A Renaissance Man

Apothecary Shop

The Schwabendorf records for Pierre Chastain list his occupation as surgeon. The Swiss assistance records add another title along with “chirurgien”—apothecary (and don’t forget this renaissance man was also the head school teacher in Louisendorf!). Intriguingly, this tourism site for Vesc mentions an old apothecary sign on one of the buildings in town. Perhaps Pierre once prepared and dispensed medicine to his fellow villagers in that very building.

In Charles Weiss’ History of the French Protestant Refugees (one of Poole’s main sources) Weiss goes into great detail about the persecutions that the Protestants suffered in the years leading up to 1685. It’s infuriating to read and makes me truly despise King Louis XIV. I’ll dive into the gory details and summarize Weiss’ account later, but, for now, I want to highlight a relevant passage as I try to piece together what Pierre’s life may have been like in Vesc. In this section on the persecutions, Weiss discusses each of the professions that were denied to Protestants. The passage relevant to Pierre:

To physicians the exercise of their profession was interdicted under the pretext that they did not advise their Roman Catholic patients, when the moment was come for taking the sacraments. This prohibition was extended to surgeons, apothecaries, and even to midwives, who were accused, in dangerous confinements of sacrificing the child to the mother, at the risk of letting it die without baptism, and thus exposing it to eternal damnation.

Was Pierre, in the final years before he escaped, denied the right to practice as a surgeon and apothecary? If so, how did he make a living? This in itself would have been reason enough to emigrate, but it was just one of countless indignities, sanctioned by the full power of the state, that Protestants were forced to suffer in the name of religion.

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