Copernicus’ Secret

  • Sundance
  • Rotterdam
  • HotDocs

Born in Thorn on February 17, 1473, Nicolaus Copernicus was one of the most important astronomers in world history. He was the first astronomer of the early modern era to recognize that the Earth revolved around the Sun - a discovery known today as the Copernican Revolution.




2x52 min, 1x90 min


Dietrich Duppel, Yoav Parish & Kai Christiansen



The sun revolves around the earth – for more than 1500 years, this world view of the Greek astronomer Ptolemy was seen as an incontrovertible truth. It fit per- fectly into the Christian worldview, in which the earth and God‘s creation were the center of the world. But in the Ptolemaic calendar, the date and the seasons diverged. The pope demanded a calendar reform. The astronomer and scholar Nicolaus Copernicus was also commissioned to do so. But Copernicus had long ago discovered something groundbreaking and revolutio- nary. Although it would set the calendar right, it threw the pious Christianity into a serious conflict: The earth revolves around the sun! A dangerous thought. Should he publicize his scientific calculations, or should he continue to hold to the Christian worldview?

For 30 years Copernicus lived as a canon in Frauen- burg (in today‘s Frombork in Poland) and did not dare to publish his knowledge. Only when his housekeeper and partner (banished by the bishop) Anna Schilling and the mathematician Georg Joachim Rheticus from Vorarlberg persuaded him, Copernicus‘ work „On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres“ was printed shortly before his death.

Who were Anna Schilling and Rheticus? What was Copernicus afraid of? Why was Copernicus‘ work on the index of the Catholic Church for over 200 years? “Copernicus’ secret affair – The woman who opened Nicolaus’ eyes” is an astronomy thriller and a morality tale of the Catholic Church at the time of the Reforma- tion. With high-quality play scenes, international scien- tists and previously unpublished sources.


Episode 1: The Woman Who Opened Nicolaus’ Eyes

For 30 years, the canon and astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus has known that the earth revolves around the sun. A revolution in the late Middle Ages! But the polymath was plagued with doubts: his mathematical calculations did not match his astronomical observa- tions. Even worse: his findings contradict the bibli- cal story of creation. Copernicus struggles with him- self and with his faith. Then the Gdansk merchant‘s daughter Anna Schilling enters his life and will chan- ge his world.


Episode 2: Triumph of Science

Only when his housekeeper and companion Anna Schilling, banned by the bishop, and the Vorarlberg mathematician Georg Joachim Rheticus persuade Copernicus, Copernicus decides to publish. His work „On the Circular Motions of the Heavenly Bodies“ is printed shortly before his death. Although it is banned by the Catholic Church for over 200 years, it is the beginning of the Copernican turn and the foundation of modern astronomy. The trail leads from Coperni- cus via Johannes Keppler and Isaac Newton to the James Webb telescope.

Directed by

Dietrich Duppel
Yoav Parish
Kai Christiansen

Written by

Dietrich Duppel
Dirk Eisfeld
Yoav Parish
Kai Christiansen

Assistant Director

Matthias Schuart


Jürgen Rehberg
Dirk Heuer
Hagen Schöne

Camera Assistants

Sebastian Ehrig
Lukas Röhrdanz
Nicolas Winkelhahn
Ragip Alkan


Torsten Häfner
Alex Jaffar


Dirk Diedrich

Production Design

Stefanie Probst

Costume Design

Stefanie Jauß

Hair & Make-Up Artists

Carsten Aschenbruck
Paolo Celano

Location Manager

Dorian Hehn


Eike Wichmann
Stefan Matlik
Bernie Greiner


Jens Greuner
Oliver Gieth
Reinhardt Beetz


Nils Kacirek

Mix / Sound Design

Pierre Brand
Sascha Prangen

Production Assistants

Marita Singer
Nele Thumser

Production Accountant

Sandra Albert


Onno Ehlers
Eva Fouquet
Sveva Filippani
Dorota Roszkowska

Editorial Assistants

Kristina Madejczyk (NDR / ARTE)
Florian Tropp

Production Management

Juliane Hribar
Silke Breidenbach
Melanie Clausen (NDR / ARTE)

Executive Producer

Reinhardt Beetz


Meike Neumann (NDR / ARTE)
Caroline Haidacher (ORF)
Frédéric Pfyffer (RTS)

A production by gebrüder beetz filmproduktion
In cooperation with NDR, ARTE, RTS, Rai, ORF
Funded by nordmedia

The Cleaners
88 min

In cooperation with

Funded by