Decree of Approval for the work “Elements of Astronomy” by Giuseppe Settele, in support of the heliocentric system (1820)

Pope Pius VII
Pope Pius VII
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The 1820 decree under Pope Pius VII removing all remaining prohibitions against the Copernican system. This arose from the request of Fr. Giuseppe Settele for an imprimatur on his book Elementi di ottica e di astronomia (Elements of Optics and Astronomy), which referenced Earth’s motion. The request was denied; Settele appealed to the Pope.

This translation is from the Interdisciplinary Encyclopedia of Religion and Science (, which is edited by the Advanced School for Interdisciplinary Research, operating at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome, and directed by Giuseppe Tanzella-Nitti. The translation is from the original Latin provided in W. Brandmüller and E.J. Greipl, eds., Copernico, Galilei e la chiesa : fine della controversia (1820) : gli atti del Sant’Uffizio {i.e. Copernicus, Galileo, and the Church: The End of the Controversy (1820), Acts of the Holy Office} (Florence: Leo Olschki, 1992), pp. 300-301.

[Rome], 1820 VIII 16

Vol. I, fol. 174v (Bruni, scribe)

The Assessor of the Holy Office has referred the request of Giuseppe Settele, Professor of Optics and Astronomy at La Sapienza University, regarding permission to publish his work Elements of Astronomy in which he espouses the common opinion of the astronomers of our time regarding the earth’s daily and yearly motions, to His Holiness through Divine Providence, Pope Pius VII. Previously, His Holiness had referred this request to the Supreme Sacred Congregation and concurrently to the consideration of the Most Eminent and Most Reverend General Cardinal Inquisitor. His Holiness has decreed that no obstacles exist for those who sustain Copernicus’ affirmation regarding the earth’s movement in the manner in which it is affirmed today, even by Catholic authors. He has, moreover, suggested the insertion of several notations into this work, aimed at demonstrating that the above mentioned affirmation [of Copernicus], as it is has come to be understood, does not present any difficulties; difficulties that existed in times past, prior to the subsequent astronomical observations that have now occurred. [Pope Pius VII] has also recommended that the implementation [of these decisions] be given to the Cardinal Secretary of the Supreme Sacred Congregation and Master of the Sacred Apostolic Palace. He is now appointed the task of bringing to an end any concerns and criticisms regarding the printing of this book, and, at the same time, ensuring that in the future, regarding the publication of such works, permission is sought from the Cardinal Vicar whose signature will not be given without the authorization of the Superior of his Order.

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