Friday, 14 August 2020

arnold van soissons

Born near Brabant and serving as a soldier of fortune before settling at a great abbey outside of the ancient city of Soissons as a hermit hoping to fade into retirement, Saint Arnold (*1040 – †1087)was elevated by the monastic community to abbot—an honour he only reluctantly accepted, persuaded to the return to take up office by an encounter with a wolf.   Later, after assuring that his parish was in capable hands, Arnold returned to West Flanders and established an abbey of his own in the town of Oudenburg, there perfecting his skills in brewing beer—which, despite ignorance of the germ theory of pathology, he happily evangelised for and rightly touted as safer than water. Arnold, who is venerated on this day, composed a blessing thusly:

Benedic, Domine, creaturam istam cerevisiae, quam ex adipe frumenti producere dignatus es: ut sit remedium salutare humano generi: et praesta per invocationem nominis tui sancti, ut, quicumque ex ea biberint, sanitatem corporis, et animae tutelam percipiant. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

Bless, O Lord, this creation beer, that you hvet been pleased to bring forth from the sweetness of the grain—that it might be a salutary remedy for the human race: and grant by the invocation of your holy name, that, whosoever drinks of it may obtain health of body and a sure safeguard for the soul. &c. Amen.

During one outbreak of the plague, an untold number of residents were able to avoid infection through sticking to hygienic beer—untold and unbeknownst as is the case with most effective public health interventions because there’s not the visible means of tracking success to compare with that of failure and efforts are hampered by the backfire effect. Arnold is the patron of hops-harvesters and brewers and his iconographic depictions include him holding a bishop’s mitre and a mash rake.