The Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, who was buried in an unmarked grave nearly 500 years ago, because the Church believed his theories were heretical, was reburied and honoured in a ceremony at Frombork Cathedral on Saturday.
DNA tests in 2005 identified his bones by comparing them with hair found in his books kept at the University of Uppsala in Sweden. His remains were carried in procession, with several stops on the way, at places where he had lived and worked in northern Poland, in a tour which began at Olsztyn in February.
Copernicus, who was a Canon at Frombork Cathedral, lived from 1473 to 1543. In his treatise: 'On the Revolution of the Celestial Spheres,' he asserted that the earth revolved around the sun, contrary to the medieval belief that the earth was the centre of the universe.
The treatise was viewed with suspicion by the Church, and not published until the year he died. It was to become the cornerstone for future generations of scientists including Kepler and Galileo, but one of its strongest advocates, Italian priest Giordano Bruno, was burned at the stake as a heretic in 1600.
The Vatican only removed Copernicus's treatise from its list of banned books in 1835.
Nearly 20 years ago, the Vatican rehabilitated Galileo Galilei, who was persecuted by the Inquisition for developing Copernican theory and forced to recant.
Speaking at the Mass, Archbishop Wojciech Ziemba, said Copernicus had left a legacy of “hard work, devotion and above all scientific genius.”
Archbishop Jozef Kowalczyk, the Primate of Poland, said he deplored the “excesses of zeal” which had led to Copernicus being branded a heretic.
Copernicus has been buried under a black granite tombstone describing him as the creator of heliocentrism and decorated with a golden sun encircled by six planets.
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