A few days ago, I was watching an episode of the Antiques Roadshow. People were bringing their treasured objects for expert examination to the grounds of a stately house in St Ives, Cambridgeshire. The items included an early pocket calculator by Sinclair (made locally), and a traction engine arrived in full steam. But my ears really pricked up when a valuable jug bought for a fiver (in today’s money, perhaps $50) was identified as a Bellarmine Jug.
Galileo faced two main episodes of
opposition to his Copernicanism. The most famous one is his trial when Pope Urban VIII summoned
him to Rome in 1633 to recant his work. But earlier,
«in 1616, on the
orders of Pope Paul V, cardinal Robert Bellarmine
summoned Galileo, notified him of a forthcoming decree of the Congregation of
the Index condemning the Copernican doctrine of the mobility of the Earth and
the immobility of the Sun, and ordered him to abandon it. Galileo agreed to do
so. (When Galileo later complained of rumours to the effect that he had been
forced to abjure and do penance, Bellarmine wrote out a certificate denying the
rumors, stating that Galileo had merely been notified of the decree and informed
that, as a consequence of it, the Copernican doctrine could not be “defended or
held”. Cardinal Bellarmine was himself ambiguous about heliocentrism,
personally noting that further research had to be done to confirm or condemn
(ex Wikipedia with a long ‘a’)
Here is the jug itself.
First, the expert (on the left) examining it in front of the
Next, a closer view showing the Bellarmine coat of
Here is a close view of the neck showing the face of
Bellarmine himself (or a caricature thereof) somewhat in the manner of a Toby
And here is a Latin inscription, which we were told
is in praise of wine or drinking.
The jug itself is dated 1606–7,
just the right time in history. So I wondered, could this jug have possibly
been owned by Galileo himself?
Alas, the reality seems much more
prosaic. It is, rather, a Bartmann Jug of
a kind that was made in Germany at that time. However, again ex
«The popular alternative name “Bellarmine” is recorded
earliest in 1634, and is in popular tradition associated with the cardinal
Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621), a fierce opponent of Protestantism in the Low
Countries and northern Germany. The reason for the association with Bellarmino
is not entirely clear but was possibly conceived by Dutch and English
Protestants to ridicule the cardinal. Another possibility is his anti-alcohol
However, according to the programme, the coat of arms and the
caricature are authentic Bellarmine. But what better way for those Germans of
that region, good Lutherans all, to thus get in a double blow at the cardinal on
both religious and philempyrical  grounds.
 We Brits
have a few days left to watch this on BBC iPlayer:
 A coinage by myself based on
the modern Greek “mpyra” meaning “beer”. I don’t know what it was called in
Galileo’s Own Wine Jug?