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Blessed be the Beer

July 18th is St. Arnoldus Day. “Who’s that guy? and Why are we celebrating him?” you might be asking, and for good reason. Read onwards for a little bit of knowledge, history, and another excuse for us to raise our beer mugs in tribute.

Saint Arnoldus (also known as Arnold of Soissons, or Arnulf of Oudenburg) is the Catholic patron saint of Belgian brewers and hop-pickers. Born in 1040 and dying in 1087, he was a soldier under the ranks of Henry I of France, who came to reside within the Benedictine St. Medard’s Abbey in Soissons, France, eventually rising in the ranks to become abbot (the head) of the monastery. Legend has it, (or his Catholic legend, known as hagiography), he attempted to refuse the title of being abbot and fled the monastery, only being forced by a wolf to return. It was there that he became a priest and then Bishop of Soissons, and in 1080 left St. Medard’s and founded the Abbey of St. Peter in Oudenburg, which is located in now present-day Belgium.

While at Oudenburg, Arnold developed a passion for brewing beer. Beer was a staple in medieval times, many times, being a better option than water to drink for sanitary reasons. We know today that because water is boiled to create beer, it kills harmful pathogens, but people did not understand the science behind boiling during Arnold’s time on earth. Arnold was a vocal advocate, encouraging people to drink beer for its “gift of health,” stating, “From man’s sweat and God’s love, beer came into the world.” It is said that during one particular wave of illness (potentially the plague or cholera), Arnold advised his congregation and local people in his town to avoid water altogether, thus the illness disappeared altogether; his advice helping to save many thousands of lives. In some versions of this tale, he also plunges his crucifix into a brew kettle as well.

St. Arnoldus was canonized on January 6, 1121 by Pope Callixtus II after a number of miracles were attributed to him, both before – one being that part of the roof in the brewery section of the monastery collapsed and Arnold prayed to God to multiply the stores of beer left, which then occurred by divine intervention – and after death, at his tomb. His relics (bits of bone/hair/teeth usually) are still contained within the Abbey (Church) of Saint Peter, in Oudenburg. The saint is often depicted holding a mashing rake and clothed in armor and on July 18th, he is honored with a feast and parade in Brussels, Belgium known as the “Day of Beer.”

There are several other Catholic saints associated with beer including:

  • St. Arnulf of Metz, patron saint of brewers (Yes, another Arnold, with storylines and feast dates – August 14th, often getting mixed!) • St. Augustine of Hippo, patron saint of brewers
  • St. Amandus, patron saint of bar staff, bartenders, and beer merchants
  • St. Hildegardis, female patron saint of hop-growers
  • St. Brigid, female patron saint of brewers, a nun who worked with a leper-colony who, as legend states, turned dirty bath water into beer when the lepers implored her to quench their thirst

Bet they didn’t teach any of that within your local parish or Sunday School as a kid…


Kristin Merritt
Just your average craft-brew loving gal slinging your monthly pour of beer education and the low-down on all things beer related in the immediate CNY area and beyond. Along the way I hope to give a few recommendations for your grocery list, events to attend, and local hotspots to hit-up for shenanigans with friends, ideas for date night, or at the very least enlighten you with a bit of random knowledge to use towards trivia night or simply give you and your teammates a suggestion on what to drink at the bar! Cheers!