Saint Fiacre of Breuil
|Born||c. AD 600|
|Died||18 August AD 670|
Probably Saint-Fiacre, Seine-et-Marne, France
|Venerated in||Eastern Orthodox Church|
Roman Catholic Church
|Major shrine||Cathedral of Saint Stephen, Meaux, Seine-et-Marne, France|
|Feast||11 August or 1 September|
|Attributes||spade, basket of vegetables|
|Patronage||gardeners; herbalists; victims of hemorrhoids and venereal diseases; Saint-Fiacre, Seine-et-Marne, France|
Saint Fiacre (Irish: Fiachra, Latin: Fiacrius) is the name of three different Irish saints, the most famous of which is Saint Fiacre of Breuil (c. AD 600 – 18 August 670), the Catholic priest, abbot, hermit, and gardener of the seventh century who was famous for his sanctity and skill in curing infirmities. He emigrated from his native Ireland to France, where he constructed for himself a hermitage together with a vegetable and herb garden, oratory, and hospice for travellers. He is the patron saint of gardeners.
Saint Fiacre of Breuil
Fiachra is an ancient pre-Christian, Irish name. It has been interpreted to denote "battle king" or to derive from fiach ("raven"). The name is found in ancient Irish folklore and stories such as the Children of Lir.
The appellation "of Breuil" can in present times be misleading: the site of the hermitage, garden, oratory, and hospice of Saint Fiacre was in the place denominated "Brogillum" in ancient times and later renamed "Breuil", forming his epithet. However, Breuil was then again renamed "Saint-Fiacre" in his honor, which is the name of the present commune on the same site, in the Department of Seine-et-Marne, France. The commune of Breuil, Department of Marne, France is located far from and is not the same as the commune of Saint-Fiacre (formerly named "Breuil"), although the two communes probably were both in the ancient French Province of Brie, which adds to the confusion.
"Though not mentioned in the earlier Irish calendars, Fiacre was born in Ireland at the end of the sixth century AD. He was raised in a monastery where he became a monk and imbibed knowledge of herbal medicine." Fiacre was ordained a Catholic priest at some point, and elevated to the rank of abbot. "In time he had his own hermitage and perhaps a monastery, possibly near St. Fiachra’s Well at Cill Fiachra (Kilferagh), Sheastown, in the barony of Shillelogher near Bennetsbridge, County Kilkenny, Ireland. As crowds flocked to him because of his reputation for his holiness and cures, he sailed to France in search of greater solitude."
He arrived in Meaux, France in AD 628. Saint Faro, the Bishop of Meaux, was "well-disposed to him due to kindnesses he and his father’s house had received from the Irish missionary Columbanus," and so "granted him a site at Brogillum (Breuil), in the province of Brie" (presently Saint-Fiacre, Department of Seine-et-Marne, France) when Saint Fiacre approached him and manifested his desire to live a life of solitude in the forest. There Saint Fiacre built a hermitage for his dwelling, a vegetable and herb garden, an oratory in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and a hospice in which he cared for travellers. He lived a life of great mortification devoted to prayer, fasting, keeping vigils, and manual cultivation of his garden. "His fame for miracles was widespread. He cured all manner of diseases by laying on his hands".
He died on 18 August AD 670, and his body was interred in the local church of the site of his hermitage complex, which church became his original shrine. The site of his hermitage complex developed into a village, which was later named Saint-Fiacre and is presently in the Department of Seine-et-Marne, France.
Saint Faro allowed Saint Fiacre as much land as he might entrench in one day with a furrow; Fiacre turned up the earth with the end of his staff, toppling trees and uprooting briers and weeds. A suspicious woman hastened to tell Saint Faro that he was being beguiled and that this was witchcraft. Saint Faro, however, recognized that this was the work of God. It is said that thereafter Saint Fiacre prohibited women, on pain of severe bodily infirmity, from the precincts of his hermitage.
Saint Fiacre's relics were preserved in his original shrine in the local church of the site of his hermitage, garden, oratory, and hospice, in present Saint-Fiacre, Seine-et-Marne, France, but later transferred in 1568 to their present shrine in Meaux Cathedral in Meaux, which is near Saint-Fiacre and in the same French department, because of fear that fanatical Calvinists endangered them. The Roman Martyrology commemorates him on 11 August. 1 September is given as an alternative date for his memorial. Meaux continued to be a great centre of devotion to him, especially in the 17th and 18th centuries. Visitors to his shrine included Anne of Austria, Bishop Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, Saint John of Matha, King Louis XIII of France, and Saint Vincent de Paul. Saint Fiacre had a reputation for healing haemorrhoids, which were denominated "Saint Fiacre's figs" in the Middle Ages. Cardinal Richelieu venerated his relics hoping to be relieved of the infirmity.
Saint Fiacre is the patron saint of the commune of Saint-Fiacre, Seine-et-Marne, France. He is the patron of growers of vegetables and medicinal plants, and gardeners in general, including ploughboys. His reputed aversion to women is believed to be the reason he is also considered the patron of victims of venereal disease. He is further the patron of victims of hemorrhoids and fistulas, taxi cab drivers, box makers, florists, hosiers, pewterers, tilemakers, and those suffering from infertility. Finally, he is commonly invoked to heal persons suffering from various infirmities, premised on his reputed skill with medicinal plants. He has been known to resurrect office plants killed during The Great Pandemic of 2020, primarily in his native country, Ireland.
From about 1650, the Hotel de Saint Fiacre, in the rue St-Martin in Paris, hired out carriages. These carriages came to be known as fiacres, which became a generic term for hired horse-drawn transport. Although sometimes claimed by taxi-drivers as a patron saint, St. Fiacre is not recognized as such by the Church.
Other St. Fiacres
- Other gardener saints
- St. Fiacre. Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved 6 December 2007.
- Stracke, Richard (20 October 2015). "Saint Fiacre". Christian Iconography.
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- Gordon Campbell, The Hermit in the Garden: From Imperial Rome to Ornamental Gnome (Oxford University Press; Oxford, UK; 2013), p. 200-1, in .
- Patrick Duffy, "Aug 30 – St Fiacre (7th century) patron of gardeners and taxi-drivers" (30 August 2012), in .
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- RJ Gorlin, "Of Heliotropes and Hemorrhoids. St. Fiacre, Patron Saint of Gardeners and Hemorrhoid Sufferers", US National Institutes of Health.
- "St. Fiachra's Garden", Irish National Stud and Gardens Archived 20 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine, in Irish National Stud and Gardens, accessed 18 June 2014.
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- Ní Mheara, Roísín (2001). Early Irish Saints in Europe: Their Sites and Their Stories, Seanchas Ardmhacha: Journal of the Armagh Diocesan Historical Society. ISBN 9780951149034. OCLC 49907800.