HELIOCENTRISM 1543 VS THE MEGALOMANIA OF THE CHURCH

Acrylic on canvas
90 x 120 cm

Heliocentrism is the name given to the astronomical model developed by Nicolaus Copernicus and published in 1543. This model positioned the Sun at the centre of the Universe, motionless, with Planet Earth and the other Planets orbiting around it in circular paths at uniform speeds. The Copernican model displaced the Geocentric model of Ptolemy that had prevailed for centuries, which had placed Earth at the centre of the Universe. Copernican heliocentrism is often regarded as the launching point to modern Astronomy and the Scientific Revolution that followed. The Church believed in the Geocentric model because it fit into their narrative of God at the centre of the Universe. This young polish academic, that nobody had ever heard of, could have brought down the whole Christian belief system. De facto, Heliocentrism went against the teaching that the heavens were fixed, unmoving and perfect. But History sometimes surprises you.  In many ways the initial cautious ambivalence of Catholic authorities was unsurprising. Copernicus was a loyal Catholic and a canon of Frauenberg Cathedral, making him a relatively minor member of the Catholic hierarchy. He had followed all the proper procedures required to secure formal permission from Church authorities to publish his book, and he even dedicated it to the reigning Pope at the time Paul III. That their response was ambivalent is not to say that the Church did not take the matter seriously or fail to study it. By all accounts the Church did both. However, in the 16th century the Catholic Church found itself beset by many radical ideas, a number of which were direct and unambiguous frontal assaults upon its spiritual and political authority in Europe. So long as Copernicus' ideas remained a mathematical argument (in Latin) among scholars and did nothing to threaten either the beliefs of the common man or the Church's ultimate authority in such matters, the Church had no need to respond. But not for long, translations were on its way, with the obvious results. Cracks appeared in the imperialistic foundation of the Catholic Church, from which she never recovered. The masses started to suffocate within the narrow confines of God. In the centre section of the painting, we can duly see an homage to the polish painter Jan Matejko and his masterpiece ‘Conversations with God’, representing a young Copernicus. On the left we depict two cardinals and a monk laughing and mocking Copernicus’ achievements. On the right side we see a dirty looking travelling jester, who couldn’t wait to tell the world about the Vatican’s error. As always, we see on the left quadrant our collective subconscious represented by a female Comic character, who looks at us in a puzzling way, while a few coloured molecules are bouncing off the walls. It doesn’t matter whether we are the centre or at the periphery of the Universe, we remain, just small insignificant molecules.


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