Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Robert de' Nobili

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Born at Montepulciano, Tuscany, September, 1577; died at Mylapore, India, in 1656. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1597, at Naples, and after a brilliant course of studies sailed for the Indian mission in October, 1604, arriving at Goa, 20 May, 1605. After a short stay at Cochin and the Fishery Coast, he was sent in November, 1606, to Madura to study Tamil. Within a year he had acquired a complete mastery of Tamil, Telugu, and Sanskrit. In his zeal to convert the Brahmins he adopted their mode of life and so had to cut himself off completely from intercourse with his fellow missionaries. He worked in Madura, Mysore, and the Karnatic till old age and almost complete blindness compelled him to retire to Mylapore. (For an account of his missionary methods see MALABAR RITES.) De' Nobili translated into Sanskrit or composed therein many prayers and several longer works, especially an abridgment of Christian Doctrine and a life of Our Lady, in Sanskrit verse. Nearly all these productions were lost during his imprisonment in Madura (1639-41). His principal work in Tamil is his "Larger Catechism", in four books, printed after his death (partly reprinted, Trichinopoly, 1891-1906). It is a course of theology adapted to the needs of the country. In addition he wrote: "A Treatise on the Eternal Life", "A Dialogue on the Faith", "A Disproof of Transmigration", "A Manual of Rules of Perfection", numerous hymns and several instructions not yet edited, two small catechisms still in actual use, "The Science of the Soul", and many prayers. He translated into Telugu several of his Tamil works, among them the two small catechisms. In Tamil and Telugu he enriched the vocabulary with appropriate Christian terms.

BERTRAND, La Mission du Madure (Paris, 1847); Lettres edifiantes, Collection Martin, II, 263-66; for the pseudo-Veda, or rather pseudo-Veda hoax, see Asiatic Researches, XIV (London, 1818), 35; pseudo-Vedas seem clearly a non-Christian production; for diatribes on de' Nobili, see D'ORSAY, Portuguese Discoveries (London, 1893), 254-58.

J. CASTETS