Bartmann Greybeard; A Cautionary Tale.

In 1610 Cardinal Maffeo Berberini received a copy of “The Starry  Messenger” by Galileo Galilei.  This treatise on observations Galileo made with his newly invented telescope forever changed our understanding of the universe.  Berberini was impressed.  He befriended the Florentine astronomer.  Galileo must have been pleased, because the Cardinal became Pope Urban VIII in 1616.  Galileo was invited to the Vatican to discuss his fascinating new discoveries.  Bellarmine

But church bigwigs got nervous.  They told Urban in no uncertain terms that Galileo was, in fact, challenging God and Church.  Pope Urban ignored what he knew to be right and acquiesced to the powers that put him, and kept him, in the Holy See.

The heat came in the form of Cardinal Roberto Bellarmino, the “hammer of the heretics.”  The Roman Inquisition had recently burned Giordano Bruno, a Dominican Friar who suggested the Earth revolved around the Sun.  But Bellarmino let Galileo go with a warning.  When Galileo defended his ideas in “The Assayer,” Bellarmino put his foot down.  Galileo was forced to recant his discoveries.  Scientific inquiry took 300 years to recover.  Galileo went to his grave muzzled by the strictures of the Cardinal.  And Bellarmino went on to fight the Reformation in the Low Countries.

People began associating the Cardinal’s name with the widely popular “bartmann,” a salt fired stoneware jug with a greybeard face applied to its side.  The bartmann had been made in Germany’s Rhineland pottery district since the previous century.  But why associate Bellarmino with this jug?  Was it sarcasm?  Endearment?  Who knows?  The name “Bellarmine Jug” stuck, though.  What’s more, as the jug’s popularity spread, all sorts of notions began attaching themselves to it.  Liquids kept in it could heal the sick.  Witchcraft could be warded off by keeping one buried under the house…

How effective any of that was, I can’t say.  But despite the Bellarmine Jug’s popularity, or its psychic powers, I’m pretty sure Galileo never owned one.

Galileo’s Daughter.  Dava Sobel.  Walker & Co./New York.  1999.

If These Pots Could Talk.  Ivor Noel Hume.  Chipstone Press.  2001.

Stoneware: White Salt-Glazed, Rhenish and Dry Body.  Gérard Gusset.  National Historic Parks and Sites Branch, Parks Canada, Environment Canada/Ministry of the Environment, Ottawa, Canada.  1980.

The Concise Encyclopedia of Continental Pottery and Porcelain.  Reginald Haggar.  Hawthorn Books/New York.  1960.

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2 Responses to “Bartmann Greybeard; A Cautionary Tale.”

  1. Bartmann Greybeard; A Cautionary Tale. « This Day in Pottery History | Beauty of Ceramics Says:

    […] Originally posted here: Bartmann Greybeard; A Cautionary Tale. « This Day in Pottery History […]

  2. forex robot Says:

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