet Foscolo, the philosopher Gentille and the composer Rossini.

Lost finger of Galileo, found at last. Image Credit: artscatter.com

When Galileo died in 1642, the Grand Duke of Tuscany wanted to bury him in this same place next to the tombs of his father and other ancestors, however because Galileo was declared heretic, enemy of the church, had to change plans and was Buried in its place in a small room adjoining the chapel of the novices.

After his death the Galileo case was largely forgotten, until forty-five years later, when an Englishman named Isaac Newton published a revolutionary and transcendental book, “Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy,” where he laid the foundations of modern physics . With the law of universal gravitation and the laws of motion, Newton demonstrated that the earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around and that Galileo was always right. In 1718, the Church rectified its error and lifted the prohibition that weighed on the works of Galileo, and in 1737, its body was exhumed and re-buried in the main body of the basilica.

Image Credit: Oliver Quinlan / Flickr

However, before Galileo’s second burial, some of his morbid admirers, seeking to keep some memories of the illustrious scientist, partially dismembered the poor Italian and took three fingers of his hand, a tooth and a vertebra. The vertebra went to the University of Padua, where Galileo taught for many years, while the tooth, and fingers went from hand to hand until they disappeared in 1905.

More than a century later, the fingers and the tooth mysteriously appeared in an auction held in 2009, along with other religious relics contained in a wooden box of century XVII. The objects were sold as unidentified and Alberto Bruschi, a well-known art collector in Florence , bought the collection without knowing what they were.

The tomb of Galileo in the basilica of the Holy Cross. Image credit: Anna Fox / Flickr
When Mr. Bruschi and his daughter realized that the wooden box was topped with the bust of Galileo, and they learned that the scientist’s body had been stripped of some parts at his second burial, they contacted him Museum.Subsequent trials and studies confirmed that they had found the lost remains of Galileo.

Today visitors to the Galileo Museum, located a short distance from the tomb of Galileo in the Basilica of the Holy Cross, can see their half-faded finger inside an ornate easter egg. The museum also contains many artifacts from the scientist such as two telescopes , thermometers, and an extraordinary collection of terrestrial and celestial globes.

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Fingers amputated to Galileo

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