No ,,meridiana’’ without motto. Not far from Guagnolo in Colla Micheri (the famous borgo between Andora and Laigueglia, renovated by Thor Heyerdahl in the 60ies) we found the initial inspiration to paint a sundial on the house. Partially it was also meant to give a new function to the old plaster coverings on the façade, which belonged to previous, adjacent rooms of destroyed buildings. The sundial in Colla Micheri has a nice, but very moral motto: ,,Vuoi saper l’ora ch’è? Te’l dico presto: è l’ora d’operar da uomo onesto.’’
A motto says something about the intentions of the maker; in this case we choose the words that Galileo Galilei supposed to have muttered after being sentenced by the Inquisition: ,,Eppure si muove’’ (,,And yet it moves’’) concerns the earth moving around the sun. The sundial empirically shows the counterpart: in Guagnolo it seems as if the sun does the same tour every day…
This also was the belief of the Holy Church at the time of Copernicus and Galilei had to recant his heliocentric world vision on a trial. The book in which he explained his theory ,,The Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems’’ was banned. Galileo was found suspect of heresy, namely of having held the opinions that the sun lies motionless at the centre of the universe, that the earth is not at its centre and moves. There is no evidence that he muttered the rebellious phrase ,,And yet it moves’’ by leaving the court. This legend dates to a century after his death. (1)
Anyhow it is a magnificent phrase, ,,sotto voce’’ or not. To me the story might be apocryphal, but the moral behind it is important. The significance of the story lies not in the correctness of Galileo’s theory as a whole. The sun may be the center of the solar system and in that sense “stands still,” but nowadays we know it is far from being the center of the universe and, like the earth, moves within it. The significance of Galileo’s remark implies that no matter what an authority may say, even if that authority has power over life and death, it has no power over truth. (2)
(to be continued)
(1) DRAKE, Stillman (1978). Galileo At Work. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
(2) FUREDY, John, J. (2001). The Decline of the “Eppur si muove” Spirit in North American Science: Professional Organizations and PC Pressures. http://www.lrainc.com/swtaboo/library/jjf01.html