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Saturday 20 September 2014

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Top 10 wine saints

1st August, 2012 by Rupert Millar

Throughout mankind’s early history peoples of various civilizations constantly sought to personify the world around them and the food and drink it provided.

Wine, beer, grapes and grain, as fruits of the land, were usually represented by deities connected to fertility or pleasure – sometimes both, with all the scurrilous ideas surrounding Dionysus and co that are now normally associated with worship of those old gods.

With the rise of Christianity, however, the role of gods as patrons was taken instead by the followers of the new religion who became spiritual heads of various trades due to their role in them during their lives and occasionally because of the way they died.

Thankfully none of the saints listed here died because of their dedication to making wine or beer – so we can still assume it be a relatively healthy profession – but several of them did become very literal martyrs for their faith.

What is more, it reveals that the church’s attachment to the drinks industry is deeper than just Dom Pérignon’s “invention” of Champagne and also stands as testament to the age and importance of the trade as part of Europe’s cultural and religious history.

3 Responses to “Top 10 wine saints”

  1. John Freeland says:

    Every January, St.Vincent celebrations take place in Warwick (twinned with Saumur) with the Commanderie du Taste Saumur Warwick chapter. If you would to attend please send me an e-mail.

    • Rupert Millar says:

      John

      Sounds wonderful and we’d love to receive any pictures from the next celebration to put online in our picture round-up.

      Rupert

  2. John Radford says:

    There are two stories (probably both apocryphal) about St Martin of Tours, patron saint of Vintners. The first is that, as Bishop of Tours, he eschewed the pomp of episcopal travel, and toured his diocese on a humble donkey. The story goes that he visited a particular monastery with extensive vineyards and, having partaken of the local produce with some enthusiasm, decided to stay the night there. The poor donkey, tied up in the vineyards and unfed, decided to snack on the vines themselves and munched on the sarments to assuage his hunger.

    The next morning the bishop was horrified to see how many shoots had been eaten, and apologised profusely to the brothers. The following spring, however, the damaged shoots burgeoned forth with unexpected vigour to the delight of the vigneron: the donkey had, inadvertently, discovered pruning.

    Martin is also the patron saint of drunkards: the other story concerns a short prayer muttered by inebriates as they staggered homewards “Ora pro me, beata Martin” (pray for me, blessèd Martin) which gave rise to the phrase amongst non-classicists “All my eye and Betty Martin” meaning a load of nonsense.

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