Saint of the Day – 14 August – Saint Arnold of Soissons (1040-1087) Bishop, Monk, Abbot- born Arnoul in 1040 at Flanders, Belgium and died in 1087 at the monastery at Oudenburg, diocese of Bruges, Flanders, Belgium of natural causes. Also known as Arnulf of Oudenburg. Patronages – brewers, hop pickers, miller, music, to find lost articles.
St Arnold, born in Brabant, the son of a certain Fulbertus was first a career soldier before settling at the Benedictine St Medard’s Abbey, Soissons, France. He spent his first three years as a hermit but later rose to be abbot of the monastery. His hagiography states that he tried to refuse this honour and flee but was forced by a wolf to return. He then became a priest and in 1080, Bishop of Soissons, another honour that he sought to avoid. When his see was occupied by another bishop, rather than fighting, he took the opportunity to retire from public life, founding the Abbey of St Peter in Oudenburg.
As abbot in Oudenburg, Arnold brewed beer, as essential in medieval life as water. He encouraged local peasants to drink beer, instead of water, due to its “gift of health.” During the process of brewing, the water was boiled and thus, unknown to all, freed of pathogens, making the beer safer to drink. The beer normally consumed at breakfast and during the day at this time in Europe was called small beer, having a very low alcohol content and containing spent yeast. It is likely that people in the local area normally consumed small beer from the monastery, or made their own small beer at the instructions of Arnold and his fellow monks. During one outbreak of sickness, Arnold advised the local people to avoid consuming water, in favour of beer, which advice effectively saved lives.
One miracle tale says, at the time of an epidemic, rather than stand by while the local people fell ill from drinking water, Arnold had them consume his monastery brews. Because of this, many people in his church survived the plague. The same happened with the outbreak of cholera, only this time, the epidemic was all around Belgium and Europe except in Oudenburg. Nobody in the town got sick. There are many depictions of St Arnold with a mashing rake in his hand, to identify him. He is honoured in July with a parade in Brussels on the “Day of Beer.”
Miracles that were reported at his tomb were investigated and approved by a council at Beauvais in 1121. St Arnold’s relics were translated to the church of Saint Peter, Oudenburg in 1131.