Beer and the Christian church has had a long relationship with each other. When monasteries were prevalent across Europe, Monks were common brewers of the everyday beer for the masses. This relationship between brewing and the church continues today with Trappist breweries as well as several patrons saints of brewing. As it happens with stories of individuals who lived over 1,500 years ago facts tend to get blurred. Therefore depending on who you talk to there are two or three Christian saints named Arnold or Arnulf who are tied to beer, brewing or beer ingredients.
Saint Arnold of Metz lived from 580 to 640 AD, in what is now France. He was selected as the bishop of Metz where he succeeded in administrative roles. After some time he withdrew to live as a hermit in Remiremont. It was here where St Arnold passed away in 640 AD. It was only after his passing when a relationship to beer was recorded. Legend calls this the miracle of the Beer Mug. When the parishioners of Metz went to claim the body of Saint Arnold from Remiremont in order to re-intern the body at Metz the work was strenuous, but substance, including beer was lacking. A porter by the name of Duc (Duke) Notto cried out “By his powerful intercession the Blessed Arnold will bring us what we lack.” Although there was a only a small amount of beer left it never ran out for the remainder of the journey and there was even enough to toast the Saint at his re-internment. His feast day is July 18th.
Saint Arnold of Soissons who lived from 1040 to 1087 AD is considered the Patron Saint of Hop Pickers and Belgian Brewers. Hops being a integral ingredient in beer making. During one of the many plagues that occurred during that time period St Arnold urged his congregation to drink beer brewed at the monastery instead of water. Beer was a common sourced of clean drinking beverage compared to teh often polluted water. Modern beer drinkers may like the idea of day drinking, but at that time the boiling step of the beer making process probably did more increasing the safety of drink than any other benefit or flavor of alcohol. When he is depicted in Catholic imagery, Saint Arnold normally carries a wooden mash paddle in his hand instead of a crosier (pastoral staff or bishops staff) often seen carried in most saint depictions. His feast day is July 8th and August 14th.
Any time you are discussing individuals who lived over 1500 years ago details become cloudy. Depending on sources there may be a third Saint Arnold. This one from Oudenaarde. The legend that is tied with this St Arnold is that he is believed to have appealed to God for cold beer for the soldiers during the battle in Flanders in the 11th Century. Oudenaarde is located 224km north of Soissons so the two Arnolds may be in fact the same person. This theory is reinforced with the fact that there is not a feast day for Saint Arnold of Oudenaarde.
Regardless if there are two or three Saint Arnolds there continues to be a spiritual tie between the church and beer manufacturing. Over time this tie has provided a safe drink for the masses, hope on the battlefield or reassurance during a difficult task. So if you are enjoying a beer with the feast of Saint Arnold on July 8th, July 18th, or August 14th cheers to you.
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