Galileo’s Sons

2003, 48 minutes. Director: Alison Rose

Galileo’s Sons is a rare behind-the-scenes look at the Vatican Observatory, and the cosmological questions tackled by the Jesuit astronomers there.

Nestled in the hills southeast of Rome lies the Pope’s summer residence at Castel Gandolfo. One wing of this palace serves as the headquarters for the Vatican Observatory, where since 1891 Jesuit astronomers and astrophysicists have applied their scientific expertise to fundamental questions that engage all people of faith: how did this universe come to be, and what is our place in it?

Galileo’s Sons offers a rare behind-the-scenes look at this remarkable institution, an astronomical observatory in the Church which silenced Galileo. The scientists who work there are the spiritual descendants of 17th-century Italian astronomer Galileo, whose investigations confirmed the Copernican view of the sun as the center of the solar system, and who was forced to renounce his conclusions because they conflicted with Church teachings.

As the only research scientists sponsored by the Catholic Church, these Jesuit scientists occupy a unique nexus in our understanding of the universe, one in which our wonder and awe of life is only enhanced by scientific understanding. Expertly crafted by writer-director Alison Rose, Galileo’s Sons provides unique insight into the complex relationship between spirituality and scientific investigation, and explores some of the profound questions that astronomical science poses for religious faith.

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