Copernicus, now considered the father of modern astronomy, was long thought to be buried in the 14th-century Frombork Cathedral, in northern Poland, because he served as a canon within the religious structure, but his remains had never been found—at least, until now.
However, in August 2005, after an approximate two-year search, his remains were tentatively thought to have been found under the floor tiles of the cathedral (near the main Holy Cross altar—“the fourth altar on the right-hand side”) by Polish archaeologist Jerzy Gassowski and his team of archeologists.
Gassowski is the head of the Archaeology and Anthropology Institute in Pultusk, Poland.
then, forensic expert Dariusz Zajdel and his forensic team at the Central Forensics Laboratory (Poland’s National Police Headquarters) examined the skull.
Its experts used computer graphics and DNA evidence to create a facial reconstruction of an older man who resembled several portraits of the young Copernicus, including a scar above his right eyebrow.
Gassowski stated, "In the two years of work, under extremely difficult conditions — amid thousands of visitors, with earth shifting under the heavy pounding of the organ music — we managed to locate the grave, which was badly damaged.” [Associated Press: “Scientists say Copernicus' remains, grave found”
After this analysis was performed a Swedish team provided additional information. Please read on.
Then Swedish genetics expert Marie Allen (professor at the Genetics and Pathology Department, Uppsala University) took DNA from a vertebrae, tooth, and femur bone of the remains, and compared them with four hairs taken from the 1518 book “Calendarium Romanum Magnum” (authored by Johannes Stoeffler and owned by Copernicus) and kept at Rudbeck Laboratory of the Genetics and Pathology Department of Uppsala University.
On November 21, 2008, a confirmation was made that this skull is, indeed, from Polish mathematician, astronomer, scholar, and Catholic cleric Nicholas Copernicus (1473—1543).
Dr. Allen states, "We collected four hairs and two of them are from the same individual as the bones.” [Associated Press]
To see the face of Copernicus recreated from the skull, look at The Local article, as mentioned above.
The AP article continues, “The findings could put an end to centuries of speculation about the exact resting spot of Copernicus, a priest and astronomer whose theories identified the Sun, not the Earth, as the center of the universe.”
The article states that the research team found that the skull contains a broken nose that is very similar to features found in a portrait painted by Copernicus himself.
Page three discusses the ideas of Copernicus with respect to religious and scientific thought during the 16th century.
The ideas of Copernicus, especially that the Earth was not the center of the solar system (what was considered the “universe” back in the 16th century), but instead the Sun, ran counter to religious teachings.
Copernicus claimed that the Earth rotated once-a-day upon its axis and also orbited around the Sun once-a-year, what is considered today the heliocentric theory.
These conclusions were claimed in his monumental work “De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium” (or, “On the Revolution of the Heavenly Spheres”), which was published just before his death.
The Catholic Church, specifically Pope Paul V, condemned these findings of Copernicus in 1616.
However, the claims of Copernicus were later verified by scientists, which changed the way we see ourselves in the Universe and how scientists still view our tiny Earth within the much, much larger Universe.
The Catholic Church was forced to reverse its condemnation of Copernicus and accept that the Earth was not the physical center of its religious world.
Today, the Bishop of Frombork, Jacek Jezierski, stated, "Now we will be able to pay homage to Copernicus with a tomb worthy of this illustrious historic personality.” [AFP: “Two-century hunt for tomb of astrologer Copernicus is over”]
For additional information on the remains of Copernicus, please read the article “In Search for the Grave of Nicolaus Copernicus” by Jerzy GÄ…ssowski and Beata Jurkiewicz [Archaeology and Anthropology Institute]