Of all the world’s religions, Catholicism has traditionally had the healthiest relationship with alcohol. We are not excessively Puritanical in shunning drink, nor are we cultists seeking enlightenment in intoxication. We give the just thanks for God’s gifts and treat them as such.
“From man’s sweat and God’s love, beer came into the world.” – Saint Arnold of Metz
Our Church’s good relationship with alcohol has produced some of the world’s best wines, spirits, and especially brews, particularly arising from the Catholic monastic tradition. Learn why both Saint Arnolds are the patrons of beer and brewers.
Saint Arnold of Soissons
Saint Arnold of Soissons was born circa 1040 A.D. in Northern Belgium. He was a career soldier before settling at the Benedictine Abbey of Saint-Médard de Soissons in France, past considered to be one of the greatest monasteries in the country.
Spending his first three years as a hermit, he rose to be the abbot of the monastery. He then became a priest, and in 1080 the bishop of Soissons, an honor he reluctantly accepted. When another bishop came to occupy his see, he retired from public life and founded the Abbey of Saint Peter in Oudenburg.
There he brewed beer, an essential drink in medieval life as it was boiled during the process of brewing and therefore safe to drink – unbeknownst to them. He encouraged local peasants to drink the monastery’s brew for its “gift of health.”
Pious tradition tells of the time when a plague struck his town, he saved the townspeople from certain death by instructing them to avoid drinking water and instead donating beer for them to drink. Many survived the plague and for this Saint Arnold of Soissons became the patron of brewers, beer, and hop-pickers.
Saint Arnulf (Arnold) of Metz
Saint Arnulf of Metz was born circa 582 A.D. in Lorraine in France, and has a similar life to Saint Arnold of Soissons. In his youth, he served in the military under King Theudebert II of the Merovingian dynasty.
Later in his career he became attracted to religious life, and decided to retire and become a monk. He joined the Remiremont Abbey in the Vosges mountains. There he brewed beer much like Saint Arnold of Soissons.
Pious tradition tells the tale of the miracle of the beer mug, when parishioners travelled to the Remiremont Abbey to recover the remains of a deceased Arnulf. During there travels, the terrain was inhospitable and the temperature soared. With little to drink, the exhausted procession prayed: “By his powerful intercession the Blessed Arnold will bring us what we lack.”
Immediately the small remnants of beer at the bottom of a pot multiplied in such amounts the entirety of the pilgrims could quench their thirst and continue onwards. For this, Saint Arnulf is the patron of brewers and beer.