Foucault's Pendulum

The experiment carried out in Florence Cathedral
with Umberto Eco

by Alessandro Gatto

He couldn't have missed an occasion like this. In fact, Umberto Eco, the famous writer and author of "Foucault's Pendulum", was present and deeply moved at the experiment carried out in Florence Cathedral.

It is the first time that an experiment of this kind has been carried out this century and in the cathedral, on the occasion of its 700th anniversary. Everything is ready, a piano wire 2 millimetres thick and 88.7 metres long attached to the cupola supports a huge lead ball coloured gold and weighing 89 kilos with a point on the end. This will leave a mark on the soil placed for the occasion on the altar floor: the proof that our planet rotates.

In front of 8,000 people at 9.51 pm on the 19th of June a candle burns the cord which holds the pendulum steady. The experiment begins before scientists and authorities and the enormous public which applauds loudly. The writer is moved at the sight of an experiment which he sees for the first time in the church of Santa Maria del Fiore. He first learnt of Foucault's Pendulum in Paris at the Conservatory when he was twenty and was immediately enchanted.

The writer Umberto Eco and the pendulum
in Florence Cathedral
(Marco Mori-Press Photo)

The writer says, "A cosmic relationship immediately sprung up between us. The secret of the pendulum's fascination is that this experience is extraordinary but at the same time extremely simple. It goes as straight as a die and never moves. That point up above is the only point in the Universe and that fixed point could be anywhere".

On the edges of the pendulum's course, the ninepins placed there for the occasion are touched by it and fall over. The crowd keeps clapping as if remarking upon the fact that the Earth is moving while the pendulum continues unperturbed it's 9 metre journey lasting twenty, long, seemingly endless seconds. The scientific experiment is successful as everyone knew it would be right from the beginning but for the umpteenth time everyone present sought confirmation as if to recall that, in darker times, many who had dared to declare that the Earth moves lost their lives.

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