Pierre Biard

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Pierre Biard (1567 – November 17, 1622) was a Jesuit missionary who was given orders by Father Pierre Coton, Jesuit provincial in Paris, to take charge of a mission at Port-Royal in Acadia, along with Father Énemond Massé.


Pierre Biard was born in Grenoble, France in 1567. In 1583 he entered the Jesuit novitiate at Tournon. He taught at Billom, studied philosophy and theology at Avignon, and was ordained a priest in 1599. He also taught theology at Tournon, and Hebrew at the Collège in Lyon, where he held the chair in scholastic theology[1]


In 1608, the provincial of the Jesuits of Paris, Father Pierre Coton SJ called him away from his professorship with orders to serve the mission of Port-Royal in Acadia (Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia).[1] It had been founded by Jean de Biencourt, known as Poutrincourt, a devout Catholic, in 1606, abandoned for financial reasons in 1607, then restored by Poutrincourt in 1610 who was appointed Lieutenant Governor by Sieur de Monts, now more interested in Quebec, founded by Champlain in 1608.

L'abbe Jesse Fleche accompanied Poutincourt, and by the end of the year he had baptized 140 Mi'kmaq. The Mi'kmaq had known the French for over 100 years; those living near Port-Royal had known them intimately since 1606. It was common pastoral practice in France at the time to baptize without a complete instruction with the assumption that the Christian community would lead the neophytes to a fuller faith.

As de Monts was a Calvinist, as were a considerable number of the colonists, there was vehement opposition to the appointment of Biard and his colleague, Énemond Massé, as missionaries. Through the assistance of Antoinette de Pons, 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.[1] Biard and Massé sailed from Dieppe on 26 January 1611.

They arrived on Pentecost Day May 22, and l'abbe Fleche left on the next ship to France. The Jesuits required fuller instruction and greater signs of faith before baptizing except when a person was in danger of death, a pastoral practice just being introduced in France. Biard vehemently criticized the earlier pastoral practise, and when those who desired baptism were refused, their resentment slowly built up against the Jesuits. In their two years followed a stricter policy, they baptized 21 persons, all of whom were dying. Biard did little to soothe tensions, fell out with the King's official, Charles de Biencourt, 21, son of Poutrincourt, in France trying to raise funds for the colony. He actually excommunicated the whole community from Ash Wednesday, 1612 until June 25 of that year, when he sought a reconciliation.[2] Madame de Guercheville purchased Acadia from Sieur de Monts, obtained financial support from her many friends at the royal court, and arranged for a vessel under the authority of René Le Coq de La Saussaye at the Jesuits' request to bring them, now four, to another a locale of their choice for a new mission. A series of circumstances, for one thing the crew refused to sail further south-west, they chose a bay on Mount Desert Island to found their new post, giving it the name of Saint-Sauveur, Holy Saviour. Hardly unpacked, they soon came under attack by Sir Samuel Argall, fishing out of the Virginia colony, who had been alerted to their presence by innocent Indigenous who thought Argall was French too. The whole colony quickly surrendered to Argall's superior firepower, Brother Du Thet, SJ, being killed in the fray, the first Jesuit to die in North America. Pere Masse and Saussaye with several French colonists were set loose in a shalloup, supplied with food by the local Penobscot, with the expectation that they could find a French shipping vessel off the coast of Nova Scotia hundreds of miles of Atlantic Ocean away. They were successful due to the fortuitous meeting with the pilot of their ship in his own shalloup who had with him several French sailors he had succeeded in freeing from the English. Fathers Biard and the new priest, and four other French colonists, skilled labourers, were taken on their own ship to Jamestown, Virginia. There the Governor intended to hang them as pirates on English land, at which point Argall owned up that he had stolen La Sassaye's official documents from King Louis XIII, making their position legal. Argall was then ordered to take Pere Biard and Quentin on a mission to destroy all traces of the French presence on the Atlantic coast, an earlier base on the Ste. Croix River,at Saint-Sauveur, and at Port-Royal. They succeeded, and a controversy arose over who directed them to the well hidden Port-Royal, Biard being a suspect. He in turn pointed the finger at a Maliseet chief. On the journey home, Biard's ship was blown east to the Azores, and thence sailed to England where he and Quentin were freed to return to France where they resumed their previous ministry, Biard dying in 1622 after writing about these adventures. Pere Masse returned as a missionary to New France at the age of sixty with Jean de Brébeuf in 1625, and died there in 1646.


  1. ^ a b c Campbell, Thomas. "Pierre Biard." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. May 12, 2015
  2. ^ Garneau, D. (2008-01-24), NEW FRANCE 1611 - 1614 Quebec Culture (web), retrieved 2008-01-31 

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