Polignac, Melchior de
POLIGNAC, MELCHIOR DE
Cardinal, diplomat, and apologist; b. Puy–en–Velay, Oct. 11, 1661; d. Paris, Nov. 20, 1742. Polignac studied at the Collège de Clermont and later at the Sorbonne, excelling in Cartesian philosophy. While at Rome in 1689, he refused to subscribe to the four Gallican Articles of 1682, thereby disavowing the schism (see assemblies of french clergy). In 1693 he was made ambassador to Poland by louis xiv, and at the death of King John Sobieski (1696) he succeeded in having Prince François Louis de Conti chosen as candidate for the throne. When the Prince de Conti was displaced by Augustus II, Elector of Saxony, Polignac was recalled and confined to the Abbey of Bomport from 1698 to 1702. In 1704 he was elected to the French Academy to succeed Bossuet; two years later he was named auditor of the Rota and took up residence in Rome. He participated in the conferences of Gertruydenberg and in the Peace of Utrecht (1713). On March 8, 1712, he was created cardinal, and later became archbishop of Auch (1726).
Because he was involved in the conspiracy of A. Cellamare during the minority of Louis XV, he was confined to the Abbey of Auchin in Flanders. While in exile, he composed the famous poem Anti-Lucretius sive de Deo et natura libri novem. In this poem, containing nine books of 1,000 verses each, he refuted the ancient materialism of Lucretius and Epicurus, and that of his contemporary P. Bayle, and demonstrated the existence of God, the supernatural world, and the immortality of the soul.
Bibliography: Anti-Lucretius sive de Deo et natura libri novem, 2 v. in 1 (Paris 1247). j. carreyre, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, eds., a. vacant et al. (Paris 1903–50),12.2:2416–18. p. paul, Le Cardinal Melchior de Polignac (Paris 1922).
[i. j. calicchio]
Mey, Johann Melchior van der