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Pierre Biard

Jesuit missionary (1567-1622)

Biard, PIERRE, Jesuit missionary, b. at Grenoble, France, 1567; d. at Avignon, November 17, 1622. In 1608 he was called from a chair of Scholastic theology and Hebrew at Lyons by Father Coton, the king’s confessor and preacher, to take charge of the Jesuit mission in Acadia. As de Monts, the founder of Acadia, was a Calvinist, and a considerable number of the colonists were also of that religion, vehement opposition was made to the appointment of Biard and his companion, Edmond Masse, as missionaries. Through the interposition of the Marquise de Guercheville, who purchased the vessel that was bringing out supplies, the Jesuits, after three years of waiting, were enabled to obtain passage by becoming part owners of the ship and cargo. They left France, January 21, 1611, and arrived on Pentecost Day, May 22, at Port Royal. They met with but little success. The predecessor of the missionaries, a secular priest named Josue Flesche, had baptized indiscriminately. This the Jesuits refused to do. The colonists, moreover, remained hostile, and viewed as a business speculation, the enterprise was a failure. Madame de Guercheville, who had succeeded de Monts as proprietor, finally sent out another vessel under La Saussaye, and ordered him to stop at Port Royal, and, taking the two Jesuits, found a colony elsewhere. Obeying instructions, La Saussaye sailed over to what is now Bar Harbor. The new establishment was called Saint Sauveur. This was in 1613. It was hardly begun when Samuel Argall came up from Virginia, plundered the colony, and took Biard and another Jesuit with four colonists to Jamestown where only the authority of Argall prevented them from being hanged. Another expedition was fitted out to complete the destruction of Saint Sauveur and Port Royal, and the two Jesuits were compelled to accompany the marauders.

Everything was ruined and Biard and his companion were made to appear as if they had instigated the attack. They sailed off with the attacking party who intended to return with them to the English colony, where they would probably have been executed, but the vessel on which they were held as prisoners was driven by storms across the ocean. Frequently they were on the point of being thrown overboard, but when the ship was compelled to enter the Port of Fayal in the Azores, Biard and his companions consented to remain in the hold lest their discovery should entail the death of their captor. A second time, upon entering Milford Haven, in Wales, the captain having no papers, and being in a French ship, was on the point of being hanged as a pirate. But Father Biard saved him by explaining the situation to the authorities. The missionary was then sent to France, where he had to meet a storm of abuse because of the suspicion that he had helped in the destruction of Port Royal. Champlain, however, vindicated him. He never returned to Canada, but resumed his work as professor of theology, and afterwards became famous as a missionary in the south of France, and towards the end of his life was made military chaplain in the armies of the king. Lescarbot, who was unfriendly to the Jesuit missionaries, speaks of Biard in flattering terms.

T. J. CAMPBELL


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