Eckart, Anselm von
ECKART, ANSELM VON
Missionary in Brazil and later in Russian Poland; b. Bingen, Upper Rhine, Germany, Aug. 4, 1721; d. at the College at Polotsk, Russia, June 29, 1809. At the age of 19 he entered the Society of Jesus, and in 1753 he was sent to the province of Papa in Brazil. During the short time he labored in Brazil he acquired an intimate knowledge of its geography and language. At Marañon he was distinguished as a missionary by his insight and courage; however, his work was cut short by the growing enmity of the Portuguese minister, Sebastião pombal, to the Society of Jesus. On trumped-up charges, which were subsequently completely refuted, Eckart and his companions were seized and returned to Portugal in chains. For the next 18 years he was imprisoned in the underground dungeons of Almeida and St. Julian in Lisbon. In 1777, after the death of Joseph I of Portugal, Pombal fell from power, and Eckart and the other survivors were released. He returned to his native Bingen, where as the friend and correspondent of G. V. Murrs he made numerous contributions to the latter's publications. These include notes on his geographical observations in Brazil, an account of the persecution of the missionaries there as well as their sufferings in the Lisbon prisons, and a history of the Jesuits in Portugal.
By the time of Eckart's release the Society of Jesus had been dissolved by the papal bull Dominus ac Redemptor (1773). In Russia, which acquired a large Catholic population with the partition of Poland in 1772, the suppression had not become effective, as the Empress, catherine ii, refused to permit publication of the bull of suppression. In this Polish area there existed a number of Jesuit colleges and foundations, including the colleges of Polotsk, Vitebsk, Orsha, and Dünaberg, which were therefore retained by the society. Eckart applied here for readmission to the Polish Jesuits and was received. There he spent the fruitful remaining years of his long life, serving as master of novices in the College of Dünaberg; subsequently he was sent to the College of Polotsk.
Bibliography: a. von eckart, Les Prisons du Marquis de Pombal, v. 9 of Documents inédits concernant la Compagnie de Jésus, ed. a. carayon, 23 v. (Poitiers 1863–86). a. huonder, Deutsche Jesuitenmissionäre des 17 und 18 Jahrhunderte (St. Louis, Mo. 1899). a. weld, Suppression of the Society of Jesus in the Portuguese Dominions (London 1877). c. sommervogel, Bibliothèque de la Compagnie de Jésus (Brussels-Paris 1890–1932) 3:330–331. j. a. otto, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 1957–65) 3:645.
[a. m. christensen]