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Belgians honor patron saint of brewers, who saved people from plague


Alexandros Michailidis | Shutterstock

John Burger - published on 07/23/20

St. Arnould urged the faithful to avoid the water, but drink the beer.

Like so many events that have had to be cancelled or modified this year — sports seasons, political conventions, parades — Brussels’ annual Belgian Beer Weekend fell victim to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Due to the health crisis caused by the coronavirus and as a precautionary measure, we are unfortunately forced to postpone the Belgian Beer Weekend until next year,” the Belgian Brewers professional association said of the September 4-6 event.

There’s nothing, of course, preventing people from having their own individual tribute to Belgian beer, which has been recognized by the United Nations as an important part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

And there’s nothing to keep Belgians — and all lovers of a well-crafted brew — from praying that next year’s Belgian Beer Weekend will be able to be held.

For many in the know, St. Arnould is the go-to saint for this particular prayer intention.

Arnould, an 11th-century monk and later a bishop in Flanders, is said to have blessed a local brewery whose beer miraculously cured local people from the plague, according to Reuters.

To continue honoring the patron saint of brewers, members of a guild known as the Knighthood of the Brewer’s Paddle normally carry a keg to Brussels’ Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula to be blessed at the beginning of the Belgian Beer Weekend. The guild members are accompanied by musicians dressed in medieval costumes.

“It’s a magnificent celebration for Saint Arnould,” Daniel Krug, an executive at the brewery of the family-run Duvel Moortgat, told Reuters two years ago. “It’s a great tradition because beer in Belgium is something we are very proud of.”

“Who knows how accurate these old stories are, but some claim Arnold [sic] was the son of a prominent brewer in Flanders,” Michael Foley, author of Drinking with Your Patron Saints: The Sinner’s Guide to Honoring Namesakes and Protectors, told a website called simply October, which is all about beer. “He was a brave knight initially, but he gave it all up to become a monk, then an abbot, then the bishop of Soisson.”

Read more:
Have a virtual cocktail with the author of ‘Drinking With the Saints’

Foley explained that because the plague sweeping through the area of Oudenburg apparently was spread through water-borne pathogens, Arnould “admonished people to drink beer rather than water, which they did. In the end, none of his people died of the plague. I don’t know if they considered it miraculous, but they were definitely grateful to him.”


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