There was an interesting article about Galileo relics in Florence in the New York Times recently, that pointed up early the interest of early Italian Freemasons in the 18th century in Galileo as a hero, role model, and forward thinker–and virtual “saint.”
Describing the aftermath of Galileo’s death, the article reports:
“The scientist’s troubles did not end with his death in 1642.
“As a heretic he could not be given a proper church burial. But for years after his death, his followers in the circle of the grand dukes of Tuscany pushed to give him an honorable resting place.
“Nearly a century later, in 1737, members of Florence’s cultural and scientific elite unearthed the scientist’s remains in a peculiar Masonic rite. Freemasonry was growing as a counterweight to church power in those years and even today looms large in the Italian popular imagination as an anticlerical force.
According to a notary who recorded the strange proceedings, the historian and naturalist Giovanni Targioni Tozzetti used a knife to slice off several fingers, a tooth and a vertebra from Galileo’s body as souvenirs but refrained, it appears, from taking his brain. The scientist was then reburied in a ceremony, “symmetrical to a beatification,” said Mr. Galluzzi.
“After taking their macabre souvenirs, the group placed Galileo’s remains in an elegant marble tomb in Florence’s Santa Croce church, a pointed statement from Tuscany’s powers that they were outside the Vatican’s control. The church has long been a shrine to humanism as much as to religion, and Galileo’s permanent neighbors include Michelangelo, Machiavelli and Rossini.”
If you want to read the full text, it is available here at: