Palissy, Bernard

Palissy, Bernard a Huguenot artisan, noted for his faithful adherence to the Reformation movement, and also one of the most illustrious of the Gospellers (q.v.), was eminent as a natural philosopher, chemist. geologist, and artist. He is generally known as "Palissy, the great Potter." He was born about 1510 at La Chapelle Biron, a poor village in Perigord, where his father brought him up to his own trade of a glazier. The boy was by nature quick and ingenious, with a taste for drawing, designing, and decoration, and he made himself useful to the village churches of his neighborhood whenever such skill was required. When his term of apprenticeship was past he set out upon his "wanderschaft," and travelled extensively, as is the custom of Continental European artisans. Spanish, French, Swiss, Dutch, and German territory he thus visited at a time when the people were most deeply moved by the recent revolt of Luther from Rome. Of course, the thoughtful young man belonging to a class of mechanics somewhat cultured, and besides by nature a shrewd observer and independent thinker, he could not fail to be influenced by the popular agitation. A Bible which fell into his hands he read, notwithstanding the papal ban against this liberty in a layman. It did not fail to make a deep impression upon the inquiring and thoughtful Palissy, and at thirty he was a convert to the side which advocated the free circulation of the Scriptures, and justification by faith, without the agency of the priesthood. He was now in his native country; but aware of the danger those were subject to who advocated these views, he shunned Paris, and resided at Saintenge, in the south-west of France. Palissy was born to lead others. He had not lived long here before the townspeople were by him guided religiously, as if their pastor. At first a little congregation had formed, and to these he dispensed spiritual food not only on Sundays but weekdays. They came to be specially designated as "the Religionists," and were known throughout the town to be persons of blameless life, peaceable, well-disposed, and industrious. As their number rapidly increased the Romanists felt impelled to a like devotion and holy profession, and soon, to use the words of Palissy, "there were prayers daily in this town, both on one side and the other." That both were in earnest was evidenced by the charitable feeling which governed all. They used the same churches by turnis, and there was no disposition to persecution. But though Palissy devoted so large a share of his time to religion, he did not fail to make progress too as an artisan. Indeed, in many respects this period of his life is one of the most memorable. In it falls one of his most important discoveries, which we are told came about as follows: "An enameled cup of 'Faience,' which he saw by chance, inspired him with the resolution to discover the mode of producing white enamel. Neglecting all other labors; he devoted himself to investigations and experiments for the long period of sixteen years. He at last exhausted all his resources, and for want of money to buy fuel was reduced to the necessity of burning his household furniture piece by piece; his neighbors laughed at him, his wife overwhelmed him with reproaches, and his starving family surrounded him crying for food; 'but in spite of all these discouragements the persisted in the search, and was in the end rewarded by success." A few vessels adorned with figures of animals, colored to represent nature, sold for high prices, and he was then enabled to complete those investigations by which he became famous; and, though a Huguenot, he was protected and encouraged, in 1559, by the king and the nobility, who employed him to embellish their mansions with specimens of his art. In 1560 he was lodged in the Tuileries, and was specially exempted by queen Catharine from the massacre of St. Bartholomew, more from a regard to her own benefit than from kindness. In March, 1575, he began a course of lectures on natural history and physics, and was the first in France to substitute positive facts and rigorous demonstrations for the fanciful interpretations of philosophers. In the course of these lectures he gave (1584) the first right notions of the origin of springs, and the formation of stones and fossil shells, and strongly advocated the importance of marl as a fertilizing agent. These, along with his theories regarding the best means of purifying water, have been fully supported by recent discovery and investigation. In 1588 he was arrested, thrown into the Bastile as a heretic, and threatened with death unless he recanted. But though he was feeble and trembling on the verge of the grave, his spirit was as brave as in his youth, and he resolutely held to his religion. There were many who insisted that he should be burned; but he died in 1590 before his sentence was pronounced, courageously remaining faithful to the cause until the end, and glorying in having been called to lay down his life for the true faith. Palissy left a collection of objects of natural history, the first that had been formed in France. His works are at the present day almost beyond price, and his ornaments and arabesques are among the most beautiful of the Renaissance. See Smiles, Huguenots, p. 35-44; Cap, (Euvres Completes de Bernard Palissy (Paris, 1844); Dumesnil, B. Pilissy, Le. Potier de Terre (ibid. 1851); Morley, TheLife of B. Palissy, his Labors and his Discoveries (Lond. 1852, 2 vols.); Duplessis, Etude sur Palissy (Paris. 1855); Free- Will Baptist Quar. 7:354 sq.

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