Grand Duchess Christina of Tuscany


The Grand Duchess Christina of Lorraine (16 August 1565 - 19 December 1637) was born Christine de Lorraine in Nancy, France. She was the daughter of Charles III of Lorraine and Claude of Valois, and granddaughter of Catherine de' Medici, further making her a member of the House of Lorraine by lineage. 

In 1587, Francesco I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, died without a legitimate male heir. His brother Ferdinando immediately declared himself the third Grand Duke of Tuscany. Ferdinando needed to immediately seek a marriage that would preserve his political independence and as a result, he chose his distant cousin, Christina of Lorraine. Christina of Lorraine was the favorite granddaughter of Catherine de' Medici, Queen of France. Catherine de' Medici influenced Christina towards this marriage in order to re-align the Medici with France and not with Spain. 

Ferdinando II de' Medici
When her husband, Ferdinando de' Medici died in 1609, their eldest son, Cosimo, became the new Grand Duke of Tuscany. Just a few years before, Cosimo had been tutored by Galileo. In 1610, Galileo dedicated his book, Sidereus Nuncius, to Cosimo II, and named the four newly discovered satellites of Jupiter the Medicean stars in honor of Cosimo and his three brothers. Unfortunately, Cosimo became ill and died in 1621. As a result, Cosimo's mother, Christina of Lorraine, served as a regent for the new Grand Duke, young Ferdinand II, until he became of age. 

During her time as regent (one who rules during the minority, absences, or disability of a monarch), Christina of Lorraine faced the first confrontation with Galileo Galilei. 


The First Confrontation

In December of 1613, Galileo received a letter from Father Castelli, a close friend of his and a fellow astronomer. Castelli explained that he had had lunch with the Grand Duke. Also present were the Grand Duchess Christina of Lorraine, and Cosimo Boscaglia, special professor of philosophy at Pisa and an expert on Platonism. 

The letter from Benedetto Castelli to Galileo Galilei follows: 

Very Illustrious and Most Excellent Sir: 
Thursday morning I had breakfast with our Lordships, and, when asked about school by the Grand Duke [Cosimo II], I gave him a detailed account of everything, and he seemed to be very satisfied.  He asked me whether I had a telescope, and I told him Yes and so began to relate the observation of the Medicean planets [four newly discovered moons of Jupiter] which I had made just the previous night.  Then Her Most Serene Ladyship [Cosimo's mother, the Grand Duchess Dowager Christina] inquired about their position and began saying to herself that they had better be real and not deceoptions of the instrument.  So their Highnesses asked Mr. Boscaglia, who answered that truly their existence could not be denied.  I used the occasion to add whatever I knew and could say about your wonderful invention and your proof of the motions of these planets.... 
As soon as I had come out of the palace, the porter of Her Most Serene Ladyship caught up with me and called me back.  However, before I say what followed, you must know that at the table Boscaglia had been whispering for a long time to the ear of Her Ladyship; he admitted as true all the celestial novelties you have discovered, but he said that the earth's motion was incredible and could not happen, especially since the Holy Scripture was clearly contrary to this claim. 
Now, to get back to the story, I entered the chambers of Her Highness, where I found the Grand Duke, Her Ladyship, the Archduchess [Cosimo's wife, Maria Maddalena of Austria], Mr. Antonio, Don Paolo Giordano, and Boscaglia.  At this point, after some questions about my views, Her Ladyship began to argue against me by means of the Holy Scripture.  I first expressed the appropriate disclaimers, but then I began to play the theologian with such finesse and authority that you would have been especially pleased to hear.... 
The Grand Duke and the Archduchess were on my side and Don Paolo Giordano came to my defense with a very appropriate passage from the Holy Scripture.  Only Her Ladyship contradicted me, but in such a way that I thought she was doing it in order to hear me.  Mr. Boscaglia remained silent.... 
[A]s I was leaving ... [Don Antonio] explicitly uttered these words:  "Write Mr. Galileo about my having become acquainted with you and about what I said in the chambers of Her Highness."  I answered that I would report to  you about this beautiful opportunity I have had to serve you.... 
Because I have no more time, I kiss your hands and pray that you receive all good things from Heaven. 
Pisa, 14 December 1613. 
To you Very Illustrious and Most Excellent Sir. 
Your Most Obliged Servant and Disciple, Don Benedetto Castelli.

In short, the letter from Benedetto Castelli explains how the Grand Duchess Christina had criticized the heliocentric theory for its repudiation of Holy Scripture. The Grand Duchess Christina of Lorraine asked Castelli whether the motion of the Earth was contrary to Scripture. Her questions were primarily prompted by Boscaglia whispering in her ear. 


The Rebuttal

On December 21, 1613, Galileo composed a lengthy response to Castelli. In it, he expressed his concern that theologians, ignorant of basic astronomical principals, risked compounding their errors through misinterpretation of Holy Scripture and misapplication of its authority to problems in natural philosophy. 

In a grand effort to make his point, Galileo decided to make an even greater statement:

In 1615, Galileo wrote a lengthier and more detailed version of his letter and addressed it to the Grand Duchess Christina of Lorraine herself. In it, he declared that scriptural literalism had no place in scientific inquiry. "Inasmuch as the Bible calls for an interpretation differing from the immediate sense of the words," he wrote, "it seems to me that as an authority in mathematical controversy it has very little standing... I believe that natural processes, which we perceive by careful observation or deduced by cogent demonstration, cannot be refuted by passages from the Bible." 

During the time Galileo wrote the Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina, Galileo's original letter to Castelli was privately printed and circulated. It eventually came to the attention of Galileo's enemies. In February 1615, a Dominican Friar, Niccolo Lorini, sent a copy of Galileo's letter to Rome as evidence of his heresy, prompting the authorities of the Inquisition to call Galileo in for questioning and admonishment. 


Example in Film 

Film: Galileo 

Directed By: Joseph Losey

Date of Production: 1975

In this scene, Galileo is presenting to young Cosimo II his idea of the Medicean stars. This scene depicts the ways Galileo won over his patrons, in order to gain their help.


  1. Hey Teresa, this is a great start! I like the images. Your next post (or thinking) should be from the Duchess's perspective. I think what you have here clearly lays out the issue(s) at stake and the rebuttal from Galileo's view. But, of course, since you are taking Christina's you will need to be critical of Galileo's rebuttal.

  2. helped me a lot with my paper. thank you

  3. indira mosocoso stop making her feel good this was bad