FROMBORK, Poland – Nicolaus Copernicus, the 16th-century astronomer whose findings were condemned by the Roman Catholic Church as heretical, was reburied by Polish priests as a hero on Saturday, nearly 500 years after he was laid to rest in an unmarked grave.
His burial in a tomb in the cathedral where he once served as a church canon and doctor indicates how far the church has come in making peace with the scientist whose revolutionary theory that the Earth revolves around the Sun helped usher in the modern scientific age.
Copernicus, who lived from 1473 to 1543, died as a little-known astronomer working in a remote part of northern Poland. He had spent years laboring in his free time developing his theory, which was later condemned as heretical by the church because it removed Earth and humanity from their central position in the universe.
After his death, his remains rested in an unmarked grave beneath the floor of the cathedral in Frombork, on Poland’s Baltic coast.
On Saturday, his remains were blessed with holy water by some of Poland’s highest-ranking clerics before an honor guard ceremoniously carried his coffin through the cathedral and lowered it back into the same spot where part of his skull and other bones were found in 2005.