Baron, Bartholomew (DNB00)

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BARON or BARRON, BARTHOLOMEW, or BONAVENTURA (d. 1696), Irish Franciscan and miscellaneous writer, born towards the commencement of the seventeenth century, was second son of Lawrence Baron, merchant, of Clonmel, in Tipperary, by his first wife, Maria, sister of Luke Wadding, founder of St. Isidore's College, Rome, for Irish Franciscans. The family of Baron was one of the numerous offshoots of that of the FitzGeralds, or Geraldines, of Munster. Baron, under the guidance of his uncle Wadding, entered the order of St. Francis, in Italy, about 1636, and assumed the name of Bonaventura in honour of that celebrated Franciscan doctor of the church, writer, and cardinal. With Wadding he took up his residence at Rome in the college of St. Isidore, the home of the Irish Franciscans. Baron acquired eminence as a theologian and by his Latin compositions both in prose and verse. He enjoyed the friendship of Popes Urban IV and Alexander VII, and of the Cardinals Barberini and Ludovisio. Baron's elder brother, Geoffrey, held an eminent position in connection with the Irish Confederation, established in 1642. In 1643, while professor at St. Isidore's, Baron issued a volume entitled ‘Panegyrici Sacroprophani,’ a second edition of which appeared at Lyons in 1656. Among other early published productions was a diary of the siege of Duncannon, Waterford (Obsidio et Expugnatio Arcis Duncannon sub Thoma Prestono), and its capture from the English parliamentarians by the forces of the Irish confederates in 1644–5. ‘Prælusiones Philosophicæ,’ by Baron, appeared at Rome in 1651, and again at Lyons in 1661. In 1653 he published at Rome a treatise on the work of Boethius, ‘De Consolatione Philosophiæ,’ entitled ‘Boetius Absolutus; sive de Consolatione Theologiæ,’ and in four books. In 1656 Baron resided for a time in Hungary, as administrator of the affairs of his order. While in Hungary a volume of his miscellaneous poems was printed for him at Cologne, with a dedication, addressed from Tyrnau in Upper Hungary, to Pope Alexander VII. In this collection are poems on the Irish saints, Patrick and Brigid, on the author's father, mother, and brother, Geoffrey [q. v.], and on Clonmel, his birthplace. Hungarians and Italians bore testimony, in Latin verse, to the merits of these productions. Baron's ‘Cursus Philosophicus’ appeared at Rome, in three volumes folio, in 1660, and at Cologne in 1664. He devoted much time to the study and exposition of the works of Duns Scotus, and in 1664 he published ‘Scotus per universam philosophiam, logicam, physicam, et metaphysicam defensus,’ 3 vols. folio. In 1668 appeared at Würzburg, in Bavaria, a folio volume of Baron's miscellaneous writings in prose and verse. To this an engraved portrait was prefixed, representing him in the Franciscan habit. Treatises by Baron in relation to Scotus were printed at Lyons in 1666, 1670, and 1676. Baron was appointed provincial commissary of the Franciscan order, and it is said that some of his countrymen desired to have him nominated to the see of Cashel, vacant about this time. In recognition of the high value set upon Baron's works by eminent continental scholars, Cosmo de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, bestowed upon him the office of historiographer in 1676. The post of librarian to the grand duke was at that time held by the celebrated Antonio Magliabecchi. Baron, while resident at Florence, as historiographer to the grand duke, composed a work styled ‘Trias Tusca’—‘The Tuscan Triad’—in praise of three religious personages of high repute in that district. In an epistle prefixed to it, the author expressed his obligations to the grand duke for the numerous favours conferred upon him. This volume, with portraits, was printed at Cologne in 1676. In the same year a treatise by Baron, treating of the Medici family, entitled ‘Orbes Medicei,’ was published at Florence, of the academy of which he was a member. Of his published works, the last appears to have been that on the history of the Order for Redemption of Captives. It forms a folio volume of three hundred and sixty-three pages, and was issued at Rome in 1684, with the following title, ‘Annales Ordinis Sanctissimæ Trinitatis Redemptionis Captivorum ab anno Christi 1198 ad annum 1297.’ A writer who conversed with Baron at Rome in 1684 mentions that he was gifted with great eloquence, that his publications down to that year included ten volumes in folio, and that he had eleven further volumes in preparation. Baron acted on behalf of the Franciscan Order as ‘custos’ for Scotland, and is stated to have declined to accept either a bishopric or the rectorship of the Irish college of St. Isidore, at Rome, where he passed the closing years of his life. An unpublished letter is extant, addressed to him in 1696, by Magliabecchi, in relation to a book then recently published at Modena, in which reference was made to Baron's works. Baron died at Rome on n18 March 1696. His tomb at St. Isidore's bears an inscription by John de Burgo, formerly rector of that college, which records that Baron composed twenty-two volumes, and attained to eminence in oratory, poetry, philosophy, history, and theology. Some of Baron's unpublished manuscripts are in Spain, and others are possessed by the Franciscan order. Two contemporary oil paintings of Baron are extant. One of these is preserved by the Franciscans at Dublin, and the other is in the college of St. Isidore, Rome. Of the latter portrait a copy has recently been placed by the Franciscan order in their convent at Clonmel, Baron's native town.

[MS. Records of Prerogative Court, Ireland; MS. Archives of Franciscans of Ireland; Annales Minorum, ed. J. M. Fonseca, 1731; History of Irish Confederation and War in Ireland, 1641–3, Dublin, 1882; MS. Records of College of St. Isidore, Rome; Ware's Irish Writers (Harris), 253.]

J. T. G.