Once upon a time, as nursery story books have it, there was a great personage in the ecclesiastical firmament called Cardinal Bellarmine, who was born in 1542 died in 1621, and during the latter part of that period his name was remembered not on account of writing three large books on his religious beliefs and issuing several others of his sermons, but because a beer or wine jug was called after him.
Thy belly looks like to some strutting hill
O'ershadowed with thy rough beard like a wood :
Or like a larger jug, that some men call
A Bellarmine, but we a Conscience;
Whereon the lewder hand of pagan work men
Over the proud, ambitious head have carved
An idol, large with beard episcopal,
Making the vessel look like tyrant Eglon"
The fact was, Cardinal Bellarmine, by his sermons, writings and speeches, made himself extremely unpopular with the Protestants of his day, and they, the supporters of the reformed religion, in turn endeavoured to undermine his influence by countering his erudite opinions with ridicule. The method by which they attempted to do it was by flooding the Continent with a beer jug of stoneware for sale, each one bearing a caricature of the Cardinal with his long beard complete; and they certainly succeeded in placing his Eminence on a pinnacle of fame, which all his learned works had failed to accomplish.
Reproduced from the book:
Drinking Vessels of Bygone Days
by G. J. MONSON-FITZJOHN, B.Sc.,F.R.Hist.S.
author of Quaint Signs of Olde Inns, etc.