Treasures of Campion Hall: The Bellarmine Jug

Antique shops can occasionally be found in Britain containing 17th century stoneware jugs of varying sizes, which are distinguished by having a grotesque bearded face carved on the front at the neck. Known generally on the Continent as bartmann, i.e., "bearded", jugs, these pieces of pottery were in England popularly given the name of "Bellarmine jugs", a term evidently intended to convey ridicule.

This name seems to have been a reference to the Italian Jesuit theologian, Cardinal Roberto Bellarmino (1542-1621), who became an object of popular Protestant hostility in Europe because of his writings as Professor of Controversial Theology in the papal and Jesuit Roman College. Moreover, this leading figure of the Catholic Counter-Reformation had had the effrontery to take on publicly the King of England, James I, for his majesty's absolutist legislation rebutting papal jurisdiction.

Campion Hall is said to have come by its fine, if slightly damaged, Bellarmine jug thanks to the Bodleian Library when it was unearthed during excavations to build the new library in the 1930s.

A somewhat different portrayal of Cardinal Bellarmine figures in another of the Hall's collection of treasures, a 17th century engraving of him by the German Johann Fridrick Greuter, shown above. It depicts His Eminence seated writing at his desk, glancing at a crucifix with the mandatory memento mori skull at its foot, and surrounded by the sources of his theological erudition.

This year the Jesuit Heythrop College, a constituent school of London University, has established a Bellarmine Institute under the patronage of this Doctor of the Church, in which Heythrop is authorised by the Vatican to award ecclesiastical degrees.